State of Origin Bali Style

Another lovely dinner last night at believe it or not a Greek restaurant. ‘Slippery Stone’

This doesn’t suggest Greek but it was like being in Greece. And the food was good. The kids tucked in and so did we.

Then the fire show started. It was a little like the show I saw in Vanuatu last week. But just 2 lovely locals standing in ankle deep water.

This morning we walked from the hotel along Jalan Katu Aya past some of the big resorts and also some of the lovely homeware shops. There are some very smart shops here.

We arrived at the markets which compared to some markets I’ve been to were clean, friendly with individual little shops.

We browsed and chatted to the shop owners and bargained. The Balinese are really sweet lovey people. No mean words if you don’t buy anything. No shouting ‘looky looky come here lady’

We moved onto Seminyak square and had a cool drink in the Seminyak Bakery. A cool respite in the heat.

It’s not as hot as I thought it would be. Perhaps living through our Brisbane summers has hardened me!

We returned to our little oasis in Peppers for a swim and a Vietnamese salad from a little street food place named Street Boi – near our villa.

Once again a lazy afternoon by the pool until Clare suggested a session in the gym. There’s a good gym at the resort that Clare has been visiting each day. I did my 10km on the bus me and s few yoga stretches and felt better.

Now it is watching State of Origin in a bar near the resort. It’s dominated by Blues supporters and every time it gets exciting the TV freezes. It’s funny to watch the reactions of the crowd.

The drinks are flowing. The crowds are cheering. The Blues are winning. The locals are laughing. They prefer the soccer World Cup.

Now off for dinner at Sarong. This is an Indian fusion restaurant.

The decor of the place is dark, moody and sophisticated. The food delivers a punch.

We certainly are eating well here.

We walked back past the restaurants and bars, avoided the scooters and motorcycles and made it back to the villa by 10.30. A late night!

So we have been to:

La Lucciola

Stepping Stones

Sarong

If you have a favourite restaurant in Bali please send it’s name in the comments at the end of the blog.

Exploring Seminyak

Living within a resort complex protects you from the big noisy outside world. Each time we leave Peppers Resort the senses are assaulted!

Last night we walked to the beach area. Up and down the broken foot paths, dodging motor bikes and scooters , waving a ‘No’ to taxi drivers, admiring the little altars set up along the paths and greeting the smiling Balinese people as we walked. They don’t harass you to ‘come in and look look’ like in China!

We had a really lovely early dinner with the children who were well looked after by the wait staff at La Lucciola.

It’s by the beach in a very pretty setting- if you avoided the smells from the creek we crossed arriving at the restaurant.

The cocktails were great and the food delicious.

After dinner Sam took the children back to the villa and Clare, her mother in law Denise, my sister Catherine and I continued around the streets to watch and explore and do a little shopping.

I had forgotten my hat! So I bought a new one quickly at the markets in the afternoon.

We found a lovely dress shop called Misty. The girl in the shop knew she’d would have a good sale when we all walked in! We all had a little try on and I bought two new dresses and Catherine one . Perfect for Brisbane’s sunny weather.

We continued walking – up and down avoiding the holes and broken concrete and made our way back to our villa.

This morning another lovely breakfast to celebrate Denise’s birthday. The charming staff came out with a little cake with a self lighting candle that just couldn’t blow out. The kids loved it!

We checked out the Spa next door planning our massages and facials and Catherine and I decided to walk back to the beach to check out the beach scene in the day light.

Just a little disappointed- the sand is a black colour and the surf a little rough. But we had a walk as the clouds gathered.

The entrance to the beach was impressive as was the lifesaving tower!

There were boats and deck chairs but it was probably too early for most people as the beach seemed quiet. Perhaps everyone sits by their resort pool?

We stopped by a modern looking cafe run by a German man. If you’re looking for some fresh, clean, healthy food this place would suit. Check out Clean Canteen on Petitenget. Delicious salads.

