A Travellerspoint blog

THAILAND

Pantrix yoga retreat in Nong Khai.....Exploring and Paradise in Krabi and Railay....

all seasons in one day

Between Egypt and Bangkok we had an uneventful 1 night stopover in Bahrain, and the taxi driver short changed us a beauty. Aw well he and his family ate well that night. Flying due east you fast forward time. We turned up to Bangkok dog tired, caught the AE2 bus to the Khao San Rd, and grabbed the first available bed (peak season) we could find. Sweet, sweaty sleep. We woke to the buzzing sound of Bangkok at dusk and Khao San Rd was gearing up into full swing. Turns out we had scored a room right above a blaring nightclub - joy, but we weren't in the party mood.
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Khao San Rd and surrounding streets is the tourist/backpacker area, a 24/7 party scene and street market including travel agents, guesthouses and hotels, cafes, and cheap street venders with pad thai for less than a buck. Australians seem to rule the roost here, immersed in their element - booze guzzling. There’s also a European crowd and plenty of locals who like to drink and sell what they can in the area, including the pretty convincing lady boys. Sleeping next to a night club didn’t quiet work out and we found a room minus the disco for 200 THB at The Donna Guest house a block away from Khao San. We organised transport to Nong Khai and scoped out the best dentist to visit on our return, then we bailed.
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An overnight rickety semi comfortable sleeper train took us to Nong Khai in the North East corner of Thailand where the Mekong River borders with Laos. Here in Nong Khai we participated in the best thing we have done on the whole trip, a 1 week intensive yoga course. We found and booked the course online at http://www.pantrix.net/. The yoga course is run by Pancho and Beatrix, the founders of the Nong Khai Alternative Centre. The Centre also runs courses on Reiki and Astrology. On site is the Mut Mee guest house where we scored a clean rustic room for the week, 2 restaurants to eat from, a personal trainer to fill in time between the yoga, and a floating bar on the Mekong with live music. One night we threw in and listened to a local jam out for a fund raiser for the Haiti disaster. An amazing sculpture park, Sala Kaew Ku, exists just outside of town too.
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OK, we thought we were coming to do a few stretches for a week, WOW were we in for a treat. Our weeks tuition provided us with a thorough theoretical understanding of the basic principles of yoga as well as practical instructions in Asana, Dharana and Dhyana, and Pranayama. That is - yoga postures, meditation and breathing exercises. Pancho and Beatrix are wonderfully inspiring to say the least. Excellent teachers equipped with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Quite funny and entertaining too. We’ve said don’t miss this and don’t miss that over the last 12 months of blogging but here it is guys - if you have a holiday booked for Thailand and have an interest in yoga, spirituality, and self development then this is the gear! Get yourself to Nong Khai. And while your in Thailand you can also get cheap dental work, silver and wedding dresses…. Ha, no seriously, this was our best experience in the past 12 months. To Pancho and Beatrix, thanks again, and again, and again. The Yogic lifestyle:)
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It was weird leaving Nong Khai. We had a stronger urge than ever to stay for longer. To learn more from Pancho and Beatrix (which is on the cards by the way). But we left and headed south past Bangkok to the province of Krabi. We had little time left in our 12 month around the world extravaganza so instead of trains or buses we flew, twice, and made it from Nong Khai to Railay before sunset…
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In Railay East all the cheapies were booked out but it was meant to be I guess. We stayed in a spacious mid range room ($40 bucks) which easily allowed us to continue our morning and evening Asana, Dharana and Dhyana, and Pranayama. During the day we explored Railay east, Railay west, and the surrounding area. This included caves, swimming from beach to beach around limestone cliffs, and forest trekking up and down the same cliffs. Railay, albeit a bit touristy especially coming straight from Nong Khai, is a beautiful, scenic place.
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Swimming was fun
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OW yeah lazor baking....
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Back to Krabi by long tail boat where we checked out the night market. On the next day we hired a scooter and explored the nearby Khao Phanom Bencha National Park covered in virgin rainforest. WOOOHOOOO it was a neat day hike.
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Our last swim in Thailand...
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We then flew back to Bangkok for a couple of days of shopping and fillings at the dentist before flying home via an overnight sleep in Hong Kong airport and the next night another sleep in Perth Domestic airport……….
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And thats that. All our bags arrived. No reaming by customs. Dad picked us up in Sydney and we told stories and drank tooheys on the way back to Redhead where we were greated by an excited Jacobs family. Cuppas were poored all round and the stories continued into the evening....

So, Werrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre Baaack! Its YOUR shout! We hope you have enjoyed the blogs. Here's a little before and after...
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Sydney airport depart Feb 09
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Sydney airport arrive Feb 10

Posted by jessnsteve 03:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged food Comments (0)

Egypt

The Nile and Red Sea Journey

sunny

From Heathrow to Cairo, you really could not have a bigger contrast in airports really. Glitz, Harrods and blissfully organised to smelly, decrepit, army personnel and the passport control guy blasting a dart. Stamp. Welcome to Egypt.
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To make our lives and our visit a little easier we organised an 11 day Egypt tour with Gecko Travel. Bloody marvellous idea that was because Egypt isn’t the easiest country to travel in even with a tour leader. We had a spare day up our sleeves before the tour started so we went for the typical ‘what can we find’ wander. Well Cairo as it turns out isn’t the most pleasant of cities. With 22 million inhabitants (infrastructure for about 5 million) and 8 million in the next suburb of Giza, its packed. There’s an average annual of 3mm rain. It’s a dusty, filthy place. Add millions of cars (that they never through out!) to the mix and the air quality gets a thumbs down. So much for the walk. Steve had to switch into primal behaviour mode too.....

The next day we were on tour! First stop the Pyramids and the Sphinx. When we finally make it to Giza the pyramids tower above us in all their ancient glory. Wow, we’ve seen some ancient wonders on tour but the pyramids are magic and by far the oldest. At over 4500 years old walking next to the pyramids and sphinx you really feel like the size of a pea, or knock kneed midgets.
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The next day we visited the Egypt museum, no cameras allowed though. The museum has an amazing collection of antiquities but is a little dilapidated with poor displays. There are lighting issues (some whole sections were dark) and very little in the way of security for the artefacts, many being uncased and not alarmed. Apparently they are building a new 500 bazillion million dollar museum somewhere tba some time this century. That being said the Tutankhamen artefacts were amazing up close, even more beautiful than the photos depict. Tutankhamen’s solid gold funerary mask was the finest piece, you could stare the king right in the eye, his brilliant gold lustre reflecting wealth, power and beauty. But was it the original??

In the fternoon we had some free time so we decided to check out the Cairo Bazaar. Walking not really an option we found a cabby to show us the sights on the way. We must of chosen the slickest cabby in Egypt! Lemon pie Mercedes (same model as our wedding car!), and giant leather jacket clad. This mafia don like driver sang energetically and slightly off key to Egyptian folk songs. The drive itself was one of the highlights of the trip. The afternoon sun bent through the car in orange licks. Shadowed mosques lined the road as we snaked through the narrow congested streets. The bazaar was pretty good, a labyrinth of goods from gold to garlic.
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That night was the rickety slow train ride from hell. Cairo to Aswan was some 1000km away. Probably would have been ok except for the half dried vomit on the floor next to us. NYE in Aswan was spent relaxing on a sunset Nile river felucca ride. Then into a Nubian village for dinner, drinks and dancing! And it wouldn’t be a NYE without more drinking back at the hotel with the group. Duty free booze buckets evaporate and before you know it you’ve had 2 hours sleep, a chunder on the bed, and the bus is waiting for you down stairs to go to Abu Simbel at 4.00am.
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Abu Simbel was pretty impressive. They moved the whole damn thing! I reckon it would have been better off left as is and turned into a deep water dive. But considering the state we were in, holding back on the street pizzas, just walking around it was a challenge.
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Back into Aswan to board the Nile cruise ship which will be our floating home for the next 3 days. Nice boat with sun deck, bar and restaurant serving all you can eat buffet. How can you possibly hold back with “all you can eat”!
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Whilst cruising the Nile we stopped at Komombo to visit the Temple of Sobek, a Greco-Roman temple that overlooks the river, and at Edfu we explore the well-preserved Temple of Horus, considered one of the finest examples of temple building.
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The cruise ended in Luxor where we jumped aboard horse-drawn carriages to the massive complex at Karnak, built over a period of some 2000 years, and one of the greatest temples ever constructed. A beautiful site to visit despite Jess being a shade of green from mummy tummy (Egyptian term for Indian anus, aka tap arse). By the way, the Aussie buck became the daffy duck too if you didn‘t notice in the Moroccan blog.
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Bright and early the next day we cross the Nile to the Valley of the Kings where we visit a few tombs. Afterwards we ride donkeys through the surrounding farmlands back to the Nile - trip highlight! Humphrey and Dilbert were trusty comrades. They knew where they were going, didn’t once EI ORR, and raced for the title neck n neck.
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Our monumental tour of Egypt was almost over but before we tracked back to Cairo we swung by the Red Sea for some diving. Now is a good time to tell you about our feeling thus far. The ancient sites were amazing to see, the food pretty good and everything was affordable (Egypt is as cheap as Bolivia/Morocco/Thailand!). But, the hassle to buy this that n everything, and the rank egyptian men sexual comments and behaviour towards you are out of control. Much more confrontational than Morocco . Even with Steve by my side the men behaved like animals with sexual gestures and comments and hissing. Even to the point of cornering you in market stalls and draping scarves around your hips so they could feel your arse. The whole routine was starting to feel a little thin by now.
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Snorkelling in the Red Sea was good and bad. The water clarity was crystal clear, the fish plentiful and colourful. The coral was a little damaged and there was hundreds of tourists in each spot, many stomping fins on the reef! The most annoying thing was the behaviour of the men working our boat. Bikinis and Egyptian perverts is not a good mix unless you want to see Jess serve up some attitude.

