Archive for March, 2008

March 28th 2008
Roos Revealed

Posted under Australia

The Barossa Valley, home to such familiar wine labels as Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Jacob’s Creek, is a region of very flat vineyards – sprawling golden fields and old trees – spread out among three small towns. It is Australia’s best known wine region but we decided to limit our exploration to wineries that have little or no presence in the States. We had driven from Adelaide to Barossa on a whim and, at 5:30pm, had no accommodation lined up. Our second inquiry yielded us a room at the Vineyards Motel, a roadside establishment with seventies-style psychedelic carpet. The room was thoughtfully stocked with a fridge, microwave, toaster, hot pot and a nice array of coffee and tea. We immediately felt at home and settled in for a quiet night of movies.

The next morning, we got a late start, stopped at the Barossa Visitor Info Center for a good map and then grabbed a quick lunch at a local bakery before heading out on the wine trail for a beautiful afternoon of tasting. The region specializes in Shiraz; we were impressed by the Shirazes and the Cabernets (which are more dry and earthy than California Cabs) and we also found the whites delightful. After South Africa and New Zealand, we were happy to be back in the land of reds. We especially enjoyed Rockford Wines. The cellar door was the original nineteenth century stone building which had a dark, cavernous ambience with characteristic antique oak barrels and dusty wine bottles and a perky wine steward. Rockford is known locally for its Black Shiraz – a bubbles-infused holiday red – but it sells out each year in less than six weeks from its December release date so we didn’t get to taste it.

The cellar doors always close around 5pm and there isn’t much to do in the evenings in Barossa aside of dining in one of the four-star restaurants. We were feeling a bit more casual than that so we retired early to the motel and spent the evening watching movies on T.V. The room was so spacious and comfortable and a welcome reprieve from the bunk bed hostels that we’ve been subjected to on the Aussie backpacker circuit. I was happy to stay in and enjoy the quiet comfort.

We were back on the road early the next morning – mostly due to the Bear’s prodding – and headed south to another wine region called McLaren Vale. Some travelers whom we’d met in Queenstown had raved about a good and wine pairing experience that they’d enjoyed at a McLaren Vale winery called Penny’s Hill so we decided to drive down there to check it out. One of the wine stewards in Barossa had recommended a scenic back road route and we looked forward to seeing some Australian country. The road was beautifully lined on both sides with eucalyptus trees forming a green canopy overhead.

A few miles outside of Barossa, we came upon our first Kangaroo Crossing road sign, which incited an exchange of startled, mischievous looks. “I bet we’ll see some,” I said excitedly. “The problem is that it’s too late in the day,” replied the omniscient Bear, “I think they only come out at dawn and dusk.” “Whatever…I think we’ll see some.” Two minutes later. “I saw one! Holy shit, I think I saw one! Stop the car!” Aaron slowed to a stop and then backed the car onto the shoulder. Sure enough, it was a kangaroo, staring suspiciously at us as I crept cautiously toward the barbed wire fence that separated us. Aaron had spotted an entrance to a conservation park just a short distance behind us and we backed up to the entrance. There was a trail cutting through an open field and we walked along with our eyes peeled. Then, suddenly, we saw it! A mother kangaroo suckling her joey about fifty yards away. She spotted us and we slowed our movements so as not to alarm her. As we watched from a comfortable distance, we saw five or six other kangaroos grazing and hopping through the bush behind the mother and joey.

We have heard kangaroos referred to as giant rats but we thought they were magnificent! Their faces were deer-like and sweet; their movements fluid and graceful. We watched for a while, inching closer and closer until our proximity seemed to concern the mother. We didn’t want to disturb the feeding so we backed away and crossed to the other side of the trail where two more mother/joey pairs grazed peacefully while two adult roos lay in a patch of tall grass. Again we moved slowly forward toward the closest pair and, although they were cognizant of our presence, it didn’t seem to bother them. They turned their backs to us and continued grazing. Standing in that straw-colored field, surrounded by kangaroos in the golden light of morning was one of the most magical experiences in my memory. The two adults in the grass eventually stood upright, rubbed their bellies and hopped away. I was so mesmerized that I couldn’t pull myself away until Aaron decided that it was time to get back on the road.