We walked along the quieter lane leading back to our resort. There are some great looking places to stay here away from the crowds.

So our afternoons are spent on deck chairs by the pool. It’s a lovely way to relax.

Beautiful Bali

Yesterday I repacked my bag after returning from Vanuatu and flew out of Brisbane into Sydney, then onto Bali!

Yes another lovely holiday coming up. This one will be a more relaxing holiday – no long distance swimming.

Coming out of the arrival hall I was greeted by a smiling Arys a lovely local man.

I’m staying at the Peppers resort in Seminyak with my niece and her family, their mothers ( my sister Catherine) and now me!

The resort at 11.30 was very quiet – unlike the streets around Seminyak which were awash with bikes , cars and groups of people wandering around.

I crept into the Villa and into the pavilion bedroom I’m sharing with my sister Catherine.

The villa is made up of 3 separate pavilions around a pool and lovely shaded cabana. And an outdoor bathroom! Bliss.

Breakfast this morning was in the central resort area by the pool and was served by the smiling Balinese. Fruits, eggs, pancakes ( not for gluten free me!) Now we are sitting by the pool chatting and playing with Jack and Zali.

I could get used to this.

Celebrating our Swimtrekking Success.

Our celebration – end of Swimtrekking dinner was held at the Waterfront restaurant. This time the atmosphere was right, the staff friendly and everyone was in a great mood. Naturally the fish curry was terrific.

Yves gave us a great farewell message followed by Lizzie giving out the awards.

There was Coral Colleen who seemed so attracted to coral cuts; pocket rockets Jenny & Wendy; no complaint Shean despite his shoulder injury; calm caring yoga Carmel; action-woman Kathy and action-man John with calm eyebrow raising Margaret !

Our youngest swimmer Bec for her fun approach- the comedian who is happy to write any letters of comments of complaint!

Tarzan Frankie for her spectacular rope swing into the lagoon and Pavarotti Ralph; kickboard Steve kicking ass everyday; a swim converted Greg who surprised himself with his strong swimming and maybe even enjoying it! Native dancer Maryanne; nurse Monique (a true Vanuatu local of the Watt family) for cheerfully dabbing all our coral cuts, and smiley Soosi for her never give up attitude soldiering on after injury, and Janice – most improved swimmer, who was awarded half price if she returned on another swim holiday.! I was awarded the best group organiser with a ‘joie de vivre.’ Thank you Lizzie for a wonderfully delivered awards ceremony.

We reciprocated with our group thanks and gift to the guide team especially Yves who put the trip together. To Lizzie the friendliest most helpful guide around and to Matthew the local who added so much local knowledge to each day and kept us safe.

Then the group had a huge surprise for Steve and I. He was named King Neptune and me, Amphitrite – his wife.

They had made crowns of thanks for us for pulling them together for this wonderful adventure.

As much as we loved our crowns we can’t take them home to Australia so gave them to Matthew and his wife for safe-keeping on the island Vanuatu for our return.

Definitely a swimtrekking success. One we’ll never forget.

A Fun Last Swim in Paradise. Vanuatu. Land of Smiles.

The last day is a mix of renewed energy, a dash of tiredness, extra chatting and lots of laughs.

No yoga this morning and I missed it! I really need to get into the habit of doing my own yoga. I know many of the moves Carmel does with us. So it’s over to me! Just do it ! Who out there reading this does their own yoga practice each day? Leave me a comment in the box to inspire me!

Onto the bus which this morning we hijacked and stopped at Tanna Coffee for a last day hit.

This morning we’re going to Lelepa Island 🌴. Another Survivor island spot. This time the guides found a better launching spot. Not a jetty! But not quite as much coral to hobble over. I’ve taken my reef shoes to all my swimming holidays and hardly used them. Here we walk around in them most of the day. The beaches are gorgeous but quite rocky with white pebbles.

Today another choice. Difficult decisions so early in the morning. 1. What type of coffee do I want and 2. How far do I want the swim. 5km? Or half that?

