Malta

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Malta a stone in water was what I heard someone once say, and yes its little Island but not as little as Easter Island. Malta got 3 Islands the Island of Malta itself, Gozo and Comino. I visited all of them although it was not planned to do so cause my time there was limited. I started in La Valletta the capital while staying in Sliema. This town is at the opposite side of Valletta and there are boats and bus tours you can take from there to Valletta and the rest of Malta.

View on the Sliema bay

boat connecting Sliema and Valletta

Going to Malta :

I booked a flight to Malta through Ryanair, an airlines that I used quit a lot over the years as they mostly have the cheapest prices for travel in Europe. Ryanair however had some problems lately with most of their flights because pilots had to take their vacation days before the end of the year 2017 and so there was a shortage of pilots and as a result of this, flights got cancelled or schedules got changed. My flight was supposed to fly out of Brussels in the late afternoon, till Ryanair decided to reschedule my flight into the early morning, for me it was a problem and because the new departure time was changed 8 hours earlier then my original flight and they offered me a full refund, which I accepted. So was my travel plan to go to Malta falling apart (?) well to my own surprise no it wasn’t I found a flight on the same day with Air Malta in the afternoon just like I wanted my flight to be in the first place and a cheaper than Ryanair.

Ryanair return ticket from Brussels was 95 EUR
Air Malta was 80 EUR
Not a big difference but I was surprised that Air Malta was cheaper and this for a non early flight. Everybody who travels regularly knows that morning flights and evening flights are the cheapest compared to a midday flight, well not this time thanks to Air Malta.

La Valletta :

The capital is worth a citytrip, it’s not that big, you can easily do it in one day.

Few interesting spots to see are Fort St Elmo, St John’s Co Cathedral, St. George’s Square, St Paul Cathedral,…

La Valletta with the Basilica Our Lady of Mt Carmel and the St Paul Anglican Cathedral

Maltese flags in front of the city walls of Valletta on a roundabound

The old city walls

Parliament a modern building in front of the old city centre

Auberge de Castille

St George Square

The Malta siege Memorial with Bell

Other places I have seen by taking a hop on hop off bus (has been a while since I have taking one of the busses) were : Marsaxlokk, Mosta and Mdina.

Mosta Fort with dome

Mdina

Marsaxlokk

Typically Colored wooden Maltese fisherman’s boats in Marsaxlokk

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Brisbane & Lone Pine Sanctuary

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What everybody want’s to see when visiting Australia are the typical Australian animals that you can only find Down Under. You can catch them in the wild, but even better is to see them more up close or to even hold them in your hands. If you would like to have the experience of holding a Koala in your hands, head to Brisbane’s Lone Pine Sanctuary.
It’s the oldest and largest Koala park since 1927. There are also other animals which you can have an encounter with, feed and pat the Walibi’s and kangaroo’s. In the cafeteria next to the kangaroo reserve you can buy food for the kangaroo’s. Also if you had your picture taken with a Koala, the photo will be on display in the cafeteria, ready to take your souvenir home.

Lone Pine

Lone Pine Sanctuary

The picture with the Koala is not included in your park entrance ticket, but to me it was worth the extra money. I might never see a koala from this close again. Afterall the highlight for me was to have my picture taken with one of these adorable Koalas, the symbol of Australia just like the kangaroo.
The platypus, Dingo, Tasmanian devil and many different birds and snakes are also represented in Lone Pine.

Holding the Koala

kangaroo selfie

Tasmanian devil

Platypus (in my language it’s Vogelbekdier)

Platypus swimming, it moves incredibly quick

Platypus diving

When I left the park, i had to wait for my bus, there is a bus stop in front of the entrance with a terrace and seating area. You can grab a coffee, charge your mobile for free and use the free wifi. There is also fast and free wifi throughout the whole park, so as soon as you got your picture taken with the Koala you can put it online on your instagram 🙂

Chillin out with the kangaroo

Feeding area

Feeding the kangaroos

Brisbane as a city was also a nice surprise, easy to walk around, the city centre is not that big, but I liked it more than Melbourne in a way. Nice skyline by the Brisbane river and for those who talk about a great vibe, well Brisbane has it. In the city there is a free-swimming pool that locals and tourists can use and a nice rainforest experience were you can walk through a mini jungle. Brisbane was a nice and surprising worth to stay a couple of days.