We walked slowly back to the trail and reluctantly headed toward the exit when, suddenly, a kangaroo hopped across the path just a few feet in front of us. It gave me a start and my subsequent gasp startled it right back but it remained, tentatively, a mere ten feet away while we jumped on the fantastic photo-op. Kangaroos are an essential Australian experience and we could not have dreamed a more natural and peaceful scenario in which to encounter them.

After a few more hours of poorly-marked back country roads, we arrived in McLaren Vale in the early afternoon. The only budget accommodation listed in our guide book was a camp and caravan park so we drove there directly to inquire about lodging. We’ve been flying by the seat of our pants on lodging lately, choosing to figure it out upon arrival, and it’s been exciting. There was a range of options from camp sites to caravans (trailers) to fully-powered cabins with temperature control and televisions. The cabins were a little steep so we opted for a trailer and also rented a set of bedding for an additional $10. We pulled the car around to our designated lot and hopped out to check out our new digs. The trailer was modest-sized and probably thirty years old but spotless and well-equipped. We were impressed by the efficient use of space in its design. Inside was a double bed, a kitchen area with a booth-style table and two sets of bunk beds. Outside, next to the trailer, was a shed-size, self-contained private bathroom. It was much more atmospheric (Did I just use the word “atmospheric” to describe a trailer???) and cozy than the bunk bed hostels and I was positively giddy about the experience. We unpacked the car, posed for the requisite trailer pictures, and then went out in search of Penny’s Hill. Unlike Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale vineyards are primarily clustered along one main road so Penny’s Hill was easy to find.

A pretty, old stone house at the property entrance stood behind a picket fence, surrounded by trees. The cellar door and restaurant lay beyond the house, backed by a wide expanse of vineyard. We entered a small, plainly decorated dining room with an outdoor patio and a big window framing a square of sun-kissed grapevines. We sat at an elegantly set table with crisp linen and gleaming bulbous stemware. The pairing was called the Morsels Menu – five courses each paired with a proprietary wine from the cellar:

First course: Tempura fried Kangaroo Island Abalone with wakame salad and wasabi aioli paired with an aromatic Riesling

Second course: Grilled stone fruit and haloumi salad paired with a Viogner blend

Third course: Pumpkin and sage stuffed rotolo pasta, pan-fried in a burnt butter sauce, topped with capers, and paired with a Rosé

Fourth course: Steamed snapper filet with red chutney in a cinnamon lime broth paired with a Grenache

Fifth course: Masala-crusted, twice-cooked Angus beef with vegetable salad in beetroot dressing and spiced yoghurt sauce paired with a Shiraz

I have only one word to describe this experience…ORGASMIC!!! We chewed slowly, savoring every mouthful of unique flavor profiles. We left the two-hour dining experience warm and fuzzy from the generous pours and overwhelmed by the tantalizing tastes that lingered on our palates.

On the way (well, actually, out of the way) back to the trailer park, we stopped off at a couple more wineries that our Penny’s Hill server had recommended. The McLaren Vale wine lands were more hilly and picturesque than the wide flat expanses of the Barossa Valley and we took in some great views from Samuel’s Gorge Wines in the hills.

