Autumn Leaves

We had a lovely weekend in Canberra. Not sure how often I exclaimed “DO look at these colors!” The leaves were amazing, especially against the backdrop of the biiig sky.

I had forgotten how fun the architecture in Canberra is – it seems like most buildings look mid- century, even if they are contemporary.

So there was a bit of culture in the National Art Gallery.

But there is art everywhere, it seems…

We cooked up a storm in the evening at Chris and Helens.

We shopped in lot’s of second hand shops and found plenty of treasure.

And the icing on the cake was a visit to our nephew’s metal working workshop – so much serious machinery!

Surfing 101

Get in the water. Search for wave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait for a sweet little wave, paddle for your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get up, Stand up…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look kinda cool ok kinda cool for a split second.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oops, wobbling already… the fun didn’t last long enough ☹️

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wipeout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So do it again and again…

Well done.

 

Gone Surfing

I bought a surfboard many years ago, with the intention to take to the ocean and learn to surf. That year, I had done a lot of swimming in the local pool and was truly fit and ready. But I never really got very far with this idea.

There was no work in the diary for this week, and since the weather is still warm and beautiful, I couldn’t think of a really good reason not to learn to surf. I booked myself into a tour to go to Seal Rocks – and what a great decision that was!

We had a day in Sydney on a private beach with tiny waves and it was so much fun to really give it a go, get served a BBQ on the beach and get back in the water for more!img_1226img_1227

In the late afternoon 5 of us went in a minibus to Seal Rocks and checked into the local caravan park. img_9336img_9339img_9334img_9335

The beauty here is that there are so many beaches and one of them is always right for beginners. We are getting so much attention from our instructor, who also is the chef and recreational officer (movies after dinner in the communal tent).

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I am sure I will not return to Sydney at the end of the week as a super surfer – but I will have played in the beautiful clean, warm water for a week, having learned to paddle towards giant waves, rather than ducking under them, understanding the interplay of all the ocean forces much better and being really tired and slightly fitter.

It’s also been really lovely to spend the week with 4 backpackers from all over the world and play cards, share beers and stories.img_9341

And I had my first encounter with bluebottle jellyfish. Oh no, they really do sting horribly. I had one trapped in my leg rope that was strapped around my ankle – fortunately I was in the shallows, and I could not get the rope off fast enough. The photo does not do the redness and agony any justice… all part and parcel of the experience…img_9340

Nepal (part 7: Last days)

The change from the calm atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and clean air in the monastery made Kathmandu look like a mad house. We had two nights booked in a modernish little hotel downtown, where I had my first coffee in weeks!

We arrived in Kathmandu at lunchtime and simply wandered through the old town, took a bit of a ‘guided tour’ for a reckommended walk in our guide book. We had changed so much! We had become confident in crossing the roads, navigating the narrow lanes packed with people, coped with the noise and the dust…! (Photos from that walk in the last post…).

On our last full day, we visited Patan, which appears to be more or less part of Kathmandu these days, as those old small independent city states have grown geographically and have become part of the ‘Kathmandu Valley’. We saw the main sites, the Durbar Square, old palace, old city, bazaar… again – it was devastating to see the earthqake damage. img_8992img_8986

There were artisans working everywhere, welding, painting, beating cotton prior to sewing it into mattresses… img_9046img_9060

Patan must be the place with the highest number of worship sites per square metre in the world! Wherever we looked, there was prayer, incense, offerings.img_9063img_9062img_9028img_8997img_9042

The bazaar was simply stunning…img_9096img_9094img_9091img_9089img_9088img_9054img_9057

In the evening we were taken out by our travel agents. We had a very fun evening in a very noisy restaurant with plenty of food and drink and dance.

We had no plans for our very last day, happy to let things just evolve – and evolve they did! We got picked up by one of the founding members of the travel agency to view the school he had founded. He is an extraordinary man boundless energy, vision, organisational talent and a huge heart!  img_9105

Apart from learning so much about this incredible school, it was amazing to look out from the buildings rooftop and spot the local dairy farm (remember, we are in the CBD of Kathmandu!), kids playing, mothers showering their children with a garden hose…img_9100img_9103img_9101img_9099

After that private tour, he took us to his nearby home and we met his entire family! Parents, siblings, nieces… and had a wonderful long lunch and conversations. What a way to end these amazing three weeks!img_9118 img_9129 img_9131 img_9140

The final goodbyes…, I won’t say anything about those…img_9157

We have been back now for 4 weeks. Whilst I do get carried away with worries and stresses that come with our insanely complex life style, in those moments I try to recall any of those wonderful experiences and imagine what the Buddha would advise me to do… and often I hear him say “this is merely a First World worry…”.img_9097

 

 

Nepal (part 6 Chitwan – Pharping)

We sighed upon leaving Lumbini. Despite it’s deep significance in Buddhist terms, it was a dusty, grey and dirty place and the hotel we stayed in was a soulless establishment. The whole place was submerged in fog every morning, until way after lunch – so all inall, it was a confusing and eerie place.

