India here we come.

Flying Air Asia is an experience. Not altogether bad but definitely not great.

The Sari 5 met at Roma St station at 2.45 for a 3pm train to the Good Coast. We got into Varsity lakes around 4.20 then a bus to the airport via the sights of Currumbin.

We passed the time till our 8.40 flight having coffee and trying to check in. We all had trouble getting the Indian visa sorted but did it! We had the correct paperwork but airline staff still took ages to check each one online. Not easy! Doesn’t India want visitors!

Our flight left on time and the no frills carrier took us off to Kuala Lumpur. I sat with Linda and the others managed to get a vacant seat next to them. Sleep 💤 was not a feature of the flight for me!

We arrived in KL at 3am ( body clock time 5am Brisbane) we hung about the unexceptional KL airport and met up with Di from Sydney to make us six.

The next flight was crowded and we were all spread out around the plane. I had a lovely lady ‘VJ’ from KL next to me. She was of Tamil heritage and was going on holidays with various members of her family to Tamil Nadu – visiting some of the places we’ll be visiting. We chatted away about her life in Malaysia and our expectations of India.

Finally India! Chennai, our first stop assaulted the senses. Our driver was there to meet us and take us down to Mahabalipuram. First stop was the Western union money changer. We brought Australian dollars and changed them into Rupees. $1 is worth about 50 rupee.

Next stop the supermarket. Who doesn’t like a supermarket in a foreign country. We walked the aisles stocking up on water and mozzie spray and couldn’t resist the sandlewood soap and a big bunch of bananas.

First impression of India. Noisey, first, colourful, funny signs!

We are in Tamil Nadu in Southern India. The women in this area all wear Saris. They look like exotic birds floating down the street.

We didn’t see any women dressed in western clothes. We also haven’t seen any westerners. None on our flight here and none on the streets.

Our driver took us via the beach, the fish market, various temples and down colourful streets with shops of every description. Even saw an Uber eats bike making it way through the traffic.

We stopped at the Museum to take in the bronze sculptures. There is a technique for casting these sculptures, such merging we will explore further later.

The sculptures were al of Shive , one of the main Gods of Hinduism. Along Parvarti his wife along with all the manifestations.

Our hotel in Mahabalipuram an hour south of Chennai is set in a garden and is quite tranquil. The boys behind the front desk are lovely and helpful and thankfully carried our bags up the 3 flights of stairs.

By this time we were starving so headed straight out to the vegetarian restaurant at the hotel. It’s been a long while since a meal. Only snacks along the way so the meal was welcome. It included mushroom mutter, eggplant curry and vegetable biriyani. All washed down with fresh lime. No alcohol at this hotel.

A walk around the streets to the Krishna cave temple with its fabulous rock carvings and Indian Hindu men in their dhoti trying to sell carved rocks and pictures.

A small detour after dinner to a clothing shop where men sat in a line at sewing machines whipping up tunics and pants. We couldn’t not get one!

And so our first long day ends. More adventures tomorrow.

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.

Last Day in Hoi An 

A beautiful morning always makes you want to get out and about. 
This morning we took the bikes and cycled along the river stopping when something took our eye. 

We passed men  cleaning fish …… and pigs 

Children exercising with their dad. An outdoor Flintstones style gym. 

The gym equipment was made with cement shapes and it served its purpose. 

We turned around and made our way back and I decided to keep riding across to the island. I joined the locals and cycled over the river and down shady lanes.

It was beautiful. 

I turned and headed for the hotel. Breakfast awaits. 

Past the ladies sweeping. 

The ladies hanging washing. 

A great ride. 

Girls on Tour

Having a holiday  with a group of girls is always fun. 

A beer at the tailors whilst waiting our turn!

We have been partners in crime when it comes to shopping. I’ve had more things made on this holiday, with the girls encouraging comments,  than I would if  hubbie was here. 

Sorry you aren’t here Steve. I might have saved money! 

Yesterday was all about shoes , glasses, dresses and the odd glass of wine. 
We had things made with Trinh our lovely Homestay lady. Now we are at the resort style Ha An, we have found another tailor. 

