We are going to leave Australia mid-April to go to New-Zealand where we will hire a huge motorhome since the shipping of our vehicules to the remote island is a real rip-off. We are planning to stay 2 months and then to go to south east Asia backpacking in July and August with the 3 girls. It’s not going to be easy with Eve but hopefully we will not have to carry the 20 kg of home schooling books since it will be the long French summer break.
Then we go back to France to say hello to the family and the friends in September and October while we ship our van and caravan to South America (Buenos Aires).
As you must have understood , we are going to extend our trip to 2 more years, time to go from la Tierra del Fuego up to Alaska !
Then, we would like to finish our trip in beauty ending in Pittsburgh (east coast of the USA) where Margot was born almost 11 years ago. Finally, we will ship the van and the caravan back to France.
AUSTRALIA : mid-June 2007 to mi-April 2008
We are still in Australia and will be leaving only in 3 months. It will be 10 months all together we would have spent in this country.
Every thing is easy, no problem to find a nice place or a camping to spend the night. People are nice and always very helpfull. The most beautifull part is without any doubt, Westren Australia with stunning lanscapes, strange animals and real wilderness. The Northern Territories are spectacular too especially with the crocodiles and the hot and humid climate. We’ve been to very remote national parks thanks to our 4 wheel drive van. We used to let the caravan somewhere at the entrance of the park , packed the van with food, water and fuel and go bush camping for several days. It was real adventure and we especially liked to share these experiences with a nice Irish guy we met on the west coast. Aïdan, is his name, was travelling in a huge and confortable motorhome but couldn’t go on tracks with it. So we decided to take him on board many times.The 6 of us were a little packed in the van, but it was fun. We have a big roof tent so Aïdan, Marie and Margot used to sleep there while Greg and I were sleeping inside the van with Eve in our bed. We made very long and beautifull walks along rivers and gorges, sometimes diving in clear water. One day, we even found small and disgusting leeches in our bathers !! I was horrified but luckily we removed them all. The weather was perfect in wintertime, nice days and cool nights.
We found very difficult to have contacts with the Aborigenes because the only ones we saw were drunk or always expecting money from us. They don’t mix with the other Australians. They don’t seem to work at all, stay in the shadows of trees in parks, drinking and talking loud. It is very sad because that is the only thing we will remenber of them. Even though I’m sure that is only 10 % of the population and that there are many of them working and living a normal life in the communities. The government puts a lot of efforts in helping them, trying to promote their culture, financing brand new museums…. Perhaps because the government just wants people to forget or forgive what they did to them when they colonised the country.
Then from Darwin we drove down to Alice Springs and the famous symbol of the country : Uluru ( Ayers Rocks). The vision of the sun coming down behind the rock turning red was breathtaking. It was one of our best moments ever.
Then we went to a strange desertic city called Coober Peddy. It’s a miner town so hot and dry in summertime and everybody lives underground in caves, tunnels and old mines. Hundreds of different nationalities still come here with the hope to find opal and to become rich. We tried a little bit ourself doing some noodling as they call it. It means searching for opal leftovers in the abandoned mines. We didn’t find anything but it was fun.
Then, we drove to Adelaide in South Australia and from that time on, Australia was more classic and less stunning for us. Everything is still big, spacefull and clean but more like the european way. The cities are absolutely not interesting except some museums. We are lucky that the girls love to go to museums and draw. They do watercolors. It’s nice when Eve is sleeping otherwise she runs everywhere, climb on forbidden coughts , touches everything. A real nightmare ! She is a difficult child, half angel and half demon. She doesn’t sleep well, doesn’t eat well and always wants to do the same as her sisters. But she can be charming and cute at the same time !
Tasmania is OK. It looks like Britany. It was raining a lot on the west coast so we switched to the east one. We spent Christmas there with some French friends of ours travelling like us around the world with their 3 children. They are a little bit older than ours but everybody got along very well. The girls were happy to speak French and exchange world tour points of view. Gregory was always fixing something in the car and I took some good advices for the next 2 years homeschooling.
Homeschooling is very great and we save a lot of time compare to the French traditionnal system when they attend school. We only work 3 to 4 hours a day, usually the morning and we go quickly or even skip some lessons. They learn so much during the trip that is not the most important thing. Margot is more sciences and math oriented thanks to Greg who is a good teacher. She is going to be an engineer like him !!!! Marie is more into French. She is more lazy as well and behave like a little princess. Is not easy everyday but we are all doing a pretty good job. I teach Spanish, History, Geography and Art and Greg teaches Maths, Sciences, French and Music. He is much more patient than I am so I take care of the baby most of the time.
We are now in Geelong, close to Melbourne back on the main land expecting our new caravan. You haven’t seen the old one because we just had the van when we came to visit you. First, we thought that the girls would be able to sleep in the roof tent and Eve with us in the van but very quickly, we discover that it was a real nightmare.
First, Eve was not an easy baby. Then, the girls weren’t very happy in the roof tent, it was roomy and confortable but not very convenient. As you saw, we had to open and close the tent everyday and the girls didn’t have any privacy. In fact, the van was way too small fot the 5 of us. We held on like that till Greece. Marie was getting more and more fussy and moody. We were all exhausted. We settled down in Athens for 2 weeks and took some time to think that over. Luckily we met a really nice girl who left us her apartment with Internet access. We searched for a second hand caravan on the web in Greece and couldn’t find anything so we decided to go back to France and buy one in Holland. We didn’t say anything to anybody so it was a real surprise for the family when one morning at the beginning of September, we came back. First, everybody thought that we were coming back and divorcing !!
