A Travellerspoint blog

March 2015

Australian Hospitality

A chance to spend time with old friends and to make some new ones.

sunny 32 °C

As I am writing this post it is around 6:00 am in Dublin, Ireland. No I am not still up from partying the night before, rather I am up early after sleeping off the jet leg which was induced by 20 hours of flying from Perth, Australia! As they say,' I may not know whether I am coming or going' just yet, but what I do know for sure is that our time spent over the last month in Australia and New Zealand was well worth it! There is a lot to cover off, so sit back, relax, maybe grab a beer or a glass of wine and here we go....

We arrived in Perth in the wee hours of the morning on February 21st after connecting flights from Bangkok to Phuket and then onto Perth. As usual, travel itself sometimes creates some interesting times and our connecting flight in Phuket was one of those times. We were almost 40 minutes delayed getting out of Bangkok and with only a short layover in Phuket, where we would join the sun and booze soaked Aussies headed back home, we would be under the gun to make our connecting flight. We had a game plan when we got off the plane which involved running as fast as we could to our next flight, I would get our bags and Sherry would go to the check-in counter...pretty rough plan I will admit that, but it was a plan nonetheless. This all got tossed out the window when instead of being dropped directly at our terminal, we jumped off the plane to see a series of buses waiting for us which would transport us to our gate. More time was spent waiting on the bus and the quick math I was doing in my head told me it was going to be near impossible to make it to our flight. Luckily when we excited the bus and entered the airport we noticed a man holding an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper with the word "Perth" sloppily written in light blue highlighter on it, so we stopped to see if this was for us. As luck would have it this guy was waiting for us and after making sure we were the people he had spent so much time making the sign for, he asked if we could run. It was game on and as we passed through the airport (seemingly breaking rules all over the place) he let us know the check in counter closed in 5 minutes and did his best to get a description of our luggage so they could deliver it for check in. Now, thankfully we had fairly distinct luggage, with red straps circling our bags and "Canada" written on them, as I have no idea how else they would have been able to distinguish our bags from what I am sure are hundreds of similar looking peices of luggage. We were wisked into the check in line, where our luggage followed shortly after and the crisis was averted. As it turned out we ended up with time to spare, which allowed us to spend some quality time with the depressed Aussie vacationers who were heading back home from their vacations in the islands of Thailand. The Thai islands are the equivalent of a Cuba, Mexico or Dominican Republic vacation for most North Americans. Sandy beaches, plus cheap booze and accomodation's - returning to work was the last thing these people wanted to do and the looks on their faces said it all. Sherry and I couldn't help but laugh to ourselves a bit as we enjoyed our fortune of not being in the same boat as these folks. Sherry would later bring up an interesting personal observation she had while we sat in the airport in Phuket and I will share it with you now as I think it is quite interesting and relevant. For Sherry and I, we had spent the last month walking through South East Asia in anonymity it would seem. We did not really care what we looked like, the cloths we wore could be repetitive from day to day and we felt comfortable with who we were amongst the people, not being challenged to meet some uncomfortable standard of the society around us. As Sherry put it, once she became surrounded by people who were more culturally similar to us, she felt the "care-freeness" about her image being challenged. I have to admit at first when she was explaining this I struggled to understand where she was going with it but it came up in a few conversations over the coming weeks, and each time my appreciation for her feelings grew. It really reinforced for me how we assess or compare ourselves locally, rather then globally and just how quickly our self image can be challenged. Now, Sherry was not saying that all of a sudden she felt poorly about herself or who she was, but rather she was making an observation of how quickly that feeling can creep up on you. I think we are all subject to these feelings throughout our lives, with many of us falling victim to them by uncomfortably changing who we are in order to fit in with our surroundings which is based on what we think others think of us. Whether it be at work, out in a social context such as a bar or restaurant, or just visiting with friends, we all face these personal challenges and to me, that is life, and I don't think that will ever change. The part that we control though is our response to these feelings and simply recognizing them when they arise is a huge start to it. Don't worry, I am not going to go on and wax philosophically about the human ego and all the intimitley detailed stuff that has been studied and published over the years, but I do feel that it is important to raise the observation for people's consideration and as a reminder that even though we may be seen to be living this incredible dream journey (which we are), that we are still human and as such we will continue to face the same personal challenges that everyone else does regardless of status in life. Okay, wow, I did not see that coming when I started wrttting this post, let's get back to trip!