Back at the trailer park, we settled in for the night. We didn’t spring for the temperature-controlled unit so we were bundled up against the autumn chill. We spent the evening playing Uno, reading and (astonishingly, considering our locale) piggybacked on a spotty wireless internet connection. In a moment of lax judgment, I broke open the bottle of dessert wine that we’d bought at Penny’s Hill and plunged recklessly towards belligerence. Aaron laughed every time I professed my love for the trailer and he promised (threatened) to buy me one as soon as we get home. Penny’s Hill was changing their Morsels Menu from the summer menu to the autumn menu in two days and I worked all night to sway Aaron to stay two more nights in the trailer so that we could do it again. I had succeeded in winning him over on at least one more night by the time we fell asleep but, when morning came, this little camper had a hangover and the thought of another day of wine tasting was borderline repulsive. We decided instead to continue our road trip. We checked out of the trailer park and headed southeast towards Hall’s Gap in the Grampian Mountains.

It’s been an exciting few days in Aussieland with a flourish of new experiences. We are headed east towards Melbourne in great spirits and with eight or so days to stop and explore along the way. I suspect and hope that we haven’t seen the last of the kangaroos.


March 25th 2008
Northern Lights

Posted under Australia

We flew out of Sydney on a gray, rainy morning and emerged in Adelaide, two hours later, under clear sunny skies. Our hostel was in the city center and we spent the day exploring the city on foot. Adelaide, known for its beautiful parks and gardens, has wide sweeping streets, nineteenth century European architecture, two universities, white sand beaches and an active cultural arts scene.

The gorgeous weather begged us to be outdoors and we happily complied. We found an Asian food alley and fought the swarms to indulge in a Chinese lunch on a busy patio. While chomping on our dumplings, we watched demure women in Geisha costumes handing out flyers to passersby and people lining up at a stall across the way selling Taiwanese bubble milk tea, which naturally roused our curiosity. Bubble milk tea, as we soon discovered for ourselves, is thick chilled tea-infused milk with gelatinous pearls on the bottom, which get sucked up through a fat straw. It’s brilliant! And it wasn’t just the kiddos lining up for it. We later walked through the nearby Central Market, stocking up on specialty groceries to get us through the Easter holiday.

Easter Sunday started out a little rough. I had this grand idea to lead the family on a nature walk that was recommended and mapped in our guide book. We started off well and, when Aaron instinctively second-guessed a proposed turn, I snapped the map away and arrogantly scolded him to follow the leader. It took a mere ten minutes more for us to collectively determine that I had misread the map and led us completely astray.

There have been moments in my life of sheer and utter mortification at my own behavior and idiocy – most people who know me well can attest to that – but it’s been a while since all of the blood rushed to my head in shameful, speechless self-deprecation. Aaron must have sensed my fiery emotional state because he graciously allowed me to fume in peace without adding a razor-sharp “I told you so” to my fragile state of inner torment. It feels awful to realize your own incompetence and even worse when it has been exposed. It wasn’t until hours later, when I’d had a chance to cool off, that we could laugh about the whole ordeal – how snappy and confident I had been and how quickly I became an ostrich with its head in the sand.

We lay around the hostel for several hours in the afternoon and then decided to get out for some fresh air and beer. The cool evening air was a welcome reprieve from the stuffy hostel and I felt my spirits lifting as we strolled down Rundle Mall Road, past street performers, sidewalk tradesmen, skateboarders and families, to a pub called Austral. Nearly all of the outdoor tables were packed with locals but we snagged one and sat down for a salty pub dinner and a couple of beers. The usually bustling Rundle Mall was wonderfully quiet.

We walked a while after dinner, enjoying our rehabilitated moods, and stumbled upon a fabulous community event called Northern Lights. The innovative creators devised a brilliant light show using a series of nineteenth century stone buildings, which transformed their classic facades into illuminated psychedelic cartoon houses. Each of the six buildings had several rotating patterns and “ooohs” and “aaahs” of the mesmerized crowd followed each successive change. The front courtyards of each building were full of spectators. Children squealed with delight. Cameras flashed. Ubiquitous smiles brightened faces, young and old. I darted from one façade to the next, beseeching Aaron to follow my movements and photograph all the best ones.

