Sunday, October 31, 2010

Strawberry coconut muffin

Austeja thought it had too much milk in the dough, but I think that the strawberry coconut muffins at Sally's Restaurant, next to the pier in Russell, New Zealand, are simply perfect!

So much so, that now, as Austeja and Elvinas headed off for a cruise on the Bay of Islands in search for dolphins, I came back for one more of these delights with my book.

sent from my android.


Camparvan tour around New Zealand - first impressions

Our campervan, the Cheapa Campa Hitop, or 'piggy' as we call it..
Before the lights are off..

Posting from the morning after our first night in the camparvan.

- our camper is a custom toyota hiace, from 2007 - a really beautiful car.

- the dude at the rentals was a great salesman: he talked us into taking the full insurance, although we planned initially to take no insurance at all. His main argument: there is no compulsory insurance in NZ, about 30% of drivers are driving uninsured, if I get into an accident with them, I pay, even if it wasn't my fault.

- it seems that the majority of tourists take campers in Auckland and drive South to Christchurch - just as we did. We could have gotten a MUCH better deal if chose the same route in the opposite direction... Heaps of vans need to be taken back up North.

- the country is beautiful, and everything is super camper-friendly. Many campsites with top class facilities, great signposting, good rest areas with toilets and showers, local attractions inviting motorists in on the roadside everywhere.

NZ certainly lives up to its great reputation so far, and the campervan life is fantastic... Going to be a nice 4 weeks :)

sent from my android.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A week on Foa

As all the guidebooks will tell you, life is rather slow in Tonga. On top of that, it's been raining a lot for the last few days, so we really haven't done much.

Looking back to our last week in Ha'apai and Matafonua lodge on Foa island, the biggest highlights for me were the natural beauty of a small tropical island,  the roaring ocean (I used the earplugs for the last few nights - it was sooo loud) and the wonderful people we've met on our way:

# we've made friends with Jay and Susan, who usually spend half of their year on the Ice in Antarctica.  We've held a few intense TAKI championships prior and after Sally's wonderfully prepared dinners with Elvinas smashing us all with no mercy. Thanks again to Amit and Zrinka for a great game - we love it!

# it was great to meet Darren and Nina with their 3 children, who have chosen Tonga over Florida and are currently operating the Happy Ha'apai Divers base. Discovering the underwater world with them, diving through the volcanic caves, looking for sharks with plastic bottle sounds was a lot of fun (and some healthy adrenaline for me). Elvinas has made good friends with their eldest JJ, so the boys had a great week full of creative games like catching fairies with plastic bags (for some secret mission), repairing boats in their own weird ways and filling them with crabs, etc. Unfortunately I do not have Elvinas permission to post their pictures, but instead at the bottom of this post you can see the amazing video of JJ swimming with whales, which we've missed on Tongan shores by only a week or two.

# and then we've met Karen and Frank, who've set off for a 5 year long expediton around the world on their beautiful catamaran, Tahina, which is more spacious than our Windermere apartment, I believe. Frank flies a kite to make high resolution aerial pictures, which are later uploaded to Google Earth by Google Geo team. He is really passionate about Google products and knows a lot more about some of them than I do (check out his Google Earth blog, launched much earlier than Google launched its own!), so we've also had some geeky moments exploring our Android phones and interesting apps.

I've also enjoyed snorkeling, beautiful sunsets, morning yoga in the wind, helping Elvinas with his studies on our porch, Sally's dinners, visiting Pangai on the back of Darren's truck, a tour in Tahina and a lot more. I only managed to read a hundred pages or so of my Happiness project book. So all in all it was a great week!

Scenic view on our way to Ha'apai

Our Tongan-style fale at Matafonua

Spying on secret beach projects

Another photoshoot at sunset

Gyula and Frank at Tahina

Ha'apai Public Library in Pangai

Two friends boarding the plane to Tongatapu

My son JJ age 4 and daughter Abbie age 3 first whale encounter from Darren on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daily structure in Tonga

Our days here in the Matafonua Lodge in Foa, Tonga, are probably going to be the ones most resembling a regular holiday. Both in terms of activities (not doing much), and in terms of costs (ouch), it is a week in paradise :)

Our days here are organized mainly by:
- sunset and sunrise
- the tide table (best snorkeling times..)
- meal times (snapper, tuna, swordfish.... Yumm!)

@steki, next time you are around here, make sure to try the Ota Ika at the Mariner's Cafe, in Pangai, Lifuka Island, Ha'apai, Tonga. I loved it, you will too :)

sent from my android.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day -7 : social experiment

A few days before leaving, left a few books in the house corridor with a note saying that they are free to take, but a couple euros are also ok to leave.
- people took most of the books,
- there was at one point 8 euros in the box,
- when I finally emptied the box, I found 6 euros.
All in all, went as expected.

sent from my android.

Good evening sunshine

Evening walk on the western side of the peninsula before dinner.. We love it here in Tonga :)

sent from my android.

Good morning sunshine

Waking up to this view and the sound of the ocean...

Family afternoon at the Black Rock

Exploring the shallow waters for the first time :)

Hoping to get still in front of a powerful and always busy ocean

As all the tropical places Rarotonga has a steadily changing climate. However, since the island's interior is covered by thickly forested mountains the clouds tend to move rather slowly from one place to another resulting in one part of the island being sunny and another under the clouds. 

