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The wanderlust

On the darkest day…

It’s the darkest day of the year. The days are short and the nights are long. Nature is resting in silence, spring is still far away and there’s nothing to do but rest. The winter solstice marks the deepest winter, the cradle of the dark season. Despite the stillness of the season it is a reminder of just that – the seasons. Change is the constant. We’re always moving and even when we rest it’s a preparation for the next move, stillness is a phase necessary for future action.

 

In Sweden where I lived for most my life, the difference between the seasons is huge. The summer days are long, in the north the sun never sets and even in the southern parts of Sweden we only get a few hours of darkness (but the light lingers on the horizon all night, as if the sun is just resting briefly before it returns in full power). Most people need less sleep, stay active until midnight, are very social and spend a lot of time outside. The winter is the opposite, it is dark and we are not as outgoing. Life slows down, people spend more time alone or with their closest family. But in the absence of light we spend more time looking inwards. We notice things we can not see in the light.

 

As you probably know, I am a questioner of norms and what we think is established truths. My quest is for freedom, and to be free is to do what I value also when it comes to what I celebrate and how. Lately, I’ve been questioning the traditions and holidays in my culture as to actively choose what and how I want to celebrate, and as I do I am learning where they come from and how the got to be what they are. Most traditions and holidays came with meanings that we’ve at least partly forgotten, and most are a mix of culture, religion and (sadly) market forces of today.

Nature is one truth, heritage is another. In my heritage lies the old culture of the north – the Aesir faith and the Nordic mythology – as well as the many years that christianity shaped it. Both are still affecting how we do things around here, and I am rediscovering all in today’s Sweden that is a heritage from before christianity.

 

The darkest day of the year has been celebrated in the Nordics for as long as we know. A big feast was held in the darkest of winter, a celebration of the new solar year and the return of the light. The Swedish word for Christmas (jul) stems from the old Germanic languages and despite the christianization of jul into what is now a christian tradition the word has lived on.

 

Looking inwards, I find the winter solstice and the return of the light a much more important event than Christmas. In my soul and body I feel more connected to nature and seasons than to the celebration of Jesus (especially in it’s materialist modern version, although I’m not blaming any religion for that). I still value what Christmas brings in the sense of time with family and a “holy break” for those who work regular jobs.

 

But today, on the darkest day of the year, I’m looking inwards. I’m grateful for the seasons in me and in nature. Nordic mythology speaks of this longest night of the year as a night full of supernatural powers, a night where magic is near. Maybe today spend some time reflecting on what in your life that you want to leave behind in the darkness and what you want to invite more of into the new cycle. Before I’m off to my hometown and the Christmas rush, I’m taking this day to appreciate the natural cycles that shape earth as well as our lives. The shifts, the sacredness of eternal change. And I wish you a beautiful winter solstice and happy holidays, spent in the way that serves you most.

 

Vanlife, 1st version: Subaru Outback in Australia (and a throwback)

Ever looked at everything hashtagged #vanlife on Instagram and dreamed of your future home on wheels?

 

The concept started tempting me when I lived in Australia last year. That’s when I bought my first car (yes, EVER) and used for about half a year while travelling around, it wasn’t a van or not even a big car but I used it to sleep in occasionally and it was my only home for a long time. An upgrade from the backpack I “lived” in before that. I had a tent and all the camping gear I needed to live in/from the car while traveling, and although the tent was way more comfy if finding a flat area to put it up on, I did sometimes “have to” sleep where camping wasn’t allowed and I used the fact that sleeping in a car is kind of a grey area in this sense. We (yeah sometimes it was a “we” because a friend came down to travel around with me, and sometimes only me) parked in all kinds of weird places when we for example arrived late at night and couldn’t find a good spot. In Tasmania, free camping was usually easy to find, but on mainland Australia it could be much harder and in some popular places they even have signs that forbid sleeping in cars (widely ignored).

 

But it was always temporary since I wasn’t settling down in Australia, and it felt like part of the trip to buy the car for traveling, for some reason it is a very different feeling buying a car at home and rebuilding it to use it as a camper compared to just getting it for traveling in for a limited time in a different country. Either way, Effie, my Australian car, was a great start off for trying the car-camping lifestyle. It’s a Subaru Outback, 4W-drive, with broken air conditioning (!). I drove her for many miles, on beaches, in deep sand, through storms and bumpy forest roads. A secret: I stole the “Subaru” tag from the car key as a souvenir when I sold the car to another traveler when leaving Australia and I’ll put it on the key of my next car to bring some outback Aussie-spirit to my journeys in Europe…

 

 

My Australian car was called Elphaba, “Effie”, from the witch in the musical Wicked because she is green and has a temper (the car – and the witch). A mechanic told me that this was the kind of car that sometimes shows a warning light for no reason, and I would have to live with that and only worry if it stayed for too long. Charming, in a way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, Effie wasn’t my first experience of roadtripping Australia. More than ten years ago I was in Australia visiting a friend who lived there for a year back when we were 19. He had a little Daihatsu Charade and we used it for a six week roadtrip on the east coast. While mainly sleeping in hostels, this little car was used as our home and we did save money by sleeping in it some nights. We lowered the seats and had an okey bed for some rest on the road. Fun looking back at how cool and free we felt for having a car at all back then, younglings on the big continent. Some times we drove in the most beautiful direction, not knowing and not really caring where we was… This was before we had internet on our phones, before GPS and google maps, and our road map book and an old Lonely Planet was our only guides. I don’t remember if the car had a name but I remember that we called the little teddy bear that was hanging in the rear-view mirror Barne because of a misspelling in a text message from Johans brother (who was gonna wright “barnen”, swedish for “the kids”).

 

 

Shout out to my friend for life: Johan Larsson who was the enduring driver (I had no drivers license back then) and who’s also the photographer of these last four photos. Many adventures begun back then!

 

List of websites for remote work

I’ve been running into a lot of tips on where to find remote work. If you’re just considering nomad life, there is one decision you want to start with. Do you want to run your own company or work for someone else? The decision does not have to be for life or even for long, but you need to start with one of the two and focus on it.

 

If you want to work for someone else but remotely, it pretty much works as a normal job. Just search for the ones that you can do from anywhere. Finding and getting these jobs could pretty much be treated like any job hunt.

 

But if you want to get freelance gigs you’ll have to apply over and over for new jobs. As you get established it will take less of an effort, but in the beginning you will have to spend a lot of time searching, applying and communicating before getting work. It doesn’t make it easier that there are many different places where you can find work. I’ve seen recommendations for all of these sites but I haven’t used all of them. Filtering which of them you prefer is up to you, I’m just here to provide you with a bunch of sites to start with.

 

My story is that I started using Upwork in the beginning rather successfully, but as I got more experienced I usually used my network: I got personal recommendations and tips in Facebook-groups etc. However, we all need to start somewhere and these websites all worked for a big bunch of people. Maybe they are right for you?