There were 4 of us who took the challenge today. Once again Kathy, Ralph and myself were joined by the machine man John. So with lovely Lizzie guiding us we set off.

The 4 members of the 5km challenge.

Yesterday’s 6 km challenge team. I did both challenges !

Oh how beautiful it is to swim these waters. Clear beautiful blues with a garden of coral underneath buzzing with fish life and an extra bonus every now and then. Today it was a stingray. Big and round with a pointed tail.

On and on we swam – most of it smooth swimming. Kathy took the challenge further and took her fins off. John added bigger fins for better glide but took awhile to adjust. Rule #64 on swimtrekking. ‘Don’t change your gear over on a longer swim!’ But John persevered and swam strongly.

We caught the larger group toward the end of their swim which turned into a 4 km for them and we finished strongly before climbing aboard the boats and heading for our aptly named Survivor beach.

Lunch was a feast prepared by our guide Matthew’s wife, mother and sister. It was beautifully prepared local foods. Fish, chicken, salads, fried banana, fried taro pieces and rice coconut balls. Then the most mouth watering fruit. All delicious.

We sat under palms on rocks and tree stumps and thought how lucky we were to be experiencing this special part of Vanuatu.

Then was time to wind our way through the trees climb up the hill and find the most amazing sandstone caves. These caves are very important to Vanuatu and have protection from hoards of tourists. You must come with a guide.

This is in Chief Roi Mata’s Domain. We had heard about the chief when visiting Hat Island’s small burial place a few days ago.

And it was magnificent. There are 400 year old cave drawings in this cathedral sized cave. Acoustics made it magnificent for singing and Ralph ( our Tatty Tenor) didn’t disappoint.

Back to the beach for some swimming and snorkeling- or just lazing.

John decided he wanted to up his swimming distance to join the ‘6km club’ so headed off on his own. Only problem – instead of following the coastline he headed straight out. He was stroking along – blissfully unaware of the shouts from the guides to stop and return.

He was headed for rip which could possibly carry him off to Hat Island in the distance.

Everyone on the beach yelled to him but perhaps he thought we were cheering him on? Finally he stopped , turned and made it safely back. Then he received what he called an “ administrative reprimand “. The guides are serious about safety and definitely didn’t want a last day mishap!

For the last time we entered the boats each one carrying flags. An Australian one on one, Vanuatu flag in the next and one of each on the third. No French flag! Getting ready for Australia v France in the football.

Our last stop was the cava hut where Matthew told us the reason cava is drunk by the islanders.

We indulged and agreed it wasn’t for its taste! But for its numbing, calming qualities. Better than alcohol which can lead to aggression and bad behaviour.

So feeling slightly sedated we had our last bus ride along the island.

Long day, long swims in Vanuatu. Survivor!

Another gorgeous start to the day with yoga on the beach in front of our Bures, looking out to the water. If only it could always be like this.

Breakfast is good as the little hot spot for wifi so the group are happy to sit at the little tables for 2 or 4 checking emails, messaging family or like me writing a blog.

Today we are swimming along the coast to one of the beaches used on the Survivor TV series.

The first challenge for us was entering the water. Not easy over rocky coral especially if you had fins on instead of reef shoes. We made quite a spectacle of ourselves as we congo lined our way into the deeper water.

We finally made it and were rewarded with sighting of an underwater collection of giant clams.

We set off feeling refreshed after our slower day yesterday. I was on tow rope duty pulling a little inflatable safety device.

We swam with the tide – stopping regularly to regroup and swap stories of sea life we spotted on the reefs below us.

We became turtle hunters following Mathew because he is so good at spotting things.

We swam and we swam. A few got leg cramps but before we knew it we were at our Survivor beach. About 3.2km. And about 1.5 hrs

Getting out of the water was another challenge not wanting to risk a fall on the coral so most took it slowly.

Lunch was under a big grove of shady trees then a nap on the little rocks or in the amongst the leaf litter. Bliss. Rest time before another afternoon swim.