Well that was Egypt, enjoyable and annoying at the same time. Ancient Egypt’s remains are amazing and for any ancient civilisation buff you will get your kicks.

Posted by jessnsteve 03:14 Archived in Egypt Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

England

Bournemouth & London

Leaving Morocco wasn’t without a hiccup. Our flight Marrakech to London with Easyjet was cancelled. NOOOOOOOOOOO we were already having a short stay in the UK with so much to see and do. Then the surprise came. Easyjet, a budget airline equivalent to say Jetstar, automatically rebooked us onto the next flight AND put us up in a 4 star hotel. It didn’t end there, we got buffet lunch, dinner and breakfast all you can eat!!!!!! After gorging ourselves spastic it was back to the airport the next day and boooom we were up in the air and on our way.
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As we flew in over our mother country yep there sure was some snow around. First stop - Bournemouth where a good friend of ours, Bethy boo, resides. The national express bus takes you from Gatwick airport direct to Bournemouth. HA it was classic being back in a country where English was the first spoken language! Wow we could talk again. Beth met us at Bournemouth station HEYA BABE great to see you again! LETS LOOSEN THOSE HIPS UP N GO PARTY! Ahhh OK! A cup of tea with Beth’s lovely parents then we sharpened up for a night out YEEEHAAAAA!
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Gimme sum of ya beer.....
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What? What? Whats up?
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The girls went off when the dj played Tom Jones 'Sex Bomb'....
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OW my goodness you've got some big ear wax issues hun!
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This is not funny Steve! Wheres my drink.......ahaahh, burph, is over there somewhere I think....
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Hehehehe, everything is spining weeeeeeeeeee
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Who's hungover - ME! Wheres the club - OVER THERE!
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Mulled wine - hangover cure.
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ok, so yep, right, nah I think I got it, I REALLY GOT IT!. Sweet I'm out there!
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Nah on second thoughts its WAY to dangerous, I think I'll just call Ben for a game on the playstation...
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While in Bournemouth we slept in from being hungover, walked to Old Harry Rocks look out with Geoff and Rachel, scoffed out on the delights of traditional pasties, real ale, mulled wine and so on. Living with Beth’s family was a grand treat. So nice, welcoming, hospitable and damn funny too. But it was time to visit UK friend #2 - Mr Ben ‘Spaceghost’ Mondy. Those of you who have surfed/lived in Redhead will know him well, and if you have read surfing mag tracks over the last decade you will have known him as the deputy/travelling editor, or his alto ego Rod Cunthorpe. Ben’s many identities were slowly but surely uncovered by the authorities and he had to leave Aus in fear of getting busted for all sorts of dodgy things. He kept trying to cover it up with the boys by saying he was a secret agent. Anyway, he now resides in London where he has toned things down a notch with the odd dozen or so pints at the local. It was good to catch up with Ben and chew the fat over a few pints a beer. We got talking on key issues such as the population dynamics and mating behaviours of the red ringed monkey, the best way to bbq a blue whale steak, and the latest developments in replacing email with satellite pigeon tracking technology. We also filled in the gaps with the latest hollywood goss, fashion, bondage gear, hair products, the formula 1, and pet hamsters. Ben and his better half Sarah travelled for the good ol xmas relo bash and left us in their cosy home where we watched Sky sports in the nude and celebrated our own little private xmas with baked vegies, white wine, and a frolic in the snow.
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We finally got over our UK colds with 1 day left and went sight seeing London, rode the tube, and met up with Chris and Anita for the 3rd time this trip. They were off for many more months of adventures through Europe. We on the other hand were entering our final month of travelling with an organised 11 day Gecko trip through Egypt. See you 2 back home!!

