Diving in Raja Ampat

We’re a long way from Morocco (the last post), and while quite a lot has happened in the interval, not much of it has warranted a travel blog post, until now 🙂

Our front garden

Diving in Raja Ampat has been on our bucket list since forever, and was one of the things we thought might happen in this latest episode of “Waiting for the Bike”

This is now Season 4, Episode 3 of Waiting for the Bike.

(The series history is as follows… S4 Ep 1: Flying to Johannesburg, S4 Ep 2: The RORO boat to Italy, S4 Ep 3: Container to Melbourne)

But now I digress, so… Diving in Raja Ampat, what’s it all about? Most people have never even heard of Raja Ampat, where is it, why do you go there, is it really the “greatest diving in the world??”

Raja Ampat is a marine park located in Western Papua, Indonesia (which is the western bit of the big Island to the north of Australia which includes Papua, and Papua New Guinea too). It’s about 1500km directly north of Darwin. The closest city to Raja Ampat is Sorong, and people visit the area for the diving, snorkelling and beautiful undiscovered beaches.

Since about 2012 I’ve been hearing scuba divers mention Raja Ampat, usually in the phrase “we want to go to Raja Ampat next”, and the websites and dive shops all call it the “most amazing diving in the world”, which to be fair, is also said about the Phillipines, Thailand, Malaysia etc, so i was a little sceptical.

After about 4 weeks of S4Ep3 Waiting for the Bike, we had been to Thailand (Koh Chang), Vietnam (the Da Nang area), Thailand again (Chiang Mai), the Philippines (Coron), and now find ourselves in Indonesia for a month en route home.

So we added up the flights to Raja Ampat ($1000), the accomodation ($360 for 6 nights including food), and the diving ($1400 total for 12 dives each), and decided that spending AUD$3000 between us for a week away (when we’ve already been away for 9 months and this is supposed to be the cheap bit!!) was a bad idea and disappointedly decided to stay in Bali and save money.

The following day we wandered around Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, looked at what we could do in Ubud or Nusa Lembongan for a few weeks, scratched our heads a bit, surfed the net for a few hours, and then we booked the flights to Raja Ampat 🙂

Most people dive Raja Ampat from a liveaboard boat, but the boat prices START at $1500 USD per person so we ruled that out pretty quickly and decided to stay in one of the many homestays on the Islands.

We got lucky and somehow came across a little dive shop called Soul Divers, recently opened on the Island Kri, run by a young couple Tibo and Carrie from France and the US respectively. Usually we’d prefer to dive with local guides, but a lot of the reviews we read about the local homestay diveshops in Raja Ampat were less than encouraging, and after speaking to Carrie on the phone, we were convinced. (They’re also more reasonably priced than a lot of the other operators in Raja Ampat).

We also found beachfront accommodation at Warasnus Homestay, only 5 mins walk from the diveshop, so it all fell into place.

Warasnus homestay

Arriving at Sorong Airport we were greeted by the usual shouting touts selling taxi rides to the ferry terminal, but we had lots of time and it was only a few km so we decided to walk there instead. The Indonesian word for ‘going for a walk’ is “jalan jalan” and it’s always fun telling Indonesians that we dont need a taxi because “jalan jalan”. In some bizarre twist of linguistics and culture, the words “jalan jalan” miraculously melt the resolve of the most hardened touts and we pass the sea of men like Moses!

The walk to the harbour was made a little disillusioning by the volume of plastic rubbish being thrown into drains in Sorong, sitting there waiting for the next big rains to wash it into the ocean… sigh.

A gutter of plastic waiting to be flushed out to sea

Anyway, from the ferry terminal we took the $10 ferry to Waisai (2hrs), where we hooked up with a couple of Aussie girls going to Kri Island and split the $70 boat ride there between the 4 of us.

Arriving at Warasnus we were shown to our bungalow on the beach, a simple bamboo and wood structure on stilts, with a foam mattress, mosquito net and shared toilet and wash rooms a few metres away. We usually had rats in our bungalow at night time, but this seems to be normal for the all the homestays in Raja Ampat, and you get used to it. They only have electricity in the evenings.

Our bungalow

The toilets were cleanish (by Indonesian standards), and the wash rooms pretty basic (big plastic container usually full of water, with a scoop to throw water over yourself).

