Australia my 7th Continent

Sydney

Most people visit Antarctica as their 7th continent, for me since I’ve been to Antarctica last december (2016) Australia was the last continent and my 7th continent to visit.
After long flight from Brussels to Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur I finally got in Sydney where I would begin my Australian journey.
On my Australian trip I planned a visit to Sydney,Melbourne and Brisbane aswell as Uluru and the great Ocean road, all on my itinerary.
How was my experience in Sydney well it’s surely one of the nicest cities I’ve been to.
Sydney has the views, from the Harbor Bridge over the bay with the Opera House at the opposite site, it’s the photo image of Sydney you see on every postcard but to see it for yourself with your own eyes it makes it even more beautiful.

Sydney Harbour seen from the Harbor Bridge

Walking on the Harbor Bridge

It’s also a very busy city for the locals, Australians in Sydney you see them in the morning and evening when they go to work or come back from it. during the day you see most tourists and immigrants who run their little businesses. Mostly of them are Asians and they got their own restaurants, bars, massage rooms (Thai massage) etc,…

What to do ?

You can visit the Opera House if you are interested in seeing an empty room and a stage, nothing for me as I have been visiting the Music Hall in New York years ago and it also didn’t live up to the expectations. The MTV Music Video Awards were held there and that’s why I wanted to see it and booked a tour of about 2 hours but it was disappointing so I promised to myself never to tour Music halls or Opera buildings again, I don’t find it interesting. The opera house is nice from the outside and I prefer to enjoy to view of it from different angles when I’m outside, then to check out the empty hall inside. Seen pictures on the internet about it and it didn’t convince me to pay the entrance for that. I’m not saying it’s not nice inside from what I’ve seen on google images, but just not worth for me personally to buy a ticket for.
Same thing with the Harbor Bridge, it’s a nice bridge and in Sydney they are proud of it, and how it’s been made. One local guide who I had been going on tour with to the Blue Mountains had allot to say about the history of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and about the possibility to climb it.

Opera House

It’s a nice huge bridge to climb and you have various climbs you can do, depending when you want to go in the early morning or the late afternoon. Prices differ from how long you want to go. Climbs of 1,5 hour or 3 hours.
I personally found it to expensive and also the fact that you can’t bring your camera or smartphone to take pictures is lame. They take pictures for you but then they off course sell it and for the high price that you pay to climb that bridge they could have include the pictures of the experience in the price. So I think they like to rip you off as much as they can for this experience.
Also they make you wear a ridiculous blue suit, why ? I don’t know cause I once saw a Touristic program on tv about bridge climbing in Germany. The bridge was over a highway and you had the nice view of the highway and the natural environment behind it. No crazy suits, smartphones and cameras allowed, so yeah why are there so many rules here, it beats me.

Under the Sydney Harbor Bridge

In general compared to Europe no matter what excursion you want to do in Australia, its expensive cause even day trips that I did to the Blue mountains and the Ocean road later on from Melbourne weren’t very budget friendly. Again in Europe you would never pay this much for day trips. I won’t be comparing prices here , since there are many agencies and many similar tours you can book, but when you do a little research on the internet you will see the difference if you look for daytours from Melbourne or Sydney or let’s say from Barcelona or Athens.
Australia is expensive and it reminds me of Argentina which for backpackers isn’t the most budget friendly place either. Ask backpackers who travel around South America and they will tell you. Trust me, believe me it’s true 🙂

The first thing you can do in Sydney to get to know the city a bit is to go on a free walking tour. They start at on one of the most important streets of Sydney which is St. George street between Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral.

St Andrew’s Cathedral

If you have never on a free City tour before then I explain it :
You turn up at the starting place of the tour (info can be found on http://www.imfree.com.au/sydney/ ) your local guide in green t-shirt will tell you about the city during this 3 hour walk. There is one at 10.30 am and another at 2.30 pm. You can leave the tour at anytime you want and since it’s a free tour you don’t have to pay, but you can give the guide a small tip at the end of the tour to show how much this tour was worth for you. Most people do give something for the effort the guide did to tell you a bit more about his or her city.
I took the morning tour which is the same as the one in the afternoon, I preferred to go in the morning so then in the afternoon I could go and explore the highlights of the tour again by myself.

The Sydney Tower with its 309m over the Business district is the highest construction in Sydney from which you can have a magnificent view over the City

Another place that I visited which was not on the tour was the Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park. This monument is a tribute to remember all the Australian soldiers who died and served their country in the many wars all over the world.