We found ‘Rin My Cloth Shop’ 15  Phan Boi Chau. It’s run by a smart ( slightly bossy) lady who is married to a slightly older Australian man. The shop is bright and well set out – definitely his influence…. and the fabrics are beautiful   The Silk cotton is lovely. Let’s hope their tailoring is good. 

Draped with our fabrics

We all draped and chatted and encouraged each other until suddenly I had 3 dresses on order. A red silk with a light pattern, a navy with red & yellow design copied like one of my Maiocchi dresses and a gorgeous dark navy silk with splashes of colour – this one is long and floaty. 

The shoe shop Bi  99 is conveniently around the corner with a very sweet girl called Bi. She took my shoes to have copied and sent me away in thongs. They would be ready this afternoon. She was very pleased to have my friends arrive later and order a few more pairs. Mine have been copied 3 times in all different colour combinations. 

Foot frenzy.

I tried a few different glasses shops but settled one in the same street as the hotel. The girl Linh was super helpful and appeared to have training- she told she studied ( hopefully optometry) in Ho Chi Minh for 3 years. I selected some multi coloured frames and new sunnies in an deep purple. ! Pick up is this afternoon. How do they do that? So fast! 

New glasses.

Going back today to try them out. Two pairs for AU$160. I thought that was quite good. Linh said she wanted me to wear them around today and if there were no problems to tell Trip Advisor. If there were any problems come back and tell her. “And I will fix” she said confidently! 

Dinner last night was a chicken curry in clay pot. Wholesome and flavoursome. A winner. 

We sat on the verandah of one of the many charming lantern lit restaurants. There are dozens of them offering wonderful Vietnamese food. The local Cau Lau is famous in Hoi An. The water used to make the noodles is said to be from a particular well in the city. Without this water the dish is not authentic. White rose is another local favourite. It’s delicious and I could hardly get enough of it. 

The weather  has been very good to us. Not too hot now and no storms as predicted. Lucky us. 

Last nights restaurant.

Fabric frenzy

Our hostess Trinh, the human dynamo is a former seamstress who still has strong links to fabric shops and tailors.

So we had yet another visit to select some fabrics. We no sooner select something then that afternoon the clothing is back!

I’ve brought a few things to have copied and so far all have been successful. I can hardly believe it. For the price of one Country Road dress I have assorted dresses, pants and tops.

As well as guiding us through fabric selection and designs Trinh cooks us breakfast and lunch. She really loves to care for us. Linda has stayed here many times and they have a great friendship. But reading the trip advisor reviews, everyone loves Trinh.

After our cycle this morning we had a great omelette for breakfast. We returned for lunch and today had calamari salad, rice with mussels, cooked prawns with lime pepper sauce , crisp white wine and a strawberry smoothie for dessert!

We needed a  nap, it was soooo hot. Later,  I took myself off to the beach. The Linda and Marilyn rested and went for a short walk and Di walked to the old town. It was a 10 minute taxi ride to the beach that cost me the equivalent of $4!

The beach was yet another experience. Lots of deck chairs and grass style umbrellas. Rustic cafes lined the foreshore, ladies with pointy Vietnamese hats wandered along trying to sell everything from cool drinks to suncream, sun hats, satay and donuts. The water was a good temperature , no waves and had people of all nationalities plunging in and jumping around. Not much swimming going on!  I’m sure I looked a little strange as I swam along.

I returned home and we made our way into the old town to find another cool bar. Last nights bar was lovely. It was by the river so had  lovely cool breezes. Tonight’s was upstairs on the island looking back to the old town. It’s so pretty with all the lanterns.

Needless to say we don’t eat much for dinner after such a great lunches. But I’m a little addicted to fresh spring rolls so tried them again. Also the eggplant here is great. And the salads. In fact all the food is great. Light and tasty.

So we finished the night walking through some of the smaller streets checking out the shops and lanterns, across the Japanese bridge and back to the house.

Trinh was waiting for us with yet another delivery of our clothes. We had a little fashion parade and Di and I had a laugh in our matching nighties!

And so to bed. Tomorrow a 7am trip the beach for an early swim.

An early start for My Son.