Meals were quite simple: rice, tempe, fish or chicken, and some vegetables, the usual suspects in Indonesian warungs. Not overly impressive, but not bad either. Breakfast for the first couple of days was our only real complaint, (sponge cake or white bread and chocolate syrup), but we had a chat with the ladies in the kitchen and they switched it to fried rice or noodles which was much better.

That afternoon we walked the steep ‘path’ over the hill to the Soul Divers shop and met Tibo and Carrie, tried on our dive equipment and started to get excited for the next days diving.

So… is Raja Ampat the “best diving in the world”? Well, in our experience it’s pretty close 🙂 In any single dive we would usually see reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, turtles, barracuda, giant trevally, shrimp, nudies, sting rays, and all manner of reef fish. Several dives also have oceanic mantas which are pretty awesome, octopus, giant napoleons, sea horses, dugong, sweet lips… the list goes on.

My new favourite underwater animal, a Wobbegong shark

Until now our favourite diving has been Komodo National Park, and Raja Ampat comes pretty close to it. The reef in Mexico and Belize was next best, and everything else is grouped into “nice diving”, with the exception of Sipadan which was really nice, but everything else about Sipadan was a bit shit. To put it into perspective for the Scuba divers reading this, we both have 100+ dives, in some of the more well known sites in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Belize, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Zanzibar etc.

Lots of little islands in crystal clear water

Anyway, we had an amazing time! Soul divers usually came right to the pier at our homestay to pick us up in the morning, we’d do a couple of dives, return for lunch, then were picked up again for the afternoon dive. The dive briefings were super professional, and Tibo and Rocky were great dive guides, who really care about the reef. So if you’re thinking about diving in Raja Ampat we’d definately recommend Soul Divers. (and no we didn’t get a discount, and usually never recommend anyone!)

After 3 days diving we’d initially planned to move to another island, but were having such a good time that we extended our stay in Warasnus and dived 2 extra days with Soul Divers. After the diving we’d usually spend a few hours with the other divers and the staff at Soul Divers, watching the sun set and drinking a few almost cold Bintangs. Pretty cool.

Another beautiful sunset

Diving aside, the nicest part of Raja Ampat was the beautiful little island, with no cars or moto’s, not much electricity, patchy phone signal, and no running water, it really felt like we were a world away from anywhere.

If someone is considering diving Raja Ampat we’d recommend avoiding the liveaboards… you can dive the same divesites for less money, and spend your nights sitting on a beach watching the sun set instead of being stuck on a boat with 20 other divers. The other advantage is that Soul Divers was able to organise visits to the more challenging divesites for experienced divers only, which many of the liveaboards skip altogether as they need to please the masses. We also witnessed liveaboard boats throwing waste into the ocean, (which we’re told is commonplace), when we reported the issue to the owners of the boat, their response was “everyone does it”. Not cool.

Snow in the High Atlas Mountains

It’s been an interesting week, we’ve had rain, a sand storm, incredibly strong winds, and now the last two days in the snow!

hard to believe we were in sand dunes two days ago!

Yesterday we’d planned to ride back north via a similar path we came south on, but right at the top of the High Atlas range we passed a town overflowing with taxis and mini vans, which usually means the road is blocked ahead, and this was no exception.

The long way around took us about 100km out of our way, and landed us into a little known town last night, where 2 of the 4 hotels were full, and the other two were hell holes even by our lowly standards.

we’ve been colder before, but not by much!

The worst one was not really a functioning hotel, the ground floor was a long abandoned renovation site, with walls broken and exposed wiring and bits of rubble and wood debris everywhere, the tiny  rooms had really small single beds too short for adults to stretch out in, and there was no water in the bathroom (which incidentally was on the roof).

Of course we wound up in that one – it had somewhere to park the bike! But only after I asked three times if they actually had hot water.  After a day at between 0 and 9 degress you really want a hot shower!  The manager promised me he did, but when we went out for dinner we saw him in the construction site (reception) arguing with another guy over a gas bottle… not a good sign.

it looks a bit like Siberia up here

Later on he softly knocked on the door and then ran away, but I opened faster than he’d hoped and called him back.  He explained that there was a problem, and there was no water.  Shock!!  I suggested that he should compromise on the price as a result and he refunded me 15 dihrams out of the original 60 ($6).

He did bring us extra blankets though as it was bloody cold last night – always entertaining watching Sal try to sleep without actually touching the fetid blankets 🙂

we passed this lake that was almost totally frozen over

Never mind, I went to bed half dressed and rolled out of bed straight back into my riding suit for today’s final 250km in the mountains.