The Monday after Easter is a public holiday in Australia so everything is closed. We walked a few blocks to Linear Park on the Torrens River. It was another cloudless day so we rented bikes and rode on a trail along the river to Henley Beach – a quiet white sand beach frequented by locals and virtually untouched by tourism. We sat in the sand and made a picnic, staring out at the almost waveless sea. As we made our way back to the bike stand, there were many people on the trail and in the surrounding parks enjoying the beautiful weather. The river was dotted with fountains, black swans, ducks, and paddle boats with multi-colored umbrellas. It was refreshing to see so many people outside. We dropped off the bikes and walked the trail in the opposite direction through the city’s botanical gardens before heading back to our grungy home base to relax for the rest of the afternoon and evening. So that was Easter in Adelaide. No family dinners, no church (we’re Orthodox Christians so we will celebrate Easter on Apr 27 this year, which is no excuse for Sunday truancy), no chocolate bunnies…just a brief emotional breakdown, a brilliant light show and a sunny riverside bike ride.

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March 21st 2008
Walkabout in Sydney

Posted under Australia

Arriving on the early plane from Auckland, we took a shuttle bus to our pre-booked hostel, Kanga House, in the Sydney suburb of Kings Cross. The hostel was disappointingly shabby, dirty and crowded with grungy twenty-year-olds; disappointing because we had such great luck with hostels in New Zealand. The bright side of the situation is that we have been forced to be outside from morning ‘til night. The kitchen is too cramped and dirty to consider self-catering so we’re eating every meal out – a nice change actually – and we’ve quickly discovered numerous takeaway sushi stalls from which we can stuff ourselves for less than $10. Kings Cross has undergone many incarnations from its nineteenth century origin as a neighborhood of grand estates to its current manifestation of funky backpacker vibe with a seedy strip club element and the token vagabonds with the heroin itch. Beautiful terraced Victorian and Art Deco homes turned into guesthouses are literally overflowing with backpackers and the sounds of drunken debauchery can be heard at all hours of the night. There is a bohemian café and pub culture as well as a deliciously multicultural cuisine offering, especially Asian fare. Despite our deficient digs, we really like the laid back aura of the neighborhood.

Strangely relieved to be without a car, we tackled the city on foot. Sydney is a very walkable city with wide sidewalks on every city street. We headed straight for the city center, strolling down William Street with its Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini dealerships and cutting through beautiful Hyde Park, which on Tuesday midday, was full of people enjoying the outdoors: families enjoying picnics, young lovers entwined beneath shady trees, business people on lunch break, college coeds flaunting their toned and tanned youth, and tourists taking it all in.

We walked through streets lined with flashy, modern skyscrapers, their street-level windows filled with the most pretentious nouveau fashions and sidewalks crowded with flawless physiques sporting the latest trends. Curving around St. Mary’s Cathedral on the eastern edge of Hyde Park, we reached the entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the adjacent Domain, a grassy recreation area. The welcome sign at the garden entrance said, “Please walk on the grass. We also invite you to smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds and picnic on the lawns.” The lush green gardens with old European fountains and sweeping trees delighted our senses as we strolled along the winding paths.

One of Australia’s most tantalizing intrigues is its unique mix of flora and fauna. Walking under a canopy of trees, we stumbled upon a colony of grey-headed flying foxes, a.k.a giant furry bats! Hanging upside down from the tree tops, hundreds of the sinister little creatures screeched, squawked, played and antagonized each other as we watched in stoic fascination from below. Their glossy black bat wings wrapped vampire-style around their furry bodies to shield them from the sunlight as they dangled from the highest heights. We stood watching their antics and acrobatics, fearful of a flying fox descending upon us, voluntarily or by accident, until I finally decided that we’d tempted fate long enough.