As we exited the Perth airport around 7:00 am we were greeted by the familliar faces of our friends Joe and Angel Italiano who where there to pick us up and take us back to their home in Geraldton (4 hours North of Perth) where we would be setting up camp for the next couple weeks. Joe grew up in Australia, while Angela was born and raised in Paisley, Ontario before meeting up with her husband to be and moving to Australia 5 years ago. Unfortunately we were not able to make their 2013 wedding in Italy, so we were long over due in getting to spend some time with them. Even though we were crazy tired from the over night flight, we both got our second winds as we hung in there for some breakfast before making our way out of the city. When Joe pulled into a cemetery as we left the city I questioned just what he had planned for us, but he just grinned and laughed when he realized I recognized that we where making this questionable detour. It all made sense when Joe pointed out to the right side of the vehicle and we saw mobs of Kangaroos hanging out all over the place. With a loaf a bread in hand we jumped out and before long we had wild kangaroos eating right from our hands! Not a bad little start to the Australian leg of our travels. Joe took us down the coastal route to Geraldton which provided some great views on the ocean and the beautiful coastal landscape. By all rights we both should have been out cold sleeping, but there was no way that was going to happen. Between soaking up the scenery and catching up with our friends, there wasn't much room for sleep to happen. I kid you not when I tell you that Sherry and Angel where talking for the entire 4 hours of the drive!

We arrived in the west coast town of Geraldton, which has a population approximately 36,000, around mid afternoon. The town itself is supported largely by the shipping industry as it contains a major seaport. There are also several schools throughout the town which offer employment for many folks just like our friends Joe and Angel who both work at Nagle Catholic College. Angel also works in Joe's sisters shop called "You Little Beauty" where she has massage clients on Thursdays. Nagle is a large catholic school which takes in many students from outside of Geraldton and as such they have a boarding house to accommodate them. The boarding house would be where Sherry and I set up shop for the next few weeks as that is where Joe and Angel have their apartment. After getting settled into our new residence it was time for the couch! Joe tossed on some cricket, which was pretty bizarre for me as I didn't know any of the rules, but it wasn't long before I had the basic premise figured out and was able to follow along. Soccer, cricket, rugby, and Footie would become my new sports diet! As I sit here today and am writing this, Austrlaia is playing New Zealand in the World Cup final and I am cheering for the Aussies to bring home a 5th championship. I was quite surprised how into the sport I got during our short time in Australia but like in many other countries, sport is a bonding agent that can bring common ground to just about any relationship regardless of nationality. I would find myself popping my head into bars as we walked around Perth in the later weeks to check the scores of the Aussie games and make sure the boys were doing well hahaha. So, what was our plan for the next month or so? Of course I wasn't just going to sit around and watch cricket for a month straight - here is a little run down of the fun we got up to in our first couple weeks.

Joe and Angel were both working during the days, so Sherry and I had time to ourselves to go out and explore the town on our own and to catch up on some R &R. As with every other new place, we spent time just touring around the town on foot and seeing what new experiences were at our finger tips. The first week was really laid back and lazy for both of us during the days but we did get the chance to get out and meet some of Joe and Angel's friends and family. First on the docket were Jess and Nigel, who's home we visited for some pizza and drinks on Jess's birthday. Jess and Nigel are both teachers as well, with Jess teaching at Nagle alongside Joe and Angel, and Nigel teaching physics at a different high school. Sherry and I both felt extremely comfortable and welcomed by Jess and Nigel and over the coming weeks we would spend more time with them and I think it is safe to say that a friendship developed with them - I say that with confidence as when we were leaving Geraldton the last we saw of them was Jess running down the road, pulling out a wedding invite from her purse and giving it to Sherry hahaha. It was amazingly hilarious and as if Sherry didn't have enough tears in her eyes at the time, this act of kindness sent her over the top! As mentioned, we also had the chance to meet some family as both Joes sister and his parents live in Geraldton. It was Joe's nieces birthday and we were invited to tag along for a birthday BBQ. It was a beautiful evening as we enjoyed the company of Joe's parents and his sister in-laws parents while chowing down on some good old steaks, salads and hot dogs. As Joe's last name suggests (Italiano) he comes from an Italian family. I know, I know, an Italian, with the last name Italiano! It seems like it is likely to be a fake name hahaha. Joe's parents have been in Australia for 40 years now but they all still hold true to their Itlaian heritage as family is absolutely everything to them. They have a lovely family and it was a pleasure to get to meet them.