We’re not really prepared for such low temperatures on the bike, and even wearing everything we have, we still suffer on cold days.  We stop now and then to restore feeling in our hands, and are praying continuously for rain to hold off, and the mountains to end.

lucky for us, our detour had just been snow ploughed the afternoon before!

We were lucky today and just beat the stormy weather into a city called Mekes, and are holed up in a lovely little room with a steaming hot shower 🙂  More rain is forecast for tomorrow so we may take a down day before the last day of riding back to Algericas for the ferry to Spain.

Love to all xoxo




Sal gets her own wheels

After our Fury road day, we’d planned to stay a couple of days in Merzouga, but it turns out that unless you want to book in for an “authentic Sahara experience” (ride a camel for ten minutes into a pre-prepared sand camp and let some poor Moroccans do everything for you), there’s not actually that much to do there.

So we packed the bike in the morning planning to go see the largest sand dunes and possibly stop in the next town where there was a date festival going on…. Yeah I know, pretty cool huh! Date Festival! It’s Party time!!

We stopped just short of the dunes and I unloaded all the luggage to enjoy the ride a bit more.

“Do you want to come babe”

“Are you serious?! NO!!”

Riding around in the sand on my own wasn’t much fun, so 10 mins later I came back, we loaded up again and headed off. I was a bit bummed out for Sal not to experience the sea of bigger sand dunes, so I suggested we hire a quad bike so Sal could go too…

Half an hour of negotiation and we settled on hiring one bike and the mandatory guide took me on the back.

en route to the sand dunes from Merzouga

I’m not sure if Sal had more fun than me watching her, but it was really cool. We rode for half an hour into the dunes, stopped for some pics and then headed back just as a nasty sand Storm was brewing.

riding like a pro!

i got to try the quad too, it’s much more relaxing on 4 wheels!!

Southern Morocco, Fury Road.

“so are you guys joining us on the dirt, or taking the highway?”
“We’re joining you on the dirt rd” Sal responded tersely…
“Are you sure Sal?”
“This is your time babe, just take the dirt road…”

It’s not all sunshine and roses but I do consider myself to be the luckiest guy on earth for being with Sally.  We’d been doing 8 to 10hr days on mountain passes, some good going but mostly rocky, bumpy roads.  Heaven for me, but not so much fun on the back.

one of the many oasis we passed yesterday

The morning of this particular day of off-road riding started out at 2000m altitude, 8 degrees and raining. Not horrible stormy rain, but on the back of the last few days it wasn’t really what we wanted.

At breakfast we talked about my planned route through the mountains…

“We’re taking the highway today aren’t we Dean” it wasn’t a question.
“Um… Yeah I guess so.”

After an hour in the rain, the storm broke and we stopped for a cup of tea and to take some layers off.  Two other guys on bikes who were in the same small town stopped too, and we sat and chatted over the worst cup of tea that’s ever been made.

They were headed towards the bit of piste (french for dirt road) that I had pencilled in before the rain started (and before our earlier agreement to take the highway), which just happened to start about 800m from where we were sitting, and end at the town we were headed towards.

It was just a bit too tempting.

Before we headed off Sal put her wet weather gear back on muttering something about the storm on the horizon, while I expressed positive thoughts about our chances of staying dry.

It’s very rare that we set off in some direction that Sal doesn’t want to go in. I’m not usually brave enough, but it wasn’t actually raining – and we’re in Morocco!!

I’m not religious, but on these rare moments I find myself fervently praying for a good outcome.

No rain and a nice track = happy Sally.
Rain and sandy track = Fury Road.

In the end it was somewhere in between, a bit of rain, but mostly beautiful piste that criss crossed a wide dried up river for the afternoon.  There was also a point where we literally rode into a large open cut mine (Erzberg rodeo style!), complete with enormous trucks and yellow bunting, at the same time as it was raining, that bit wasn’t so great, but it wasn’t Fury Road either 😉  We spent that night in a cheap hotel (surprise surprise!) and the 2 Czech guys decided to join us for today’s ride too.

We’re now in the south of Morocco, the desert bit, and desert means sand, and (if you’ve been paying attention you’d know that) sand means Fury Road.


Yesterday it took us about 4 minutes to overtake our new friends and then we spent most of the day waiting for them, especially in anything that had the slightest bit of sand to cross, so we weren’t surprised when they decided that the route we were taking today was too difficult, and after 70km they took the highway north instead.

