We have been in New Zealand 12 days already. Several words come to mind to describe this country in my early impressions;
CHEERFUL – the people here! Wow! They are all so happy and nice. Something in the water? Or maybe they realize how good they’ve got it in this beautiful country.
PATRIOTIC – everyone we talk to loves their
country and wants to tell you all the things you shouldn’t miss while you are here. They actually seem to like tourists.
COURTEOUS – the roads in New Zealand aren’t freeways. And they do drive fast and on the left. But everyone is so courteous. They don’t use their horn, they allow others to pass when it’s safe. Also everywhere there are these one lane bridges. Everyone waits their turn. And it works. It just
Blues and greens
FUNNY – New Zealanders love to give things nicknames and it’s fun to listen to them talk. Of course they call themselves Kiwis; their flip flops are jandles; sunglasses are sunnies; breakfast is brekkie. Clothes are togs, the corner market is the dairy, caravan is a camper and wop-wop is out in the boonies. Ta means thanks, stoked is excited and choka means overflowing. And the one I like the best is “tiki-tour” that’s what we are on – a tour without any real destination.
Interesting finds while tramping
OUTDOORSY – Trekking (or tramping as it is also called) is a national pastime and everyone young and old is out tramping about on the trails everywhere we go. Being on the water is also a national pastime (this is an island after all) and people are on the beach, in the water and on the
water in kayaks, paddle boards, dinghies, sailboats, ski boats, water taxis, cruisers, yachts, ferries and cruise ships. Boats are everywhere.
CLEAN – the water is the clearest and cleanest I have seen anywhere in the entire world. There is not a speck of litter ANYWHERE! The beaches are pristine as are the woods and trails and roads. And everywhere there are clean and efficient FREE public FLUSH toilets WITH TOILET PAPER!!!!
GORGEOUS – we have spent most of our time so far enjoying the stunning scenery of the South Island and have been blessed with sunshine the past seven days. As we begin to journey farther south tomorrow I’m anticipating cooler and wetter weather. But even with the rain comes more waterfalls and beautiful rivers.
COLOR – the multiple hues of green are amazing.
Who knew there could be so many shades of green. And the turquoise of the water is such a surprise.
EXPENSIVE – alas it’s not perfect. New Zealand is expensive. Gas is around $5.50 US per gallon. Groceries are very expensive, but not as expensive as eating out. Our Airbnb’s have been reasonable, but tomorrow we pick up our camper van. It will average about $100 a day (plus gas – yikes!).
So starting tomorrow we are off in our caravan, wearing our sunnies and jandles, headed to the wop-wop on our tiki-tour. And we’re stoked!
Just under four years of nearly non-stop travel, as well as many adventures earlier in my life, has left me with an unbelievable collection of epic adventures around the world memories. Lucky me.
I’m not giving up on resuming our travel life…however I expect we will sit home for a year before we set out on anything too epic. And even if that never happens, what a life we have led.
In my living room I have a large book case that I call “The Museum”. Here I display my world treasures. There are not alot, given the fact that we travel light and I try not to do too much shopping as we travel, but I rarely leave any country without picking up something special. I love looking at “The Museum” and although I appreciate when guests look too, “The Museum” is really for me, a reminder of my blessed and adventurous life.
As I wait to determine what my next chapter in my life is going to look like, I spend a lot of my brain cells reliving some of my life’s greatest epic adventures. Therefore it seemed like a perfect blog to pull together and share. My Epic Adventures Around the World. I hope you enjoy.
The Inca Trail and Machu Pichu – I don’t have a blog about this experience, it was before I began blogging about my travels. But it was a defining experience in my life, opening my eyes to my own physical capabilities. The five day hike on the Inca trail to Machu Pichu took every thing my body had to give, while also providing some of my all -time favorite zen moments. Life changing.
Galapagos Islands – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time. The day we snorkeled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks. Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.
Weekend with the Monks South Korea – spending the weekend at a Korean Buddhist monastery was a unique and slightly painful experience. Living as a monk, mostly in silence, sleeping on the concrete, up before the sun and hours of meditative prayer was certainly memorable. But my favorite part was meeting the female monks at this monastery, hearing their story and gaining such an admiration for such a devout life.
Easter Island Chile – Everything about Rapa Nui was stunning, but like most visitors I had my favorites. And like most visitors my two favorite sites were the Ranu Raraku quarry site and the Ahu Tongariki. Upon laying your eyes on these two sites for the first time you conjure a list of adjectives; breathtaking, fascinating, interesting, surprising, remarkable. At one point I had to just stop and breathe deep – and remind myself how remarkable it all was, and how remarkable it was that I was standing there.
Namibia – Arne and I both have Namibia on our top five list of one of the most beautiful countries and most incredible experiences ever. That is saying a lot in 110 countries. Unspoiled, incredibly diverse and still remarkably authentic, Namibia is astonishing. I have two excellent blogs about our experience there. The link above is the first one. Here is the second.
Burkina Faso – who goes to Burkina Faso? Well apparently I do. I didn’t really want to go, but in hindsight spending three weeks there visiting our Peace Corps son was one of the most remarkable and eye-opening travel experiences of my life. And doing it with my grown sons made such fantastic family memories. I will never regret having gone.