When Friday rolled around it was time to do what I had been looking forward to for some time now and that was to get my skinny, pale-ass frame up on a surf board and ride the waves of the ocean. Friday was the beginning of a long weekend for Joe and Angel so we had a beach day planned out. We loaded up the surf boards and it was off to the beach to catch some waves. Like a kid in a candy store I ran to the ocean, doing my best David Hasselhoff impression for his baywatch days and then smashed into the ocean with the grace of a dog learning how to swim for the first time - thankfully there were no on lookers as the beach was deserted and we had it all to ourselves. A few waves in I somehow managed to stand up and get a short ride in and with that, my confidence was through the roof. I figured I had this sport mastered and that maybe it was just as easy as it looked on T.V. . It would be hours before I stood up again, as my body got rag dolled around in the ocean. Reality paid me a visit and made sure I knew just how out of shape I was as the waves pushed me around and held me back from getting back out to where I needed to be to if I was going to catch another one. After a couple of hours of sun, sand and yes, even some surf, we pulled up stakes and headed back into town. I was content with my effort and happy that I got to give surfing a go. On the plus side of it all, I didn't get eaten by a shark and no jellyfish stings either. Funny enough these were things that I didn't consider much before entering the water hahaha. We finished our Friday evening off by having dinner out with Joe, Nigel, Angel and Jess at a place called the provincial which was full of great food and drink, but it was also the place where the somewhat harsh reality of my sunburn started to check in! Caught up in my desire to surf, I failed to slap on the SPF early enough to prevent a wee bit of a burn. The next day it was off to Perth with Joe and Angel to take part in a celebration that is quite famialiar to both Sherry and I - it was time for a "Stag" and "Staggette" weekend or as they call it in Australia "Bucks and Hens" night/weekend. Both party organizers were gracious enough to let us tag along, which gave Sherry and I both some time to meet new people and to have some time apart after almost one and half months spending every day together. Some girl time and some guy time was just what the doctor ordered. The highlight of the weekend for me was getting to attend a professional soccer match between the Perth Glory and the Brisbane Roar. The match ended in a tie...no surprise there, but the experience as a whole was pretty cool. I always knew that soccer fans were wild, but the seats we had which where located in the area known as "The Shed" gave me an up close and personal view of all the craziness. Beer would fly through the air when goals were scored or if an opposition fan was spotted in the mix. Cheers and chants were a constant, with referees being jeered for making a bad call against the home team or the opposition goalie being psyched out as he attempted to move the ball up the field. It was all good fun, especially being there with all the fellas in the stag trip, and I will no doubt always remember my first taste of live professional soccer. Something else I was introduced to while in Perth was the "Sunday Session". On the surface this just seemed like going out and drinking on a Sunday at a nice hotel bar, which fundamentally is what takes place, but the roots of this activity come from further back in time. There was a time when the hours in which bars could sell alcohol were very restrictive and many hotels started setting up illegal drinking sessions on Sunday afternoons. This sounds somewhat similar to the adaption of "speakeasy" bars during prohibition. Eventually the laws loosened up and now many hotels and bars open their doors early in the day to serve up great food, booze and entertainment. The places where these "Sunday Sessions" are being held are fairly classy joints so don't roll out of bed in your joggers and a t-shirt thinking you are grabbing a greasy spoon breakfast like you would be back in Canada. In fact, depending on the place there are some well enforced dress codes. Sherry's highlight would be enjoying proper high tea with the girls and of course lots of dancing with the girls as the toured from bar to bar.

