West Papuan Paradise

Unsurprisingly, given our plans and dreams in London 2016, it seemed fitting that we would spend the end of 2017 diving what is probably the richest coral reef ecosystem in the world.

20180119_120700-1146x645

In truth, it was simply good fortune and a last minute cancellation with Papua Explorers, that meant we ended up in the heart of Raja Ampat as 2017 moved in to a new year. It took some substantial reorganisation and planning for us to get to this remote location in West Papua, just after Christmas. But as a consequence of this rethink, we were able to spend a fantastic five weeks in Cambodia a country that had not been in our plans before – that’s the joy of traveling without a fixed agenda.

That change also meant we spent Christmas day in a hotel in Sulawesi that ran out of food, beer and cocktails on the day itself, but such is life on the road – and at least we were able to swim in the pool, relax and talk with family and friends around the world.

20171225_130140-1521x856
Christmas Day proved to be a struggle in Sulawesi …

Raja Ampat

20171228_162221

The beauty and wonder of this dive destination was well worth the effort of getting there though, and we had some spectacular dives in seas that were bursting with life. Even the journey from Sorong to our destination on the island of Gam, West Papua promised something special – a pod of over a 100 dolphins turned up to play in the speedboat’s wake.

20180114_105512-1506x848
Can anyone identify these dolphins? Thought they were Spinners, but didn’t see them spinning!

The exceptional diversity of marine life in Raja Ampat is down to both it’s remoteness from large scale human habitation and its position between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, where strong currents ensure coral and fish larvae are shared between the two oceans. Even by the standards of the Coral Triangle, this is an abundant habitat and we saw fish, sharks and coral that we had never encountered before. Wobbegong sharks, Oceanic Mantas (one ‘dive bombed’ me!) and Walking Sharks stand out, but there was life everywhere, alongside the most beautiful coral I have seen.

We also stayed in a truly idyllic environment, with a spacious pondok (cabin) on stilts over the sea, where we fell asleep every night to the sound of schools of fish moving in the shallows below.

20171230_160847-653x872
Our Pondok, where we were woken every day with a tropical dawn chorus
PC304473-794x1059
Local carvings were everywhere
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
sunrise

20180102_123345-1165x655

We had peace, calm, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, with exotic birdsong from the jungle behind us. Plus we had some great company from divers who had travelled from around the world to greet 2018 in this special place.

FB_IMG_1515904016001-2160x1632

Diving locally almost every day ensured we could be conservative in managing our surface interval time and avoid any recurrence of Anne’s DCS. And staying in the centre of the marine park meant we were able to observe how the local villagers interact with tourism and benefit directly in preserving this marine eco-system, probably the most important guarantee for its continuing survival.

PC304462-864x1152

20171230_160631-995x1328

Full credit to Papua Explorers for their efforts to educate and learn from the locals as well as explaining to tourists both the complexity and necessity of action to ensure this paradise survives.

And what a paradise…

20171231_124249-1644x925

20180110_172323-1563x1171

PC304481-967x1289

20180110_174645-1582x888
An ocean-going yacht on the horizon at sunset

20180110_174452-1752x985

20171227_194430-1908x1430

20171230_160242-1083x811

20180119_131350-2020x1135

Farewell to Asia

Leaving West Papua marked a new year and a farewell to South East and East Asia, through which we’ve been travelling for over a year.

We are now in Melbourne Australia, reuniting with friends from what seems a lifetime ago when we were tram drivers here in the

20180119_113021-1063x1419
Waiting for the Cool Change

early 1980s. And of course, summer in Melbourne is currently in a hot spell – lowest temperature last night, 28°C; it’s now a hot 42°C, as I write this.

Like all Melbournians we’re hanging on for the ‘cool change’, that will see a 20° drop in temperature in half an hour – it’s due about 8.00pm tonight.

As with other times in this adventure when we’ve caught up with family and friends, there are likely to be fewer blog updates and photos as we concentrate on friendship and shared moments. We do intend to travel this vast and beautiful country over the next few months though, and will share the wonder as we go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Classic early morning, Swanston Street …

Click ‘follow’ to see where our adventure takes us …

One year on the Road

Just a few pictures from every month over the last year …

Not the ‘best bits’, because all too often there’s not a photo record of them. Just clusters of pictures to give a flavour of our wonderful adventure since leaving London twelve months ago.

We’re hoping the pictures say it all. If you haven’t been following the blog, this should sum it up.

And of course, dear family and friends (the old and the new!), please get in touch with all your news.

We’re having fun but we miss you all.💚

November/December

20161125_035439-836x1115

20161130_122306-2002x15001

20161205_085337-1700x22661-1020x1360

20161206_161048-1559x11681

December/January

20161223_084429-1728x2307

20161222_044620-1500x2001

pb202356-2764x2073

gopr1522

January/February

pb293046-972x12961

20170107_071746-1800x2402

pc083513-768x1024-691x921

20170110_054423-768x1024

pc113790-1015x13531-812x1082

pc123983-1015x7611

pc194772-959x1278-767x1022

February/March

dsc03413-1382x1842-829x1105

P1280062-1843x1382

p1280128-2304x1728-1958x1469

20170306_092723-723x965

P1276891-2304x1728

P1276943-1728x2304

 

March/April

p2057199-1192x894

20170307_012314-1072x1429

img_20170315_133544-1382x777

20170215_075425-1382x1843-912x1216

p1145922-1382x1843-967x1290

20170215_062437-2048x1536

April/May

p2247787-1843x1382-1382x1036

20170406_091346-2304x1726

p3088242-864x1152

20170602_140534-1152x15361-921x1228

20170429_011716-1342x1789

20170428_030045-1531x1147-1224x917

 

May/June

20170518_062144-879x1173

20170529_093611-1200x1601

 