Inle to Kalaw Hike Myanmar – I don’t have a blog about this experience, but it did win one of our 2019 Travel Awards for it’s uniqueness. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.
Camino de Santiago Spain – Hands down one of the best, most spiritual, most life affirming experiences of my life. Walking 500 miles across Spain – 40 days, thousands of memories, one incredible experience. I hold this memory very, very dear.
Gorilla Trek Uganda – a life-long dream for me to trek to see the elusive Mountain Gorilla, for me this has also become a marker for the Corona world-crisis. Doing this tour was the last “normal” thing we did, before the world spiraled out of control, and came to a screeching halt. I will be forever grateful that Covid-19 did not stop us from doing this experience, and I will remember these creatures fondly.
Tiki Tour in New Zealand– who knew living in 90 square feet could be so much fun? What a remarkable way to see one of my top favorite countries, New Zealand. I would do this again…and have also considered doing it in Australia. To really see all that is fabulous about New Zealand, a Tiki Tour is the way to go.
The Great Barrier Reef Australia – I had to really convince my husband that snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef off of the east coast of Australia was worth the money. But I wasn’t visiting Australia without seeing the reef, and despite a crappy weather day, our experience in the ocean was amazing. A pinch me moment, in a life of pinch me moments.
Alps Hike Switzerland – with total honesty and without hyperbole, this day hiking the Schilthorn was one of the best days of my life. The physical challenge of it was astonishing, the beauty of it was heavenly and the satisfation on a travel scale of 1-10 was a million. Blessed day.
Camel Trek in Morocco – incredibly painful, incredibly memorable. Our overnight camel trek in the dessert of Morocco was quirky and special, despite how uncomfortable riding a camel can be…who knew? But I’m so glad we did it; overnighting in the Bedouin camp, drinking wine around the camp fire in the chilly dessert night air, then rising again and clamoring back onto the beast for the trek back. I’ll never forget it.
Bangladesh– we would have never gone to Bangladesh, except our friend Natalie was teaching there…so why not? A quick stop in this untouristed country to see what we can see. Wow. I would never imagined that we would have enjoyed it so much and have one of the most authentic travel experiences of our life.
Above it all – we paid a ridiculous amount of money to have two separate experiences in our travels – both taking us high above it all. It’s always hard to know if these things are worth the money, especially when we travel on a fairly strict budget. But for me, both of these experiences were worth every penny. Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia and flying in a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan Myanmar. These both will go down in our travel life as phenomenal.
So the Grand Adventure is on sabbatical until further notice. I continue to hope we will travel again…but the brake is firmly set until further notice and we turn our attention to other inspiring adventures…stay tuned, and don’t give up.
Thank you for continuing to support our blog – we promise lots of interesting and inspiring articles coming your way. Be safe. Be healthy.
I get asked a lot of questions regarding our travel life. The most often question is what is our favorite country? Answer – I don’t have a fav…but I do have a top ten (Bulgaria, New Zealand, Myanmar, Guatemala, Vietnam, Namibia, French Polynesia, Cyprus, Malta, France). The second most often asked question is about getting started. Many people just can’t figure out the steps needed and need a little nudge to help. People we meet often show interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion over our long term travel life. But most of all they are curious. And the curiosity is about becoming a traveler. How to make the leap?
Getting Started In Travel
There are as many kinds of travel as there are travelers. Our long term travel (longest 18 months, shortest two months) fits our comfort level, tolerance and budget. But it’s not for everyone. Other people are more suited to solo travel, short-term travel, organized tour travel, female group travel, or niche travel such as yoga or bird-watching or food travel.
So before I can help you in getting started in travel, you need to do some personal soul searching to narrow down what kind of traveler you think you are. What is your tolerance level? Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for traveling outside of the United States. Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white? Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, even if you aren’t traveling full-time, you still gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.
What Kind of Traveler are You?
When the idea first sprouted to become full-time travelers, I knew immediately we would do it. Without a question I knew it was right for us. All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone. That’s why you need to find your comfort zone. Only you can do that. And realize you may start out as one kind of traveler and morph into another as you broaden your horizons. That’s a good thing.
Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure in 2016 we spent several years preparing. We had to sell our house, get organized, and figure out what we wanted out of this new lifestyle. It took some soul searching, and frankly it continues to evolve each and every year. But in the beginning our choices had a lot to do with budget.
Once you know your tolerance level and have some idea of your comfort zone, that in turn will help you determine your budget. If you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different from ours. To sustain our travels we travel very frugally. We don’t need fancy hotels with room service. But if you do, put it in your budget.
Who Do You Want to Be?
Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70. And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 700 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of international travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view. However, if USA travel is your desire…go for it. There is a lot to see in the United States. One good way to do that is to become an RV Traveler. So before we tackle budget let’s talk about some of the different kinds of travelers;
Like myself and my husband, many retired folks go all in on travel…either long term or short. If you are new to travel and retired you might consider starting out with a group tour or a cruise to “get your feet wet” before launching out more broadly. My friend Linda and her husband are retired travelers from Canada and I recommend Linda’s blog and social sites to learn how they make it work. Follow Linda and reach out to her at Retired and Traveling.