The Monday that we rolled back into Geraldton was again a holiday and we took full advantage of it by vegging out on the couch, periodically falling asleep and waking up to wonder if anyone else had noticed. The rest of the week was filled with touring around the town and enjoying the beach. We also made a stop at the HMAS Sydney Memorial which is a focal point for Geraldton sitting at the peak of the town looking out over the ocean. Here is a link if you would like to read more about this beautiful memorial http://hmassydneymemorial.com.au/. We were lucky enough to have a vehicle to use while staying with Joe and Angel, so we would load up the standup paddleboard (SUP) and head down to the beach for most of the days. Sherry caught on to the paddleboard pretty quickly and was cruising around the harbour area like she owned it. On a few occasions while paddling around I noticed some small stingrays swimming underneath me and I would have some fun chasing them around, until I lost my balance and fell in right on top of them. Thankfully they were more scared of me! The beach we went to got some pretty good waves and we would bust out the boogy boards to mess around in them which was a lot of fun (I left my surfboard at home or else I would have definitely been up shredding those waves......). When the weekend rolled around we made plans to go out for dinner with Jess, Nigel and Angel at an Indian restaurant. Joe was away on a camp trip with the school so Angel had us all to herself....well most importantly she had Sherry, I am pretty sure I was just background noise hahaha. Dinner was great and this was the first BYOB restaurant I had ever been in so I can check that experience off my list. Angel and I took full advantage of the BYOB, not as much as the guys who had a 40 of rye and 2 bottles of coke beside us, but we did good enough that driving was out of the equation, which put Sherry behind the wheel for us. Driving on the opposite side of the road to home was no problem for her and she got us home safely. She had a bit of practice one night before that when we did a little touring around after going to the movies and she handled it all pretty well. Once we got back to the boarding house I decided to bust out a dance party for the girls getting them fired up with hits from the 90's. It all started with a little Ghetto Superstar, which progressed into everything from Boyz II Men, Montel Jordan, The Fugees, Smashing Pumpkins and so many more....there was even some Wilson Phillips splashed in there for Sherry. It was a hilarious walk down memory lane which hopefully didn't cause the neighbours too much pain as the girls belted out there best karaoke voices while dancing like nobody was watching. It is kind of funny looking back on it now - all the new experiences are absolutely amazing but sometimes taking time to relive the old ones brings you just as much enjoyment.

The next morning we loaded up the vehicle with the SUP and headed North for a place called Kalbarri National Park. Of course we had Jess and Nigel on board with us for this adventure as well. Along the way we stopped at one of Western Australia's pink lakes, which gets its name...wait for it....because the water is Pink! It kind of looks like if pepto bismol were to come naturally from the earth, this would be the place. Scientist's apparently still don't know exactly what causes this, but believe it has something to do with the bacteria in the salt crusts. Being as i don't have my monthly subscription to World of Science right beside me, I am going to have to go with that for now. After a few photo's we were back on the road again and before long we were doing some off-roading as we made our way through Kalbarri National Park. What we arrived to I think can be best described as Grand Canyon like scenery. Red and rocky mountain sides, spilt by large, deep waterways were all around us. The views where breathtaking and the pesky flies, well they where annoying as hell, but it wasn't enough to detract from this amazing natural landscape. I will have lots of photos posted of our time at the park but in case you are keen for some more info I have attached a link http://www.kalbarri.org.au/. The big ticket item at the park is Natures Window which is a rock formation that, as its name aptly describes, is in the shape of a window....a large window. Through the window is an amazingly beautiful view which has been the backdrop to millions and millions of tourist photos over the years. After several photos we hiked our way back to the car park (I am learning to be more literal in my descriptions through my Aussie interactions) and made our way back along the shore making a few stops along the coastline to enjoy the incredible views out over the Indian Ocean. Nigel was driving by this time and with possible rain creeping in around us we made a B-line for the beach to get a swim and SUP in before the weather turned. We tossed the truck into four wheel drive and headed down the beach pulling up wherever we wanted as we had the place all to ourselves. After a couple hours of relaxing on the beach we loaded up and started our trek back home, but not before a quick stop at a road side heritage site which was Port Gregory Convict Hiring Station back in the 1850's. This is where criminals from Britain would be deported to, housed and then if they were not too dangerous, they would be assigned farming jobs around WA. If they didn't make the cut for the work world, they were sent down the coast to Fremantle where they would be imprisoned. It was pretty cool to walk around this piece of history, taking time to appreciate a very impactful piece of Australia's history.