Yves brought out a few flags to get us in the mood for the first football game for Australia tonight !

Our guides offered us a few afternoon options. Another 3 km swim with fewer stops , a half hour swim or a leisurely boat trip.

I took the challenge and decided to do the 3 km swim along with Kathy, Jenny, Ralph and Colleen guided by Lizzie.

We creamed up put our reef shoes on and swam away from the coral. Did an acrobatic change to our fins and off we went.

It was a good comfortable pace and we had a few stops to regroup and finished about 10 mins earlier than the earlier swim 🏊‍♂️ the morning. Exhausted yes, exhilarated yes, but well worth it. So today that make 6.2 km !

The rest of the group had a bit of fun on the island before setting off. They painted their faces and posed for photos!

Soosi, Wendy & John.

The second group pulled in on their boats just after us.

Meanwhile Matthew caught an octopus.

Feeling quite pleased with our days efforts we all changed into our ‘eveningwear’ in the grass beside the buses. No mod cons. Swim trekking is a great leveller.

We took off for the beach bar. We were all ready for beer and assorted cocktails, wine and something yum to eat. Fish curry was popular as was pizza.

Yves, Monique, Wendy and I took a quick ferry ride across the harbour to Hideaway resort. We had looked at it as an option for accommodation. But the bunk beds put us off. Even though the island is lovely. Not for us!

Then the highlight of the night – the fire show. It was on the beach with the water as a backdrop. Some very athletic looking men and women hurled fire sticks into the air catching them and doing various tricks. Good music added to the show.

It finished around 8 and everyone was absolutely exhausted. So time to return to our comfy Bures at Breakas. What a day.

A sleep in.

A slow start.

Yoga!

Day 4 of a SwimTrekking holiday is always hard. Tiredness is setting in. So Yves gave us a slow start.

Carmel gave a group of 7 of us a lovely stretching yoga.

Then a more leisurely breakfast and a quiet read in the hammock.

A visit to the town of Port Vila where we split into little groups of market wanderers and coffee drinkers. Hard decision. But the people at the markets were so friendly and not at all pushy when trying to sell their products.

There were the usual things. Colourful happy pants, sarongs, shirts, kids clothes and woven bags, hats and fans. And flowers , the most beautiful colours. And bunches of peanuts. All sold – or not with a smile.

Steve, Wendy & Soosi we’re taken with the iguana jewellery- but they were real slightly sedated iguanas.

As 12.30 arrived we heard tooting if horns and banding of drums as a parade started through town.

The World Cup is starting tonight and football is huge here so people are showing their support. There are local Vanuatu flags, French flags and Australian flags. Loyalties are split for the Australian v France game.

Our next stop is at Yves’ uncles house he is an artist. Emmanuel Watt. He lives in a house that is both gallery and home. He’s a charming man – a French speaker ( no English) so Monique, Yves sister did the translations.

His main art is sculpture. He takes wood he finds and turns into a representative piece. So clever. His works have been exhibited in New York, Paris, London, Brisbane just to name a few.

He showed his pride of Yves achievements by have a laminated article and photo of Yves completion of the English Channel. There is so much pride in this beautiful Watt family.

This sculpture depicts the volcano

Our last stop on this ‘down day’ was the Blue lagoon. It’s a fun lagoon- very pretty with a couple of ropes high in the trees for only the most game/brave/silly to try.

Guess who was first up the tree. John! He may be 70 but he is fit and brave. He did a few big jumps before being joined by Bec. Yes they both took on the challenge on the jumping castle the day before. Shean might have had a go but he was carrying an injured shoulder.

Frances D was amazing. She brought it home for the girls with height and distance. Bec was another champion with her ‘walk on water’ style.

Dinner was a small disaster. Reefers restaurant in the waterfront did not live up to its reviews. Food ok but expensive and a problem with the bill and lack of efpost which had ‘just shut down’. Apparently there is a back story to the owners. Anyway warning. Don’t go there.