Brisbane

Brisbane skyline

Brisbane River

Victoria Bridge Abutment

Melbourne vs Sydney & The Great Ocean Road

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Melbourne

Ok Melbourne, straight forward you didn’t impress me much.
I don’t understand what all the fuzz is about between Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, so maybe it’s a good thing Canberra got the title of being capital city of Australia, although I don’t know much about Canberra since I haven’t been visiting the city and when I talked to other people locals and tourist they all told me there is nothing interesting to see.
Alright who cares, maybe Melbourne will be nice right, nope forget it, it’s overrated or maybe its me who don’t get easily impressed by another big city.

Melbourne

I started with the free walking tour, just like I did in Sydney to get first impressions and to revisit the parts of the city that I like the most later on. The tour starts at the State library of Victoria at Swanston street. Before the tour started I went inside to see the interior, it’s amazing, with a great view from level 4. I was surprised how quiet it was in the reading room and in the computer room, so many people and such a silence makes it a good place for reading and studying. There are also exhibitions rooms with free art galleries.

State Library of Victoria

View from 4th floor

During the tour I saw old buildings mostly churches, not so old as those in Europe but still nice ones and old enough for Australia I guess, a prison with a nice story, but then again I visited Alcatraz so nothing is going to beat that, however the guide did his best to promote his city, to tell about the different buildings, good commentary added with some knowhow about the past and recent history. Overall the tour was good, but nothing really did stand out to me.
In the tour we make a stop at Hosier lane suppose to be great for its street art and graffiti, really haven’t seen much art or great graffiti , it was disappointing. Later on my Australia trip I was surprised to find the best street art to be in Brisbane. It’s not the most important thing to see in a city, cause street art and graffiti no matter how great some of it can be, a few months later that great wall graffiti that you took a picture off most likely will be gone, covered by some other graffiti, so what’s the point anyway.

The most interesting building that I saw in Melbourne wasn’t even on the free walking tour since it was to far from city centre, so went to see the Shrine of remembrance myself.
When you enter the monument there is a museum about all the wars that Australian soldiers got involved in.

Shrine of Remembrance

 

The Great Ocean Road

The other best thing you can do from Melbourne is to do the Great Ocean road tour and that’s for me personally the only reason why I would recommend someone to go to Melbourne to start from there your Ocean road trip. It can also be done from Adelaide in the opposite direction.

Entrance of the Great Ocean Road

South Pacific Ocean

Before I continue about the Ocean road let me just say this, the arguments from people who like Melbourne more than Sydney are from me as a European tourist completely hard to understand.

The Melbourne vs Sydney thing 

The locals prefer Melbourne because of the good vibe, the food, restaurants, bars etc,… Then some of the backpackers are just like parrots and instead of thinking things through a bit they just copy the same arguments as the locals do.
Locals always see it different from tourists, well mostly;
First of all, there is good food, restaurants and bars in Sydney aswell. When I had a talk with two French girls their arguments were great coffee shops and vibe. I told them you have this in Paris too, why you come to Australia ? You come to Australia for this really, to taste the coffee ? Maybe you should book a flight to Colombia or Costa Rica if you want good coffee.
I don’t even know why I waste my time talking to stupid people. Since when does coffee or vibe make a city better than the other ?
Sydney has the Harbour bridge, the Opera House and great views.
Melbourne doesn’t has the views, they might have good restaurants, but so does Brisbane Every Aussie should be proud of a city like Sydney instead of looking down on it favoring Melbourne because of food and coffee seriously. To those parrot backpackers repeating whatever they have heard without any knowledge or valuable arguments, go home and pour yourself another cup of coffee, may i suggest Colombian probably won’t disappoint you.
Anyone from Melbourne reading this, don’t be angry cause Melbourne is a nice city but it’s not a “must visit place” when coming to Australia. If it wasn’t for the Ocean road I would have skipped it from my itinerary.

Apostle 13 🙂

Back to the Ocean Road

The highlight of the tour is the 12 Apostles, the rock formations at Victoria’s coastline that rise from the ocean. Wind and water from the ocean eroded the limestone cliffs to this spectacular formations. Another nice place on the westside of the 12 Apostles is the Loch Ard Gorge, cliffs with blowholes and narrow openings to the sea. Also the London bridge which used to be a double stone arch connecting the land untill the sea made it colapse. Till this day only one arch remains.