Anzac War Memorial

Bullets in Hyde Park

 

Uluru The Outback in Central Australia

The real Australian experience is when you go visit the Outback in Central Australia and it’s most famous rock the Uluru (also called Ayers rock). Uluru is the name that should be used as this is sacred to the Aboriginals, the indigenous people of Australia.
In this Area there are other rock formations like “Kata Tjuta” and Mount Conner.

Uluru

I was here on a 4 day camp trip with a group of people from all kind of nationalities and had a good time.  From preparing your own food, to go out, find and collect wood to start the fire at night when we go sleep in our swags around the campfire under the stars, it makes the outback experience complete. You might hear some Dingo’s at night 🙂
During the day hiking and exploring the beauty of nature here is the best you can do and let it all sink in. I went on this trip with Mulgas Adventure Travel so go and check out their webpage for a great Outback experience. During the many hikes the guide tells you a little about the history of the place, its indigenous people and about the fauna and flora.

group picture

around the campfire

Dingo tracks at campsite

Hiking around Uluru

Uluru rock paintings

Kata Tjuta aka Olgas

Hiking Kata Tjuta

Having a drink with Kata Tjuta Olgas in back of me

Mount Conner

 

I didn’t visit Mount Conner, I saw it from a distance, just like Uluru it stands out alone in the middle of a flat area. Instead I visited Kings Canyon that was on the itinerary.
At Kings Canyon, you can do the Canyon rim walk, descending the stair case through the garden of Eden to have a break at Kings Creek.

Kings Canyon

Heart attack hill

descending Kings Canyon

Garden of Eden

Kings Creek

great autumn colours

 

 

Antarctica The 7th Continent

ANTARCTICA

Antarctica, the white continent or 7th continent as it is called would be my first trip to a Polar region. After getting interested more and more the past 2 years I decided to go for it and to book a trip and prepare myself to this epic journey to the south of our planet.
Like most people I flew to Ushuaia (more here) and stayed there 3 days before embarking to the vessel leaving for Antarctica the Ortelius. After leaving the Beagle channel you soon be in open sea passing the Drake passage which in most cases can be a rough passage, with big waves crashing against the boat or even on the deck. The crew of my expedition told us that they were glad that the Drake has been good to us and everyone was happy about it, cause a rough sea is no fun at all when many people get seasick or when you have to lay down in your cabin bed for 2 days barely able to sleep well with all the shaking and bumping of the ship. It’s the roughest sea in the world but this time it was calm. Passing the Drake is about 2 days before finally entering Antarctica and spotting the first icebergs and different birds flying around the ship like the many Wandering Albatrosses.
Most expedtionships do one continental landing where you actually set foot on mainland Antarctica instead of the many Antarctic islands. I was lucky to have 2 continental landings one at Brown Station in Paradise Bay and one at Neko Harbour.

Port Ushuaia from where Vessels leave for Antarctica

Port Ushuaia from where Vessels leave for Antarctica

Drake Passage, let the adventure begin

Drake Passage, let the adventure begin

The bridge from the ship seen from the main deck

The bridge from the ship seen from the main deck

first Iceberg in the distance

first Iceberg in the distance

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Passing the South Shetland Islands

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more iceberg, I'm getting closer

more iceberg, I’m getting closer

the first penguin spotted on a ice shelf

the first penguin spotted on an ice shelf

our ship got the attention of a seal

our ship got the attention of a seal

reaching Antarctica !!!

reaching Antarctica !!!

 

 

My Top 3 Adventurous travels

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Top 3 Adventure

Adventure in the Mountains

Adventure in the Mountains

 

My Top 3 Adventurous Travels till now are my visits to following countries :

  • Trip to Peru with the crazy flights over the Nazca lines (link)
  • Bolivia Salt flats of Uyuni and the way to get there (link)
  • Darvaza Turkmenistan’s hell on earth  (link)
Darvaza my Turkmenistan Adventure

Darvaza my Turkmenistan Adventure

 

On Adventurous trips I saw people having some better equipment with them then I had, from backpacks, to sleeping bags, solid hiking shoes, torches, all kinds of gear.
A good blog where you can read about what gear to take on your travels is thesmartlad.com/

Check it out !

