Bakkagerdi, IcelandBakkagerdi, Iceland

Puffins at arm length distance and wonderful landscape at East Fjords

We wanted to see Puffins, the cute black and white seabirds which dive for their food supply and have a parrot color bill (therefore called “Papageientaucher” in German). You can find them on every postcard in an Islandic Souvenir Shop in Reykjavik. The question was, if it is possible to find them very close by on land (i.e. avoiding a shaky boat ride and a 500mm lens). Guidebooks recommended boat tours but why not just asking the locals?

In Höfn we found a very nice woman who told us, that in the northern part of the East Fjords, there is a “small town” called Bakkagerdi and in season there is a huge puffin colony for breeding close by. Season was on, so why not heading to the “small town” to check this out?

The route to that “small town” was via a pass with snow and ice. All felt a bit remote and extinct, but with some entertainment from time. For example a group of sheep using the street for a race, a fantastic view at the pass and insight that the expression “small town” is an exaggeration. Bakkagerdi has 300 (human) inhabitants, a church, a small kiosk and a camping ground. That’s basically it, but what’s most important for us: the sun was shining and the landscape was amazing *smiley cool* !

Internet research leaded to the opinion that it is best to check out the puffin colony either in the evening or in the morning. At the end of the road there is a little harbor with a cliff which is the home of the little fellows. So we hoped being lucky to find a few and went there. Well, we were lucky… not a few… A megacity with 20.000+ puffins!!

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Vik, IcelandVik, Iceland

South Iceland (part 2): Waterfalls, a plane wrack, rock formations, glaciers and ice bergs

Iceland has not too many summer months but it has plenty of water and beautiful waterfalls. Even such waterfalls you can walk behind. Which we did of course, but only with rain gear *smiley laughing* . It is amazing how much water is thundering down the cliffs…

Of course, lunch is always where you get hungry. And most of the times, there is a very nice scenery around, of course always in the “table at the window” – even if there is no window *smiley winking*

As a surprise I told Thorsten to turn right at a little track in the middle of nowhere…

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Þórsmörk, IcelandÞórsmörk, Iceland

South Iceland (part 1): River crossings and hiking in Þórsmörk

After arrival in the middle of the night at the Keflavik airport (which is in desperate need for process improvement…) we got our little 4wheel drive and made it to our B&B – in full daylight! The famous white nights are really bright – 2am could easily be like 4pm on a cloudy day back home…

We stocked up with the essentials in Reykjavik: food supply and a tent. The guys from the outdoor equipment shop where we rented the tent were very helpful. Since we both cannot remember when we have built up a tent the last time, we were quickly taken to a playground with some grass around and were shown how this works. Looked easy *smiley smiling*

Since most of the highland roads are still closed – “This was the strongest winter since 50 years and the worst spring since then – the snow is only melting now” – we unfortunately could not go to Landmannalaugar which was the original plan. Therefore we picked Þórsmörk. Of course, it did not take long after leaving the city to meet the first Icelandic ponies! To reach Þórsmörk however, only two smaller rivers to cross on the 4wheel drive road and then the last hop across the deep river with a special truck/bus. Those little two rivers where 6 and some were not so little as expected / hoped…

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Bagan, MyanmarBagan, Myanmar

Bagan – Exploring thousands of Pagodas and temples with bicycle

Bagan temple fields are really a highlight – over 2000 temples and pagodas – built in only 250 years starting approx. 1000 years ago…

We have chosen to get spoilt and to stay in a very nice hotel (Blue Bird in New Bagan) and to take our time to explore the 40 km2 by bicycle (no Mountainbike, just a local bike without gears – repair stations on the way and definitely needed). Two challenging factors: the temperature (39 degrees in the shade) but with mercyless sun and the unpaved “paths” between the two main roads leading to the hidden gems…

The pagodas and temples used to be painted in white (or with golden tops) with fine decoration. The last couple of hundred years have washed away the outside decoration in most cases – whats left is the red brick stone which is now the dominating color.

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Amarapura, MyanmarAmarapura, Myanmar

Der Karren, der im Dreck steckenblieb / The 3 former royal capitals Sagain, Inwa and Amarapura

Next day we made a tour to Sagain – with a sweaty climb up the Sagain Hill, Inwa – with a „Karren, der im Dreck steckenblieb“  and Amarapura – with an >160 years old and 1,2km long teak wood bridge…

Sagain Hill is spiked with pagodas and temples – countless. The way up (must be more than 1000 steps) was quite a workout – on the top we had a cup of tea in a questionable clean cup (no, there was no side effect) on a terrace with very nice view on shaky sticks… When checking out the temples we found a quite good artist up there as well and we supported the local art scene with a bit of extra revenue.  Also quite interesting in the temple the big rabbit next to the Buddha  – he used to be a rabbit in a former life!

Inwa used to be a capital of the kingdom, but now is a farmer village with some day tourism and not a lot of paved roads.

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Kuthodaw Pagoda, MyanmarKuthodaw Pagoda, Myanmar

Wet start in Mandalay / 99 Pagodas on the way to Mandalay

99 Pagodas already on the way from the airport in Mandalay to the city center… wow…

After arrival we thought we walk to the first temple and/or pagoda but after half an hour we were so wet (even with rain gear) that we ended up in a café to think about plan B (other than walking or bicycle)…

Next day we got a car to make a not too wet pagoda / temple tour through Mandalay (plus some shopping: umbrella and gold leaf sheets)… We visited a monastery (Shwedandaw), a former part of the emperor palace. As King Mindon passed away in that wooden hall, his son placed it outside the palace walls and due to the bombs in WWII and the fire it is the only remaining piece of the royal palace. Old, dark teak wood with wonderful wood carvings, covered with gold leaves… Beautiful!