 

Just to let you know, there are many more sites, but I did purposely skip a lot and just keep the ones that seem best. I did research for reviews and comments and scanned all the the sites – and I want you to benefit from that by not just adding any remote work website to this list.

 

Websites to go to for remote work:

 

Upwork – Mixed opinions on this site, but it’s one of the biggest and I used it successfully. Put some time into creating your profile, and don’t settle with the lowest paying jobs.

 

Remote OK – I just clicked around on this website. I lite the look of it. They seem to have a lot of jobs in different categories.

 

Remotive – Up to date with a lot of fresh jobs and people seem really happy about using it.

 

We work remotely – Great website for finding techie jobs and more qualified management jobs. Remote ones, of course.

 

Remote work hub  – Inspiring website with a lot of resources. And interesting jobs too!

 

The Muse – Full time jobs mainly. Engineers, marketeers, writers, sales people, there is almost everything on here. I do really like this website, worth checking it out just to get inspired.

 

Freelance writing – Writing only. Easy to navigate. Some freelancers use almost only this site and are satisfied.

 

Workew- Nice website, seems easy to use and they have some good jobs up there.

 

Flexjobs – You can search for free but you need to pay to get the good stuff and apply for jobs. People are getting good work from there, though.

 

The Penny Hoarder – On personal finance and smart tricks to save and earn more. You can write for them, but you can also find work on their website.

 

Find Bacon – For designers and developers. Haven’t used it but I like the look of it.

 

Remote Mission– For socially minded remote workers. Projects in charity and socially responsible companies and organisations.

 

Translatorsbase – For translating gigs only. Easy to use websites, some people are really happy about the site but I’ve also read that it can be hard to use with very slow response from the people behind it.

 

LinkedIn Jobs – often overseen by freelancers. But you can certainly find remote work here (mainly full time though) and pitch you skills to find gigs.

 

There is soooo much more out there. But if I were you, I wouldn’t want to get overwhelmed and rather start with some good ones than scroll through hundreds of websites. Now decide on one or two max, start using it and see how it goes. Getting stuck in scrolling websites is a certain way of not landing any remote work contracts.

 

Best of luck!

 

Thank you for letting me in

Saturday night. Feeling extremely grateful. People surprised me, reassured me, of their awesomeness, love and wisdom the past days. From unexpected directions, new friends, strangers, old acquaintances. This week has been all about relationships, people, connection – pure and real. It consisted of: spontaneously joining a birthday dinner tonight where I only knew one person (who was just an acquaintance and made a last minute bold move and invited me) – that turned out great with depth and intensity in every conversation 🌸Beautiful, wholehearted chats with my rad, lovely roomies 🦋 Moving stuff and having lunch with brother and parents ✌🏽Amazing work day with “colleagues” for the leadership course we’re hosting 🦁Randomly getting a seat on the train next to an old classmate I haven’t seen for years and talking for three hours straight – deep stuff 🦇Recording podcast with soul partner – always a blast of energy, always real, raw and true 🦄Climbing, hiking and hanging out with a fellow adventurer I just recently started getting to know irl after a long time of online contact 🦅Reconnecting by having a hard and developing conversation with one of the most important people in my life ✨Acrobatics with my favourite crowd 🤸‍♀️Conclusion: the love and beauty in people is endless, infinite. Thank you for letting me in ❤️

A brief self study of racism turned into love

Here is something I hate to admit. I used to feel resistance or maybe even slight repulsion to Indian men. Not that I personally had reason to, but through media I’d gotten bad news from India and many of my friends (whom, of course, never been there themselves) would warn me about going. The information on Indian men stored in my brain was mainly negative. This suspicious feeling about a certain group or look (yeah, also known as racism) is something we all have. It is something we are programmed to by feeding our brain with certain associations, most of the time by actively or passively consuming media. The more we see a certain group, such as people with darker skin, related to something bad the more our brains will automatically relate people looking like that to bad traits.

This does not mean that we actively have those unfair values about darker people, it’s actually more often the opposite. No matter how openminded and equal-thinking and anti- racist we are, we can not stop this programming from happening and from controlling our brains if we keep on consuming the biased media we are surrounded by. Studies show that even people with darker skin feel more suspicion and fear when seeing darker people compared to light skinned ones. The sad fact is that as a result of the terrible bias in media; movies, series, commercials, news etc. the same programming is going on in all of us, and it does not matter how wrong or heavily biased this image is, it doesn’t even matter if the media we consume is fictional, associating a certain look to certain traits even when it’s obviously fictional and made up creates this programming of our brains and this is how we become racists – maybe you could call it the early stages. This means that most people in the modern world are ”light” racists, at least. But it is not our fault. However, it is our responsibility to be aware of how this works and work against it. The only way to change this is to feed our brain with more positive information/associations to dark skinned people than negative ones (this of course works the same for any group/look, but in this case I am using skin color as an example). And we need to get first hand information – experiential based. The deeper level of experience (thus memory thus information in the computer that is our brain) that is created when e.g. spending time and becoming friends with people of a certain look allows it to overrun the previous programming faster than for example just reading about it. But it will not happen unless you actively work on re-learning, creating new automatic associations in your brain.

Having explained this, let’s go back to me traveling to India. Despite knowing that I was wrong, having read and studied the phenomenon described above (it is called priming – read about it in the super interesting book Blink), I had this hidden feeling of fear and suspicion when it came to Indian men that was barely on the surface of my awareness. Like I said, I hate to admit it, and wasn’t it because I knew of this phenomenon I would probably have neglected it. After all, it is not very easy to realise that despite trying so hard to have an open heart and mind, despite having traveled a lot, despite knowing and loving people with all kinds of skin colors and looks, there was still this shameful, groundless racist in me.

What happened then? This year started in India, I came here in december 2016 and celebrated New Years Eve with a bunch of Indian students. In the middle of January I went on to Tasmania, Australia, and spent a couple of months down under followed by Singapore and Malaysia. During my travels India kept calling, kept reminding me of its’ existence. The first guy I couch surfed with in Australia was Indian, so was my teacher at Vipassana and I shared dorm rooms with great guys from India almost all the time. So many kind faces, so many caring smiles. They all gave me their best advice on India, they were all fun, sweet and openminded. I mean why wouldn’t they be? All in all I felt like India was sending me a message. I needed to go back. On the flight from Singapore to Mumbai, I couldn’t stop smiling. All those Indian faces, they smiled back at me. I felt surrounded by love, kindness, harmony. Instead of being suspicious, I expected kindness from them. Being back amongst Indian people made me feel calm and happy. And what is really amazing about this change of expectations is that I could feel it happen. The shift. My brain was finally re-programmed. The automatic response to typical Indian features that my brain would send me in milliseconds was positive. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not naive and I know that there are bad people here, just like everywhere. But that is not the point. The point is that unless you do something about it, you are probably a ”light racist” and you definitely have unfair, stereotypical ideas of certain groups because of the way you are programmed. It is how it is, this is brain science. It is not because of who you are, it is not in your personality or values, it is biology. Now – do something about it! Prove yourself wrong! Get out there, get to know ”them”. And if within your power, change the media stream as well now that you’re on it.