Thanks to Beth and her family, and to Ben and Sarah, for having us over. Albeit short and unadventurous, we had a smashing time in the UK. Cheers guys it was a whole heap of fun and relaxation, exactly what we were after…...

Posted by jessnsteve 03:14 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

MOROCCO

Marrakech & Taghazout

Two bus rides gets you from Mundaka to Madrid airport. We arrived at 11pm and this is where we dried and aired our wet smoky clothes. The airport started getting busy around 3am so we didn’t get much sleep at all, just tossed and turned on our trusty, now worn out, yoga mats. But the clothes dried out and smelt slightly better and after a packet of soup for brekky on the gaz camping cooker it was time to check in 6am.

Flying south over Morroco was amazing. Our faces stuck to the windows in awe of the contrasting red earth valleys and the deep blue atlantic ocean. As we descended into Marrakech we asked ourselves where’s the city and the buildings? Just before we hit the tarmac, literally moments before, the camouflaged city emerged. Touchdown. It was hot, sunny, and DRY!!!

Doesn’t take you too long to get through customs in Marrakech airport and straight out the front bus 19 takes you directly to the action - Djemaa el Fna. HEYA nothing prepares you for this place. People People People!! Taxis, tourist horse carts, locals riding donkey carts and hooking past on motorbikes WATCH OUT! Then there’s the snake charmers, the out of control monkey men, the persistent henna tattooists, the turbaned potion sellers, some sort of educationalists with locals crowding around them listening silently eyes open, the musicians and the homeless. Throw in the heated up stench of urine combined with wofts of food and there you have it. In all its craziness and chaos we walked through a labyrinth of alleyways to find our hotel thanks to some friendly directions given by a waiter in a café. Hotel Essuairra rooms started from 100Dirhams (1 Ausie daffy duck gets you 7 ding dong dirhams) and a mattress on the roof for 30 each. We took the roof option as we needed some space after being cramped up in a little 2 man tent for 4 weeks.
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NOTE: maybe don’t take on the Djemaa el Fna or the surrounding covered market alleys (souk) when you’re tired or have jet lag. We didn’t last long and got ripped big time. Marrakech central medina is off the hook. We bailed back to the hotel roof with a few groceries, had and early dinner and crashed for some well overdue sleep….zzzzzz

The next morning was one of the most beautiful mornings we’d ever experienced. Waking to the sound of Marrakech call to prayer was really something else. Magical even. Sleeping on the roof my first sight was an orange horizon glowing up into the dark starry sky. One mosque would start, then another would join in, randomly at that, then another, then another until we were surrounded by the symphony of prayer. We heard the call to prayer the previous day but we were among hundreds of people in a covered market alley with jet lag so the effect was minimal.

The call to prayer was the only beautiful thing we could find in Marrakech, for the time being during our short 2 day visit. It was WAY too crazy. We went from camping in the bush talking only to ourselves to mixing with hundreds and thousands of souls. The time was right to bail, with a swell on the way and healthy advice from Manuel (met back in Peru, resides just off the Moroccan coast in the Canary Islands) we caught a coach straight to Agadir, then a local bus to Taghazout. On our way we teamed up with Simmo, whom on arrival in Taghazout lead us down some dark alleys to Mohammed’s where he stayed 5 years previous. Simmo got the last room and without hesitation Mohammed laid a mattress out on his huge balcony for us. SWEET we popped our tent up into the air in a couple of seconds. The mattress inside was a snug fit and Mohammed was impressed by these white fellas! And just in the middle of all this excitement, Chris and Anita popped their heads out from one of Mohammed’s rooms and said is that JESS n STEVE? WOOOHOOO we had met up with our old travelling couple buddies (through Mexico Baja if you’ve forgotten!). We stayed in Taghazout for 3 weeks surfing and learning yoga, shopping Agadir souk, and we also celebrated our 2nd year anniversary!
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When went back to Marrakech it was beautiful. On the 2nd time round, now knowing how the Moroccans ticked, Marrakesh was a delight. We wandered the meandering narrow alley ways and navigated the medina by chance bumping into all sorts of treasures. Brass knobbed doorways, mud brick riads, mosques, palm treed gardens and toothless men selling delicious sweets. The Bahia palace was truly beautiful in all its ornate glory of fine wood work, geometric tiles and painted designs. We also enjoyed the souk this time round knowing how to avoid the majority of the hassle. The souk is loaded of glass beads, silver jewellery, fine leather work, panelled lanterns, kaftans, spices and even a chameleon if you were after one?
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(Sorry only 3 photos the rest won't load no matter how many times I try!!!!)
We were advised ‘DON’T miss Morroco‘ and I’m glad we didn’t. We nearly did mind you. If you are ever travelling the UK or Europe its only a short cheap flight away. Some more photos might help ey...