The following day (Sunday) would be our last day in Geraldton for a little bit as we made plans to head to Melbourne and then onto Queenstown, New Zealand. We made the most of our day though starting out our morning with some beach time and then heading out to a small animal rescue centre called Greenough Wildlife Park. Here we got to get up close with many of Australias native animals for just $10 each. Dingo's, emus, ostriches, crocodiles, birds, snakes, camels and of course kangaroos - they had it all. There was even an albino Kangaroo hanging out at this place. You even get to feed the animals, which was a lot of fun when we got to the Kangoroos who would prop themselves up on the fence like a parent watching their kid at a baseball game and then would jostle around getting into position for the feeding. This became known as kangaroo selfie time for Angel and Sherry. On the way back to town we made the traditional tourist stop at the leaning tree for a photo, then it was back to the boarding house to pack. You will see photos of the leaning tree coming soon and I will describe it better there. But the short and sweet if it is the the winds of off of the west coast apparently blow so hard that they force the trees to grow low and to the ground in the same direction as the wind is going - this is not entirely true as there is some more science to it the that but I will explain that later in the pictures.

Alright, that seemed like a lot and hopefully I didn't lose too many readers along the way. This won't be the last you will hear of Gerladton but it is time to move onto our travels to the east which where filled with lots more fun and craziness. Thanks for hanging in there and please don't hesitate to email me at sshewfel@msn.com if you ever have questions about our travels and are looking for more info. It is so hard to pack it all in and I know I have left lots out.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:10 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

A Quickie in Da Lat

26 °C

Get your mind out of the gutter, we just happened to only be in the city for a few short days before we had to make our way back to Saigon, then to Bangkok where we would catch our flight to Australia - it s not that kind of blog! Now with that being said we did manage to pack in some top shelf adventures while we where there. As with the previous blog post I feel obliged to fill you in on our bus trip from Mui Ne to Da Lat because well, unfortunately, it wasn't the sleeper bus that I had banked on it being. 5:00 am on February 16 crept up way too fast, but it wasn't long before we had ourselves up, out of our room and down by the road to wait for our bus, which was to show up anywhere between 6:30 and 7:00 am. The only comfort I took in knowing that I was up so early was that I going to be crawling onto a lovely sleeper bus and grabbing at least a little bit of shut eye during our 6 hour trek to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. So, you can imagine the look on my face when I saw a vehicle stop in front of us that was maybe just a tad bit bigger then the van that scooby doo and his crime fighting gang toured around in! Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration but it doesn't change the fact that this sucker was small! This must be a mistake, or maybe this was just the bus that took us to the depot where we would transfer on to a bigger bus, ya that must be it. My hopes of stopping at a larger depot to board a bigger bus where dashed quickly as we made our way through, and eventually out of town. Empty seats which filled up between hotel pickups were the ultimate tease as I went from stretching my legs out across two seats, to eventually assuming the human pretzel position and letting the numbness take over the lower half of my body. If this bus started on fire there is a good chance that my scrawny upper body would not have been able to pull me out of the flames. Thankfully that did not happen and I have to say after I came to terms with the situation things weren't so bad I guess. Once we started climbing through the mountains I became sufficiently distracted by the beautiful scenery around me. We seemed to climb in elevation for almost 2 hours straight, passing jungle, small towns and hydro electric dams. I should mention too that the continuous honking, partnered up with another lovely game of highway chicken was in play on this tour as well. By now I was almost used to it though and really didn't expect anything more than that. Once we completed the uphill mountain pass we began our decent towards the valley and through some more towns which got larger and more developed as we neared Da Lat. Along the side of the road there were mile markers which told you how far you where from the next town and once the ones for Da Lat started popping up there was a very distinct change in our surroundings. Vast pine tree forests surrounded us on both sides and the smell of fresh mountain air filtered through my open window and into the bus. Immediately I felt my body relax in a way that it hadn't since the previous summer when we made trips up to my parents cottage in the Muskoka's.