 

 

 

 

Ta Prohm

Another Temple that I visited in the Angkor complex was Ta Prohm with its huge trees overgrowing big parts of the temple. The trees are in unique shapes and I also saw the most famous tree of them all, the one that got featured in the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie. Some people call it “The Tomb Raider Temple”.
The Bayon temple is known for its faces this one for its big Banyan trees. So many different temples to visit and each one is different like Beantey Srei with its Monkey statues is in a well-preserved state. Less tourist here but surrounded by the jungle its a must see and well worth to take your time and have a look.

Ta Prohm entrance

Ta Prohm entrance

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Tree overgrowing the temple walls

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This is the famous tree from the Tomb Raider movie scene with Angelina Jolie

This is the famous tree from the Tomb Raider movie scene with Angelina Jolie

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GOING TO THE NEXT TEMPLE BANTEAY SREI

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Monkey carvings

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Entrance Banteay Srei

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This is a zebra caterpillar I guess 🙂

Penjikent to Dushanbe

PENJIKENT

From Istaravshan I continued my journey in Tajikistan to the very far west of the country to Penjikent passing the Anzob pass, mountains so high and valleys so deep made it a scary ride, but the most scaring part was to cross the 5km long tunnel of death, the tunnel is not completely finished, the cause are the many construction problems during the years.
it’s dark inside like in every tunnel but with dark I mean really dark no light at all, only the lights from the cars in front of you or coming from the opposite direction, there are no lights on the side like in most tunnels, holes in the ground, flooded with water makes it even more hard to drive normally. It was a crazy experience. Because of the narrow tunnels and no ventilation system there is the danger to suffocate, when your car breaks down carbon monoxide poisoning can happen and it already brought deaths with it in the past.
Happy to made it out of this tunnel. It wasn’t really worth it to come to this part of Tadjikistan cause in Penjikent there is not much to see, I have been in one little museum where there were no other visitors but me and my Tajik guide who was with me the whole trip, the most interesting historical pieces found in this area are to be seen in the big national museum of Tadjikistan in the capital city Dushanbe.

Mosaic fresco's Penjikent

Mosaic fresco’s Penjikent

Approaching the "Tunnel of Death"

Approaching the “Tunnel of Death”

Inside the dark tunnel

Inside the dark tunnel

Penjikent

Penjikent

Somoni statue Penjikent

Somoni statue Penjikent

Statue of a local Tadjik women pilot of the USSR army who died in the 2nd World War

Statue of a local Tadjik women pilot of the USSR army who died in the 2nd World War

Dushanbe would be my next Tadjik city to visit and the end of my trip in this country, but before that, I visited the Iskanderkul Lake on my way to Dushanbe.
It’s a Lake surrounded by the Fann Mountains in a triangle shape and nowadays a natural reserve with water meadows and forests.
Iskander means Alexander and Kul means Lake in Tajik, referring to Alexander the Great, once the ruler of a big empire where Tadjikistan was part of.

Iskanderkul Reserve

Iskanderkul Reserve

Iskanderkul Lake

Iskanderkul Lake

Fann Mountains

Fann Mountains

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Dilovar Homestay near Iskanderkul

Dilovar Homestay near Iskanderkul in a Mountainous village

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Finally Dushanbe

Dushanbe is a big city and after a journey through the mountain areas it was nice to take a rest in a city and just chill. I went to the national museum of Tadjikistan, it was a saturday and very crowded with students and schoolchildren visiting the big museum with 3 levels. It was funny to see some Tajiks taking the escalators to another level, some have never been on an escalator and were scared to go first, it was a real adventure for some, cute to watch those Tadjiks having all the fun and time of their life for something this simple.
The museum is a must when you’re in Dushanbe.

Tadjikistan flag

Tadjikistan flag

The Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace

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Monument with on top the Tadjikistan national emblem

Somoni monument

Somoni monument

Rudaki Monument

Rudaki Monument

"The National Museum of Tadjikistan"

“The National Museum of Tadjikistan”

Park with paddle boats just outside the National Musem

Park with paddle boats just outside the National Museum

 

Hissar

Some 15 km out of the city I visited the Hissar fortress which was being renovated to make it look better for tourists and also here there was a bus with students visiting the fortress just when I was about to leave.
Here I saw more locals visiting the sightseeing places then it was the case in Khujand, but I think it had a lot to do with it being a weekend here in Dushanbe.
Just like in Khujand there is a big statue of Ismael Somoni, only this one is in the centre of the City near the Rudaki park and the Presidential palace.

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Sangin Mosque seen from the Hissar fortress

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Locals visiting the place

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Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas !

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Las Vegas is one of the craziest places in the world, maybe the craziest. Crazy people, party’s, shows, the whole atmosphere, the annoying sounds of the slotmachines constantly ringing in your head a soon as you enter a casino. I was 3 times in Vegas, the first 2 times in (2000 & 2003) I only spend there 1 day and night, in 2011 I stayed there for 5 days and had some more time to enjoy this place, to go out and party in the Palms.
Been to the Ghostbar,The Moon Penthouse nightclub and the Playboy club.
Club54 in the MGM is also a great place to go party hard 🙂
The Casino hotels I stayed in were :

  1. “Four Queens Casino Hotel” in the Downtown area
  2. Circus Circus (on The Strip)
  3. Hilton Hotel Casino at the Las Vegas Boulevard
  4. The Monte Carlo Resort & Casino (on the Las Vegas Strip)

I did visit all the old casino’s in the Downtown area and on the Strip, even the Palms and the Rio all-suites hotel and Casino which are both located off the Strip and way further than all the rest.

Downtown Las Vegas (the old Vegas) - I revisited the 4 Queens Hotel where I stayed in 2000

Downtown Las Vegas (the old Vegas) 2011 – I revisited the 4 Queens Hotel where I stayed in 2000

In Vegas you can do everything on foot, but it will cost you hours, although I did it cause I wanted to see every casino and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore afterwards.
Sometimes I took the monorail, There is more than one monorail in Vegas between the casino’s, like the one going from the Monte Carlo Hotel (where I stayed last time) to the Bellagio Hotel & Casino which is free and the monorail going from the Mandalay Bay to the Excalibur with a stop in the Luxor Hotel and Casino.

Belaggio with the dancing fountains

Bellagio with the dancing fountains

Excalibur

Excalibur

Inside the MGM casino

Inside the MGM casino

New York New York with the Rollercoaster

New York New York with the Rollercoaster and Statue of Liberty

New York New York Casino Hotel

New York New York Casino Hotel

Luxor

Luxor

The Las Vegas Strip with the Paris Hotel and Casino

The Las Vegas Strip with the Paris Hotel and Casino

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Venice Hotel and Casino Resort, the nicest of all Casino’s

outside Venice Casino, you can take a gongondola boat just like in Italy

outside Venice Casino, you can take a gondola boat just like in Italy

Inside the Venice Hotel ceiling fresco's just like in Italy :)

Inside the Venice Hotel ceiling fresco’s just like in Italy 🙂

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Inside Venice Las Vegas

Inside Venice Las Vegas

Inside the Venice Hotel at night, the sky turns dark

Inside the Venice Hotel at night, the sky turns dark

Caesar's Palace during a very hot day

Caesars Palace during a very hot day

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View from the Ghostclub balcony over the Las Vegas Boulevard The Strip

View from the Ghostclub balcony  @Palms over the Las Vegas Boulevard The Strip

Playboyclub at the Palms Casino

Playboyclub at the Palms Casino

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I enjoyed my stay in Vegas so much things you can do, you can gamble, go on a rollercoaster in the New York New York, see a show or concert, take a helicopter tour over the Strip at night, etc,…

During the day you can do some shopping all the big brands are present. I did some shopping, stayed at the hotel to swim, fitness, play some games at the casino (mostly on the slots) and made an excursion to the Hoover Dam which is only 48 km outside Vegas.
The Hoover dam was once the biggest dam in the world border between Nevada and Arizona in the black canyon of the Colorado river.
In 2000 and 2003 I visited the Glen Canyon Dam in Page northern Arizona also on the Colorado River. The Hoover dam is a little more impressive cause it’s bigger, but both places are worth a visit. If you visit Lake Powell you will have to cross Page anyway and will pass the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge from which you will have a great view on the Glen Canyon Dam.
Back to the Hoover Dam now, you can walk on the dam and look down to see how deep it is or from the building next to the bridge which has a nice viewpoint.

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Sign inside the Hoover Dam

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Generators inside the powerhouse of the Hoover Dam

 

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Hoover Dam

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Khujand and Istaravshan

Khujand

I entered Tadjikistan from the north Oybek border crossing between Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan. My minivan with guide and driver picked me up and brought me to Khujand the 2nd largest city of the country after the capital Dushanbe.
First I visited the Sugd Historical Museum that covers the history of the region from the stone age to independence. There is a room with beautiful mosaic displaying the life of Alexandre The Great who conquered the city of Khujand.  Continue reading