Sweet Irony.

We spent the rest of today following a 170km gps track that didn’t really have an actual track matching it, more like a hundred different wheel tracks spread across a few hundred metres in the desert, that all went roughly in the same direction.

one section took us through a dried up flood plain between mountain ranges

Sometimes the tracks diverged and then came back together and other times they kept going in different directions, and we had to double back or ride through the dunes to get back to the ones going in our direction.

The track followed a riverbed at first, then it was stony desert, then it wound its way between separate sand dunes, and yes, (you’ve been waiting for it!), eventually the track crossed dunes, and then we were continuously in rolling dunes.

the only signpost we saw all day

Not big bad horrible Dakar style dunes, but still Fury Road worthy.

“Babe I want to walk this bit!” Sal demanded as we were looking at sand dunes as far as we could see into the distance.
“We’ll be here for a week if you want to walk all the sand” I replied and kept the throttle wide open.

Now I started this post by emphasising how lucky I am to have such an amazing adventurous woman in my life, and I’ll go back there now.  We must have ridden almost 150km of sand today, 2up, with luggage.

Most people won’t understand how difficult that is.  But anyway, there aren’t many bikes you’d try it on, and even fewer passengers who would contemplate the idea.

Sand requires speed, a bit like water skiing, too slow and you sink, the faster you go the easier it gets, but if you fall off at high speed it’s going to be ugly.

So we’re going reasonably fast, the motor is wide open to maintain that speed so the rear wheel is continuously sliding, and I’m standing up, trying to get all of my weight as far back as possible to let the front wheel steer instead of ploughing.

This means Sal is leaned back at a horrible angle over the rear bag with my bum pushed into her face so she can’t actually see anything at all.

The other difficult part of sand riding is that you can’t really steer very precisely, you just point the bike in a vague direction, keep it wide open and don’t stop for anything.

This means that we quite often end up going in undesired directions before I can coax it back on track, like into even bigger dunes, into deep ravines, over big rocks or across deep ruts in the sand.  And to top it off we frequently veer off into unexpected directions when the front wheel buries in a deep patch…

Sounds like fun huh! Even more so for Sal as she can’t actually see what’s coming, so she gets totally slammed by every impact.

But even with all this excitement today, there was only just the smallest hint of Fury Road, coming after the twentieth demand for “walking this bit” was ignored, where I had to actually stop because things got a bit too hairy in some deep ruts.

“I’m not doing this bit!!” Sal stormed off across the sand dune, finally in control of her own destiny.

waiting for Sally after she jumped ship in the previous patch of sand

Love that woman.

I made my way to a firmer patch of ground so Sal could get back on, and we roared away again, in the middle of the vast nothingness of the desert, just us three snaking our way towards the next oasis town.

A desert is an amazing but also intimidating place, and more than once I found myself wondering what on earth we were doing there? We have friends, family and a nice home in Australia, we have a garden and nice places to hang out… But here we are surrounded by mountains of sand and rock in northern Africa.


As we covered the last few km into town, tired but now back on the safety of a tar road, a deep feeling of awesomeness crept into my mind, We did it!

I reached back and hugged Sal.

“good work babe, I’m exhausted”

“Me too”

“Great ride huh!” 😉


So much has happened since I was last here, but in a nutshell… Sal returned to Australia to sadly farewell a very special lady, meanwhile I did two weeks (of predominantly donkey time) in Spain, Sal came back, I crashed Betsy in the rain in Lisbon (no injuries), and then we came to Morocco.

Also in there was a day of maintenance on Betsy in Lisbon, where I finally cured a persistent chatter in the clutch and can now proudly say that we have complete Bike Zen.  Can you feel the excitement?  I’m excited.  Really excited.

putting the new (second hand) clutch in Betsy, thanks KTM Lisbon for the workshop space!

Armed with new found Bike Zen we decided to skip the Algarve in Portugal (it was getting too cold to spend time on the beach), and make tracks for Morocco.  After a couple of months kicking around Europe (e.g. hanging out in brightly lit bars frequented mostly by old ladies) this was an exciting prospect.

We took a couple of days to ride to the coast, camped close to the ferry terminal in Tarifa and then found ourselves looking at Africa again with more than a bit of enthusiasm.  Well… I was enthused and Sally was doing her usual routine of appearing not very excited, but deep down, really deep down, where no one could actually see, somewhere below the sub cockle area, Sal was excited too.

looking at Africa again

We bought tickets that landed us around midday and then headed straight to a town called Chefchaouen, famous for it’s blue buildings and centuries old medina (an old walled city, full of people selling junk).