On our way to Chitwan National Park we took a few wrong turns and only realised our errors as we drove through a “Welcome to India” arch! Oops, we took a u- turn quicksmart and continued on our way to Chitwan.

One of the most significant experiences for us in Chitwan, with our hotel right on the river, surrounded by greenery – was the realisation of how much we take GREEN and CLEAN for granted, how much we just feel entitled to have all this clean nature around us!img_8786img_8782

But right after that comes the experience of WILD animals, which was pretty awesome! So, elephants in the street.img_8780

Rhinos bathing in the river at dusk.img_8843

We did an elephant ride into the park and saw rhinos from very close, that was pretty amazing! (No photos).

Crocs everywhere along the riverbank. img_8833 img_8831img_8836

Cheeky monkeys in trees (no photos).

We did a wonderful guided walk through a village adjacent to the park and were privileged to see how people live. These communities were supported by various international Aid projects that provided toilets and biogas in the individual homes.img_8802 img_8810img_8827img_8824img_8806img_8792img_8791img_8788

After 3 nights at Chitwan, we took forever to get back to Kathmandu… 8 hrs for a 100km journey. Here is why it took so long (hint: potholes, road repair, slow trucks, mountains, goats on roads…):img_8847 img_8848 img_8856 img_8868 img_8871 img_8873 img_8874 img_8882

To be exact, we went through Kathmandu to Pharping, where we stayed for 2 nights in a Buddhist monastery. img_8913 img_8915img_8902img_8906img_8903

We joined the monks in prayer / meditation. img_8963 img_8964 img_8967

We also had a private meditation lesson with a Tibetan senior monk. He taught in Tibetan and had an interpreter to translate into English. Again, I loved hovering in the kitchen to observe how our meals were prepared.

One afternoon we took a guided walk with a young monk into the local village and saw more holy sights. And more monks… on bikes, on mobile phones, playing soccer… monks everywhere!img_8948img_8921img_8926img_8936img_8937img_8927img_8954img_8950img_8951img_8953

On our last morning, the monks sat their 3 hour ethics exams in front of the temple. At sunrise. Right after morning prayer.img_8971

It was a short drive to Kathmandu, but as we walked the streets in Kathmandu, we felt that we had traversed the universe – the contrast between the two locations could not have been more dramatic!img_8982img_8981img_8978img_8974

 

 

Nepal (part 5 Tansen – Lumbini)

The drive to Tansen should have only taken 4 hours (80 km or so), but by now we were not surprised to arrive mid-afternoon… driving is simply very slow in Nepal, even along the major national routes! There are so many mountains to climb, trucks to get stuck behind, potholes to dodge, cows to evade…

Whilst the girls recovered from their bug and spent a lot of time resting, I just enjoyed walking the streets.img_8547img_8544img_8588img_8590img_8606img_8591img_8586img_8552img_8558

I came across this small fabric factory, dark and dusty, and I thought it was a miracle how this beautiful traditional cloth can be produced here! The women sit on the dirt, and the looms are on the ground level. The daily wages are 120 rupees / $ 1.50.img_8595img_8596img_8603img_8605

One day we visited Ranigat, an old baroque palace at the bank of the Gandaki river, which is currently being restored.img_8579img_8572img_8561img_8563img_8575img_8577

I loved cooking with the lady of the house every night and learning how to prepare Nepali dishes.img_8613img_8616

After 3 nights we drove to Lumbini, Buddha’s birth place. The dive was very interesting. It got dryer, flatter and dustier the more we moved towards the Indian border. And poorer… the ‘shops’ got smaller, and the humpies more frequent.img_8698 img_8692img_8631

We worked out that Lumbini is a huge place that attracts a lot of poor country folk, and everybody tries to make a living, but not everybody succeeds.img_8623img_8659img_8695img_8696

There was another major site near our hotel, the World Peace Pagoda, which looked very lovely in the afternoon sun.img_8709 img_8712 img_8715img_8711

In the morning we set out to explore the huge Monastic zone, where Buddhists from all over the world have built, or are still in the process of building, monasteries.img_8721 img_8722 img_8723 img_8724 img_8725 img_8726 img_8728 img_8744 img_8745 img_8750 img_8751img_8749img_8755

Buddha’s actual birthplace is housed in the Maya Devi temple. We joined a long queue of mainly Tibetan folk in traditional dress, many were chanting prayers, others were conducting lively conversations on their mobiles! LOL?img_8732 img_8736 img_8731img_8737img_8738