But we smiled through it on the bus. Used humour to recover. Had a debriefing with Ralph.

So off to bed!

Melanesia Day.

Beginning a new day with a quiet yoga session is a treat on a swimtrekking holiday. We are lucky to have Carmel from Brisbane offer us yoga.

We did 20min on the beach yesterday and this morning another session facing the ocean. Downward dog never looked so good.

Muscles are starting to become sore so massage kindly offered by ‘Healing Hands’ Jenny and Yoga by Carmel are helping. Thank you ladies.

Breakfast, a briefing on the days program and away we went. A slightly shorter trip today. Through the town centre and up to the lookout and a secret road to the water. Into the boats to Hat Island which does indeed look like a hat!

Reef shoes are needed today for the walk across the low tide rocks into the boats and away.

This island is a special one in Vanuatu. No villages here at all. But there is a very old cemetery. It’s a significant one.

We arrived at the beach, left our things then continued along the coast for a few kilometres. The ocean is a darker blue and a little rolling. Very inviting.

So off we went. Our group is bonding both in and out of the water. Some like to zip to the front following the leader. Others lurk at the back really enjoying the views of the reef. I prefer to hover mid group – in my own space with a swim buddy. Today it was Margaret. We were keeping a steady rhythm – until we turned a corner of the island and it became lumpy and challenging.

We swam over coral reefs with lots of little fish flitting about. A multitude of blues and purples and pink tipped coral. Bright blue starfish, schools of black & white or yellow fish 🐟.

And Kathy, Soosi and I got out in our

S, M, L matching swimmers!

Back to the beach for lunch. A walk to the ancient cemetery led by a local through a rocky grassy path shaded by pandanus before turning right into the island. Matthew one of our local guides offered a gift to the dead in friendship.

A little nap was needed then before the final swim of the day.

All up we swam 2.7km in the morning and 2 this afternoon. Quite an effort.

Matthew caught a turtle during our swim. What an experience

It’s a really amazing experience here with Yves , his sister Monique and the people of Vanuatu. It’s as much a cultural experience as it is a swim trekking holiday.

Tonight is Melanesia night. Starting with Kava. It’s a full on week and everyone is getting tired!

Yves with his sister Monique

So Yves has scheduled a late start tomorrow morning.

We’ll have yoga at 7.30, breakfast then a rest before a visit to the marketplace in town. Then in the afternoon a visit to a lagoon.

Perfect swimming in Vanuatu.

Yesterday we said it was perfect but today the swimming was even more beautiful.

Swimtrekking- it just keeps getting better.

We had our briefing for the day at 8am after a breakfast of tropical fruit and for some of us eggs- for energy!

Into the two buses by 8.15. One slightly more comfortable than the other, so it was decided we’d mix it around a little tomorrow.

Good coffee was missed yesterday so on the way to the boats we stopped at the Tanna coffee house. The manager gave us a tour and we enjoyed a lovely coffee. Most of the coffee is grown on Tanna Island and 90% is exported – so look out for it particularly in Australia at the Oxfam shops. It tasty and the locals deserve support.

There was also essential oils production. They use mostly Sandalwood and combine it with other oils- ginger and lemongrass. I bought some delicious smelling soap with lemongrass lime and coconut. I’ll have to try not to eat it.

I also bought some oil for sore muscles! There won’t be enough for the number of sore muscles we’re going to have after our lovely long swims.

We continued onto the banana boats and headed off towards today’s destination Pele Island. Another new swim destination for Yves and the swimtrekking group.

Again we were met by the chief and welcomed but no dance of welcome. Just as well as we were keen to get going. The water looked gorgeous.

The curious children came down to see what we were up to but the village people didn’t turn out to welcome us. They have other tourists here from time to time.

And it’s no wonder. It’s a tropical paradise.

Into the water we went. Water temperature ✔️ perfect. Clarity of the water for vision ✔️beautiful. Excitement levels of swimmers 🏊🏻‍♀️ ✔️✔️✔️.