The other day, running on our scooters in search for sun, we've found ourselves at the Black Rock (Turou). As LP says, traditionally locals believed this place to be where the spirits of the dead commenced their voyage to Avaiki (the afterworld). I guess the story doesn't play any part in locals' lives anymore since we've found the Rock covered with kids jumping into the water. It's also one of the best places to snorkel around Rarotonga, so we've stayed to enjoy the sunny afternoon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nor there nor here

A dream coming true as we are onboard the iconic Douglas DC3 aircraft from Tongatapu, the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga, to Lifuka island of the Ha'apai group.

To the east, the International Dateline is just a few kilometers away.

It is a drunken feeling to fly inside a fortyfour years old machine on the verge of yesterday...


Morning heaven at Fua'amotu Domestic Airport

Greetings from the Kingdom of Tonga! 

After a pretty much sleepless night due to barking dogs and screaming roosters, we've enjoyed our first Tongan sunrise at the Fua'amotu airport sipping coffee produced from locally roasted beans. Real strong espresso - what a heaven!

Talking about heaven, our flight to Ha'apai was full despite the season being low for tourists, since a lot of local people from the capital Nuku'Alofa were flying back to Ha'apai to say farewell to their relative, dressed in traditional mourning clothes (Tongans dress in black and wear a ta'ovala - a mat wrapped around the waist and tied with rope, some of which almost reach the neck and face). Btw, funerals in Tonga have enormous cultural significance and in contrast to taboos regarding death and dying in western society, death is met with matter-of-fact acceptance and a highly ritualised grieving process. Traditionally dressed relatives were greeting each other in the airport with a huge smile on their face and the man in the picture, who I had a brief chat with, was calmly explaining to me that it is not a sad festival and moved on to asking where and how big my country was (3.5 mln people somewhere above Poland sounded like an awful lot to him :))

And now in just a few minutes we are off to the sky ourselves with an old as the earth DC3 plane. Can't wait to see at least some of the 176 Tongan islands from the above! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jungle walk - Raemaru track in Rarotonga

First decompressing exercise in Cook Islands - doing the Raemaru track (365 m)

Impressive scenery of Rarotonga overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Our first hike in Rarotongan jungle was a good initial exercise for a more demanding cross island track (more pictures to follow)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crossing two oceans - back to back

"I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this." - Harry in Dumb and Dumber

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

So, after a few days decompressing, here is a quick post from the Cook Islands. The trip from Dublin to Rarotonga took us 3 flights, and around 36 hours altogether. It was of course somewhat tiring, but all in all, went great - with some real gems like the Fantastic Mr. Fox from the ever inspiring Wes Andersson.

The Cook Islands are already proving to be a great place - white sand, palm trees, scooters, swordfish steaks - but more on that later..

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saying farewell to old stuff

Saying goodbye to dear things and memories...

... and looking towards the future

Moving away / homes can be painful: not only you need to pack all your belongings into countless number of boxes (tiring and stressing, if time is limited), but you also need to say farewell to all those dear things, which, you've just realised, you didn't use for the last 3 years (can be sad...).

During the last week we've packed over 20 boxes and threw out at least 6 huge bags of trash (and we thought we had little stuff in our small apratment).

The picture features 8 burning heart shaped candles handmade by me back in Lithuania over 4 years ago. I've never used them, they never found their purpose, but I felt like keeping them for a special moment. Two days ago in the moment of rest, I've decided it's time to trash them along with a lot of other old stuff & memories. I've lit them up and they burned for a few minutes only... I liked what I saw so much, that it brought such good feelings and memories that I decided to keep them... framed in a picture-frame on someone's wall :) Some things are really worth saying goodbye to - the act of it alone can give birth to something new & beautiful!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


View the itinerary map in large. (TripIt should have an bridge to Google MyMaps - this took me two hours to do)

Our three months itinerary roughly looks like this:
1) one week to decompress in the Cook Islands, on the island of Rarotonga
2) ten days to experience extreme remoteness in the Kingdom of Tonga, mostly on the Ha'apai island group, but also on the main island of Tongatapu
3) one full nomad month on New Zealand, driving a camper van southwards from Auckland
4) two mellow weeks exploring the east coast of Australia
5) two and half intense weeks backpacking in Vietnam, including christmas and new years eve
6) two days in Singapore, before heading back to Europe

Should be mostly summer all the way.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Welcome! You have found Austeja's, Gyula's and Elvinas' new travel blog, which we have started to cover our soon upcoming round the world trip!

In a nutshell:

  • 3 months off from Google (and school), starting 10th of October
  • Main destinations are some Pacific Islands, NZ, OZ, Vietnam, Singapore
  • Main activities being driving campervans, swimming with fish, reading in hammocks tied between palm trees, doing loads of spontaneous stuff, thinking of cool ideas, homeschooling E, taking tons of pics, yoga
  • What about android? Well, we'll just try and write this blog from our Nexus One phones (not bringing laptop), post pictures taken with them as well. Also, we'll see how android, and the apps in the market can contribute to a great trip, and the activities listed above.

With this, let's kick it off! Hope you'll enjoy reading, following us! Please leave your comments on the posts, if you have recommendations for things to see or do, for cool apps, etc, let us know. On this blog, we'll also try to cover areas like preparations, practicalities (like budgeting), and also post-trip stuff, as a reference for those considering similar endeavors.

Every great trip starts with a great backpack.

A few notes about the blog:

  • Austeja and myself will try and post here regularly, but in some parts of our trip, this might prove tough due to lack of connectivity. We will write separate posts, you'll always see who wrote them at the end of the post.
  • We'll not post pics or write much about Elvinas, as per his own wish, which we respect.
  • As the disclaimer on the bottom says: the views expressed on this blog are ours, and don't necessarily reflect those of our employer.

Good bye Sandymount! At least for now..