Let’s do our best!

Hanna

Destination diary: Singapore (is it worth a stopover? YES!)

Singapore. I have transfered flights here many times during my journeys, but never prioritised to stop long enough to see the city. I didn’t expect that much from it – and I was WRONG! Singapore is from now on a place I love, its’ vibe, its’ people, its’ endless possibilities. Singapore is a blend of cultures, a top scene for science and art and is super safe and easy to get around. Only negative thing I can come up with is that its’ expensive compared to the surrounding nations, but that’s why it is perfect for a few days, maybe not for a few weeks. Here’s what I did in Singapore and most of it, you should do too!

GARDENS BY THE BAY (free)

A big park down by the water, a lot of installations and very manmade – but cool! Known for the huge “trees”, you can access the boardwalk and the bar in the top of one of them for a fee if you want. There is some cool and strange art in the gardens, and there are different squares with different kind of nature. Make sure to stay here until darkness, as there are light installations everywhere and this is when the gardens come alive… AND the best thing happens att night (7.45pm and 8.45pm in time of writing) when the GARDEN RAPSODY starts among the Supertrees. At the time of my visit it was the STAR WARS edition!!! I was STOKED! And I didn’t even know the light show was happening when I was there, imagine my surprise when strolling around in the gardens and suddenly the Imperial march surrounds me and the lights go crazy… Needless to say, this was one of my top experiences in Singapore (probably wont be the same for you because now I told you about the light show beforehand haha, but definitely visit GARDENS BY THE BAY when in Singapore!

THE CLOUD FOREST

One of the two enclosed gardens within the Gardens by the bay, the other was is the FLOWER DOME. I only visited the CLOUD FOREST though, and I didn’t really find it worth the money (16 SGD entrance). Although it was cool, beautiful gardens, interesting architecture and a nice boardwalk from the top of the dome. They also show a movie about climate change in one room, an appreciated reminder on sustainability and awareness in this commercial city.

CLARK QUAY, BOAT QUAY AND MARINA BAY (free)

Yeah, you just can’t miss this unless you actively avoid it. This is the city center around the canal, this is where you want to stroll in the night, this is where you see the crazy skyscrapers and the city lights reflecting in the water. If you only have time for ONE thing in Singapore, you should stroll around here. The whole walk around this area probably takes one hour, but you’ll want to stop and embrace the view more than once so take your time! I started from Elgin bridge and walked along the water on the South-ish side, all the way to Artscience musem, then crossed the bridge and walked back on the other ridge. Just look it up on the map, it will be quite obvious. This is Singapore at its’ core, if you don’t see this area you haven’t really seen the city. I’m not saying that it’s the best part of Singapore, it is just… essential. And it is beautiful too.

CHINA TOWN (free)

When you exit the MRT on Pagoda street you are suddenly in China. The area isn’t that big, but it’s full with Chinese food stalls, lanterns, restaurants and cheap shopping. There are also plenty of hostels here, I don’t know if it is because I lived in Shanghai for a while but I loved staying in this part of town. It has more personality than the Quays and the city center, and is still on walking distance from those areas. The big and quite impressive BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC MUSEUM is here, and it’s free, so you might as well pay it a visit. It is a nice temple indeed, and if you haven’t seen many buddhist temples before you should definitely go.

LITTLE INDIA (free)


This is where you go for Indian vibes. There is shopping, food and architecture, temples and colours. I found an hour or two enough to see the area, but if you’re really into shopping you might need some more time. It is an area with nice, bohemic vibes and if you have the time you should definitely pay it a visit.

ARAB QUARTER (free)


I definitely found the Arab quarters more interesting than Little India. It’s full of vibrant colours from the shops and restaurants, you’ll find Persian mats, clothes, spices, jewellery, leather and more. There are plenty of inviting Middle Eastern cafés and restaurants (mixed with a few hip coffee shops and trendy vegetarian cafés), it is almost necessary to stop at at least a few of them and just enjoy the vibe of this fragrant part of the city. Also take the chance to visit the Sultan Mosque when walking by.

ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM

On the costly side of things, this museum (the label actually sound to boring for this place) makes for a few hours of fun and new learnings. Residing in a huge lotus flower-shaped building by the Marina Bay, you will have seen the place from a distance before you get there. At the time of my visit they hosted three different exhibitions, whereof one was aimed towards kids (they said). The three exhibitions costed 38 SGD, to visit two of them was 27 SGD and just one was 17 SGD. Due to lack of time I only visited the two that weren’t for kids; Universe & Art and Human. The first was about space travels, human in space history and technology and connected it to art and fantasy that the discovering of our universe lead to. The latter was about Artificial intelligence and its’ development, with brand new technologies up for testing. I really enjoyed the visit, and if you are somewhat interested in science, tech and art the ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM will definitely keep you entertained.

HAW PAR VILLA (free)

Maybe the weirdest attraction in Singapore, this is a theme park made in hell is based on Chinese mythology and buddhism. Brightly coloured figures, statues and paintings, a little run down and completely different than anything else you can find in Singapore (I haven’t seen anything like it in the world, to be honest). The top weirdest part is the Six courts of hell, where you’ll be introduced to what punishment you’ll get for wasting food, cheating on an exam or being rude to elders. Boiled in oil, sawn into halves, heart and guts torn out, crushed between stones and a bunch of other treatments are illustrated in the chambers, with signs explaining what kind of sin leading to what punishment. The HAW PAR VILLA is not beautiful, but it is colourful, interesting and certainly entertaining.

BOTANIC GARDENS (free)

Due to a thunder storm with rain that made me drip a puddle on the floor in the subway home I didn’t explore all of the gardens. However, the stroll in the park was very lovely, lush and beautiful and not so crowded. Parts of the BOTANIC GARDENS really make you feel like you are in the middle of a forest, other parts are more like an exhibition of different species of plants. With some time to spare and if you feel like you miss nature, it makes for a great escape from the city lights.


SENTOSA ISLAND (free to enter)

Free to enter but shit expensive to do almost anything. Once used for the Siloso fort that protected Singapore during the WWII, this island is now turned into a fun park. Many people go here to visit Universal Studios, but I found it ridiculously expensive and went for a stroll around the island and its’ other attractions instead. Outside of Universal Studios there are several other attractions such as luges, zip lining, wall climbing, Madame Tussauds and more. All of them are on the pricy side of things! One attraction that is actually free is the beaches, all artificial with sand imported from Indonesia, but still pretty great with palm trees, bars and clear water. I found it a great escape from the city and a fun area, although the bars were of course not super cheap. If you want to enjoy the beach but keep it cheaper, you can always bring food and drinks or go to 7-11 (they have cold beer in the fridge). In the night on our way back, we went to see the crane dance, a light/music-show by the water that is also free. A pretty great ending of our day in Sentosa. You can easily stroll back across the bridge from the island, and there’s really no need to pay the 4 SGD to go by train (there or back). Although our day on SENTOSA ISLAND was really great, I wouldn’t prioritise it on a shorter stay in Singapore.