We moved on to a scenic walkway along the edge of the gardens bordering scenic Sydney Harbour with a view of Australia’s most recognized structures: the Sydney Opera House. Positioned on the tip of a peninsula, the architectural masterpiece is set against a backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and jagged Sydney cityscape. It is undoubtedly the most photographed and striking view in Sydney. We walked to the front entrance for a closer look and then stopped at a café for a cool drink in view of the Opera House. Newly refreshed, we headed back through the Botanic Gardens, rounding the far peninsula while dodging bus loads of Asian tourists and taking a short cut back to Kings Cross.

The next morning was equally sunny and we set out for the ferry dock, cutting through the Botanic Gardens again since the dock is conveniently located next to the Opera House. Aaron wanted to do the Manly Scenic Walk, which is ten kilometers long and reputedly one of Australia’s most beautiful walks. It began with a ferry ride, with the best views of the Opera House, to the northeast suburb of Manly. Just outside the ferry dock, we bought provisions for a picnic lunch, picked up a good trail map at the Visitor Information Center, and followed the signs for the Manly Scenic Walkway. The well-marked path began by edging between a picturesque beach and a neighborhood of oceanfront houses amid beautiful old trees. It led us along sandy pedestrian beaches, through waterside nature reserves and along quiet coves dotted with white yachts and sailboats. The terrain changed frequently from paved trails to sandy beach to bedrock surrounded by subtropical rainforest and native bush. The path meandered through Sydney Harbour National Park, in which we spotted numerous goannas. Beautiful in a reptilian sort of way, the skittish foot-long lizards appeared every few minutes during our walk through the park, sunning themselves on rocks and running upright in quick bow-legged strides. After a long stretch along beautiful Clontarf Beach, the walk concluded at the Spit Bridge where we caught the city bus back to the city center. After two days of pounding the pavement, our feet were throbbing and we were actually excited about returning to the Kanga House to relax for the rest of the evening.

Day Three in Sydney began with a leisurely breakfast followed by a walk to Hyde Park. We claimed a shady spot under a big tree and became part of the sprawling scene. It felt wonderful to stare out across the open lawn, engross myself in the latest novel and enjoy the gentle breeze. We sat for just over an hour, which was all the idleness that my listless Bear could handle in one sitting, before packing up and heading for Darling Harbour. In true Sydney form of endlessly engaging sights and activities, Darling Harbour is home to the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, the Australian National Maritime Museum, an aquatic-themed IMAX theater and two wharfs lined with trendy cafes and restaurants. We twiddled our thumbs outside Wildlife World, debating the prospect of paying sixty bucks for the privilege of elbowing our way through swarms of screaming children to see kangaroos and koalas in a simulated natural habitat before shucking the idea in favor of a visit to the Sydney Fish Market.

West of Darling Harbour, on the edge Blackwattle Bay, the warehouse-style fish market appeared at the end of a trail of raw fish stench wafting through the air. In the late afternoon, patrons crowded around a huge oyster bar; glass cases displaying gigantic Australian lobsters, soft-shell crabs, green-lip mussels, scallops, eel, squid, octopus, huge salmon, snapper, tuna, king prawns, sea snails, trout and every imaginable ocean dweller, neatly organized on beds of crushed ice; sushi bars, a wine cellar, delicatessen, bakery, and a fish and chips shop. The energy was high inside the bustling fish market as customers hand-selected the freshest items from the displays to carry away or enjoy with a bottle of wine at one of the indoor tables. Having just eaten a late lunch and having no desire to cook in the nasty Kanga House kitchen, we perused the colorful catch but remained spectators.

The walk back to Kings Cross was long and, on the verge of wilting in the afternoon heat, we stopped on a shaded bench in Hyde Park to rest. We sat for a while, listening to songs on our iPod and watching passersby. I am enamored with the park. I wonder how many people live here and take it for granted.