4am and the house was stirring with alarms going off and dragging us from our beds. By 4.30am we were in the bus with a few other sleepy travellers.

The trip to My Son took about an hour and it was peaceful to pass through little villages as the locals woke up and started their day. We saw men and woman riding bicycles and carrying produce to and from markets, women cooking and sweeping and going about their daily business.

Mỹ Sơn (Vietnamese pronunciation: [mǐˀ səːn]) is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa (Chiêm Thành in Vietnamese).[1][2] The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is Bhadreshvara.

It was beautiful and cool as we walked from the bus along the path to the temple site. Not the size or grandeur of Ankor Wat but impressive in its own way. Our guide, a sweet young Vietnamese man was quietly spoken and very hard to understand. It made listening difficult and as we moved through the temple site and the heat of the day arrived we started to tune out.

By 8.30 we were back in the bus and drove half way back to Hoi An before transferring to a boat for the remainder of the journey.  It was cool and peaceful on the river

We stopped at a little island close to Hoi An and spent some time walking along the shady lanes visiting the various craftsmen working on their craft. No hard sell from them,  thank goodness,  but that made us want to buy a few simple gifts for home  I bought a fan. Those of you who know me would remember I’m a ‘fan of a fan’

The boat stopped on the island at Hoi An and we stopped for a coffee at the cargo bar before heading back to our Thanh Lau Homestay.

Trinh was waiting with a beautiful lunch –   today was a seafood noodle salad with extra prawns and mussels and of course a plate of delicious fruit. Washed down with a local crisp white wine we were more than ready for our afternoon nap.

Our lunch spot at the home stay.

This evening we are heading back to Hoi An to browse the shops and have a cool glass of ‘something delicious ‘  and listen to some music .





On the road to Hoi An

Hanging out in airports is the down side of travel. And the 5 hours spent in KL airport was no exception.

It did give us a chance to chat and laugh and prepare for our holiday.

We met up with Di who flew in from Sydney and was rested after her night in the airport hotel.

Our flight left on time and I had a little man next to me who was wildly excited to look past me and out the window…… for the whole trip. At one point I had to ask him to back away!

We were met on arrival at Danang and driven to Hoi An about half an hour away. The beach front was blocked with buildings. Resort after resort are being built along the water and  is changing the landscape and the atmosphere of what was a little village.
Trinh, our hostess at the home stay was waiting to greet us and after allocating our rooms gave us a beautiful  lunch. Spring rolls and a delicious noodle soup followed by fruit. She knows how to spoil her guests and at $19 US a night is a bargain.

The home stay house is a three story pink house typically of Vietnam. I’m on the 3rd floor up forty steps. It’s huge room,  traditionally decorated.

Each of us has our own room and share a bathroom between two rooms. It’s  the typical open shower style so common here and in Cambodia.

We needed a little after lunch sleep in the heat of the day before our 4pm meeting with Trinh to talk about clothes we might have made. In an earlier life Trinh, a  human pint sized dynamo ran a fabric and tailor shop. Perfect!

We laugh and chatted and then headed off to a fabric shop. It was an Aladdin cave of fabrics. We sorted and encouraged each other as we selected some beautiful silk and cotton fabrics from the hundreds of designs on offer.

Trinh guided us with military precision and before we knew it we were packed up and heading to Hoi An old town for drinks.

Hoi An is charming and known as the lantern city for good reason. There are hundreds of lanterns all over the town.

We found a lovely verandah and settled in with chilled white wine and fresh spring rolls to recover from the fabric overload.

Phew. What a first day. We were exhausted so headed back to the Thanh Luan Homestay for some well deserved sleep.

Tomorrow we have a 4.30am pick up to visit My Son,  a site of ancient ruins from the Cham Empire. 

Exploring the Bay of Islands

What a beautiful part of the world. Today we turned left out of our hotel and crossed a bridge and entered the lovely area of Waitangi Treaty House.

Such a surprise. Such a beautiful place, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in Feb 1840. A Treaty between the Maori people and the representatives of the British Crown.

We started with breakfast in the garden cafe and chatted and ate before Kim& David left for home in Auckland, a four hour drive away.