Taghazout town
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Agadir souk
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Fun on the balcony
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The surf and sunsets
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Posted by jessnsteve 03:13 Archived in Morocco Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Mundaka, Spain

Camping, surfing, eating, reading....

Things got a little crazy back in Bayonne, storm crazy. The howling westerly onshores, the sideways rain, it was too much. We missed the last of the sunny and warm weather by a few days. We weren’t camping and saving money, and we weren’t surfing and exercising. Our complete French Atlantic coast plan was being blown away. After inches and inches of rain the sun broke through the clouds, the wind backed off briefly and Steve managed 1 French surf. But with the outlook cold, windy and wet we had to come up with another plan. After a 5 minute chat we decided to make a move for Morocco, flying Easyjet Madrid to Marrakech. Coincidently Mundaka was on our route to Madrid, so we stopped by to check out the world famous left nestled right in heart of Basque country Spain.

The Pesa bus from Bayonne to Bilbao costs 27E. We walked between bus stations in Bilbao for 2kms, then caught the local bus from Bilbao to Mundaka. All up this took about 6hrs. When we arrived it was HEAVING down with rain. It felt like we couldn’t escape it. Our gear gained kgs as we walked 500m between Mundaka bus stop and the Portuondo camping ground, the only legal grounds in Mundaka. We popped the tent up underneath the camp ground communal sheltered area as there was hardly a soul around and the designated tent area was far from peg worthy. Would have been great for nude mud wrestling if you are into that sort of thing. That night we ate 3 packet soups, played uno with wet cards, and watched a Frenchman crash his ridiculously oversized camp truck into the side of the building we’d taken shelter under. The following domestic which erupted between the couple made us realise how important it is to not loose your cool.
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Portuondo camping ground came with super warm all you can shower showers, free wifi and printing, and about 3 other campers. But at 17E a night it was going to be a bit too much for our dwindling funds. So while we waited for the swell we set off on foot exploring Mundaka village and searching for a non paying site.
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Mundaka is a classic Basque village with no more than a few hundred inhabitants. Its not hard to fall in love with this place. There were beautiful cottages with fruit and veg farms just north of the village centre - free kiwi fruit, pears, pumpkin, lettuce….
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We still needed to find a way out of paying a nightly fee. Potential tent popping site A - small, flat, very damp, not really hidden, and right next to a cemetery. Ahhhh ghosts? Potential tent popping site B - on a slope, not so damp, hard to get in and out of, and right next to the main road and look out area….Potential tent popping site C……Anyway, the bad weather had really taken a toll on us. The swell hadn’t arrived either and we were worrying about spending 17E a night. None of the sites we found were suitable. Then as we walked back to the camp grounds having agreed on another 17E Jess pointed out a bit of land we had overlooked…. “What about that over there”? “It’ll be fa#@ked too”, “no I think we should go and have a look”….Potential tent popping site D - From the main road we could see a peninsula of bushland that stuck out onto the estuary. Well well WELL what a score! It was perfect. After a quick look around we ran back to the camping ground packed up and bolted back to the peninsula with a weeks worth of supplies. It was camping like the good ol days. Reading and surfing with a cooking fire all day. Plus we were still very close to the break. The local train would whip past back and forth several times a day. The tide would noticeable drop and rise swishing through sand beds and rocky outcrops. We had a few visitors walk by and have a sticky beak, but the whole time it was just us with the odd unidentified bush creature foraging around. One night the wind got so strong it was howling and whistling through the trees. Horrifically strong. We couldn’t hear if anyone was coming like we could on a calm night. But 1 sleepless night and a few insect bites was as bad as it got.
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The Peninsula had to be manned at all times. It became our peninsular. At high tide there was one way in and out. But at low tide there was several entrances. While Steve surfed early every morning Jess slept in or read this monster book - Shantaram. The wetsuit was hung up to dry in the smoke of the fire between surfs. Jess did a shop runs into town while Steve collected and burnt wood preparing the coals.
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After 5 days of moderate swell, bliss camping, and living for $10 Aus a day, our time to leave had came, like every place we’ve visited in the last 10 months. It was time to pack up and move. We were moving from Mundaka back to Madrid. Then to Morocco flying into Marrakech. We left the Peninsular cleaner than we found it. It had to be that way. Mundaka is simply beautiful. Help protect it.

Posted by jessnsteve 03:12 Archived in Spain Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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