Chefchaoen, blue town full of old men dressed like wizards.

From there we did a short riding day to Fes where we stayed a couple of days in the medina (another old walled city, full of even more people selling even more junk), trying to avoid being overcharged for basically everything.

After Fes my enthusiasm level for Morocco was waning.  Too many rude touts trying to get us into restaurants or convince us to come to some tannery for free, and then asking us for money.  Too much junk for sale at hundreds of stalls all selling the same cheap crap that’s probably made in China anyway, and too much overpriced, bland tasting food.

Then we went to Agoudal in the High Atlas mountains and things started to improve.  We ate lunch in a tiny town on the way up and were impressed with the flavours in the tajine, and more impressed with the price.   This was followed by a night in a Kasbah looking hotel at 2400m altitude, where we further sharpened our Moroccan negotiation skills.

Turns out that everything here, literally everything, is up for negotiation.  Even a cup of coffee.  There is the inflated tourist price on a menu ($3), the haggled tourist price ($1) and then the actual price ($0.50).  Understanding this has been helpful.

typical small town in the High Atlas mountains, they really like brown here.

the minaret (place where old men scream verses from the Koran into megaphones 5x per day)

It was so cold overnight in Agoudal that in the morning the bike was covered in a thin layer of ice.  Fortunately the sunny morning took the chill out of the air and we set off, leaving the sealed roads behind for what would be 3 days of brilliant off road riding in some amazing mountain scenery.

As this is a motorcycle trip, I’m going to indulge in some boring motorcycle related commentary… The 90/10 situation.  90% of the time the SuperEnduro (Betsy) is not the best bike to be riding…  She is not a great touring bike.  She is a terrible city bike.  She isn’t much of a single track bike, although we give it a nudge from time to time.  And with offroad tyres, she isnt much of a road bike either… But for 10% of the time, on mountain or desert tracks, Betsy is totally sublime.  Morocco has overwhelmingly been full of that 10% of the riding roads that are so much fun, so rewarding to ride, that it makes the other 90% of the time not matter at all.  I think you get the idea, I’m having a ball over here :)))

As I’ve written here more times than I recall, the pictures don’t do it justice, but you get the gist…

donkeys bringing wild thyme down from the mountains

the donkeys here are adorable


typical farming plot in the Atlas

So bring it on Morocco! This could be our last big offroad hurrah on Betsy, I’m going to make it one to remember 🙂

Love to all back home xxoo


Braga, Portugal

After an emotional, short, unexpected trip back to Australia to say goodbye to one of my favourite people on this earth, I returned to meet Dean in Madrid where he’d been staying with a friend.

Nonna Felicetta 💕

As Dean had been left with little to do whilst waiting for me he took it upon himself to arrange the following few days of travel and accommodation. This is usually my job so it was nice to come back and not have to work out what we were doing for a while.

It was also nice as Dean had booked actual hotel rooms with double beds. The quality of the accommodation subtly diminished as the nights wore on however… we started with a room with a private bathroom for the first two nights….then it was a room with a shared bathroom….and now we are camping again! It was good while it lasted 😉

Our campsite in a pine forest in Lisbon

Feeling the last of the good weather had only a week or two left we made tracks back to Portugal, stopping for a night in Salamanca, Spain on the way.

Salamanca was beautiful with way too many old Roman churches and plazas and obviously, being Spain, way too many bars.

After spending lots of time frequenting Spanish bars, as one may have picked up (mum 😉), Dean and I came to the agreement the best bars are those where the lights shine brightly (the more fluros the better) and where all the old ladies go (and preferably old men serve).

At these bars the drinks and food are cheap, the service is genuine and there are no tourists. These rules go completely against the rules we apply at home or anywhere else (where we have a choice) however here it seems to work best – Portugal too it seems.

We spent a couple of nights in Braga, Portugal where there happened to be a wine festival on, so for 3 euro in many of the cities restaurants you got a glass of local wine and a small tapa. Perfect!

We visited the Bom Jesus, a church built on top of a hill with stairs named ‘stairway to heaven’ leading to it and walked around the beautiful old city.

BOM Jesus, stariway to heaven

Porto was next. Another beautiful hilly city with the river Duomo running through it, and lots of tiny cobbled streets with medieval buildings.