And off we went. Today everyone settled a little, swimming straighter lines, following the leader. I swam with Bec just at the back of the pack. ( ahead of Steve on his kickboard) We got into a nice steady rhythm and maintained a good pace. Until her goggles started to leak. Such a swimmers curse. Leaking goggles!

We all swam past our landing point because we felt so good!

Just over 2km later we pulled in for lunch.

Under the trees we sprawled on towels or red chairs. Lunch was provided by the lovely friendly village people. Grilled chicken, rice, salads delicious fruits. All tasty and much appreciated.

Spying the rather strange looking jumping , climbing, blow up contraption- the sort used in one of those Gladiator TV shows we set a few challenges. Fun and games started. The limber, focused, determined swimmers took on the challenge. Greg, John and Shean versus Kathy, Maryanne, Bec and Colleen.

Lots of laughs as they tumbled, rolled , pulled and climbed their way to the top! There’s always an accident and today it was Shean twisting his shoulder. Let’s hope he can still swim tomorrow.

A short, Carmel led yoga session on the beach followed by a nap under the trees reinvigorated us for the afternoon swim.

Off in the boats down the pretty coastline- into the water to swim back.

It was beautiful. We saw a giant turtle pass the boats and while swimming along saw a smaller turtle wizzing underneath us.

More excitement when Matthew our guide spotted a dugong. He was thrilled as he lives here and hadn’t ever seen one.

Back on the beach we packed up for the 20 min boat ride back to the buses on the main island.

This is the downtime of the day. During the hour long bus ride some sleep, some chat and I start writing.

We also see some spectacular views and an amazing sunset.

Now it’s into our Bures to freshen up for dinner. I’m enjoying the outdoor shower in our room. A great end to a great day!

We’ve enjoyed dinner at Cafe Villa just along from where we are staying. The fish curry was superb.

We really must try and get to bed early.

But Jenny massages, John’s cigars and the Scotch and Baileys are holding us back!

A Cultural Swim with a Difference

The first swim of a swim trekking experience is full of excitement and anticipation and nerves in equal parts.

There was no need for nerves on this trip. Yves, Matthew and Lizzie our guides had planned a great first day.

It was a sunny wind free day so we headed across the island in mini buses where the boats met us for the 20 mins ride to Emao a fairly remote island with 6 small villages and two primary schools.

We arrived to the wail of a conch shell. A local dressed in leaves was blowing a greeting to us.

We unloaded and made our way up the grassy slope to be met by a group of leaf covered men who danced a welcome.

Yves said these people had not had western visitors before. They greeted us in song and dance and everyone lined up to shake our hands as a hibiscus was placed behind our ear.

We were so moved by this beautiful greeting. Yves presented the village chief with books, pencils, paints poster and things for the children.

Then it was swim time. We creamed up and hopped in the banana boats for a ride along the coast. The coral reef was visible in the crystal clear water.

Safety instructions and then into the water. Unlike any swim trek I’ve been on – we swam as one group. A guide in the front middle and at the back to keep us contained and away we went.

Conditions were perfect. Warm, calm and current assisted we swam comfortably along the coast. We swam over coral, alive with little coloured fish. Parrot fish, striped sea snakes, electric blue star fish a turtle and lots of coral.

The reef was damaged in the big storms Vanuatu experienced recently as were the villages. The one we visited on Emao lost all but 3 buildings So sad for people who really don’t have much to start with.

We swam and swam stopping for a chat and a regroup.

It was exhilarating. Everyone was quietly pleased with their effort.

Some towed little floats for safety. Well done John, Colleen and Shean for helping us.

Our boatmen did a little fishing. And

We finally returned to Village and had some downtime. Lunch – rolls for most salad for the gluten free.

Suddenly it was time to leave so the village chief farewelled us and gave a blessing!

Home via the sand island. A little mystery.

Now we’re sitting at Breakas sipping gin and beer.

A good day.