The views when we entered the city where spectacular as we made our way to our drop off, and we really didn't know where that was, but when everyone on the bus stood up and existed at the city centre we followed suit. A very friendly greeting from some tourist staff followed our exit from the bus along with a map showing us how to get to our hotel. No sales scams, no up sells or shady dealings came our way - just friendly people wanting to help and make you feel welcome. A short walk to our hotel ($28 Cdn/night), we unloaded our bags and set out to find Pine Trek Adventures office where we would book a waterfall repelling tour for the next day and a mountain biking tour for the day after that. We had done some research while in Mui Ne and this place came highly recommended for adventure tours so I made it my mission to make sure got booked in with them. You really don't want to mess around with safety when you are working your way down waterfalls and these guys had great safety reviews compared to some of the other local shops. With that task all squared away we took to touring around town. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to catch the scenic gondola ride but we made our own tracks as usual touring the towns lake front area and the famous crazy house. Crazy House is an expressionist and detail intensive piece of architecture in the heart of the city. This structure certainly lives up to its name with crazy shapes, structures and screams all around it. For a more in depth look at one of the 10 weirdest buildings in the world click on this link http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hang_Nga_guesthouse. As late afternoon came around we walked down to the lake which is located in the centre of town and enjoyed a calming walk around watching all the tourist who where cruising around in the swan paddle boats. A quick dinner and an early evening was in order with an 7:00 am rise on its way to head out for our canyoneering adventure.

Canyoneering was definitely not something that was on my radar when we headed out on our trip but once I saw what is was all about through some internet research it quickly became a must do. The short description of this outdoor adventure sport is that it is basically rock climbing without the ascending part and only the descending. The little twist that was thrown into this adventure was that we would be descending into waterfalls which was the most intriguing part for sure. When we got picked up and arrived at our location the coolest surprise for Sherry and I was that it was just going to be us and our two amazing guides whom both spoke excellent English and who where friendly as ever. Most companies likely would not have bothered to schedule this tour with only two people but as we found out this was preferred for Pine Trek tours as they could ensure that safety was always being adhered to and they could give us the best experience possible. A couple practice runs and an introductory 15 meter ascent and it was off to tackle the water falls. Although this was a crazy new experience for me, it was a way bigger day for Sherry as it had been almost 6 years since she had done anything as adventurous as this due to her post concussion recovery. Caution was thrown into the wind, or rather the water in this case, and she tackled all the challenges thrown at her including a 7 meter cliff jump and two trips through the waterfall ascent which is affectionately known as the "washing machine". Everything from the waterfall descents, to the beautiful mountain surrounding us and the lunch time chat with our guides, was simply amazing. I can't lie, I was cringing every time Sherry took her turn in the waterfalls but it was something that was important to her to do and who was I to get in the way of that. We have lived the ups and downs for almost 6 years now and I was ready to accept either outcome on that day.

The rest of our day included a gondola ride through the forests outside of the town and a tour of the Monastery. The gondola ride was great as we got a birds eye view of Da Lat and all its surroundings. Although I have never been to British Columbia, I have seen lots of pictures from people who have and I liken the views of Da Lat to that of BC. As for the Monastery tour it was one of the most peaceful and beautiful 2 hours of my life. The Monastery is home to several Buddhist Monks who go about their day as tourists walk around and take in the beauty of the grounds. Perfectly manicured gardens, paved walkways and spectacular views welcomed us every which way we turned. I was relaxed before I got here and now I was almost comatose! Sherry even took time to meditate in one of the temples, while I, all but fell asleep sitting on a bench looking out over the nearby lake. For the record, I am not an old man, just a little tired out from the early morning and fresh air during our canyoneering..... Well, that just about wrapped up our day as it was back to the hotel, out for a quick bite to eat and then into bed early once again as we had mountain biking to do in the morning! Ya I know, seems a bit ridiculous, but what the hell, "when in Rome".

