Coastal city to city of canals.

Coastal city to city of canals.

I was feeling energetic this morning, perhaps because I was looking forward to breakfast! My hotel has a continental breakfast and it was fabulous. There were eggs and bacon (which I hadn’t had in so long) and toast with homemade marmalade from the lemons and oranges in the garden. I’ve never had lemon marmalade, but I was a fan of the sourness to it. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I was going to hike today, but since it was still a little gloomy out and my belly was full, I decided it was a good idea.

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I hadn’t walked the leg from Monterosso to Vernazza yet, so it was exiting to see new views and have unexpected paths. I was told it would take 1.5-2 hours, but I hiked it in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I guess I was getting my hiking muscle back! Although, I’m also the type of person to keep going without and breaks and just take a break at the end. The view coming into Vernazza was one of my favorites. Its fun hiking along so much green with pops of color and then all of a sudden come to an opening where the city just explodes in color.

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I made my way down to the train and took it back to Monterosso. I waited about an hour for the sun to come out then headed down to the beach. I took a lawn chair and read for 2 hours straight. There was a bar on the beach too so I was able to have an iced coffee, a smoothie and then a Spritz Hugo.

The sun got a little stronger and I could use a little of the freezing cold water on me, so I rented a kayak for an hour. I figured with all of the hiking, it would be good to give my arms (and abs apparently) a good workout. It was fun paddling around but I only stayed out there about 40 minutes because I was actually starting to get sea sick!

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It was 3:30pm at this point and I still hadn’t had lunch so I walked back to the hotel for a nap but stopped for a pesto focaccia on the way.

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Later in the evening I went to dinner just down the street. I stopped into this place that was obviously a seafood joint, but I had this intense craving for a steak. So, I ordered a filet in balsamic and a side of roasted veggies. I opted to skip the wine as I was feeling good after the hike and kayak. I’m a big fan of steak sauce, so I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious the balsamic was on the steak (their balsamic is the good thick kind). I ate it embarrassingly fast. I went back to pack and put a larger dent in my book.

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I had a slow morning the next day, another fantastic breakfast and then lounged around until it was time to check out. I still had a few hours until my train (this time I triple checked the time) so I hung out in the hotel lobby and finished up writing before hauling my bag to the train station (update: I was asked to share a taxi with a couple that was staying here which I gratefully accepted). I was looking forward to the train ride and catching up on some Netflix.

Paradise in Morocco.

Paradise in Morocco.

Kristi and I both were interested in visiting this place called Paradise valley that was about 45 minutes away from Taghazout. We took a cab out there along with one of the hotels staff members (as a sort of guide which they insisted on). We pulled over and stopped at what we assumed was the entrance, but to our amusement they had brought us to a garden which also doubled as a store. It reminded me of Bali and how the tours always stopped at a coffee plantation (just to look of course) where you always felt obligated to buy at the end. The good news was, is that I was truly interested in learning about all the different plants and how they use them. They also then showed us how Argan Oil is made. After sampling some oil, honey and beauty products we both did end up buying something, but we needed the product anyhow…and it was really nice!

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We drove a little further and then finally came through the valley. Our guide had us follow him through some paths, over some rocks, up some hills and then eventually into a clearing that was a swimming hole. It was gorgeous! There was some trash around because the locals often hang out there on weekends, but it wasn’t too bad. After managing to change under a blanket into our suits, we dove (or rather slid) into the water from the moss covered rocks. It was cold water but we adjusted quickly. It was fun to swim around and our guide (Tusik?) helped hoist us onto the cliffs where we could jump or slide off. I’ve certainly learned that I’m not as afraid of heights as I used to be after New Zealand canyoning, but I didn’t do the highest jump. After the place got a bit busier, we headed to the second lake.

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The second lake we were told was 10 minutes away, but it was definitely further. We didn’t have the clearest communication, but Tusik was the nicest person ever and was kind of silly. What I loved was that despite a language barrier, he knew how to play the water bottle flip game (that’s the internet for you…). It was the perfect amount of difficulty in a hike. We climbed super high up and then eventually worked our way down into the valley which at one point was filled with water. He took us to a waterfall that was dried up, it was cool to see. Then we walked back to the second lake, but were a little too tired to swim here.

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On the way back we stopped at a river cafe. That was probably the highlight of my day because I’ve never done anything like it. The table and chairs were actually in the middle of the river/stream. If any of our tea or cookies spilled it was easily swept away by the water current or eaten by the fish. If the crumbs fell too close to your feet, you also got a little fish pedicure. The car ride back was nice because we were tired and the driver had the best mix tape with classic 00’s songs!

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Within a few hours of getting back, Kristi had now come down with the stomach plague so while she tried to recover I went and did a workout on the beach. It felt so good to do a hard workout, and the coach was great because she made it very fun and competitive. Sometimes I forgot I was working out and just thought I was playing a game. I came back and Kristi was still feeling sick so we just caught up on some rest tonight.

2am Wake Up Call.

2am Wake Up Call.

I tossed and turned all night. What is it about needing to wake up early that does this to us? I still felt wide awake and I did the thing you’re not supposed to do, check the time. Well thank goodness I did! My phone was off, it had the apple symbol and the bar going across it, it was undergoing a restart. I jumped up and ran over to my laptop to see what time it was, fearing I overslept. It was 2:10am! My ride comes in 20 minutes, so thank goodness I looked at my phone or I would have been late as I doubt my alarm would ring during an update.