AND ON AFFORDABLE EATING…

A little tip on how to make it cheaper: go for the local foodcourts! Suddenly the food will be pretty cheap (we’re still in Singapore though). There are many, but here are a few tips: Lau Pa Sat near Raffles place (cheaper in the “covered area” than on the blocked street), Chinatown Point (the main streets in Chinatown, like Pagoda street, are more expensive but still ok), Holland Village (really nice small food court, a bit off the given track. You’ll probably be the only tourist here).  And a very specific recommendation: one stall in the food court in Holland village, squeezed in one corner, serves a plate of tofu with crushed peanuts and chili (I asked to get only a little chili to avoid crazy spicy). It is probably THE BEST tofu I ever had. Crunchy skin, soft inside… I didn’t know tofu could be that good! And I payed 6 SGD (about 4,30 USD) for the tofu, stir fried greens, noodles and a small bowl of soup. Yummy!

I hope this convinced you to extend your transfer in Singapore for a few days in the city! If not, hit me with your doubts in a comment and I’ll try to convince you even more!

Enjoy the vibes!

Hanna

Destination diary: South coast Australia, from Melbourne to Perth

It is a long drive from the east coast to the west coast of Australia, and to be honest its something I won’t do again. Not because it wasn’t good, it’s just a tiring amount of driving and quite dull at times. For a first timer though, those hours of sameness is part of the experience and in some way poetic. We had about two weeks and wished we had another to get more time for stops on the way. Here’s our experience and itinerary of the great southern drive:

GREAT OCEAN ROAD


Most people who go here do it to get to the famous Nine Apostles. The drive is scenic indeed, the road is winding and the ocean is roaring beneath steep cliffs as you drive between the tourist towns along the way. There is plenty of options to stop here, for fuel, food, a beach break or to get a hotel bed over night. Its’ popularity amongst tourist can be spotted in the frequent signs saying ”remember: drive on the left side in Australia”. Our plan was to stop in Torquay, about an hour from Melbourne, to enjoy the beach for a while and maybe do some surfing. However, the weather didn’t agree and as there’s not much else to do there we went straight for the drive west towards the Nine Apostles.

The weather got worse, and turned into a storm. Conditions were extreme and scary, we had to drive around big branches that fell on the road and ultimately we found ourselves in a line of cars, stuck behind fallen trees. There is no obvious detour to get to the Nine Apostles from where we were, and we spent some time driving back and forth trying to see if the road would get cleared or if any detour could be used. The one road that would take us around the blocked area efficiently with just a small detour was small and also blocked, and only to enter it was scary due to the tall trees swaying in the wind with branches already fallen on the road.

We decided to take a longer detour, estimated extra time was 1,5 hours but we didn’t want to just wait in line as the police officers who just arrived to the scene told us that this would take hours. Driving up north, the wind was still strong but the rain stopped and the sight was better. We came to a small road that would take us through the rainforest, the next option of detours to get to the apostles. We had a fun time driving through the forest, we felt like quite the adventurers avoiding branches, sometimes, getting out of the car to drag them out of our way, and zig zagging our way through. One third in on the road through the lush, dense rain forest we were once again stopped by a tree, too big for us to move. Perhaps this was a good thing, in hind sight it wasn’t very smart to drive there as the storm was still ongoing and we risked getting stuck between fallen trees (or worse). At this point we were seriously considering skipping the apostles, assuming that they were overrated and not worth the hustle. But we were so close, and the weather was getting better too so we decided to go there anyway. Turning back, heading even further north, we finally found a road that was already cleared and that would take us all the way. At this time, it was already dark and late in the night and we decided to stop and sleep in the car.

We woke up at our random home for the night, looking out over a paddock with some friendly cows, and went straight for the Nine Apostles. I must say, I found them a bit overrated. However, the cliffs in the area are spectacular, I just found other views than the apostles more interesting and dramatic. After an adventurous start of our roadtrip we where happy to have made it to the apostles at all, but even more happy that the weather was on our side again.

MT ARAPILES

Maybe not for everyone, but me and my traveling companion are both huge lovers of outdoor climbing, and being only a few hours away from Australias greatest place for climbing we couldn’t resist the temptation. Heading inland it took us around three hours to get there. We arrived at a campsite where slack lines, bongo drums and happy hippies created a welcoming atmosphere. This was the kind of place where people settled for weeks to splurge in their love for climbing. Needless to say: we loved it and felt like settling as well and forget the rest of the world for a while… Everyone where super friendly, and I do nourish the hope to come back and develop my trad climbing skills some day… we will see.

Mt Arapiles is a lonely mountain surrounded by open fields, making the views spectacular. On our second day we hired a guide and equipment for trad climbing, and started out with a multi pitch to the top of a free standing pillar. Amazing! I don’t want to geek out over climbing too much, but the Arapiles certainly deserve their reputation. There are routes for everyone, and what I really loved is that you don’t have to climb super hard routes to get to spectacular, long and super fun climbs. Additionally, the bouldering is extensive and fun. And the camp ground is perfect for making friends, we were invited to climb with people we met. to have tea in our neighbours’ camps, and got recommendations on where to go and what do do for the rest of our trip. If you’re into climbing – go to the Arapiles and just stay for a few days, meet people, play music, talk and CLIMB!

SOUTH AUSTRALIA AND ADELAIDE

This is as far west as most people get when traveling this way from Melbourne, and Adelaide is a nice stopover for some city-vibes before the long drive west. You can borrow free bikes from the Bicycle SA and since Adelaide is flat like a pancake it’s a perfect way to get around. What we enjoyed most in Adelaide were the restaurants and bars, having been camping for a while some tasty handicraft beer was extremely satisfying. The museums are mediocre, and the botanical garden is nice but if you’ve been to the one in Melbourne this doesn’t really add on anything.

From Adelaide we went to Port Augusta and Ceduna. Both being small towns, but compared to the rest of the towns on the drive west they are quite big and makes for a good spot for loading whatever you might need for the drive. Note that you are not allowed to bring any fresh fruit of veggies over the state border from to Western Australia, so indulge in a huge fresh sallad and prepare yourself to survive on the canned type, as it is surprisingly hard to find any fresh veggies to buy on the road through  SA.