As with the previous day our tour guides met us at our hotel and drove us to our outdoor adventure. We were both a wee bit sore from the day before but nothing to terribly bad. I was pumped for the 30km bike ride which would take us through the countryside to see coffee plantations and lots of small villages. The trail we selected was called Skid Trak and was listed as by far being the easiest one they offered....or so they said... The 40 minute ride out to our drop off was enjoyable as I got a chance to chat with our guide who was very knowledgable and was able to speak to the current state of Vietnam and some of the lingering fallout from the Vietnam war. We talked about the educational system, as well as Vietnamese relations with the US since. When we arrived at our drop off point we quickly assembled our bikes, tossed on our helmets and started making our way down a paved road. Things started off smooth, but then we took a quick right turn that began our off road tour down the mountain side towards the valley. I was a bit apprehensive at first and I know Sherry was as well, but we rolled on and soon I found myself enjoying the ride. Sherry was back a bit with one guide (we had the same guides as the day before) and I was doing my best to keep up with the other guy. It wasn't long though before my front brake failed on me so I had to pullover and do a little maintenance. It wasn't major at all and I had things back to normal quickly but not before Sherry and her guide caught up. All was well and we all took off except this time Sherry was in front of me, and when she suddenly hit the brakes on a steep decline I lost my balance and she was ass over tea kettle for me! A couple scrapped knees and a bruised ego was all the damage that was done and I was back up on my bike in a few short minutes ready to redeem myself. This time I took off ahead of Sherry with the other guide again and we began cruising along quite well. After a couple steep hill climbs my guide and I pulled off to the side to catch our breath and to wait for the other two. A few minutes went by and we both knew something was off so we toured back to see what was up. Well, what we found was a scrapped up Sherry sitting on the side of the trail with her guide busting out some first aid to her cuts and cleaning her up the best he could. "By far the easiest trail they had" was now up 2-0 on me and Sherry, except Sherry was a little more worse for wear as she went right over her handle bars. I didn't see it, but from what I hear the judges where handing out unanimous 10's across the board. Only about 6km into our 30km tour, Sherry, quite understandably, waived the white flag and called it a day. I was just happy that she was in one piece and that nothing worse had happened. The trail was tough and I was really surprised she even lasted that long, but she's tough as anyone I know and she wanted to challenge herself so she faced the test head on (literally). We worked out a plan where I would continue on the trail with my guide and Sherry and the other guide would meet up with the van early to get her back to Da Lat. Our guides were incredible and we could not have asked for better. I am happy to say I finished the rest of the bike ride which saw us take some serious inclines, cross over a sketchy bridge and arrive back into the city of Da Lat without further incident. Sherry had only arrived back just a short while before we did and the owner of the company was at her side attending to her scrapes and cuts. They felt terrible about what had happened but as the title of the blog goes "it is, what it is". A couple photos with everyone and we where on our way back to the hotel for some R&R. I was surprised to have Sherry tell me that she actually got back up on her bike for a bit and that even her guide had a little spill off of his bike, which she said they both had a good laugh at. After a solid relax back in the room, both our aches and pains started to take over. I snuck out for some pizza while Sherry rested, then she went out for a smoothie while I took another rest. It was Chinese New Years at midnight and we both wanted to drag our butts out of bed to see the fireworks, but we just couldn't muster the will to do it. Our outdoor adventures had won the two day battle and with a 9 hour bus ride back to Saigon, followed by a 1hr 1/2 flight back to Bangkok, we decided to take all the rest we could get.

As I am writing this I find it funny that I have so much to say about our short time in Da Lat but I guess that is just a sign of how much we really enjoyed it. Bumps and bruises aside it was just what we needed. For me, I needed to challenge myself with some crazy new adventures to get the blood pumping, while Sherry was ready to step outside of her comfort zone and see just how far she had come over the last 6 years. It would have been easy for her to just step back and let the fear of ruining her travels take her over, but she didn't, and even though the scrape on her chin might signal something different, I know she is smiling inside and content with testing her abilities. Da Lat is a must see recommendation for both of us. The French influences, accompanied by the beautiful scenery make it an easy place to loose yourself in. The people are quite friendly and there is so much to do. I am pleased to report that we did in fact get a sleeper bus for our trip back to Saigon - I think I would have lost my mind if it was the same bus that got us to Da Lat - ya ya I know, first world problems. Hahaha. Well that's all for now folks. We are just about to land in Melbourne after two weeks on the West coast of Australia which I will be writing about next.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 17:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

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