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After a very successfull adventure in South America in 2001-2002, and an even more relaxed South East Asia trip in 2004-2005, I extended my exploring life with 5 months in New Zealand, with a small extension in Australia.

After getting back to Belgium, working again in that great company, the unexpected happened. I lost my job. Considering several options, I decided to try working in tourism, in New Zealand and Australia. These are my reflections on the life of a Working Holiday Down Under...

Keep on tripping!

Wim, January 2006


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07/06/2008 The slow road home

Ozzie East Coast

The first leg on the way home was driving down the East Coast of Oz, with Andrea, his stationwagon, a tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear and cold beers (where possible). I already drove up the East coast in my van, half a year before, so we decided to keep it cheap and simple, using the national parks both to sleep and explore this extensive coast. With some great city breaks along the road.

Andrea, me and cold beer

Leaving tropical queensland also meant finding wave prone coast lines again. But the first few days the swells are agaisnt us, and no decent waves can be found this time at Agnes Waters or further south. I do get a surf in just, wearing a Xmas hat, just before driving into Brisbane. My Dutch friends are having a christmas picnic by the river, the setting under the tree is just perfect and chill. After this the always friendely hosts take us roadrats into there house for a perfect Xmass dinner and party. Thanks so much for all the goodness guys, you are real !

After Brizzy I am hoping for some better surf, but even the Byron Bay surf is sucking, and town is way over crowded during this festive season. So we bail and head for a tiny national park further south. The following Andrea, cooking the sugoweek is just road trip camping as is should be, perfect chill, cold beer, great sunsets, and real italian food !

The swell has been rising and I do manage to get some surf before we reach Sydney for the new years celebrations. We can crash at the sharehouse of Elena and Daniele, and enjoy the cities beauty, watching the babes at Bondi beach, chilling in the park. We prep some picnic food for sylvester day, and head with old German roommates Soren, Michael, Berit, Yvonne, Maria and a whole bunch more, to the waterside park next to the Taronga zoo. Sun, beach, cold drinks, heaps of food, and fun paople make the transit into the new year very enjoyable. Oh, and the fireworks over the Harbour bridge were fantastic. We even managed to stay and sleep over in the park, perfect finish to a long day.

Still quite a distance to drive, all the way to Melbourne. But its pretty cool, not the best waves, but superb national parks again. For me, this is the beauty of the east coast, all the NPs in NSW and Victoria are just stunning. We even manage to get 2 nights into the Wilson Promontory, which is fully booked hakf a year before, but a few spots are kept for overseas visitors touring around. Nice atmosphere, outdoor cinema sharing space with walabiswith possums and wombats running around, giant spiders in your tent. Long climbs to perfect views over the prom,and, some ok surf as well. Superb. After this we head to Philip Island, home of many famous atractions. Shark prone surf beaches, the penguin parade and the MotoGP circuit. Andrea gets a chance to talk to one of the famous riders when we bump in to a test team in an internet cafe ! Fantastico ! After this its almost flying time, but first we drop Andreas car with a Italian family, and enjoy Melbourne, especially cool to see first day of the Australian Open. My friends Anne and Stephen are expecting their first soon, and Anne looks accordingly big and round. We have some pizza and then its time to leave Australia for a while, definately not for good. Andrea, good luck with your ozzie future mate. Siamo solo noi !

Bali adventures

In 4 weeks my mate Jesper is flying over from his home base Sweden, so we can have an 'epic' surftrip. No worries, I will explore a bit, Snorkeling Susido heaps of surf and wait for him. But... On arrival I only get a 30 day visa, non extendable. Shit. Plus I got some backpain, from sleeping on a camping mat for 3 weeks ? Dunno, but the only way to releive the pain is surfing and drinking. And so I do, On Kuta beach I meet Jamie, an english dude who will soon be nicknamed the ladykiller. Whereever we go, whatever he does, some girls' eyes are on him. And the thing is, he don't need to do anything for it. He hooks up with this German chick, my sister from another mister, and we party away on partyisland Gili Trawagan. Her friend is a lifestyle photographer, loves the surf and we end up on the same island nusa lembongan to go and surf shipwrecks, the local break. We have a great hangout and find out to have booked on the same flight to Kuala Lumpur. I need to get a visa run, as I wanna stay longer in Indo to surf with my buddy Jesper. There aint no tree high enoughSo in Malaysia we have a great city exploration during Chinese new year, checking out street style in the chinese , indian and shopping barrioas. We even go jungle in Taman Negara, overnight in a hide in the middle of stars and jungle sounds. At the same time I get some bad news from the home front and decide to finish my travels as sson as the surftrip with Jesper is over. I am coming home.