Solo Female Traveler
As a blogger I have had the opportunity to become friends with other bloggers and there are many solo female travelers out there. As a solo female it can feel a bit daunting to get started, feel safe and not get lonely. I recommend getting to know my friend Sue. Sue has a wonderful backstory as to how she became a solo female traveler when she lost her husband. I recommend for anyone considering adventure travel, solo or not, to engage with Sue on her website and socials. Learn more at Sue Where Why What.
Packing for travel is one of the questions I get so often! It can seem overwhelming trying to figure out what to pack for either short term or extended travel. So meet my friend Katherine. She is a Kiwi (New Zealand) solo traveling light and she blogs about it and has a book coming out next month called Dare to Travel Solo! Learn how she pulls it together here at The 5kilo Traveller
Full Time Traveler
Full time travel is not everyone’s goal, however once you get comfortable with travel you might find the concept appealing. Becoming a nomad, especially in this day and age where you can work remotely from nearly anywhere, a life of full-time travel is more accessible than ever. My friend Heather left the corporate world to become a full-time traveler and she never looked back. In addition to her blog and socials, she now teaches others how to make it work as a full time traveler. She has a very active Facebook Group called Full Time Travelers and Nomads and a Ted Talk. Find out more about Heather at Heather Begins
How to Budget.
We have a daily budget of $220 all-inclusive for two people (transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and misc). At first glance that might seem like a lot, but flights alone over the years have averaged $40 per day (amortized). This budget is enough for most places (Asia, Africa, Latin America) and not enough for a few places (parts of Europe and the USA), but we are frugal and hope it all evens out. To stay on budget we plan ahead, look for discounts and deals, fly in economy and often don’t rent a car. We cook most meals, eating out about once a week. And the remarkable thing is, we live significantly less expensively while traveling than we did in the USA before we embarked on this new life.
Now in year seven of our Grand Adventure (despite putting everything on hold for an entire year during Covid) we have learned a lot about how to long-term travel efficiently. Some of this knowledge can be applied to any kind of travel, not just long-term. So listed below are some “details” on getting started in travel. Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time or traveling solo or just taking a trip then our work here is done.
PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more. We put our remaining possessions in a 10×12 storage unit for three years. After three years we purchased a small condo to have a place to come home to in the summer. That was a blessing when Covid hit. When we leave our condo we sometimes have a house sitter but not always. We forward our mail to our son.
All the Documents
DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad. We also updated our Washington State Drivers License. We carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient. We research every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We carry copies of our passport, extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one. We sign up with the US State Department Smart Travel Program and list every country we plan to be in and when.
Create a Spreadsheet
SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet (using Google Sheets), which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging. This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in. The data we have is incredible after six and half years.
What About the Mail?
MAIL – we have worked really hard to NOT have any paper mail and do 95% of everything online. But we forward to our son’s house in case mail does show up.
Thank Goodness for Technology
TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad, a Kindle and a light weight Mac Book Air For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data. We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram. We keep our Verizon number active so when we return to the USA that number still belongs to us. I definitely recommend getting a SIM card in each country and not paying the daily international fee your provider will offer you. SIM is simple and inexpensive.
We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in. We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.
APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia, Booking and Google Maps. We also use Google Translate which is really cool. We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids. To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide, Viator and Trip Advisor. We do our banking online with an app and our taxes online. We use a weather app, a plant identifier app called PictureThis and a bird watching app called Merlin. I follow news on the NPR app and the BBC app.
CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking. So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adapters to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adapters we need in each country. We have a really cool little case that keeps all of our electronics organized and in one place. I usually carry some packing tape, post it notes and paper clips in there too.
Money Money Money
CREDIT CARDS AND CASH – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised? Well that would really screw us up if that happens. So we have FOUR credit cards. One is our primary and three are backups. Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer). We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped. VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place. That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location. For most credit credit companies it is no longer necessary to let them know when you are traveling abroad. But check with yours to be sure. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies. We never “exchange” US Dollars for local money. Instead to keep from paying the exchange rate fee we take money from a local ATM when we arrive at the airport.
PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly. It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up. My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides. Check with your insurance company to see what their policy is. We carry a first aid kit and a few Covid tests.
DOCTORS – each time we return to the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. We have our Covid shot and boosters and we keep track of all our other vaccinations and update as needed.
STAYING FIT – we eat very healthy everywhere we go. We used to drink a lot more alcohol than we do now…I only have a drink about once a week. In nearly every country we create a running route, do yoga everyday and hike once a week. And we walk and walk and walk.
A Little Pampering
GIRL STUFF – I get a haircut about every three months, and have my nails done about every two months. In between I take care of my nails myself. Depending on the country, I sometimes allow myself a massage or facial. In many countries these things are incredibly inexpensive and very nice. I do not carry a hair dryer but I do carry my skin care products and a very small amount of makeup which I hardly ever use. Because many countries have a lot of minerals in the water that is very hard on hair, I bring really good hair care products from the USA. I have a flat jewelry case with a few earrings and a couple of necklaces.
DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After six years of long-term travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet. It feels natural. We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go to new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planning the itinerary, often taking a country each. We have been to 123 countries so far! By the way I use a little app called BEEN to keep track of all the countries we have been to.
PACKING – this topic is one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest. We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags. Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. I have a small roller bag carry on and a large bag that slides under the seat. And packing cubes have changed my life. Organized and categorized, I love using packing cubes. All that said, I still habitually over pack. But I am better than I used to be and have created a travel wardrobe that works for me. Once you are on the road for awhile you will get a feel for what you actually need and what you can do without.
AND OTHER USEFUL STUFF – We carry a Scrabble game and I carry my fold up hiking poles. We have a hammock that folds up very small. We have a collapsible hot pot for heating water and I love it! We carry some refreeze ice packs, a tiny fold-up cooler, a fold up beach bag and a fold up yoga mat. I carry a few spices and olive oil, some can koozies and reusable water bottles. I also pack flat laundry sheets (such a great invention) a cord and a few clothes pins. My husband has an all-purpose utility knife. Freezer bags and packing cubes – both so useful.
Getting Started in Travel
So there you have it. The details. This is what we have learned when getting started in travel. Start slow or take a leap of faith….but get out there. Alone or with friends or make new friends on a tour…getting started in travel just takes a little faith. Take a few trips, get a feel for it, and then your confidence will soar! Ask me questions! I want to help.
There is plenty of information out there to help in getting started in travel! Fabulous!
Now enjoying our sixth week in French Polynesia, we are smitten with the island of Mo’orea. Just a 30 minute ferry crossing from Tahiti and the country’s main city of Papeete, Mo’orea is convenient and has everything we look for in a relaxing destination. We like it way more than Bora Bora and hope to come here again. Here are our favorite seven things to do on Mo’orea French Polynesia.
We originally chose Mo’orea because we found a wonderful Airbnb. Arriving with high hopes it would be as good as the reviews and photos – we were not been disappointed. It’s very comfortable, affordable, waterfront, and a great location. Another bonus is our host Maea is one of the best hosts we have ever had in our 102 Airbnb’s around the world – yes I said 102!! Perhaps it’s time to update this post Our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World.
Mo’orea might not get the same marketing push that Bora Bora gets, but we think we like it better…at least for us. We enjoy a quiet place with a less touristy vibe. Mo’orea has that, especially during the shoulder season. Authentic ambiance is another thing we look for, and Mo’orea has that too. Our experience here has been incredible.
Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Unless you are staying only for a couple days in a resort (we recommend longer) you need to have a car on Mo’orea. Public transportation is non-existent. There are a few taxis and of course tours, but having your own wheels will make all of the suggestions below accessible. It’s worth the expense.
So here are our seven things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia. In no particular order;
There are many snorkel options on the island. Mo’orea is surrounded by a reef that creates a shallow and beautiful lagoon nearly the entire circumference of the island. You can take a snorkel tour in a kayak, small boat, large group tour with lunch or an outrigger. Or you can bring or buy your own snorkel and fins (what we did) and snorkel from any public beach on the island. You will see remarkably beautiful coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. Of course you will see a fascinating collection of sea life including rays, black tip sharks and a rainbow of tropical fish. Want to see more of our favorite Snorkeling Around the World? Click Here.
2. Coco Beach
Coco Beach is a fun day trip, even though we had better snorkeling elsewhere. You need to call ahead for a reservation. A small boat will meet you at the parking area and ferry you over to the tiny island. Then you will be shown to your outdoor table, which is yours for the day. Have a tropical drink, then enjoy the beautiful warm water before feasting on delicious lunch. Last boat back is at 3:30pm. It makes for a wonderful day. Total for our day was $116.
3. Tahiti Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did our first week on the island was to take a tour with Tahiti Food Tours. It’s always a good way to learn about local cuisine. Our tour included stops at 7 local “snacks” (Tahitian Fast Food or Street Food) as well as a distillery. This tour was delicious and opened our eyes to some of the local specialties. Our local guide was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and funny. Cost per person $120USD
4. Food and CookLab Cooking School
Another thing we do in many of our travel destinations is take a cooking class. Thanks to our guide on the food tour (above) we learned about the Food and CookLab, a sustainable and organic cooking school on the island. We took their Polynesian Foods cooking class where we learned to make poisson cru, manioc chips, po’e – a plantain pudding cooked in banana leaf (also a sweet potato version), breadfruit and hibiscus leaf wrapped coconut bread. Cost per person $75USD lunch included.
I enjoyed the class so much I signed up for a second class, presented by a local chef on the island. In this second class we took beautiful local tuna and oyster muscles and created multiple dishes including gravlax, rillettes and fume (smoked fish). $125 USD lunch included as well as doggy bags of delicious fish to take home.
5. Tiki Village
If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, Tiki Village is the Polynesian version. The entertainment is different than Hawaii, as of course it focuses on the Tahitian dress, music and lore. The food is cooked in a pit including a whole pig but includes breadfruit, po’e (see above), poisson cru and local fish. The meal also included some international dishes from the French influence including pate, salads and dessert. The sunset view was amazing. Cost $110USD
Airport/Golf Course Hike – Starting from Temae beach you can hike the flat sandy road along the tiny Mo’orea Airport and the Mo’orea Golf Course and back. Round trip about three miles. Easy.