The state that stretches between Victoria and West Australia is not really known for anything except for Adelaide, the oysters in Ceduna and the mining. And to be honest, there isn’t a lot happening here. In the western part of South Australia the Nullarbor plains start and the more outbackish part ((compared to the real outback this is just a practice on beginners’ level, though) of the drive. Don’t miss the great view point at Bunda Cliffs, though, before crossing the border to WA in Eucla.

THE NULLARBOR PLAINS AND EASTERN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Here comes the spectacular part of the drive, spectacular in its’ sameness and impression of endlessness. Nullarbor means ”no trees” in latin, a very literal name of the area. There isn’t much happening on the long drive that takes around tree to four days. However, the plains are beautiful. Just relax and enjoy the drive. Part of the road (190 km) is Australias longest stretch of completely straight road… Don’t fall asleep behind the wheel! Prepare before leaving an area with mobile reception by getting some podcasts an music ready, as there is no coverage here. As you get further away from civilasation, the prices on fuel are rising. Fill up the tank when you’re at a place with reasonable prices, as you might want to get a little less in the more expensive areas.

On the drive out of Eucla, we spotted some huge, white dunes from the car, and got so curious that we turned back. The dunes weren’t mentioned on any sign or information anywhere, but you’ll find them if driving down to the old telegraph station in Eucla. A couple of hundred meters from the parking and the ruin of the old telegraph starts an area with huge sand dunes, that makes for a perfect stop to play around, get some movement in your body and take some photographs before getting back on the road.

ESPERANCE AND CAPE LE GRAND

In Esperance you’ll feel like you’re finally back in civilisation. After realising that the pink lake isn’t pink anymore, but the beaches are amazing, we headed for Cape le grand. It is a national park just east of Esperance. First thing we did was the short climb to the top of Frenchmans peak. It is WAY MORE interesting than it looks! With a huge cave on the top that you don’t see from the ground. Bring picknick and enjoy the view over the beaches and rounded mountains.

There are many campsites here, but we went for Lucky bay after recommendations from locals. We went for an exploration trek around the campsite and found a whole system of shallow caves, just after the memorial of Matthew Flinders. We climbed around there with the ocean roaring under us, and if it wasn’t because the day light was fading we could have stayed for hours.

PEMBERTON, MARGARET RIVER AND AROUND


There was just one reason for us to stop in Pemberton: to climb a tree! This area has some of the tallest forests on earth, and in Warren national park near Pemberton you can climb to the top of a 69 meter tall Karri tree. At first we expected it to be a ”regular” tree climb, where you had to use just the tree but with some kind of security equipment like harnesses. Then we realised that is was a bit more organised, they actually put metal bars like steps around the tree. When we came there though, those steps were just really small and uneven metal sticks and with no other safety, if you would fall you would really fall… Except for a platform allowing a breather on the way up (and a sign for those who found the first part scary to climb down – this was the easy part) the climb goes all the way to a little crib at the top of the tree. And yes – we came here in time to watch the sunset over the surrounding forest. So worth it!
 

As the moon was rising, we headed to Margaret River and our couch surfing-host. She had a camper van in her yard that we stayed in – some may not consider it a real home but with a proper mattress it makes for a real bed! Something we didn’t have in my car or in the tent. Plus we had access to a proper shower and kitchen – campers delight! The Margaret River area was another highlight. The Boranup forest is a magical place, go for a walk or just do the forest drive. But if you drive, stop and step out in the forest because there is some true powers in those trees, their sounds and smells… Margaret River is also known for the huge caves found in the area. Although all of them are very neatly organised and comes with an entrance fee, it makes for a fun activity and the caves are indeed very interesting. We went to the more adventurous one where you get a helmet and a flash light and can then explore the cave system yourself.

Another amazing thing i Margaret River is in Hamelin bay just by the old jetty – a chance to make direct contact with H U G E stingrays. You are not supposed to feed them, but apparently people do anyway and the stingrays come up sniffing your feet if you stand out in the water. They are friendly – but huge!

PERTH AND FREMANTLE (+ ROTTNEST ISLAND)

After a long drive from Melbourne we were finally in Perth, one of the world’s most isolated cities. Here is where my travel companion from the last couple of weeks left Australia. Here is also where I sold my car, and went from road tripping to backpacking.

I really liked Perth, but my favourite area by far was Fremantle. It makes for its own little world and it is actually not a part of Perth but its’ own city, only half an hour from central Perth. Fremantle is a port city with beaches and sea views. It’s an eclectic, eccentric blend of quirky little shops, art galleries, handcrafted beers, great coffee and a very vibrant festival and music scene. Fremantle market is the place to go for food and souvenirs, but the best way to explore Fremantle is to just stroll around and enter the many art spaces and stop for coffee or food wherever you find it inviting.


I stayed most of my time in Fremantle, except for the area being way nicer with a soul and personality that suited me perfectly, the hostels made for a similar experience. All in all, if I would move to Perth at any time I would definitely settle for Fremantle.

This said, I had a great experience in Perth as well. After my friend left I was couch surfing with an amazing guy and our conversations went crazy! Touching on everything from string theory and programming to binge eating and breasts – and always with a lot of laughter. He showed me around the city, we went to his favourite waterfall, drank bubble tea, spent an hour in the arcade hall trying to beat each other in all kinds of weird games that we found, and went to a donation based indian restaurant. What’s really cool is that me and this guy were not alike at all if looking at the obvious aspects, He’s ten years younger than me, working in a completely different field and our lives are very different. What we both have though, is an endless curiosity and open minds. And this is more important than all things on the surface. I am very certain this guy will show up in my life again, hopefully I can host him sometimes. I am so grateful for couch surfing and everyone I met that way, it’s truly amazing!

Last detail on my journey from east to west: I need to mention Rottnest Island and the quokkas! Terribly overpriced every day except for Tuesdays, this little island still makes for a fun day tour. I rented a bike and went around the island. The nature is great but for me the experience was all about the quokkas! This little mammal only exist on Rottnest Island, and they are very friendly and curious so you’ll have no problem seeing them up close. Apparently the #quokkaselfie is a thing (click the link to see the feed, it’s hilarious!) and I had to join the club with this little posing fellow! It became a thing because of the quokkas always smiling, photo ready face. Looking at them up close you’ll see that they always look like a peculiar little cartoon animal.

During my time in Perth, I went inland for the meditation course Vipassana, but that’s something I covered in another post.

Eventually, I got bored with the weather in Perth and felt like something more adventurous, and since Perth is perfect for flying to Asia I bought a one way ticket to Singapore… I’ll keep you posted!

Some general recommendations:

– You won’t need an extra tank of fuel, the gas stations are close enough to each other.


– Bring extra water, just in case something happens with your car

– Download podcasts and music beforehand

– Free camping can be found at many places on the way, however most of them without any facilities.