But not yet, Jesper arrives totally crook, sick to the stomagh, vomiting, shitting... So the first few days we keep confined to Kuta, then head to Nusa Lembongan, where Jesper recovers slowly. We decide to head to the less crowded Lombok, supposedly great for surfers who want to start riding reefbreaks. At first the swells are actually to big, Surf dudes Jesse an meand it takes some gusts and a successfull ride before me and Jesse find ourselves comfortable in the water. But its a great spot indeed. Heaps of breaks, amazing surroundings, perfect hosts. This is what I and Jesse need right now. We finish of with 2 nights in Kuta, and then its out and over. I am going home.

Home

I've been home for 3 months now and the home problems are being resolved. So its time to leave again. Found a great opportunity with flowtrack.be . This summer I will coordinate some surfcamps in San Vicente de la Barquera in Cantabria, north of Spain. Hopefully we get some regular swells this summer, and than this will be fantastic. Some news on my work in Spain, here soon.

Please check out the pictures section for some roadtrip and Bali pics !

Keep on tripping

30/05/2008 Back in Belgium, with plans to leave

The last half year was a bit hectic. I decided to leave Cairns and had a great roadtrip with Andrea, all the way from Cairns to Melbourne in 3 weeks. Flew to Bali to start surfing a bit more again. Met some great people and travelled for a week to Kuala Lumpur ove chinese New Year, which was superb. Continued with a 3 week surf trip in Bali and Lombok with my friend Jesper form Sweden. Came back to Belgium early due to family reasons. Lived at home for a while with my parents, working a temp job as a lifeguard in a tropical water center !But meanwhile the family issues have ben resolved so new plans are underway. I will leave in 2 weeks to work at a surfcamp in north of Spain (Cantabria) this summer, coordinating and planning 2 camps. Its gonna be great, they have a fantastic crew, amazing atmosphere, and hopefully some quality surf once and a while. No big plans yet after this, but will surely keep you posted ;-)

Pictures of the last months coming soon !

KEEP ON TRIPPING

07/12/2007, Still in Cairns, Australia

What happened with the plan to go to Japan... Well, I fell out of love, and decided rather late to brake up and cancel Japan. In stead I decided to start my dive instruction career here in Cairns on the great Barrier Reef. IDC teamI got pretty lucky and after just a few days I had a positive answer from Prodive, who run 3 day liveaboards on the reef. The job consists of teaching open water students in the pool and the training center for 2 half days, and then go for 11 dives in 3 days on the reef ! In the last 2 months that is what I have been doing on a weekly basis, and it has been great. Good for gaining teaching expereince but also to learn to work on a boat with 32 passengers.

Before getting the job I already planned afinding Nemo trip for 4 days of diving on the Nimrod explorer to the Ribbon reef and Cod hole further north. My dive buddy Connie and I were diving on nitrox and it was just fantastic. Our shortest dive was 47 minutes, the longest 71 ! Not bad knowing that this includes pretty deep dives as well. I also purchased the underwater case for my canon ixus 70 camera and this was the first time I could really use it underwater, and the results are not too bad. Please check out the pictures section for some diving material !

Well, its all been about diving lately really. Had a great 2 days with the friends I did my instructors training and exams with. We travelled in a rented van to Ayr, from where we went diving the Yungala wreck in 4 dives. It was awesome. Found a guitar shark (or shovel nosed ray) shovel nose raysitting in the sand with colleage fresh instructors Adam and Nick, The IDC course director Keith Cardwell and his lovely wife Kim. Nick, who is a chef by trade, cooked us a very decent roast meal that night, pretty awesome.

I also joined Keith and friends on a trip on the Tusa day boat, where Adam works as an instructor, and certified my German housemates Soren and Michael as Adventure divers ! Not bad in the waer these germans, may the bubles be with them.

Last but not least I tried to enjoy the surroundings of Cairns a bit on my days of. Had a great time with Rachel at Cape Tribulation and the Tablelands. And I went to visit my friends in Yungaburra so many times, the on the wallaby lodge feels like a second home here.

Future plans change constantly. But I have decided to leave Cairns soon, as it has been 5 months that I live here and that is way to long for a traveller. A good friend Andrea from Italy who lived in the same sharehouse is goin on a road trip south to Brisbane for Xmass, Sydney for new year, Melbourne after, and I decided to join him. I NEED TO SURF again, and this is bringing me right to the waves. After that I will fly to Bali to join my swedish surf buddy Jesper, whom I met beginning 2007 in Tauranga, NZ, for an epic surfing trip. Then get an instructor job in SE Asia and gain some more valuable expereince and cash...

Enjoy the Xmas season ! Be friendly to your neighbours, plan some travels and keep yourself in good health ! Keep on tripping in 2008 !

