The first thing everyone thinks of when you say ‘Peru’ is… Machu Picchu! But when I was planning our trip, I started thinking “Let’s be original and go to Peru but skip Machu Picchu”. My ‘original’ be it slightly blasphemous idea was quickly vetoed and sent to the garbage bin by my dearest. In retrospect, and though I still believe one can have an excellent trip to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu, I’m very happy that I visited the site now. It wasn’t a walk in the park to get there (I must have really angried some of the Inca gods with my ‘original idea’) but it could become a lot more difficult to visit the place in the not so distant future.
For years (12 years of Karate, 5 years of Ju-Jitsu) Japanese martial arts have been a huge part of my life. Even though injuries have prevented me from continuing for some time now, a lot of the philosophy and attitudes engrained in these martial arts will stay with me for the rest of my life. A visit to the ‘mother land’ of these arts was something that I had been thinking about for over 15 years. Apart from martial arts I also developed a great interest in the history of the country especially the Samurai era and the war in the Pacific. Moreover it’s Asia, my favourite part of the world! Still somehow after nearly 15 years of travel, I never made it to the ‘land of the rising sun’. There were three important reasons for that. All of which now prove to be very wrong. As I know that a lot of people have the same reservations, I decided to do some ‘Japan myth busting’ because it would be a real pity to miss out on this great destination because of these myths.
As January came to a close I was getting very anxious. I had some holidays left that I needed to use before the end of April and we had no concrete travel plans whatsoever. March- April is a bit of a difficult period to fix a destination. Not yet really spring in most of the Northern Hemisphere and rainy season in quite a number of places on the Southern Hemisphere. We kept going around in circles, so I decided to pull out our favourite ‘Where to travel when’ book for some guidance once more. One picture immediately caught my attention as I opened the book to the April chapter. A picture of what seemed like ‘mother nature on XTC’. An explosion of thousands of small white and pink flowers against a blue sky: the famous ‘Sakura’ or Japanese cherry blossoms in full bloom. Sometimes all it takes is one picture to make me want to travel somewhere… Continue reading
It’s one of the phrases I’ve heard the most since my arrival on Belgian soil. It’s a really tough request because where do I start…Those 8 months on the road have passed in what seemed like a blink of an eye. But on the other hand we have seen and done so much that our first week in Africa in October seems ages ago. We would like to use this last post of this trip to look back at some of the many highs of the past 8 months and talk a bit about a number of things that have really struck us. Continue reading
More than 7 years ago in January 2006, my first attempt to travel around the world really started in Thailand and Bangkok. It seemed nice to end my second attempt in the same city. Come ‘full circle and all that…but also returning to my favourite Asian city. I remember back then arriving in Bangkok was a bit like landing on the moon. The humidity, the heat, the noise, the traffic it was all so overwhelming. It was the absolute peak season in Thailand and I was searching for a place to stay for ages. I eventually ended up in some ‘dive’ (crap hotel) surrounded by the biggest ‘white trash’ tourists one can imagine. Despite all that, I immediately fell in love with the super friendly and welcoming Thai people. During the next 4-5 months travelling in South East Asia (SEA), Bangkok (BKK) was often the hub to get from one place to the other (to and from Burma, to Laos, from Cambodia, to the islands of the south) and it became my ‘home away from home’. Continue reading
There was no way that I would finish this world trip without a visit to the foreign continent where I have travelled the most. I spent 5 months there on my 2006 trip and returned nearly every year since then. Home to some of the nicest people in the world and definitely the best food. You probably guessed it, I’m talking about Asia. As we were flying from Australia to Europe a stop in one of the countries of South East Asia is almost mandatory. A look on the map and a quick calculation of the remaining miles on our ‘round the world’ ticket gave us a couple of options. Eventually we chose to fly to the Philippines, the one country in South East Asia (SEA), I had not visited yet. Continue reading
Hands up everybody who can place the islands of Vanuatu on the map or who can tell us why one should go there. Don’t worry if you can’t. Until about a year ago, the only thing I knew about it was that it was not too far from Fiji and that they had some rather bizarre ‘religions/cults’ there. Vanuatu wasn’t on our itinerary until about a couple of months before we left. While finalizing the travel plan, I was going through a book that I had gotten from a friend (thanks Annelies!) some years ago. This interesting ‘where to travel and when’ book lists for every month of the year the best places to visit based on climate and special events. For April or May one of the highlights was Vanuatu. The major event taking place in Vanuatu at that time are the ‘Naghol’ aka ‘land divers’ aka ‘the authentic bungee jumping’. As we were more or less ‘in the neighbourhood’ around that time, we decided to make a side trip from Australia. It would turn out to be one crazy week with much more than only the ‘land divers’ Continue reading
While in Europe spring is finally bringing the first warm days, here on the Southern hemisphere, autumn has arrived. Even though we got much more sun here than we would during an average summer in Belgium, the days are shortening fast and at night the temperatures fall quickly. The colours in the woods are amazing and on the top of the mountains the first snow has arrived. By half May a lot of roads will start to close due to snow or avalanche danger. By June the skiing season will be kicked off all around the country. Everybody is now preparing for winter. For us it was a very strange feeling. We noticed that we also started to mentally prepare for winter, cold and darkness. We started thinking about and planning those activities (like skiing) that make winter a bit more bearable, only to realize that we will soon be in Europe again for summer. It really messes with your head
When people used to ask me what my favourite country was I always told them that I love different places for different reasons but that the most beautiful country is New Zealand. But as memories faded and new places (Himalaya, Patagonia, etc.) were visited, Kiwi land got some serious competition. But in just 3 weeks NZ managed to claim back its spot at the top hands down. The variety of different landscapes in this country is really incredible. From pristine beaches and bays, lush green hills, desert like plateaus to volcanoes, glaciers, fjords and other alpine scenery; NZ has it all on such a small surface. It seems like mother nature has combined all her forces on the land to make it look as beautiful as possible; volcanic activity on the North Island to create volcanoes and geysers; tectonics to push up mountain ranges on the South Island; the full forces of the ocean from all sides to form bays and beaches; and a couple of ice ages to build glaciers that would carve out the fjords. Continue reading