Last year a new centre was opened on these significant grounds. It’s a wonderful museum. For $40 we entered the grounds and the interactive museum. Had a tour and a cultural show. So well done.

Our guide, a rather large Maori man had a wonderful gentle approach and took us on a tour of the grounds and gave the background to the history of the signing of the Treaty. All with jokes along the way.

We walked through a small forest of trees and emerged at a lawn facing the Bay. We saw the Maori boat which seats over 100 paddlers and has an intricately carved side and end piece.

Seven smiling Maori people performed a dance and song show ending with a Haka. They became fierce. Just like the rugby players we try so hard to defeat.
Three hours later we left for Russell the small township opposite Paihia. It’s where Steve left for his 3km swim yesterday. We took a car ferry for $12.50 and drove through the green surrounds before arriving at the gorgeous little town of Russell. It had a bad reputation back in the 1800’s but is now a quiet beautiful bayside town. It has white painted wooden buildings along the road facing back to Paihai. It’s tree lined and has a lazy feel.

Our hotel, the Duke of Marlborough, is an old world place facing the water. It’s great. Our very cosy room is well appointed – we didn’t take a big room for just one night, so it’s small and cosy! But drinks on the veranda and dinner was great.

Our after dinner walk was peaceful and prepared us for the wonderfully comfortable bed.

I do love a short break holiday.

Final Swim. A cracker. 

All good things come to an end. Well I guess that’s true as SwimTrek finishes today.

Would it be the sensational last day we hope for?
You betcha!
Everyone was very chatty on the walk to the port. Last day brings an extra energy even though some have picked up coughs and colds!

Into the water taxi and off to our two waiting boats for the day.

Luck put me on Nicko’s boat. Even though it has less shade, it is more business class style of travel (not that the other boat was bad – perhaps not quite the same level of service!) I had been told by Joe and Lexie that Nicko provided rolled towels, boxed tea selections, iced lemon water, a set table for lunch and a pristine ship-shape cabin. I did not quite believe it until it happened.


Nico’s boat. note the tea pot, the tea box and the little table all set up

We motored for about 45 mins to a new island, Isola Santa Fe. Into the water and once again gorgeous swimming weather. I needn’t have worried about needing a wet suit. It would have been perfect in just swimmers, or cozzie or bathers or togs. Whatever you call them! I used my wet shirt / rash vest against the rather brutal sun.

Along we went stopping more frequently than usual to look at fish, turtles and assorted sea life just to make the day last longer. In the end we got to a small island which we could circle and circle until they dragged us out of the water.

Morning tea and then we motored along to a protected bay where we did some more snorkelling and played with the super friendly sea lions. I’m not exaggerating when I say they come up to you and roll, wanting you to imitate them. They blow bubbles at you. They practically nudge you to get you going! So much fun.

Lunch on Nicko’s boat was great. Places were set up when we climbed back on board. I’m becoming an expert at getting back on the boat! Being stronger helps.
Our boat had grilled tuna on his little bbq with a lovely side of rice and veggies. Followed by chocolate and tea. The other boat had mixed cerviche and fruit. We are definitely being spoilt. Our “girl guides” Marlys and Kelly would normally have to have shopped and pre prepared our lunch as is done on other swim treks! They are enjoying the change as well.

Nico in the water telling us about the sea life.

To finish the trek we found another beautiful section of coastline and swam, all groups together, for about 2 km – we didn’t want it to finish.

And it didn’t! We pulled into no-name beach and were allowed ashore. It had sand and before long the group were doing yoga – started off by Canadian Mr Fresh, Barry, then continued with a few different poses by Roly, before the finale of Lexi and Roly doing handstands.
Lots of laughs and clapping. Back on the boat for our trip back to Porto. Nico chatted to us about his life in Galapagos, his political views, and Lynn our American journalist took a few notes. She is going to be writing a commissioned article about this first Galapagos Swim Trek. It will appear in a Swimmers World magazine in America. Can’t wait to read it.
Final night on Swim Trek is always a a buoyant fun night, tinged with sadness. It’s over. Something we all looked forward to for months is finished.
Lots of laughs from a group of not just fellow swimmers but friends. Lots of exchanging of emails,  instigated by Lynn, our funny determined journalist from America. She and her sister Lynn, who had only had a knee replacement a few months ago,  were both so much fun and wouldn’t give in. Wonderful gals.