02/08/2007, Cairns, Australia

Waaw, what a wicked 3 months it was. I finally left New Zealand, 3 months later than planned. But that just worked out to be fantastic. If it wasn't for Rohan and livin together in TaurangaAmy getting married in the sky, I would have left Tauranga the 7th of February for good. But luckily I got back there after Fiji, in the house I lived in last year, and one day this cute Japanese girl called Tomoko walks in... and I fell in love. We had a slow start but by the time I had to leave Nz, we decided to go for it, I couldn'timagine continueing without her. So she would join me for 3 weeks in Oz to travel together, before heading back to Japan.

I arrived in Sydney just before my birthday and was looking forward for some great surfin on the day, but, the swell was pretty small, so all I got to ride was dumping Manly shore break. For the first time I was smacked on the bottem and hit the sand full in he face. Mmm, surfung Australia is going to be very different.Me and Tomoko on the Malny ferry in Sydney
I had a week to kill before my girl was coming over so I went van hunting straight away. After the great success my Toyota Hiace was in NZ (sold it for more than I bought it, after 10 months of bliss), I decided to aim for another pop-top van. I was goin to travel up the east coast anyway, surfin wherever I can and I really didn't wanna sleep in the party backpacker hostels that rule the eastcoast. I found 3 good vans and by the week-end had an offer set on all of them. Sunday afternoon I was the proud owner of the cheapes of the 3, a Nissan Urvan 1984, petrol van with pop-top, fridge cooker, double bed, the lot !

Cleaned it up,washed everything I could wash and got ready to pick up my girl at the airport to find out I couldn't get the beast started, AAARGH.

My girl phoned me an hour later, asking why I Taronga zoowasn't waiting for her at the airport... Hang on, I am on the train, will be there in 15. Tomoko and me explored Sydney for the next few days, while my van was getting a new starter motor and some other minor stuff. We enjoyed the beautiful sunsets from the Manly ferry, went to the Taronga zoo, shopped in Bondi, relaxed and enjoyed each others company untill we could finally start our road trip !

The Blue mountians were first on the list. For the first time we camped in our van, in a dark forest , just to run out of gas while cooking pasta. Mmm, this van doesn't bring much luck so far, hopefully its not a sign of what is to come... But the van does make it up and downhill, and we drive around the hilly landscapes of the Great Divinding range, heading south towards Melbourne over the inland route. We stop in Canberra,Hikin the Blue mountians a nice example of planned city architecture, the national capital of Australia. This city feels very strange, and driving around you feel like you are never getting somewhere, wide avenues, green parks, big buildings and a love for concrete. But it is great to hang around for 2 days, visiting the museums and parks and getting lost in the city centre while trying to find an internet place. From here we head to Melbourne, just having some sleeping stops on the way.
In Melbourne we can stay at our friends place. I met Anne years ago in Chile and visited her and her boyfriend already two years ago for a long weekend. They are still the same enthusiastic and very hospitable people I remember and the welcoming is great. Stephen is apparantly a huge fan of Japanese food, and so the next day he invites me and Tomoko for some Japanese dining. Mmm, this is awesome, everyone is enjoying the food, especially Tomoko who didn't have much real Japanese food recently and Stephen who could probably eat this every day ! We explore lovely Melbourne, with its great cosy alleyways, good shopping, St Kilda and more, always coming back to the comfort of Anne and Stephens appartment. You couldn't have much better hosts than these 2 ! Thanks so much guys, you are the best !

We take 2 days to drive down the Great Ocean Road and visit all the viewpoints and great little places on the road. After that we leave Melbourne behind and start heading east. Our return trip to Sydney will follow the Victoria and New SGreat Ocean Roadouth Wales coast over the next week. First stop is the Wilson Promotory National Park, a big peninsula with stunning views, beaches and mountains to climb. Here we see loads of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and even a deadly snake... This is what travelling in a van is all about. You can get to all these National Parks, camp, and explore the different sites in the area, waking up to the sounds of a nature wonderland.

We follow the Gippsland highway and head to the east coast, staying in several national parks like Bournda and Mimosa, where we camp right next to the beaches, between the wallabies and possums. Except for a few days of the flu, where especially I was pretty slow and useless, this time was just superb. Arrive, set up caCasual kangaroo at Pebbly beachmp, explore the beach, cook some good food (Japanese curry rules !), relax, whatch the stars, and go to sleep pretty early. Wake up and hear the waves, collect some shells, big breakfast, walk and explore, share the silence of these desolate areas.

But to all good things comes an end. Tomoko flies back to Japan, over NZ, and I drop her early in the morning at the airport. I am not good at saying goodbyes, but must say we did very well. We want to continue this story as it might become a long book, and the goodbye is wihtout tears, just big smiles, a 'see you later for sure' moment, we are crazy about each other, so I decided already to go to Japan after becoming an dive instructor in Cairns !