Three Coconuts – Starting at the Belvedere Lookout this ascent is gradual except for the final mile. But the beautiful view is definitely worth it. Wear proper shoes. Total round trip 3.5 miles. Difficult.
Magic Mountain – most of the tours drive up to the view point on Magic Mountain but if you want a good work out then you can walk up. It’s steep but the road is in fairly good condition and the view is spectacular. Park at the fruit stand at the bottom for $2. When you come back have a fruit smoothie. Very nice lady here. Total round trip less than 2 miles but 700+ feet vertical. Moderate.
Waterfall Hike – there wasn’t much water in the waterfall when we visited, but it was a good sweaty work out nonetheless. This was the most junglesque hike we did, beautiful deep jungle as we trekked a sometimes rough trail to the waterfall. To find this hike go just past the hospital in Afareietu and turn into a small road and park near the Veterans Memorial. Walk up the dirt road and keep left, it becomes the trail. 3 miles round trip and moderate.
Post Office – from the right side as you face the tiny yellow post office building at the Temae beach turnoff, there is a hidden trail that takes you up to the radio towers and then scoots up to a peak. This trail is very steep. Bring lots of water. The view is amazing. You can go back down the way you came or continue on the trail through a thickly forested area where the trail is sometimes difficult to find. Watch for flags tied to trees to keep to the trail. Total distance 2 miles if you head back down the way you came up; 4.5 miles if you complete the loop. Very difficult.
Pineapple Fields – From Pao Pao follow the “Route de Ananas” road inland until it becomes dirt. Park and walk staying to the right to the beautiful pineapple fields. Pineapple is a local cash crop Mo’orea is known for. The tiny and sweet little golden fruits are delicious. On this hike you can see the beautiful plants both in flower and in fruit. You can make this hike short (about 1 mile) or longer (above 3 miles). Easy.
7. Drive Around the Island
It’s 30 miles or 48 km around the island on the “main” road. This is bigger than the island of Praslin we stayed on in the Seychelle Islands and smaller than our favorite Hawaiian island of Maui. It definitely makes my list now of my favorite islands around the world.
There are a few side roads, like the one to the Belvedere and to the Pineapple Fields. But mostly it’s the main road. Locals drive pretty fast and crazy and there are bicycles, pedestrians and lots of dogs. But a tour around the island is a must with stops along the way.
This map shows the island and the main road. Starting at the ferry terminal in Vaiare follow the road counter clockwise. Teavara is the village our bungalow is. Continue up the hill to a spectacular viewpoint called Toatea, down the hill to the entrance to one of our favorite beaches Temae (also the location of the Airport Hike above). Continue around through the main town of Maharepa (don’t blink you’ll miss it) and to the first bay called Cook’s Bay. The village of PaoPao has some tiny eateries and a fabulous view of Rotui Mountain. Beautiful spot here includes a historic church. Pao Pao is also where you turn to the Pineapple Route. Continue on you’ll come to another gorgeous beach called Ta’ahiamanu – my favorite beach on the island. Plenty of parking and a great snorkel spot.
Next you’ll arrive at the head of Opunohu Bay. This is where you turn to the Belvedere lookout and hikes as well as Magic Mountain. As you round the Westside of the island it is quieter and more rural. There is a beautiful public beach here at Hauru and this is also the location of Coco Beach (above). Continue further to the location of Tiki Village (above) and a couple more beautiful historic churches at Haapiti.
At Afareaitu is the start of the waterfall hike (above) and is also home to the island’s administrative center and hospital. Finish your circle tour back at Vaiare. Along the way there are plenty of local “snack” shops, food trucks and restaurants as well as a hand full of souvenir shops and pearl shops and locals selling goods and fruit along the roadside. It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful island. Take your time and enjoy.
Fresh Food Glorious Food
There are some surprisingly good places to eat on this tiny island, and I am putting together a separate blog post about that for next week. So you’re gonna want to check back about that. Meanwhile, check out our latest Tasty Tuesday video on our YouTube channel. Your introduction to Poisson Cru the national dish of Polynesia – we try to eat it everyday. It’s amazing, healthy and very local.
Thanks for following along on our Seven Things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia tour. Please come back next week for more about Mo’orea.
We are loving our long visit to the gorgeous island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia where we are living for two months. As usual we are eating our way through this tropical culture and enjoying every morsel. It’s an eclectic collection of cultures and ingredients, so today we will attempt to pull together our impressions of The Flavors of French Polynesia, and specifically of Mo’orea.
The people known as Polynesians migrated to the Society Islands as long ago as 500 BC from as far away as Malaysia. These same people, who are known to be exceptional navigators, populated the south Pacific islands from Hawaii to Samoa and also New Zealand.
On these voyages the Polynesians had bananas and coconut, as well as taro, yams, plantain, breadfruit and sugarcane. It is thought they also brought pigs, dogs and chickens. They carried with them what would become the flavors of French Polynesia.