We felt for Andrew who had cut his foot and it had become infected. So no final swim for him. No party night. Good luck Andrew. Lexi is going to continue the party on San Cristobel. She is the ‘whip smart ‘ youngest member of our group and we’re starting to think she should move from law to stand up comedy. I will feature her description of her first day without us all! Watch this blog. Bill and Barry ( Mr Fresh ) are in Cusco when we are,  so more party time with them. Yah! Patricia folded and missed party night  with ‘the shared  cold’. And she was one of our strongest swimmers. Rebecca our funny, never say die, pinky swimmer and yoga Roly and wife Yvette ( she didn’t swim but was part of the group each night). Joe , how can I safely swim without you looking out for sharks? Miss you all.

We had the usual end of week awards. Mine was for being “the group minder” I guess the one who looked out for people both in and out of the water. I thought I could have shared that with pocket rocket Betty , my ‘wing woman’ who was such a fun caring women. But she won the ‘pyjama party girl’
Steve got ‘ Ice cream ‘ award. He managed to polish off several serves each time it was offered. He also was commended on his determined swimming and life saving skills. Joe got his for being our ‘shark spotter’

We all plan to stay in touch and I’m sure over the months and years we will catch up again.

So farewell swimmers,  my new friends. It was fun.

Thanks to our great ” girl guides” Marlys and Kelly and to Simon , the head of Swim Trek who joined the trip ( with his dad Bill) as it was a first.

Now to start the next part of the journey. Cusco here we come.

A Glorious Galapagos

When you have a big day ahead it’s a good idea not to miss breakfast. So at 7am we headed to LoLo (the cafe next to our hotel) for the standard swimmers breakfast. Eggs, bread, juice and coffee. By 8 am we were on the bus for the 30 min ride across the island to board our boats.

There are two boats this time. Not sure I like this idea as it divides the group. But I guess you can’t talk to everyone at once so as long as we mix it up it will work.

As we crossed towards the island we flew over yesterday I felt a combination of nerves and excitement. This is Galapagos.

It’s warm, blue, vast, fairly deserted and a dream of a lifetime.

And we’re about to swim it.

The ‘girl guides’ Marlys and Kelly gave out the swimming caps. Pink, Yellow and Orange. Slow medium and fast.

This year I’m a yellow! Swimming with Betty, Alex, Barry & Bill. Great group.

Into the water. Splash.
Off we go.

We immediately spotted hundreds of beautiful coloured fish followed by orange rock crabs, a ray , a white tipped reef shark, blue footed boobie birds


The water temperature is divine though a little choppy. We completely circumnavigated the island (Daphne Major) – about 4 km. By the end it was getting rough but exhilarating.

Back on the boat (for morning tea) with its padded seating, shade cover and cute blue and white checked floor.

We missed the ‘tea wallah’ from our last swim trek. No hot drink! At least on our boat!  Apparently the other boat had full tea service. Hmm.

After motoring for about an hour spent eating and recovering we entered a sheltered bay at Pinzon Island and had the most fun I’ve ever had in the water.

image  image image image

Swam and played with seals, saw turtles large and small swimming lazily around the rocks, was amazed to see a sea iguana, and watched the blue footed boobie birds dive with the precision of an arrow at the little silver fish.

After the show was over it was back to the boat for lunch.

Our guides are let off this trek. They don’t have to prepare lunch. The two boat owners do lunch!

Apparently each boat had its own menu!

Who had the best!

After lunch it was rest time before motoring around the island for another swim.
Now on our way back. High speed and rather bumpy!

What a day!

The evening drinks were held on the open verandah of our hotel with Fernando giving us the most incredibly informative talk about the islands.

A beautiful salad dinner at Isola Grill before climbing exhausted into bed.

Tomorrow we move to Isola Isabela. Can’t wait.

If you’ve been to Galapagos leave a comment to tell me your favourite things about it.