20170523_135721-851x1077

20170610_035348-1083x1443

20170615_081356-1005x1348-753x1010

June/July

20170723_072639-664x11811-630x1121

20170712_054607-1228x1637-1031x1374

dsc03580-1296x9721-1166x875

p7231857-864x11521

p7282314-1382x1037

July/August

p8102804-1036x13811

20170814_051325-691x921

August/September

20170911_194343-2037x648

20170904_201347-576x1024

20170925_214340-768x1024

 

October/November

pa100229-921x691

20171011_174052-764x1018

pa110627-864x1152

pa130807-864x1152

20171014_111540-857x1143

20171022_144652-614x819

20171105_171723-1152x15361

20171105_165439-1228x1637

20171116_070549-1599x1198

20171116_065113-1941x1455

pa302039-921x6912

20171125_145558-1718x967

The last shot was from 6.00 am this morning. The classic Angkor Wat at dawn. More from Cambodia in our next post.

‘Follow’ to keep in touch.

 

Taipei interlude*

Interlude *short period when a situation or activity is different from what comes before and after.

There was never a plan to visit Taiwan. But when calculating the cost and hassle of extending our Philippines visa for a third month, a search on Skyscanner presented the option of a quick visa run and a few days break from beaches and diving.

As it turned out the timing was perfect as Anne couldn’t dive while on a course of anti-biotics to fix an ear infection. So, a couple of days in one of Asia’s major cities and an automatic 30 day extension on our return to Cebu made sense.

We had travelled to Moalboal, intending to dive (the next blog will update that and other stories), but a short overnight stop at the Tsai hotel in Cebu, and an early taxi to the airport meant we landed in Taipei at 9.15 on a Tuesday morning, where it was cold (well 23 degrees felt chilly) with a heavy Asian downpour that looked set to last. Relishing the freedom of traveling without our dive gear we’d casually thrown a few t shirts and shorts in to a bag … totally unprepared for this kind of climate.screenshot_20170515-110937-384x512.png

So we negotiated the MTA from the airport (fast, clean and efficient) to the centre of town, grabbed a couple of hilarious waterproofs from the local store and tracked down our hostel.

Back in the city. But so different from Manila and Cebu. The infrastructure works, the pavements are walkable, at night there are lights. There is poverty, pollution and homelessness with an urban population of eight and a half million, but nowhere did we see the aggression, hopelessness and despair we’d seen in Manila.

P4160158-864x1152
The rain cleared on the second day, but it was still cool enough to dash around
20170518_041201-718x957
Intense, looking sharp on the street.

We planned our time in the town over dumplings in a small street cafe. We felt like we were on a ‘city-break’ and chose to mix some of the classic tourist spots with some of the less well known.

20170516_051905-1305x979
Dumplings to die for. Fresh cooked food was everywhere.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Avoiding the rain in Taipei, we saw this exhibition by Japanese artist Kawaguchi Yoichiro who uses mathematical algorithms and CGI to create structures and graphics imitating cell development. It was fascinating, but these pictures don’t do it justice, it’s an immersive experience that follows decades of experimentation.

P4150147-1843x1382

P4150122-1382x1843

20170516_072520-1843x1382

P4150123-1843x1382

Old Taipei

With the clouds clearing, we headed to Lin An Tai in the suburbs, a traditional Chinese house, reminiscent, but not as grand as the clan houses in Georgetown, Penang. Somewhat surreally, it was also a favourite venue for wedding photography ‘pre-wedding shoots’. Other than this weirdness, we had the place to ourselves.

P4160145-1382x1037

20170526_061808-1228x1636
This was weird ….

20170518_045327-1228x1636

20170526_104350-1536x2048

20170518_045948-1152x1536
Light and shade, courtyards and 200 year old traditional design

20170518_045111-1382x1841

20170518_050421-728x972

Lungshsan Temple

This is a temple in the heart of old Taipei, built in 1738, bustling and busy with people of all ages and social class, making offerings, lighting incense and candles … removed to a place of private reflection in a cacophony of others.

20170518_051938-870x1159

20170527_052123-768x1024

20170518_044228-1152x1535

20170526_100245-1028x1369

P4160161-864x1152

P4160212-864x1152

P4160208-1152x864

20170526_061303-1393x1045

20170526_062212-827x1102

P4160164-1240x1653

P4160215-1843x1382

20170518_044602-671x896

20170526_061138-1393x1044

Cable Car

I must confess, I didn’t think I’d get Anne up on this, but fair go, she even agreed to the glass bottomed carriage. The route traverses  a number of hills to the summit, with small tea plantations and rivers beneath you and views of the city beside you.

Anne, you are legend.☺

P4160240-1381x1036

P4160244-1036x1381

20170518_053929-819x1092

20170526_060448-1382x1036

20170526_060646-2048x1536

20170526_102741-819x1092

20170526_102601-1228x921

Tower 101

Going up a tall building is always going to be fun, but there were two highlights for me here. First the speedy ascent to the 89th floor in 37 seconds, yeah that felt fast. But mostly the tuned mass damper, that limits the building swaying in the wind. It’s like an internal pendulum weighing 660 tons. It can stop the building swaying by up to 1.5 metres, which when you’re standing there seems like a very very good idea.

P4160367-1152x864
It’s also very Bling

20170518_034402-614x819

P4160313-864x1152

20170518_061949-1228x1637

20170518_062144-879x1173

20170518_060905-1228x921

P4160298-1382x1037

Moving on …

So, our next post will be all about our last month in the Philippines, and moving on from here. Feeling pretty reflective about a lot of things right now; six months in, potential state of emergency in the Visayas, all that’s been happening back home and in the world.

The things that matter, still matter. X.

New blog soon, click below to hear when