Close by the Kuthodaw Pagoda has the text of the Buddhist “bible” (the tipika) carved in > 700 stone plates – for each a little Pagoda built.

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Cap Malheureux, MauritiusCap Malheureux, Mauritius

Die Ruhe nach dem Sturm

Das Auge des Zyklons ist recht gut an uns vorbei gezogen (La Reunion ist auch zumindest einigermaßen glimpflich davon gekommen). Die Ausläufer haben uns aber ganz gut das Wetter vermasselt – und auch das Meer gut aufgewühlt, weshalb die Sicht sehr schlecht war und wir deswegen diesmal leider auf das Tauchen verzichtet haben (es wäre sowieso nur noch ein Tag möglich gewesen…). Immerhin kann man Bodysurfing machen, was nicht oft geht auf Mauritius, normalerweise ist die Lagune ganz ruhig… richtige Wellen direkt am Strand sind eher eine Seltenheit, so war die gesamte Dorfjugend am Strand – und Thorsten mit großem Eifer dabei und kaum mehr aus dem Wasser zu kriegen… Ich habe meinen Klumpfuß in den Schatten gelegt. Übrigens Vorsicht vor gelben Riesenwespen auf Mauritius, die sind alles andere als harmlos, die Locals können ein Lied davon singen… nach dem kleinen Missgeschick mit einer dieser Wespen an der Wade vom Neujahrstag, konnte ich immerhin am 5.1. wieder halbwegs ordentlich laufen (zum Glück kann man überall mit dem Roller hinfahren). Aber man kommt ganz gut ins Gespräch mit den Locals im Cafe und jeder hatte seine Wespen Erfahrungen beizutragen (Spannweite von Arm 5 Tage in ner Schlinge bis zu 10 Tage Krankenhaus, weil man gleich mehrfach erwischt wurde…).

Da das Tauchen also nichts wurde, taten wir uns mehr auf dem Land um (der Roller hatte nach der Woche 400km mehr auf dem Tacho).

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Weather Forecast, MauritiusWeather Forecast, Mauritius

Silvester auf Mauritius und die Frage, warum das Wetter so schlecht ist und alles zu hat

Den Silvesterabend haben wir stilvoll bei unserem französischen, ein bisschen chaotischen Host gefeiert. Er hat groß gekocht, als Vorspeise einen großen Teller mit Austern und Riesengarnelen – da wir etwas ohne Fisch oder Meeresfrüchte wollten, haben wir Lachs bekommen *smiley winking* Hauptspeise war ein wirklich sehr gutes Rinderfilet im Blätterteigmantel und Gratin. Das Maccaron / Eis Dessert ist aufgrund von etwas längeren Geschichten und der Abwesenheit von Zeitmanagement leider erst so ca. 1,5 Minuten vor 12 aus der Küche gekommen… So haben wir es nicht für das Feuerwerk an den Strand geschafft, was aber mehr für die Einheimischen ein Drama war als für uns, normalerweise fährt man mit dem Boot in die Bucht raus und schaut sich die großen Hotelfeuerwerke an… *smiley winking* Für uns tat es aber auch Sekt an „unserer“ Gartenbar mit dem Feuerwerk am Himmel zwischen den Palmen…

Das Wetter im neuen Jahr ist mächtig bescheiden – da wir mit Roller unterwegs sind, ärgert uns der ständige, ganz schön starke Regen doch etwas… Bei der abendlichen Fahrt am Neujahrstag zum Restaurant in einem Nachbarort haben wir zum Glück Wechselklamotten mitgenommen…

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Mont Choisy Beach, MauritiusMont Choisy Beach, Mauritius

Mauritius – A cultural melting pot with endless summer

Well, when we arrived after an 11h night flight, we were a little done… but getting out of the airport at 6am and right away searching for sunglasses was quite promising…

The airport is on the other side of the island, approx. 70km or a good hour’s drive from our little guesthouse away. So we had a little island tour already (lots of sugar cane fields… guess how this might have an influence on the cocktail list…) before we arrived at the guesthouse, had a nice breakfast in the garden before we got our rooms and organized the essentials (scooter rent for the time we are here, calling the diving center…). Ah yes, and we were introduced to the guesthouse cat “Bebe” (a completely spoiled little cat which once used my T-Shirt as a towel as it was not lucky enough to escape the heavy tropical rain shower in time) *smiley tounge*

The first days were all about the beaches…

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Bandar Seri Begawan, BruneiBandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Brunei – not a small Dubai

We were quite curious how Brunei will be like so we spent 2 days there… is Brunei another small version of Dubai due to the oil found offshore of this little sultanate? Well, it isn’t really… there is a mosque with lots of gold on the exterior, but some of the houses (especially the traditional water village houses) are still quite basic (although there is water and electricity supply)…

The water village Kampong Ayer is HUGE, we strolled around and found quite some plant loving inhabitants (almost anything makes a good pot for plants) and it is interesting to see that everything seems to exist in a way: schools, school boat, petrol station for the boats (yes, a liter is only 0,5 Brunei Dollar = 33 Euro cent!!!), little restaurants…

Also quite interesting, there was a quite ugly clock tower somewhere in the city which is supposed to be important. Why?

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