We’d read that the restaurants in Porto were amazing so we thought we’d spend a little more money than usual and try one that didn’t look TOO touristy and had kind of bright lights.

We were given four mussels and some bread as we sat down.

Having been stung years ago in Portugal I asked how much these items were.

‘The bread 1 euro and the mussels 4″

No problem. This is something that touristy restaurants do in Portugal. Tourists assume they are free and get a suprise when the bill arrives. The waiter insists it’s a Portuguese traditional however this tradition doesn’t seem to be followed in non touristy restaurants!

Despite the long wait (service here leaves a lot to be desired) and very bad reviews (read after we’d ordered) the food was ok. Not great, not worth the money and definitely a reminder to stick to our old people bars.

When the bill came we’d each been charged 4 euros for the mussels (as much as a main course)….my blood started boiling…

‘Excuse me, when I asked you how much the mussels were, you said 4 euro, you didn’t say 4 euro each, that’s very dishonest”

“Sorry sorry I must have slipped on the computer, I’ll change it”

Yeah right.

They didn’t know who they were dealing with 😉

Im telling you, bright lights. Old people. It’s the only way!

We spent a night camping in Coimbra, another beautiful medieval university city and then headed to Lisbon where Dean is currently fixing the clutch on Betsy.


Portugal so far has been really beautiful and the people some of the nicest in Europe. We haven’t come across a single person who has been rude or given us attitude. They all go our of their way to help us and always try their best to communicate. Most people here speak at least a little English so this is rarely a problem.

Like Spain, Portugal is about the cities…the in between is pretty dry and flat but has lots of Eucalyptus trees which makes it look and smell a lot like Australia.

Portugal also feels a lot like eastern Europe to me as they seem a few steps behind the rest of western Europe. Some places allow you to smoke inside, the newspapers have a page of almost naked women and they still have corner stores and bric a brac shops occupying prime real estate in historic city centres.

Next we head back to Spain. We’ve decided against going to the Algarve due to cooler weather so will head directly to Jerez before getting a boat to Morocco in a few days 🙂

and then they went to Spain…

We originally planned to travel to England after Switzerland and France, but somewhere along the way we changed plan, and now we’re in Spain.  It was something to do with the stress of high prices in Switzerland (and also the UK), the rain, and that we’re eventually going to the UK anyway.

So anyway, after Sal’s last post (we didn’t get wet!!), we drank a lot of french wine, which was actually really good, stayed mostly on back roads where I tried hard not to tear up my tyres chasing other french motorcyclists, and finally crossed the border to Spain, which we only realised had happened because the price of petrol is 20c/litre less.

Spain is many things to many people, but for these two borderline alcoholics, it’s great bars, cheap wine (not to be confused with bad wine) and pinchos.

“wow how long has it been since we had a bathroom in our room?! – I’m almost excited to go to the toilet” – Sally Clark just now.

After sleeping cold for about ten nights on the trot in the tent, we arrived in Spain pretty bleary eyed and fatigued, and so have been splurging on the cheapest hotels we can find.  Sounds glamorous doesn’t it!!  The first night in Pamplona we even had a double bed!  Last night we were in a hostel dorm though, which was actually cheaper than camping!  Anyway, all the Rioja and Alborinio is making up for the accomodation 🙂

Yesterday we visited two art exhibitions in Bilbao.  One was a temporary display showing a fusion of technology with art, and the other was the world famous Guggenheim Museum of modern art.  The first museum was actually quite interesting, with things like robot flower beds that were swaying to the wind being measured somewhere in the US, or a robot with a live feed from the Mars rover drawing exactly the rocky Martian view that the rover was looking at…

“we’ve been places that look just like that”  Sally Clark yesterday

The modern art museum was a bit of a struggle I must admit, but I dutifully visited every exhibition and listened to the explanation from the audio guide, all of which was incredibly interesting…

“In the mid-1950s, while working as a cryptographer in the US Army, Cy Twombly developed his signature style of graffiti-like scratches, scribbles, and frenetic lines that simultaneously referenced and subverted the then-dominant painterly mode of Abstract Expressionism. Following Twombly’s permanent move to Rome in 1957, the gestural freedom of Abstract Expressionism was counterbalanced by and tethered to the weight of history. A series of works from the late 1950s and early 1960s chart Twombly’s deepening fascination with Italian history, ancient mythology, and classical literature”