12 Apostles

Loch ard Gorge

London Bridge

 

Spotting Killer whales in Antarctica

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The Lemaire channel  is a strait between mainland of the Antarctica peninsula and Booth Island. It is small between huge mountains and it’s not always possible for ships to pass through. In December when there is still a lot of Ice, Icebergs can block the narrow passage, then ships have to take another route or just head back.
Our vessel was heading for Pleneau Island but because of Icebergs blocking our way and big part of the water was still covered by a big ice shelf, it was clear that Pleneau Island wouldn’t be possible to reach. We did get on the zodiacs and explored a part of the channel that wasn’t frozen anymore and saw the ice shelf and icebergs that were blocking the rest of the channel.
There is more chance to go through this channel later in the season then it is in December. January and February would raise your chances to sail through the whole channel.

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Icebergs blocking the rest of the Lemaire Channel

That day we were very lucky to see something else then pleneau Island and the most southern living Gentoo Penguins on the peninsula. Killer whales aka Orca’s (free willy) where swimming in front of our boat and then they turned and where swimming around the boat and under the boat; It made people run over the deck from one side to the other to see more of this orca family swimming together and entertaining us with their presence , giving us a great photo opportunity to capture this display of Antarctic wildlife. Really this was amazing. After Seals and Penguins we got to see killer whales in the wild, no seaworld, no tricks, the real deal, in their natural habitat. They come a little to the surface and then go under again.
Under water they look like green ghosts, really amazing to see. All this was happening so close to the Lemaire Channel.

Orka family they stay together and it makes them stronger when they hunt

Orca family they stay together and it makes them stronger when they hunt

Orka comming closer

Orca coming closer

under water they look like ghosts

under water they look like ghosts

 

 

 

 

 

Danco Island

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Danco Island was without a doubt the nicest experience I had in Antarctica.
It was a steep hike to reach the top of the Island and for this 45 minute walk they gave me snowshoes. These snowshoes are used on soft snow and it makes me wonder why we didn’t get to use them on our other landings for example at Neko Harbour.
Anyhow it was the first time I wore snowshoes and I had some difficulties to strap them on in the beginning, but once I figured that out, I was ready for my walk up to the top.

The long walk up was all worth it, I passed by Penguins using their penguin highway again and it’s crazy to see how fast they climb up and down like it’s nothing.
On my way I’ve passed by many penguins nesting and laying on their belly, some in the snow others on their nest formed by the rockstones that they use to make it with.

Once on top you really get a magnificent view and with the sun coming out, the color pattern changed the landscape and made it look even more magical than this place already was. Danco Island I will never forget this place.

enjoying the view at Danco Island, not even half way the hike

enjoying the view at Danco Island, not even half way the hike

my snowshoes

my snowshoes

Penguins curious who 's comming to visit this time

Penguins curious who ‘s coming to visit this time

having a wow moment

having a wow moment

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icebergs

icebergs

Finally made it on top of Danco Island

Finally made it on top of Danco Island

expedition buddy's (Belgium-Germany Holland)

expedition buddy’s (Belgium-Germany Holland)

Penguins on their nests

Penguins on their nests

observing the magical view and the penguins

observing the magical view and the penguins

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Neko Harbour

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Neko Harbour was the 2nd continental landing, if you’re not out kayaking, it was your chance to set foot again on mainland Antarctica. I skipped kayaking and I did not regret it cause after climbing a mountain I had a great view over the place, a spectacular scenery with the glaciers calving. The boat in the distance looked like a toy compared to the mountains around.

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour

Snow, ice, glaciers, clear water and the many Gentoo Penguins who welcomed us at Neko Harbour is just unforgettable, my favorite spot in Antarctica.

Here I still have my zodiac lifejacket on which is different then the one used for kayaking

Here I still have my zodiac lifejacket on which is different then the one used for kayaking

Penguin highway

Penguin highway

Penguins comming down hill from the Penguin highway

Penguins coming down hill from the Penguin highway

When I climbed that mountain many penguins were passing me by on the penguin highway. The penguin highway is the path in the snow made by penguins and only to be used by penguins to make themselves get around easier from one place to another, cause with snow being very unstable at some places, penguins just like humans, fall over and have it difficult to move around quickly.
We humans just follow sticks put in the snow by the expedition crew that mark the path we have to follow to reach the top of the mountain. Two sticks in form of a X  mean to stay at a distance, mostly because snow can be very deep at a certain points with crevasses, or its being used as a warning to stay at a distance not to disturb the penguins hatching eggs.

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glaciers at Neko Harbour

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red X means stay where you are, Penguins nesting place

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Feels like being on top of the world

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look how small the boat is compared with the mountain

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Some more pictures of the Penguins

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Penguin using the water as a mirror

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Penguins running to the shore

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Wandering albatros stole a penguin egg

Wandering Albatros stole a penguin egg

 

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 !