Hope you’re all doing fine. Things are well down under! Warm and sunny. It’s been officially 2 years now (11 Nov) that we landed in Australia to start a new life, a new adventure. Needless to say, we’re quite happy with the move even if undoubtedly we miss our friends and family.
A lot have happened recently (aka last three months…). I’ve been through my fifth flu/cold/sinusitis of the year and stopped working out for more than a month (bad). Now I’m considering getting a flu shot for next year. Beside this, and the few trips we did here and there, life is good. Here is a slice of our life of the past 3 months.
Straddie is such a nice little paradise and so close to Brisbane (less than 2h away by car + ferry) that there is no reason to not go 🙂 Therefore, we went on a trip in September with 8 friends to the Manta Lodge for some fun. Did do much beside some walks and just relax. Then I returned the week after with some mates from work for a fishing&camping trip over the weekend. They had 4WD so we could explore the Island further by driving on the beach by trying to avoid getting stuck in the sand, which was not that easy. Camping sites on Straddie are quite sensational, with a view of the ocean, the kangaroos around, the nice breeze from the sea and the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore. Fishing was good too but unfortunately for me, I didn’t catch anything, even if we spent most of the day just fishing from the shore. Josh, a work mate that didn’t try fishing before, caught 5-6 fishes (Flathead), quite big too. It was interesting, a really “Aussie” trip, with only 1 real Aussie among us 🙂
After many failed attempt to organise a trip to Fraser Island, we finally made it. It took Gabriela’s friend from Quebec to finally make it happens! It was only a short 4WD truck tour over the weekend departing from Brisbane around 8am and returning around 6 the next day. The trip was rather expensive but quite fun. Fraser island is definitely an amazing and beautiful place. About 4 hours from Brisbane, it is the largest sand island in the world they say, with perched lakes with white sands beaches. It a nice feeling to ride on the beach at 80km/h with the big waves breaking couple of meters away from you. Fraser is definitely one of my favorite spot so far. Really beautiful and even with rainforest path in within the Island. Only way to explore Fraser is by having a 4WD and some decent experience because of all the creeks and bumpy tracks. Rainbow beach was also quite something to see. Impressive sand dune with different colour. They call it rainbow beach because of the different colorful layers of sands in the rocks.
The big event of the last 3 months was the trip to Mexico. We took about three weeks of holidays to head back to Mexico after 2 years. Funny coincidence I realised when the Immigration agent stamped my passport is I entered Mexico for the first time exactly 2 years ago on the same date (5 oct). The journey was quite long. Over 32 hours from door to door. BNE-LA-MEX and then Queretaro by bus (5 hours). We were quite tired but happy to see Gabriela friends and family. Most of the trip was dedicated to family and friends.
First big event of this trip was Carlos & Elizabetha wedding in Quérétaro. Mexicans are quite good when it comes to have fun. Therefore, the wedding and the party following it were successful in all ways. It has been some time since we partied until 6am.
Gabriela’s brother brought us to Guanajuato couple of hours from Quérétaro to check out the region and the festival that was going on over there. Stopped on the way to eat some delicious Tacos at “Pascual”, a restaurant you have absolutely no chance to discover by yourself unless you’re a local! Then, we went to Cristo Rey to check out the status and the church built on top of the mountain. Smaller than the one found in Brasil, however still impressive. Going through the city of Guanajuato is fascinating. The city was conquered hundreds of years ago by the Spaniard for the rich mining resources available in the region (silver, gold, etc.). There are still castles, forts, barracks and mines to visit. There is also a torture bunker we visited that was used by the Spaniard to torture slaves when they refused to go mining in the deep and dangerous mines. Otherwise, the people, the music, the colors, the houses, the old architecture and especially all the tunnels you need to drive through are definitely not a singular experience.
We spend most of our time in Queretaro meeting friends and we also went twice to Mexico city. One time to meet up with Mariza, a good friend we had the chance to met in Brisbane while she was studying here.
It took me some time to organise the last part of the trip to Mexico (i.e. planning and organising are unfortunately a foreign concept in Mexico) but we finally headed south east to Cancun with Gabriela’s family and friends for 4 nights. As promised, the region of Cancun has a lot to offer. We stayed at Marriot CasaMagna in Cancun and rented a mini-van in order to ease our transport to different area of interest around Cancun. On the first day, we went to Tulum and XCaret. Tulum was my favorite part, old mayas ruins and a very nice beach with crystal clear water. XCaret is a nice theme park (expensive too) that include a traditional show on Mexico history. The show is really impressive and cover history from the Mayas to Spanish invasion and the different cultures across Mexican states. Everyone enjoyed it.
We went exploring some Cenotes the next day. My favorite one was Dos Ojos where you can snorkel in a cave maze that lead you underwater in pitch dark bat caves. On the last day, went to Playa Del Carmen. We wanted to go to Cozumel but the weather was really uncertain. Personally, I really liked Playa del Carmen. Good vibe, younger crowd, although very touristic too. We spend most day on the beach and walking around. We also went on a boat trip for a snorkeling tour, however the current was strong and the swell was bad, there was some fish and nice corals, but we weren’t that impress, we didn’t get to see that much stuff.
Papua New Guinea
I had the opportunity to do my first real business trip overseas (traveling in economy class however, how sad is this). I’ve been sent to Papua New Guinea for work for 1 week on one of the project we have since 2 years with a major player in the industry. Needless to say, this is quite short to get to know a country or anything (I visited only the capital Port Moresby aka POM) but my first impression is that Papua is largely under develop even considering the strong growth in the mining and resource sector. In fact, a large portion of the population live in extreme poverty. Unfortunately, POM is quite unsafe for travelers and we were not allowed to wander around much (we had to take private company transport to go at the street corner…). Also, the region is infected with Malaria. Appealing huh? There in fact an interesting community of expats in POM. With few things that the place have to offer to expats, I’m guessing people tend to make strong ties in order to stay there. Otherwise, people are generally very friendly and the local culture seems extremely rich. It is estimated that more than a thousand different cultural groups (clans or tribes) exist in Papua New Guinea. Some even live in trees and people typically live in villages that rely on subsistence farming. Another interesting fact, POM is not linked by road to any of the other major towns, and many remote villages can only be reached by plane, helicopter or on foot. On the latest, there is the famous Kokoda trail, one of the hardest hike someone can do.
Papua New Guinea has fought along Australia against the Japanese invasion during the second world war. It was under Australia control until 1975 when it gained its independence. Today, it remains a country part of the Commonwealth (as Canada and Australia). This explain why I had the surprise myself to end up playing the paparazzi with Prince Charles official visit (Queen’s Jubilee) to the same hotel we were.
Few exciting things are coming in the next following weeks. Firstly, we’re starting our diving course in order to get the Open Water SSI certification. This was on my Bucket List. We will therefore be able to join our friends in some diving trip around and explore what this area of the world have to offer but from underneath the sea. Then, I offered 2 vouchers to Gabriela for her b-day present to go Skydiving
We were expecting some visit over Christmas but plan had change unfortunately 🙁 From last year experience, it’s not that fun to stay in Brisbane for the 2 weeks off for Christmas holidays. First, everyone is away, second nothing happen in Brisbane, the city is plain quiet. So we’re planning a trip over to Vanuatu. This place look really awesome and quite close to Australia, only a 2.5h flight. Excellent diving spot, active volcano to check out (another tick in the bucket list), and much more.
I was hoping to maybe have a business trip to Quebec before the end of the year but that won’t be possible for now we have a project to deliver before Christmas.
Thanks for reading, I know, it was a very long post!
Pascal & Gabriela