The Portuguese explorer Magellan sailed through this area in 1521 and the Dutch in the early 1700’s. But the first European to land on Tahiti was a British Explorer named Samuel Wallis who arrived in 1767 and claimed the island for Great Britain, despite the fact that there was already a monarchy ruling Tahiti.
Shortly after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived and claimed it for France. Tahiti became a French Protectorate in 1840 and in 1880 a French Colony when King Pomare V of Tahiti accepted annexation.
Today it is known as a collectivity of France, comprising over 100 islands in the South Pacific. It holds more autonomy than most French possessions and has a President and Assembly.
Our food exploration on the island of Mo’orea turns up a lot of French influence in the cuisine. Despite the fact less than 9% of the population claims to be French, it is a big influence in the cuisine. In the grocery stores available for purchase are beautiful terrines, foie gras and cheeses as well as bread. Lots of French bread.
There are several French Restaurants on the island. We enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Mo’orea Beach Cafe and hope to visit another French Restaurant on the island in the weeks ahead.
We have visited many nations with a history of French occupation. The cuisine in many of these still reflects the French influence. Everything from Bahn Mi in Vietnam to the Burkina Faso street food of omelet in a baguette.
In the 1860’s the French brought Chinese laborers to the Pacific islands to work in the sugar cane fields. With them of course came their cuisine and food influences. Today the population is made up of about 10% ethnic Chinese.
One food we had was a strange but delicious combination of French and Chinese when we were served Chop Suey noodles inside a French Baguette.
Bao Buns, dumplings and many fried Chinese Foods are popular, especially on Sunday mornings which is always family day.
This week is also the start of the Lunar New Year and there are some local celebrations. In honor we did a favorite Chinese dish at our Airbnb with local Tahitian Shrimp and shared it on our YouTube channel. Check it out here Kung Pao Shrimp,
I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts
Coconuts are a staple here on the island and islanders use every part, both historically and today. The amazing coconut has water, milk, meat as well as strong fiber for cloth and rope. Coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut oil (known as Copra Oil) all are part of the culture. And the shell becomes a cup or a bowl. It’s a multipurpose and delicious food.
Beyond coconut the island weather creates a thriving environment for tropical fruits of many kinds. We have talked in past blog posts about the abundance of mango and banana around the world, and here on Mo’orea is no different. Also available and commercially produced are the sweetest little pineapples. Everywhere you look there are papaya, passion fruit, limes, breadfruit and plantain. Sometimes we can find starfruit, avocado, custard apple and guava.
This abundance of fruit makes it’s way into many local restaurants as well as into our morning breakfast bowl with yogurt.
The island of Mo’orea has both an Agriculture High School and College. Though pineapple is grown commercially it is not exported. Sugar cane is no longer a cash crop, but due to the resurgence of Rum it is being reinstated. Mo’orea has some commercial production of vanilla.
Today Tahiti exports coconut oil and pearls, with pearls making up the largest export by far and is second in economic impact to the nation to tourism.
Teach a Man to Fish…
Given it’s an island, fish is of course a staple protein. We have been astonished by the inexpensive and delicious red and white ahi. Ahi is served everywhere and is usually the fish enjoyed in the national dish of Tahiti called Poisson Cru. We have eaten Poisson Cru several times now, and have made it ourselves too. Mixing the island favorites of fish, lime and coconut milk with some veg it’s absolutely delicious and served everywhere.
Originally however, Poisson Cru was made with reef fish. Reef fish is still a staple and local fisherman, in small skiff or kayaks fish the reefs every morning for Dorado, Parrot Fish and other small fish that live in the coral. We purchased some small fish right in our front yard and enjoyed cooking them.
Sport fishing is also popular here for Big Eye, Wahoo, Marlin and more.
Mo’orea is home to a shrimp farm, producing some of the best shrimp I have ever eaten. I was surprised to find warm water shrimp this tasty. We used the local shrimp for our Kung Pao Shrimp recipe (see above).
Comfort Foods and Carbs
I try to stay away from bread and sweets most of the time, but both are very popular in the daily diet of locals. One such food is Firi Firi, a local donut. Firi Firi is available in road side stands around the island, usually on Sunday morning when families gather. Personally I thought the coconut sugar fried dough was too greasy.
Something I did really like was a coconut bread we had from the Chinese take out. It was wonderful and is a very popular local treat. On Sundays the Chinese take out is very busy as locals gather their favorites from bao buns to deep fried pork and sweets for family time.
Speaking of bread, the French Polynesia government subsidizes baguettes. Which means they are incredibly cheap and abundantly available six days a week, hot from the oven at a cost of 57 cents (USD). We were told this is to make sure everyone can at least afford bread. And boy do the locals eat up those cheap baguettes.
At the Polynesian Tiki Village Show we attended, our dinner included the local comfort food of Pua’a, a suckling pig cooked underground. Nearly identical to way it’s done in Hawaii. Also in the same pit was cooked breadfruit, coconut bread and plantains.
Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did during our first week in Mo’orea was spend a day with Tahiti Food Tours on a Mo’orea Tama’a Street Food Tour. I love doing these kinds of exploratory tours, to really kick start some knowledge about local cuisine. Our guide Heimata was fabulous and we tasted many different local street foods and the wide variety of different types of outdoor places locals go (see more below about that). Heimata, born on Mo’orea, was the perfect guide to show us the ropes. Some of my favorite things were the local mango sprinkled with plum powder, grilled beef heart, Chinese dumpling, Poisson Cru and homemade ice cream. Our tour also included a stop at the local rum distillery and juice factory.