I understood parts of it like the giant pot shoe…

“this installation is a giant stiletto shoe, made from shiny pots and pans, in the which the artist describes the  juxtaposition of a woman’s role in society where she is both expected to prepare meals and to be a sex symbol at the same time…”

“Yeah I get that”  Dean Martinello, yesterday.

other ones i was a little more challenged by…

“This cycle of paintings is based on the cruelty, insanity, and eventual murder of the Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus (161–192 CE).”  (I checked it three times to make sure I had the right description…)

“Fuck!!! Sally you have got to see/listen to this…  if you gave me a million years to come up with every possible meaning behind someone throwing red and white paint at a wall, I could not have dreamed this sequence could be describing the life of a murdered Roman emperor.  What???”

I actually burst out laughing, literally had tears running down my face from trying not to laugh.  Very inappropriate for the Guggenheim crowd.  The next painting was a totally black canvas with a little white dot in the corner that meant something very special apparently…  Thankfully that was the third and final floor.

My favourite part was a giant flower puppy on the sidewalk outside 🙂

Tonight we’re in a region called Cabrales (???) where we’re off on a 25km hike up a mountain tomorrow to try to balance some of the intake.  Hopefully I can keep up with Sally.

What else?  Well not much really, the bike is running great, and we’re happy and healthy and looking forward to Portugal and Morocco!

Love to all back home xxoo






Welcome to Europe

Well it’s been awhile so I thought I’d bring the blog up to date since we’ve been in Europe.

As always being back in Europe is wonderful. Everything works, everything is nice and the food and wine is some of the best in the world.

There’s history and beauty almost everywhere you look and clothes and shoes to match.

There is of course a downside to all this. Expensive petrol and road tolls make travelling more stressful than other countries in the world. Hotels are way too expensive for us to consider so every night is in a tent (which still costs 7 times more than the most expensive hotel we stayed in Africa). There is also little in the way of excitement as we pretty much know every place we go to will be beautiful, it’s a hard life 😉

Upon arriving in Italy from Egypt, the first thing we noticed at the airport was how much skin we could see….and colours…. After being surrounded by men dressed in white and the few women we saw dressed in black from head to toe for the last few weeks… the colours, clothes and tans of European holiday makers was a bit of a shock. People seemed quite happy too!

We spent a week with Katie in Siena which was beautiful. She had an awesome little apartment right in the centre of the old town with a terrace over looking a beautiful church. We drank several spritzers per day and watched the craziness of the Palio which we were lucky enough to be there for.

We also ate salami, prosciutto and Buffalo mozzarella, lots of it…but the spritzers were definitely the outstanding feature of our time in Siena.

With so many church bells in Siena it didnt take long before we decided they were actually Aperitivo bells, telling every one it was time for an aperitivo, which we dutifully obeyed. The aperitivo bell generally started any time after 12pm and if we ever felt we missed it we made our own bell by chiming two glasses together.

After a week of this behaviour Dean and I said goodbye to Katie and caught a bus to Bologna, one of our favourite cities in Italy.

The aperitivo bell also rang here however not quite as early as it did without Katie by our side 😘

From here Dean caught a train to Ravenna to pick up the bike while I walked around shops and got a hair cut and colour 😳

Picking up the bike was relatively straightforward, however at some stage between leaving Egypt and arriving in Italy our petrol tank was drained, the bike had been riden 10kms and at some stage fallen over (evident from scratches on the pannier and our world map ripped) and anything that wasn’t locked to the bike stolen (luckily not too much) 😖

Dean returned to Bologna, picked me up. We basically picked a point half way between Marostica and Bologna and decided on Ferrara.

Ferrara is now also one of our favourite cities in Italy (another one)

An old wall surrounds the city and a huge castle stands in the centre with a moat around it – absolutely stunning. There was also a ‘buskers festival’ on which added to the atmosphere and reminded us of the Adelaide fringe, there was even a guy from Australia busking there.

We loved Ferrara so much we decided to spend another night however rain was forcast and our tent is only almost waterproof now so we decided to push on to Chiara’s house in Marostica.

As always it was lovely to see her and Bianca and be back in Veneto. We enjoyed almost a week hanging out, catching up with family and getting things fixed on the bike.

As always it was sad to leave but we had to pull ourselves away and get back on the road. We spent a couple of nights at Deans Zio Bepe in Varese who spoilt us with beautiful food and wine before heading in to Switzerland.