Drive, drive into the sunset baby,

Hanna

Don’t judge the one who smells, you’re the one with a privilege

A little while ago, I spent several weeks road tripping and camping, hiking and trekking. A friend and I travelled from Tasmania to Perth (southern Australia) spending most nights in our tent on free camp sites and some nights in the car. It was great! However, hygiene was sometimes not prioritised or even possible to keep up. We simply didn’t have access to showers, sometimes for many days in a row. When the weather was warm we washed in the ocean, rivers or lakes, but some days that wasn’t too inviting. And since we only had the outdoors as our home, we didn’t want to swim on a could day and spend the rest of the day freezing… You can probably see where this is going, we were NOT CLEAN.

Despite having climbed a mountain and being all sweaty, we had to keep the same clothes on and keep on travelling the day after. We did smell. Not super bad (I think) but still. And I realised one of the most obvious things in a way I hadn’t thought of it before: being clean is such a privilege. Being dirty and smelly is the natural state for a human. This is what we all were, back in the days. We have been unclean (we probably didn’t even know the concept ”clean”, we were just getting on with our lives feeling completely normal) for most or our existence on Earth. We hade to get up and get on with our days without washing ourselves and without a clean set of clothes. Even today, a daily shower is a luxury only a small share of humanity have access to. So is being able to change into clean clothes.

Living (and currently traveling) in a part of the world where being clean and fresh is the norm, I realised how we exclude and judge people who fail to live up to those standards. How it is considered normal and fair to avoid people who smell and don’t look clean. As if that makes them less human. We don’t consider it being disrespectful to step away from them, we don’t care if they understand what we think about them – many of us probably even think that ”they should know because they should really do something about it” that ”it is not okay to be around others when you smell/look like that”. I’m not saying that I am any better, I have moved away from people on the bus because of their smell. I’ve stepped away from them. I am just like most of us. But from now on I am trying hard not to, because I realised that I am the exception.

Let’s break down the situation these people are in, according to what I can grasp from my perspective. If you don’t have a home (or sometimes don’t, or get beat up or in different ways suffer at home and need to stay away from it), you probably don’t have access to a shower. So, you would need a public shower. Those usually cost a few dollars. So does schampoo and soap. This means that even if you could swim and get clean in the wild (maybe not that easy if living in a city, or in the colder parts of the world), you would need to pay for something to wash yourself with – just water doesn’t do the trick. And you might not have clean clothes anyway, because laundry would cost you another couple of dollars. If even having enough food is a challenge, getting clean is naturally under-prioritised – that’s not where those few dollars would go.

Let’s face it: without the luxury of a shower and laundry possibilities, we all would smell! Thus, the natural state is to smell and be dirty, unless we have the privilege of treating ourselves with the means it takes to stay clean. This is not free, this is not something we should take for granted. If you can put on clean clothes after washing yourself up in a bathroom at home, you belong to the lucky ones. You are the exception, and you have no right to look down on others. Be grateful, and respect all humans, always.

Full of gratitude,
Hanna

10 days of silence, meditation and brain wrestling (Vipassana)

I’ve been trying to meditate on and off, sometimes making a successful 30 days in a row of 20 minutes per day, but never felt like I really reached the benefits I’d heard of. It was a paus for my brain, similar to a walk or a yoga session,  but I always felt like there should be another level to it. Based on the fact that uncountable studies and examples point out the benefits of meditation, I wanted to put a serious effort into the exploration of mediation practice.

I like to do things in projects, go deeper into something with focus and determination for a while, and see where it takes me. To just add an hour of meditation per day and e.g. use on of the dozens of apps or classes that popped up due to the trendiness of meditation and mindfulness wouldn’t work for me. I chose Vipassana because it would allow me to focus solely on meditation practice for ten days, instead of a short break from reality it seemed to be about hard work, discipline and deep practice. The center I went to was the Dhamma Papida near Perth, in western Australia, and this is my experience.

As a new student, you must start with a ten days course, a seemingly long time considering the challenging schedule and regulations. The rules of Vipassana are strict. During those ten days you are not allowed to speak or in any other way communicate or interact with the other participants. No gestures or sign language, avoiding eye contact and absolutely no physical contact. You are also not allowed to bring any books or writing material, so there is no reading, writing and no listening to any kind of (your own choice of) audio. That is, no information in or out and as little expression as possible (the teachings of Vipassana and the actual course are exempt, of course, and so is necessary practical information), it is about you and your brain ONLY.

The days begin at 4 with a soft but persistent gong waking everyone up, and at 4:30 the two hours long morning meditation begins. We tumbled out of our dorm the first morning, threading slowly the hundred meters to the mediation hall. The room was dimly lit and I am pretty sure we all fought hard not to fall asleep on our cushions that first day. At 6:30 we welcomed the sound of the gong, letting us know that it was breakfast time. A filling and very yummy meal was served as the daylight chased the darkness away and the day began (for the rest of the world). On the first morning, I learned that the ”no intoxicants” regulation included coffee (I could have guessed, but that was an aspect I just didn’t think of). Having travelled with a heavy coffee drinker, my past months I’d had something like five cups per day of strong coffee. Bulging two cups of black tea, I tried to fight the headache that I knew might terror me later that day.

At 8 mediation starts again, and with two breaks, we meditate until 11 when it is time for lunch. Again, the food (vegetarian only) was amazing and filling. However, this is the last meal for the day except for some fruit and tea at five o’clock. The old students don’t even get this, but are to sustain on only lemon water or tea without milk when the rest of us were having our fruit. The point of the food regulation is that we meditate better when our belly is not full, and also to realise that it’s ok to not always be full, we can live on less and hunger is just another sensation (although I didn’t feel hungry at all just light and healthy, the volume of food was for me well suited for the slow paced routine at the center). Anyhow, the lunch break continues to 1 pm when meditation starts again and goes on to 5 pm, then we had the tea and fruit and a one hour break, and then meditated again between 6-7 pm. At 7 was one of the highlights of the day; the discourse. This was a one hour class showed on video, that included the learnings, principles and philosophies that comes with Vipassana. The day ended with a half hour meditation session, and at 9 pm most of us went to bed, exhausted.

The instructions of the first days’ meditation is to focus on your breath and how it feels in your nose. That’s it. The simplicity in itself felt futile. When our minds moved from the awareness of breathing to thoughts (as it does – all the time) we just brought it back. And that’s how it went, for hours. To pick up that coffee-thread again, the dreaded headache caught me in the afternoon of the first day and the last part of the day was really hard. To just focus on breathing for hours was a struggle and it felt like I was either thinking of my pain or was about to fall asleep pretty much all day, and I literally crashed in my bed and was deep asleep within five minutes that first night.

Luckily, the withdrawal from my coffee addiction didn’t last any longer, and my second day was way easier. The first three days we were only focusing on our breathing, narrowing it down on the third day to the sensation of breath on the skin below the nostrils. I don’t know if you did the math, but each day consisted of about ten hours of meditation, and to focus on that sensation ONLY for ten hours is difficult and utterly challenging. The purpose of this narrow focus is to sharpen the mind to experience the most subtle sensation anywhere on the body. The smaller the area, the sharper the mind. These days were a practice in the sensitivity required for Vipassana.