I slept the whole way to Mt. Batur. Fun fact, I don’t think I get motion sickness at night. We arrived and it was still dark. I don’t know why I was surprised, I mean, we were hiking up the mountain to see the sunrise so obviously the sun wasn’t up. I guess I thought there would be a hint of light, but there wasn’t. They handed up each a flashlight and we followed our guide. It was a flat path we were on and the girl next to me said she read on TripAdvisor that girls who are in their 20s and physically fit said this was a difficult hike. We laughed thinking about how easy it was right now. We laughed too soon. Slowly the hike kept getting progressively more difficult. Add in darkness and a flashlight that was losing power, and you began to agree with the review. I stopped saying I think I can see the top because each time I was wrong. However, we finally made it to a big hut with chairs and we hurried to find ourselves a good spot to sit without an obstructed view. All of the benches were wet, but who cares, we made it! But we didn’t. Our guide came over and said the break was finished. We were just taking a break! LOL

Two people in our group stayed there as they were too tired to go on. When we asked how much time was left he said 10 minutes. Well, 10 minutes to the next break I think is what he meant. It was no lie, the hike was difficult and towards the top it got pretty slippery and windy. Although I was tired, I was enjoying the adventure of it all. We eventually did reach the top, and it was clear that the sky wasn’t. The fog was very heavy, so it was evident we wouldn’t be watching the sun come up. While it would have been great to watch and see all of the views, I kind of enjoyed the eeriness that came with being able to see nothing around you. We sat on a blanket, enjoyed some hot coffee and a sandwich and chatted.

On the way down we stopped at a few caves where hot steam was coming out. They say you can cook an egg on it. There were also a lot of monkeys on the hunt for food. To our delight and amusement, there was an “easier” way down. We all agreed to take it and we slowly made our descent down. The fog was lifting and the sun was up and it was fun to see what was actually around us. The whole way down I spoke with two girls from Ireland about all the greatest Netflix shows, magic and comedy and before you knew it we were back to where we started. Our guide parted ways because he was “off to work” (apparently the 6 hour hike was just his morning job) which made me level set how tired I actually was. I guiltily had planned to lounge around and read by the pool the rest of the day. I ended up doing just that and was in bed by 6pm.

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I’m not actually smoking 😉

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Road to Piha: Solo road trip turns into party of three.

Road to Piha: Solo road trip turns into party of three.

I reserved a car for Tuesday because I planned on driving to Piha, about 1 hour from Auckland. The plan was to go solo, it would be a nice quiet road trip. That all changed Monday night when I received a message from Olga, my old roommate from Bondi Beach. She saw that I was in Auckland via Instagram. I invited her to come along figuring  it would actually be nice to have some company, and I enjoyed hers. I was headed to pick her up Tuesday morning when I received another message from Alejandro, a friend I met in Cairns on my diving trip. He was also in Auckland and very quickly my solo trip turned into a party of three!

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We headed out around 10am and thank goodness it was raining or it would have been pretty awkward when my windshield wipers came on every time I tried to change lanes. You see, old habits die hard, especially with driving. As a right-handed driver of 13 years, it took some getting used to having the gears in my left hand and the blinker in my right. I decided to cut bad drivers some slack once I get back home…maybe they are just visiting from a left sided country!

50 minutes later we made it to Piha beach where we walked down the black sand beach. The sand was SO soft! Alejandro is going to sell it as a foot scrub along with the biscuits he brought from home (LOL sorry there will be more inside jokes coming, just ignore). We climbed Lion Rock and made it all the way to the top since we were on our own tour (I read a lot of trip advisor reviews where you make it to the rock, take a picture and then they tell you it’s time to go).

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We hopped back into my car, this time I’m feeling a lot more confident driving, and made our way to Kitekite waterfall. We parked at the base and upon getting out we were approached by a German guy who told us that he was having car troubles. He wanted us to jump his car but I was nervous because it was a rental and what if something went wrong?! Well, my karma jar needed filling so we agreed. We quickly realized that it wasn’t the battery that was dead, so we encouraged him to call his friend he bought it from for help. He did so and we left, hoping it all worked out for him. I think we still get half karma for trying, but I need to read up on the karma jar rules.

It said it was a 20 minute walk to the falls. It was more like 45 minutes between flip flops and photo op breaks. It was a beautiful walk, it was so lush and there was almost no one on the path. Along the walk we discussed our survival capabilities. On the television show Naked and Afraid, you are only allowed to take one thing. What would it be? Well, I would take my camera and Olga would take a reversible bikini. Why? Well, we probably wouldn’t make it the whole 15 days, so we may as well get the free trip and some cute photos for the blog 😉 I would wear one side of the reversible and she would wear the other. While not wearing the bikini we would be behind the camera so it didn’t matter. Alejandro didn’t seem to agree, he said he would take the drinking straw that makes all water clean and able to drink (I actually brought one on this trip but haven’t needed to use it yet). I guess I see his point…

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The waterfall was spectacular. It was so high up with such pretty colors. We wanted to go for a swim in it, but there wasn’t anyone else there. Usually I take a cue from others to determine if it’s safe to swim. Well, I decided to just give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? Snakes, that’s probably the worst. Turns out it was fine, so we had a fun time swimming around, and of course, taking pictures. I get the question A LOT on who takes my photos..and there you have it!  Although I’m traveling alone, I DO make friends. I also happen to be really really good at ten-second-timer… We hiked from the bottom them up to the top before we made our way back to the car park.

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