It is early so I decide to leave Sydney before the traffic jamming up. I drive for 6 hours and park my van close to the beach at Crowdy Bay NP and get my first surf north of Sydney. It is time for the waves now, I really want to get a lot better, and RIDE the waves, instead of just catching them. Over the next 2 weeks I drive up towards Byron Bay, stopping at several beaches to surf and relax, study Japanese (have to) and enjoy the tranquility of the national park beaches. Hat Head NP, Trial Bay goal, Nambucca Heads, Yuragir NP, Bundjalung NP, Broadwater NP, Broken Head,... Ok, my surfing is getting heaps better and I manage to get some good rides, but I need to do more ! Sounds like I am getting addicted to this surfing life.

Then there is Byron Bay, the busiest beach toShipwreck on Frazer islandwn in NSW, with some great surf options, a point break that gets way too crowded when it works, loads of night life and funky people. Here I make some new freinds quickly, as I am based here for 2 weeks. I go surfing with french Nicola and meet some of his friends, I camp with Elena and Danielle, a great couple from Italy, Dutch Thomas, a dive enthusiast I will meet again, and heaps more people, all travelling north towards Cairns, my final destination for the time being. The swell isnt the best, but I do get to surf several spots in this area, and I love it.

But I need to keep moving and Brisbane is next, another comfort stop, because this is home base for Floyd and Renske, a Dutch couple I met years ago in Amsterdam through our mutual friend Falk. Floyd landed a good contract here with the airport, and uses Australia as a 1 year break on his tour around the world ! They have a great flat with a view on the city river, and I get to make the spare room mine for a few days. Super relax few days, where we enjoy some great food, go out with friends, brunch at he museum, stand up comedy and even go for a run, or was it more of a jog ;-) These guys are fantastic, even though we only met one weekend years before, it feels like we know each other since ages. Thanks for you hospitality guys, it was superb ! See you soon in Airlie beach.

I meet up with Elena and Daniele after Brisbane, who have a van of there own. The next few days we do a lot of free camping, go to the Australian Zoo, play loads of Uno and toepen (Dutch card game), even buy a fishing rod to catch dinner and end up at Rainbow beach on the Inskip point campgroud, definately one of our favorite beach camp spots so far. From here we can do a trip to Fraser Island, typically 3 days 4 wheel driving, over the beach and inlands to beautiful blue water lakes. We find the cheapest option and end up in a great group, two young Germans Soren and Michael, the Italians, two Dutch girls, and a French brother and sister. Ok, it is a kind of organised trip, but without a guide (not that you need one) and usually I am not a big fan of these tour group things, but I must admit I enjoyed this one. You simply have to do Fraser, and we did camp one night on the beach which was great, and the lakes are impressive, we did see whales breaching nearby , and dolphins. If only the weather was a bit warmer it would even have been better.Campfire dinner Agnes Waters
After 3 days we are back in civilisation and the Germans, Italians and me decide to travel on together, at least for a while, as I am more in a hurry.We stop in places like Rockhampton for steak and Bundaberg for rum, not much to see or do, but you have to eat and sleep somewhere.

Finally I get to Airlie beach, another party town on the east coast. A lot smaller than Byron Bay, but at least the same amount of party, as you can here the daily live music from almost everywhere in the small town center. I check out the options for the dive instructor course here and also job opportunities, but decide to head to Cairns a few days later as I can't find anything suitable. The german boys are doing a sailing trip here, but we will meet again in Cairns, maybe even flat together ! My Dutch friends show up with some family and we have a great night out together. The Italians meanwhile found a tomato picking job in Prosurpine and sign up for at least 3 weeks, to get some cash.

It is getting significantly warmer and more humid up north. No more cold nights, but surely some wet days. I stop in a rainy Mission beach for the nigth where i have some drinks with a funny Canadian couple. Then I travel to the promised dive capital of Australia. Cairns is a little city, with a bustling tourist center and many suubburbs surround it. The plan is as follows, stay her 3 months, so find a flat, find an instructor course, clean, fix and sell the van, go to the gym, study Japanese, buy a ticket to Nagoya airport (only 420 AUS$), work before I leave for Japan, maybe do a liveaboard dive trip on the reef.

At Josephine falls with Michael and SoerenAt the time of writing I have found the instrucor course, just started studiing. Also managed to find a single room in a share house together with my German friends, moved in 3 days ago.The van got fixed and the Japanese studiing went pretty good, after staying for 17 days is suoer relaxed Yungaburra, in a place called 'On the Wallaby' in the tablelands. I could stay there in my van, study for the diving and Japanese, go running, biking, canoeing, and even helped as the scrub. My friend Gaelle works there and needed a hand once and a while, making my stay more eceonomical and lots of fun. But since 3 days it is serious work. Had to give my first class room and pool presentation yesterday, which didn't go too bad ! The next month is gonna be so busy with the isntructor course first, followed by some specialty courses. And I need to sell the van, and will fly to Japan beginning of October ! Tomoko, here I come !

Will keep you posted !

Wim

 

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