We treated ourselves to a lovely Vietnamese dinner at a place in Kings Cross. Feasting on Vietnamese spring rolls, crispy duck, and stir-fried seafood and vegetables al dente renewed our excitement for our upcoming visit to Vietnam. We are thankful for our matching adventurous palates. Shortly thereafter, we stumbled upon Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – which we have been craving for months – in a corner store. With our sugary booty, we retired to our respective bunk beds like good little campers. Aaron painstakingly took the top bunk, aptly renamed “the penthouse”, because I get up more often during the night. For an only child, he is adoringly thoughtful and generous. This never ceases to amaze me.

Today, our last day in Sydney, finally feels like Fall. We awoke to drizzle though we haven’t felt a drop since we left the hostel this morning. The air is cool and crisp, overcast but still enjoyable. Many businesses are closed for Good Friday but we’ve managed to bounce from one café to another, maintaining a solid caffeine fix and attending to the usual rainy day business of planning travel and playing online. Tomorrow, we’re off to Adelaide on the morning plane.

We have really enjoyed our time in Sydney. It has all of the perks, style, cultural arts, elegance and luxurious temptations of a cosmopolitan city. For those of us in the zero-income demographic, there are manicured parks and gardens, pristine beaches, museums, galleries, a plethora of bohemian haunts to satisfy the multicultural palate, and plenty of interesting characters to keep the people-watchers intrigued. Sydney is walkable, livable and lovable. We love the healthy, vibrant outdoor culture and the beauty of the people, landscapes and architecture. Sydney is definitely a place to hang your hat.


March 17th 2008
It’s Not All Sunshine & Roses

Posted under New Zealand

Somehow we must have driven through a cloud of bad chi this morning which subsequently hovered over us for the remainder of the day. It began with a terse dialogue about arbitrage, which resulted in a stubborn and profound silence for the three hour drive to Auckland during which we hit a bird with the car. We arrived at our hostel and checked in only to find that the kitchen and all of the restrooms were “closed for cleaning” and then got barked at by a Vietnamese cleaning man with a bad attitude when we stepped into the “closed” kitchen to put our perishable items in the fridge before heading out for the day.

Our first order of business was to drive to the rental car company to file a claim for our previously mentioned hit-and-run incident in Rotorua. We filled out the requisite forms but the two girls who reluctantly helped us were more concerned with getting rid of us so they could attend to their now delayed lunch plans. With a minimal exchange of words gradually breaking the morning’s stubborn silence, we then drove into downtown Auckland to check out the area and find some lunch. We splurged on a sunny oceanside patio restaurant and ate up the stellar ambience along with our pretentiously priced entrees. Things were beginning to look up as we strolled along the lively and fashionable Queen Street, window shopping and people-watching. We had seemingly reacquired our playful, happy mood as we arrived at the car to find a parking ticket! “(insert curse word here!)” According to the sign posted two car-lengths in front of us, our curbside spot was free on Sunday. However, after reading the ticket details, we looked around and noticed a “pay for parking” sign inconspicuously placed several car-lengths behind us. “(insert curse word here!)” Needless to say, we were not happy.

As we drove off in a huff, I, the appointed navigator, was distractedly reading the back of the ticket and neglected to navigate, causing the frustrated and short-tempered driver to execute a series of illegal u-turns which, if unluckily noticed by a keeper of the law, would surely have resulted in a further ticket. Thankfully, it wasn’t and didn’t – a minor detail that did not stop the navigator from verbally condemning the maneuver thereby fueling the driver’s ill temper even more. And shortly thereafter, that same driver misjudged the distance of a curb in front of the hostel and managed to break off a piece of the cheap Hyundai hubcap. “(insert curse word here!)” Was it the driver’s erratic behavior resulting from the navigator’s combined misdirection and criticism that led to the aforementioned mishap or might it have still occurred under more calm, cool and collected circumstances? The world will never know.

At the end of the day the Youngs wordlessly decided to call a truce, make dinner together and wash away our shitty day with a bottle of wine. The truth is that whenever we have a spot of bad luck or bad judgment, my spirits are actually lifted by the knowledge that, as long as we have our health, no small thing can break us. I remind myself at those moments that even a bad day on the road is better than a good day at work. No, it’s not always sunshine and roses on the road…but most of the time it is!