Local Cooking Class
Heimata also turned us on to the Food and Cook Lab, an organic and locally sourced cooking experience here on Mo’orea. We spent a day with Audrey and Stevenson as well as two American women and a man from France at their beautiful and sustainable kitchens. The class we took was all about using locally sourced foods to make some of the traditional Tahitian dishes. We went out into the garden and dug up manioc root and made manioc chips. They were so delicious. We cooked breadfruit over an open flame and then made amazing Poisson Cru. They taught us to make coconut bread, steamed inside hibiscus leaves. And we also made pumpkin and plantain po’a, which was baked inside banana leaf and is like a pudding. What an amazing experience we had. I liked it so much I have registered for another class coming up to learn about fish!
These experiences above also opened our eyes to some of the different kinds of food and dining establishments available on the island. We learned about several different categories of dining;
Called Snacks locally, these are usually take out areas of restaurants, or very small roadside restaurants. On our food tour we visited a couple. My favorite was Snack Rotui right on the water at the head of Cooks Bay (often called First Bay). Snack Rotui is one of the oldest businesses on the island. The food is prepared across the street in a small kitchen and brought over to the road side “snack” by bicycle. Serving a variety of local specialties from quenelles to egg rolls and fish to chicken. Inexpensive and super yummy. We plan to return.
On another day we visited another Snack that sold mostly juice, smoothies and homemade jams. I bought some pineapple mint jam which I used on chicken and it was delicious.
Known as Roulotte, a French word that describes its mobility, Roulotte’s are everywhere. Not necessarily always “trucks” like we see in the USA, more often trailers. Some of the trailers are set up more permanent with attached covered seating, while others come and go. We noticed Roulottes selling noodles, crepes, whole chicken, pork, steak frits, grilled fish, tacos, and even churros. Our favorite is Kaylakea Moz Food right next door to the Mahana Resort. At Moz we had one grilled tuna and one tuna tartar and both were outstanding. So far the best meal we have enjoyed at this darling little Roulotte and much less expensive than a traditional restaurant.
For lack of a better name we call these small ma and pa roadside tables the Fruit Lady. Usually set up in front of someone’s home, these are likely unlicensed operators selling locally sourced fruit and veg and sometimes Firi Firi. We are trying to buy all our fruit and veg from these vendors and support local as much as we can.
Some of the vendors are at the same spot everyday, while others come and go, particularly the fish vendors who sell out of the back of their car when they have a catch. We have also seen vendors selling Mape, which is a local chestnut and very popular. At one fruit lady stand they also sell lovely leis and flower head pieces.
Of course there are traditional restaurants too, but they seem less frequent. All the resorts have traditional restaurants and there are several beach side ones as well. Because many business close between mid January and mid February, we are holding out to visit a few on our list. We did have an exceptional (but also expensive) French lunch at Mo’orea Beach Cafe on one of our first days. I had one of the best pieces of fish I have every had (Dover sole) cooked to perfection. The service and view was exceptional too.
The Flavors of French Polynesia
We have been on the island of Mo’orea now for three weeks and we have five weeks to go. So we still have lots of time to explore more of the flavors of French Polynesia. Next week we are flying over to Bora Bora for several days. I don’t expect the food to be different, but since we will be staying in a hotel and not in an Airbnb we will be eating out more. So I’ll be in search of the flavors of French Polynesia.
No blog next Friday but I’ll tell you all about Bora Bora the following week.
Thank you for joining me today to learn about the flavors of French Polynesia. We love it when you pin and share our blog. Thank you. Mauruuru!
Diani Beach Kenya – It’s been a year since the deadly Nairobi hotel terrorism attack that took 21 lives. Kenya has had its share of terrorism over the past decade, mostly attributed to Al Shabab, an African Islamic group associated with Al Qaeda.
During this same year 40000 people died in the United States from gun-related violence.
I share this comparison not to advocate against guns but to make a point; media accounts of violence around the world create a fear of faraway places, even while violence at home is often just as severe.
It’s a dilemma to decide how to travel safely around the globe. And though we take our personal safety seriously, we do not believe we are in any more danger in Kenya, with its history of terrorist hits, than in the USA, with its history of domestic and international terrorism as well as rampant gun violence.
And so we came to Kenya – specifically Diani Beach Kenya.
Diani Beach Kenya is both a dilemma and a delight. This beautiful coastal town on the Indian Ocean has seen its own share of violence including murder and bombings.
The larger image of Kenya as a violent place over the past decade has been disastrous for the tourism industry, especially in Diani. Like other places we have visited (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America), war, coups, violent crimes and terrorism – and the media accounts of these- can devastate tourism overnight, and the damage takes decades to recover.
Think about it.
But what of places like Paris, Las Vegas, London or Boston? All places that have had terrorism attacks over the past few years but visitors still flock there. Why do we feel safer from terrorism in a “western” culture?