On the fourth day we were introduced to Vipassana meditation. Vipassana stems from buddhism, but is secular in its’ nature in modern days. The father of Vipassana is the late N.S. Goenka, who was raised in Myanmar and learned it there from the monks. Mr Goenka is the teacher at all the Vipassana retreats which are similar everywhere in the world, and recordings of him talking and/or chanting are opening and closing the meditation sessions, and he is also doing the one hour discourse where you get to watch him on video. Despite the seriousness of it all, Mr Goenka is surprisingly funny – and I think we laughed out loud (a joyous relief considering the silence and non-interaction the rest of the time) at least once every discourse. Despite so much of the teachings being on audio and video and not live, the course is vivid and Mr Goenka feels present. At each course there is also an assisting teacher, and this is the person who will give the students more personal guidance and who you go to for questions regarding your practice. The assisting teacher is sitting in front of the hall and is in every way active in the teachings. On this fourth day as the Vipassana was given, Mr Goenkas voice guided us to Vipassana; sequences of long body scans in a specific order.

In addition to the body scans, day four marked the start of the ”Sittings of strong determination” three times daily. They were one hour long each, during which we were not allowed to move. Any itching, pain or sleeping limbs were just to be observed when scanning that part of the body, “observe them impersonally and know that they are just temporary” were the instructions. An example of Vipassana practice would be that you are focusing on your shoulders when scanning the body, and suddenly you are experiencing pain in one knee. Your mind will wander to that knee, and beg you to move it as to ease the pain. Instead you are to move your focus back to the shoulders, knowing that the pain will pass, and only observe it when you are getting to your knees in your scanning procedure.

The first sitting of strong determination, or ”long hold” as I started calling it in my mind, relating to holding a position or weight for a longer time during body exercise, was a real struggle. I suspect none of us new students made it all the way through without shifting our bodies at least a little. However – to my surprise – they rapidly got easier. On the third session I was able to sit still for the full hour, and after that I managed every single time for the rest of the course. The struggle wasn’t physical, it was mental. Despite kind of knowing this already, it was a realisation in itself that the physical challenge was a piece of cake compared to the mental one.

Honestly, our minds are crazy! Constantly nagging, always bringing something up that we didn’t ask for. Going through things that we thought we already solved again and again, or just ”showing” us something meaningless, or thinking about what kind of food we are going to get next… In the beginning I had sessions when I could stay focused for twenty seconds maximum before my mind took away with me. It got better, but even at the end of the course the best I could manage was to be in the meditative, focused state for like ten minutes before I had to call my mind back from some random thought.

The work on improving my meditation practice took me a long way, with the realisation that there is a lot left to work on before I can actually meditate for even half an hour without getting interrupted by sudden uncontrolled thinking.

What about the silence? Before the course started, I thought that being silent and spending all this time not doing anything but thinking and meditating would be really hard. To my and many of my fellow students’ surprise, it wasn’t hard at all. It was actually enjoyable. However, I think that if entering Vipassana with anxiety or other mental challenges, it might get really hard – for most of us the silence was the easy part.

On that note, the noble silence is broken by lunchtime on the last day of the course, and a loud, loving chatter takes its’ place (only during the breaks though). Having a last day when we where allowed to talk and share our experiences was invaluable! I am not sure how I would have made it the first days in the ”real world” if I wouldn’t have had those conversations, sharing what we’d been through.

What are my biggest learnings then?

As I am writing this, only one day has passed since the course ended. I am sure more learnings will pop up as I reflect further, but here is what I see at this point:

The major one: my mind is kind. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t sleep at night due to anxiety, my head panicking and criticising and blaming and fearing out of control. A time when I had to distract myself to not think negative thoughts, and when lone time usually involved crying. Since then years have passed and I have been working a lot on myself. I was expecting that something hidden would pop up during my ten days alone in my own head, but it didn’t. I feel like I am seeing all of me, everything inside of me, clearly. And it is all good, calm and taken care of. I am treating myself with kindness, trust and love, and I am so grateful!

The others:
– Controlling the mind is a constant challenge. The work will never be over
– Training to stop reacting to it helps in tolerating pain

Being an old student of Vipassana, I am now welcome to join any one day, three days or ten days retreat or to volunteer at any center. There are Vipassana centers all around the world, same teachings but completely different settings (and food, they say). I will definitely do Vipassana again, just spending that time with myself was really developing and fruitful for my productivity coming out of the course. Although, I am not going to do another ten days course any time soon, I am afraid that might drive me a little bit crazy.


As Mr Goenka said: may all beings be happy

Hanna

Destination diary: Tasmania

Almost four months after arriving in Tasmania (or ”Tassie”, as most Aussies would say), I am on a ferry to the mainland. It’s April, and autumn got its’ full grip on Tassie the last three weeks. The air is cool and fresh, and although the sun is still warming the land and the waters are still warm enough for swimming (kind of) the nights are really cold and I got good use of my beanie the last two weeks. Before my mind is filled up with my upcoming experiences, I wanted to give a review of how I experienced Tasmania, mentioning some experiences but skipping others. If nothing else, it’s going to help me remember.

Tasmania is calling itself ”the natural state”, and this is for a reason. There are national parks pretty much everywhere. If summarizing what Tassie is about I would say mountains, forests and waterfalls. The outdoor industry is well established and there is information and gear in most towns and parks. Another bonus, trying to tempt mainland tourists with its’ natural beauty, they have plenty of free camping spots and many in stunning locations with good facilities. No matter what time of year you are travelling in Tassie, bringing warm clothes and rain proof gear is a must. Tassie is known for its’ ”for seasons in a day”-weather, and even in summer some days get really cold and the weather can change fast. The most extreme example of this for me was during a yoga class in February. During that one our, in a big tent on a lawn, it went from hot sunny weather to rain to stormy winds and hail and back to sunshine… That said, the summers are usually really warm with a strong sun (wear sun screen!) and that was the case for most of my time in Tasmania.

HOBART AND AROUND

The first two months in Tassie I spent in and around Hobart, the state capital in the southeast. If you’ve spent some time in the bigger mainland cities, Hobart will appear as the small town it is, population only 220 000 and the streets get sleepy and close to empty after 6 pm. However, Hobart is a pretty and charismatic town, being the biggest on the island they host a bunch of festivals and the very visit worthy museum of contemporary art, MONA. MONA is a unique influence with weird, interesting and powerful art. Despite mixing new and old art, contemporary and traditional, they are extremely good at keeping a red thread and communicate it to the audience.