So beautiful with luscious green grass, water turquoise blue, perfect colour coordinated flower boxes blooming with geraniums and petunias in the windows of every Swiss chalet, waterfalls cascading from the mountains and cows with big bells around their necks (not quite sure why?!)

It’s perfect.

A bit too perfect.

Everything is ordered, everyone follows the rules and everyone is very sensible.

We found it a bit boring.

I certainly won’t be racing to a Swiss party… If they even have them?!

But most of all, it’s so bloody expensive! I’ve never seen so many tourists in the supermarkets! In a lot of cases the cost of food was similar to Australia but some thing’s even made Australia look cheap. With a coffee at $7 and camping at $55 it gets a little stressful. The place is beautiful but we didn’t feel it warranted the cost.

The Alps are just as beautiful in Italy and France and are a fraction of the cost (and a little more fun!)

There were many suggestions of returning to Veneto 😁

So we spent several days in Switzerland trying to dodge the rain, travelling between Interlaken and Bern. We travelled over some beautiful passes and did a hike in the mountains to try to work off all the good stuff Italy indulged us in.

We’re now in France in the Alsace region which is stunning. Lots of little mediaeval towns with more perfect flower boxes and cobbled stone streets and some great cellar doors to visit. The cost of food and camping isn’t hurting our soul and even though we can’t afford to eat in a restaurant, we can afford a beer in a cafe. I feel not being able to do this takes away from the experience of being in a place. I love to watch people work, eat, drink and interact with each other and see how life unfolds. This is what we missed in Switzerland.

The rain is still controlling our itinerary and the weather seems to change hourly. We were originally planning on going to the UK but have decided to head south to Morrocco while the weather is good – the cold and rain has reminded us how uncomfortable it is to ride in bad weather.
It was raining too hard to cook tonight so we had no choice but to go to the cheapest restaurant in town. We got away with only spending €35 but that was still more than we wanted but with no chairs or tables and only mud to sit in we had no other choice!

I’m currently lying in our tent, it’s raining and we’re waiting for drops of water to start to land on our heads.

I’m going to put some earplugs in now so I can pretend it’s not raining and we’re not going to get wet!

We still discuss retuning to Veneto 😍

Goodbye Africa

Sally suggested that I write something to finish off the African leg of our trip, which I guess is fitting. Leaving the continent has sneaked up on us a bit, one minute we were at Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, marvelling at the unique and hard way of life that the African tribal people live, next thing we were eating njera bread in Ethiopia where the people looked more a mix of Arab, Persian and African and a couple of weeks later we were staring at the pyramids in a country that doesn’t consider itself to be African at all (and actually takes offence at the assertion that they are in fact African).

It was always going to be a short, relatively easy trip by our standards, but even so it feels like it was over a bit too quickly. In retrospect we would have stayed longer in the southern countries as our concerns about spending a lot of money further north didn’t actually materialise, and we’ve arrived in Europe having spent a lot less than we budgeted for.

Which is good because everything here is so damned expensive!

On the flip side, it’s left us with a possible future plan to return for a month or three and just visit some of the national parks.

Anyway, our plan from here seems to be changing by the hour, but broadly it involves visiting some of Italy, Switzerland, France, the UK, Spain, Portugal and Morocco, and then finding something to do with the rest of our lives 🙂

Betsy is now on a boat headed to Ravenna (near Rimini in Italy), hopefully she arrives safely on Monday and we can get back on the road. Pretty scary seeing a short Egyptian man wobble away into oncoming traffic on her the other day (I wasn’t allowed to ride into the port), times like that I’m glad she’s already well worn and scratched!

For the next week we’re staying in Katie’s apartment in Siena, she’s given us her bed and is sleeping in a cot in the corridoor, thanks Katie, very kind!!!

It’s “the Palio” time here in Siena, something about a horse race through the centre of town contested by local families, has been going on for hundreds of years, lots of singing and drinking by the locals… we’re doing our best to fit in 🙂

Love to all xxoo

Edit… Monday’s bike collection has turned into Wednesday now, so we’re getting out of Katie’s hair and planning on going to either Modena or Bologna to wait it out for a couple of days.

Huge thanks again to Kitty Katie for her warm hospitality, comfy bed and constant desire to ring the aperetivo bell 🤗 We’ll miss you this afternoon!

Leaving Egypt

We’re in the car on the way to the airport, it has no headlights or seatbelts and the driver is really going for it!

This could be the most dangerous thing we’ve done so far!