Diani Beach Kenya, touted as the most beautiful beach in Africa, deserves a chance to rebuild its tourism program. Within the 17 mile stretch of white sandy beach sit several abandoned hotels, bars and even an amusement park – places unable to hold on when the tourists stopped coming.
Today, and particularly during the holiday season when we were visiting, tourism is on an uptick. Europeans from Germany, Scandinavia and Britain were abundant on the beach, in restaurants and bars and in the shopping areas.
Convincing Americans to travel here will take more time, and hopefully there will be no more attacks. Meanwhile we feel safe and happy to have enjoyed this beautiful, affordable and incredibly friendly place.
We want the best for the Kenyan people and our new friends in Diani Beach. Hardworking people who for the most part want jobs to support their families and have a good life. Tourism is the vehicle for that and they want it to thrive once again.
So here are some recommendations from our three weeks in Diani, for you to consider when planning your Kenyan adventure.
Where to stay – Frangipani Cottages – very affordable, beautiful pool and 700 meters to the beach.
Our favorite bars and restaurants – Tiki Bar, Havana Bar, The Edge, Nomad Bar and Restaurant, Kokkos, Java House, Oasis Bar, Salty Squid, Piri Piri.
My Fab Fifties Life is enjoying a summer in Washington State, USA, where I was born and raised. As much as I love my life of full-time travel, coming home to familiar ground where my family is brings a sense of stability to our nomad world.
When we return to the USA most summers, my focus is always family, but we also get out at least once a week and play tourists in our own backyard. And that is what we did this past weekend in celebration of both Father’s Day and my husband’s birthday.
McMenamins Elks Lodge Tacoma
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest the blue-collar town of Tacoma always had a bit of a “smelly” reputation because of the pulp and paper mill that cast an odor over the town for several generations. Today however Tacoma has become a renaissance town, with gorgeous views, multiple incredible museums, beautiful parks, and delicious dining.
And the newest little gem to open in Tacoma is the McMenamins franchise masterpiece in the historic and beautifully restored Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma.
If you aren’t from around these parts you might not be familiar with the vision of Mike and Brian McMenamin, Oregon brothers who have built a legendary business of turning historic and dilapidated properties into spectacularly quirky and fun hotels, restaurants, breweries, distilleries,
Elks Lodge Pub & Restaurant
and event venues. For the past 20 years my husband and I, (on many occasions with our kids in tow), have made one of the dozens of McMenamins properties a destination weekend.
The latest addition to the McMenamins dynasty is the opening of the Tacoma Elks Temple after several years of extensive restoration. The building had sat abandoned for thirty-five years, and time, weather and graffiti all had taken a toll.
And yet, this is what McMenamins does best – breathe life into old structures all while digging deep into the silent history of a building to awaken both the known and unknown stories of the people and events that were there. The Elks Temple does just that.
Art everywhere you look
Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, the building was home to one of the nation’s largest Elks organizations until the 1960’s. It was then used as an event venue and, unlike the all-white Elks organization, the building welcomed anyone of any race and held many of the local African-American Rose Cotillion Balls for several years. But times changed and so did the building as it fell into disrepair for 33 years until the visionary McMenamins saw its potential.
We arrived in the afternoon on a very crowded Father’s Day and proceeded to taste our way through all of the properties five bars. Each bar named appropriately, decorated with fun and interesting relics including menu’s that reflect the individual personality of each bar. For instance in
Hand crafted beer and tapas at the Spanish Steps Bar
the Spanish Steps bar (named for Tacoma’s beautiful Spanish Steps that run along the south edge of the building) Tapas are featured on the menu, while in The Old Hangout, a throwback to Trader Vic’s style 1950’s Tiki Bar serves everything from Mai Tai to Singapore Sling, grilled Pineapple Sundae or Salt and Pepper Squid.u
True to the McMenamins model, guests must try to find the “hidden” bar called The Vault. We found it, actually cheated a little because someone was coming out…and I don’t think we would have found it otherwise. Cleverly disguised. That’s all I’m gonna say.
We had both dinner and breakfast in the Elks Pub and Restaurant where we enjoyed pizza, salad and soup for dinner with more McMenamin
The Old Hang Out Bar throwback to old style Tiki
hand-crafted beer. For breakfast I had an amazing Eggs Benedict that included artichoke hearts and spinach and included cheese jalapeño grits. Wow.
The Elks Lodge now has 45 rooms, each and every one named for a person or group of persons who had something to do with the building or the surrounding area. Everyone from Robert Cray (musician) to Bill Baarsma (former mayor) to Hattie Lund (no relation to me but a long-time Tacoma philanthropist) to the Puyallup Native American Tribe.
I have two small complaints about our visit. Our room which opened to
an atrium and did not have an outside window, was a bit stuffy and I wished for a window. If I return I’ll pay a little more for a room on the perimeter of the building. My other complaint is that although the wifi worked great throughout the building in bars and public spaces, it was non-existent in our room.
Rooms start around $140 per night. Food and beverage is very reasonably priced. If you come, allow plenty of time to just explore…it’s like a museum of both art and history as well as a wonderful place to people watch Tacoma’s eclectic and proud residents. So much fun. We will be back.
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