Over Hobart towers Mount Wellington with its’ eye-catching Organ Pipes, and you’ll find several walking trails on the slopes of the mountain. I personally recommend walking just below the pipes (a couple of walks to chose from), the rainforesty Myrtle Gully trail and making sure to get to the Octopus tree and Sphinx lookout – little gems hiding in the forests around the mountain. Mount Wellington also has some great places for rock climbing and several great mountain bike trails. Going mountain biking with two local teenagers behaving as if born on their bikes I got to see (not jump – phew!) some crazy jumps. The climb upwards was tiring and tricky, but well worth the super duper fun bike ride down through the forest.

I’ll skip telling you too much about my work at a race horse stable in the outskirts of Lilydale (in the north east), the strawberry farm and the awesome hippie house in South Hobart where I spent a couple of weeks each (wwoofing and workawaying – read more in this blogpost), and move on to the last few weeks of camping, hiking and road tripping around the island.

I bought a car almost immediately when arriving in Tassie, and loaded with a good tent, sleeping bags, a fuel stove and an imported friend from home I went deeper into Tassie and its’ wonders by driving, camping and bushwalking. Without a car it is hard to really explore all of Tassie, as some of its’ most beautiful places are remotely located (but not far – it’s a small island). This said, you can definitely find tours going to most of the parks and attractions, but they are more costly and a bit limiting (what if you want to stay an extra night in one of the national parks for example). Anyhow, me and my travel companion left Hobart driving east, ready to explore.

THE EAST COAST

This part of Tassie is categorised by beaches and the ocean. You can stop almost every 15 minutes and go for a swim and the probability is high that you’ll have an amazing beach all for yourself. Our first major stop on the east coast was the Tasman peninsula; known for its’ drastic steep cliffs that goes vertically down into the ocean waves. Sitting on one of them with your feet over the edge is something that will definitely make your heart beat faster. Despite the high traffic of walkers this is a beautiful trek, no matter if you spend four hours going back and forth to the iconic totem pole or do the full three day circuit. It is a popular challenge for daring adventure seekers to go rock climbing on the totem pole and the surrounding cliffs, and we (both climbers) were veeeery tempted, but unfortunately (or luckily?) we didn’t have the gear required and didn’t prioritise an arranged a tour.

Next major stop we did was the Freycinet peninsula, where we spent a full three days walking around the whole peninsula, including the rocky climb to Mount Freycinet. There are some good camping spots here, from which you can easily get a morning swim in the ocean as the sun rises. The iconic wine class bay was a great treat at the end of the hike, and walking barefoot was a welcomed change after the many hours of more mountainous grounds. We also got to see a wombat close up and cuddle some wild (?) wallabies. Talking about wildlife, be aware of the possums that will try to steal your food – they are used to humans and will come too close if you don’t watch them.

Next up – bay of fires! There are many free camping spots in the area and it was a perfect place to slow down. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and a great ocean view, as there are camping spots right by the beach (Cozy corner north is where we stayed). Probably the best campsite we stayed on, and it’s a free one too!


THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

From the east coast our journey continued in the north. This is diverse area. It hosts great beaches and cliffy waterside towns were the ocean roars wildly and swimming is impossible. After a long day’s drive we arrived in Marrawah in the northwest (Green Point campsite). This was one of the best places we stayed, another amazing sunset (and sunrise), huge waves and a great, wild beach almost to ourselves. And yes – free camping! From here, we drove the West Wilderness Way through the high mooreland of the Tarkine forest. A rugged and beautiful area with crooked trees and wet moores, with only a few cars per day doing the long drive on the gravel roads. If you have your owncar (and it can sustain some bumpy driving) this drive is highly recommend and will take you through a remote and dramatic corner of Tassie.

Next up: Cradle Mountain and Lake Dove national park. We were trying to get to Cradle Mountain on a sunny day, as there is only a 1/10 to get a non-cloudy day here (according to Lonely Planet). The higher altitude made it WAY colder here. Wearing pretty much everything we could squeeze into our sleeping bags, we camped at the foot of Cradle Mountain and hoped for the sunny day my weather app predicted the morning after. And we were lucky, the weather was PERFECT! Not particularly hard, except for the 3 hours it takes to get up and down the bouldery last part before the summit, it was still one if not the greatest walk we did in Tassie. The views were amazing, and the top part of Cradle Mountain is spectacular in itself. We spent almost an hour boulder-jumping on the summit to see different pockets of nature. The wait for the sunny day was definitely worth the hassle!!

THE WEST COAST

Tasmanias west coast is rugged and partially almost empty of people, with wild waves and chilly winds. However the tiny towns has got soul, and they are something completely different than the east coast. After more than a week of staying in our tent, and the last super cold nights in the mountain region, we decided that we deserved a warm room (plus, desperately needed to do laundry) and stayed for two nights at a hotel in an old mining town named Queenstown. Its a scenic and almost moon-like landscape around the little town, due to the surrounding hills being transformed by mining. Queenstown is small, but its’ got soul and heart and is something special indeed, if you ask me. it holds some interesting architecture in old european style, mixed with run down houses and some quirky shops. The feeling I got was somewhere between an the coulisse of an old western movie and a ghost town – but in a good way. The lookout over the big old mining schakt is really cool, and the drive to and from the town is spectacular (but a bit sad, considering the major scarring the mining has caused the land).

After a quick visit to Strahan (overrated – except for the Henty Dunes which were super fun!) we went back inland, stopped to admire lake Burbury and drove on towards Mount Field. The hike around Mt Field became the last hike we did in Tassie, it was beautiful but not that special. If going there, I recommend just doing the short waterfall-trail and save your feet for another hike, as there are endless options in Tasmania and certainly many more interested than Mt Field.

AND THE END…

Driving north again, we found a lovely campsite by a river not far from Devonport and woke up early our last day to get to the ferry in time. The ferry itself is quite boring so if not bringing a car, definitely go by plane as the cost is approximately the same.

And just a few more comments to prepare you, if you decide on going:

Wildlife: Tasmanias fauna is amazing. I loved seeing the wombats and wallabies up close, and the way the animals down under are so different than back in Europe make them super fascinating. However, they can get a bit to close. The roads of Tassie are literally covered by roadkills, I’ve probably seen more dead animals than live ones. In dusk and dawn in particular you will see them everywhere by the roads, so driving carefully is essential. Also, the wallabies and especially possums get used to humans leaving food in parks, parkings and camp sites. We learned this quickly when we turned around for five minutes to set up our tent and left the trunk of the car open. As we turned back to the car we had two possums sitting in the car going through our groceries!  I had to push them out using a towel. They escaped with a chunk of bread and a banana, and the whole episode was rather funny in hind site. Although, we made sure not to leave food unattained after this event.

After four months in Tasmania, I am sure I am missing a lot in this text. I’ve hopefully communicated how much I recommend this corner of the world. It makes a great escape from the European winter and is perfect for budget traveling since camping and nature experiences are usually free. Bring good clothes, your camera and a good pair of boots and enjoy Tassie, the down under of down under!

Happy hiking,

Hanna