March 16th 2008
A Sail in the Bay of Islands

Posted under New Zealand

A focused morning of driving landed us in the coastal town of Paihia in the Bay of Islands in the early afternoon. After checking into Captain Bob’s Backpackers – a mere fifty meters from the beach – we set off on a walk around town. The Bay of Islands, as the name suggests, is a picturesque ocean bay, which is sheltered by a cluster of 140 islands, large and small, and mostly uninhabited. Paihia, a quiet resort town with guesthouses, small hotels, restaurants, shops and a random smattering of beachside residences and vacation homes, is a haven for water activities, particularly sailing!

On a slightly brisk and cloudy morning, we excitedly boarded the Gungha II – a 65-foot ocean sailing yacht – with Captain Mike, our witty Canadian-turned-Kiwi skipper. We were joined by a young German girl with her retired parents as well as a couple of British honeymooners. We glided away from the pier on Captain Mike’s words, “It’s going to be a great day of sailing!”

The boat was beautiful and we had been on board for a whole ten minutes when the quiet discussion began about our need to have one. As the day wore on, the conniving blossomed into a new dream of sailing around the world with our young family. Naturally, we seized upon the opportunity to interrogate our wily captain about the ins and outs of acquiring and maintaining such a boat and he was happy to oblige our endless curiosities as sailing is clearly his passion.

As eager volunteers were recruited to help crew the boat, Captain Mike must have sensed my lackadaisical desire to sit on deck, chat, and enjoy the views because I managed to escape the draft. Aaron proved to be a trusty deckhand, however, pulling on ropes, tying or untying this and that, and compensating for my sheer laziness. I felt positively alive with the sun on my face and the smell of the salty sea air blowing through my hair. We sailed along at a leisurely pace while Captain Mike regaled us with his sailing stories and impressed all with his extensive nautical knowledge. We crawled into the quiet bay of Robert Island and dropped anchor just as the sky was beginning to clear. Aaron and I paddled the two kayaks to shore while the rest of our party motored ashore in the dingy.

The island was long and narrow with three turquoise lagoons and a forest-covered peak with a lookout at the top. We walked along the pebble beach, collecting periwinkles which Captain Mike would later make into bracelets for us. It was a steep climb to the lookout but well worth it for the stunning panoramic views. The waterscape was so beautiful in every direction that I found myself almost spinning in circles just to take it all in. We explored the island for about an hour until Mike returned with the dingy to pick us up for lunch on the boat.

After coaxing a couple of others to paddle the kayaks back, Aaron and I decided to swim back to the boat – about 200 meters against a light current. The water was refreshingly cool and, needless to say, we arrived hungry. We cracked open a round of cold beers – which rarely taste better than they do on a boat on a sunny afternoon – while the captain distributed simple basket lunches of fresh, healthy sandwiches and orange wedges. We lounged for a while after lunch because the Germans wanted to snorkel in the lagoon, which was fine by me since the weather had become glorious and I didn’t want the day to end.

By the wind, it took us over an hour to sail back to the pier, during which time I came into the possession of one periwinkle bracelet. I’ve never been a fan of seashell jewelry (I am my mother’s daughter after all) but since it is a token reminder of a lovely day (and it’s pointless to wear anything fine with cargo pants), the rattling periwinkles on my wrist are beginning to grow on me.

As we cruised in to the pier, I asked Mike if he was planning to take a group out the next day. If he hadn’t replied that he was hoping to take a day off, then I would somehow have convinced my little sailor to go sailing two days in a row. It was such a wonderful, relaxing and yet thrilling experience on the water. While we continue to contemplate what the future holds for two yuppies-turned-vagabonds, I have a mischievous suspicion that there will be sails in it.

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