Within one month, we found the caravan, we refurbished and painted it and were back to Greece via the ferry boat from Italy. We were very lucky to buy the old caravan, round shaped, all in wood you saw in our blog. It was built 40 years ago and was very stable and easy to fix. We matched its colors with the flowers on the van.
It was really great and all of a sudden, our life was better. The girls were so happy to have their own bedroom. Eve slept through the night rigth away and Marie was again an happy little girl. Margot was as usual nice and always in a good mood. Everything was alright but in Turkey we had to fix twice the A-frame of the caravan that broke. We found a very good handy man who did a good job. Later on, we had to do some big reparations again in Australia. After the bad roads in India, we had to consolidate the chassis and put some aluminum sheet on the sides and on the roof of our house. The caravan was getting very heavy and we discover that the roof was leaking because of the screws. In Darwin, in the top northern region of Australia, the weather was very hot and humid so we decided to get a new caravan with more place and air conditionning.
We drove and visited the Northern territories back to Adelaïde on the south coast and finally stopped to Geelong and found the company that custom built our new little home. We drew the plans : 3 bunk beds, 2 additionnal beds with a big table and lots of cupboards. The caravan has almost the same dimensions but not the same shape. The new one is more square, so we have more space inside. It is not as cute as the former one but we are very happy with it. We are going to be able to sleep the 5 of us if we need to put the air conditionning on or if we stop in a not very secure place.
We are now looking like a road train ! We decided to match the stickers of the van with the new caravan and put some huge new stickers everywhere. We are even more « Scoobidoo » like . Impossible to miss us.
EUROPE : mid July to end of August 2006
We left France mid-July 2006, initially for a 2 year trip. We went quickly through Belgium, Holland, Switzerland mainly to visit our friends. It was good fun to meet again, each of us with an expanding family.
Since it was the holidays, Italy and particurlaly Venice was packed with tourists.We were very hot but still delighted with this wonderfull city. We went on quickly.
Slovenia is not a very famous country but it's really worth visiting and staying at least a week. It’s very agricultural, green and peacefull. The country had been well preserved from the war and is very modern. It’s like France but cooler and stressless. We mainly stayed with our friends we met 12 years ago in Pittsburgh, USA.
We didn’t like Croatia so much because at that period of the year (beginning of August) it was very busy. The campings were packed and the locals not very nice and a lot money-oriented. It is true that the coast is beautifull but there is almost no beaches because the mountains stop at the fringe of the sea. The inside land can be very dry at some place or very green like in Plevitche (famous and gorgeous lakes). Zagreb,the capital is not very interesting.
Then, we went to Bosnia which was less touristy and more authentic. Mostar with its famous bridge is beautifull. The cities are completly devastated and we can see a lot of the war’s remainings everywhere. It is very shocking. People are very nice. They don’t speak English at all but are very friendly. We could stop anywhere to sleep and never had any problem. We went canooing in a nice river but couldn’t go for a walk because of the mines. It is very sad.
After Bosnia, we went through Monte Negro. We were delighted with especially the Kotor Bay with is spectacular. Kotor and Venice used to trade a lot together in the 16th century and there are a lot of beautiful houses and remainings of the influence. We were so charmed that we even thought of buying an old house to refurbish there but we were desperate with the prices. We found a big but completely wrecked house with only the 4 walls still standing in front of the sea in a nice village. We asked for the price : 1.2 millions euros !!!! Of course, the place is packed with English who buy everything. As you can imagine, we gave up.
ALBANIA : 27 th of august to the 2nd of september
We went quickly through Albania. We stayed 5 days and it was great. Not a single tourist of course. The coast is beautiful, the water is deep blue or even turquoise sometimes. There is no concrete everywhere and the country is still very well preserved. So well preserved in fact that there are no roads, no signs, no traffic lights… It is a remote and poor country right in the middle of Europe. Incredible . It was like a taste of India. No infrastructure at all except may be in some places along the coast close to Greece. Tirana, the capital is difficult to describe, so dirty, so poor…. The day the government will change, it’s going to be the last great place to go on holydays. Everything is to be done, lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The border with Greece is unbelievable, barbe wires everywhere, hips of Albanian kids pleading for food and money.
GREECE : September to mid November 2006
I was very surprised by Greece. I had never been there before and i thought it would have been a more modern and developped country. I was expecting to find France or Germany but it’s much more conservative, rural and traditionnal. We just loved it. We stayed 5 weeks altogether, 2 weeks before going back to France and 3 weeks after with the caravan. We just visited the main land. We’ve been almost everywhere : Olympia, Athens, the Meteors, Delphes… At the end, the girls were a little fed up with old stones.
The weather was perfect, even a little cold in November but milder on the coast . The new caravan changed our life and we started to settle in a kind of nice routine.
TURKEY : mid-November to end of December 2006
Turkey is, so far, one of our favourite countries. We spent 7 weeks there and we saw a lot. We loved everything, the kindness and hospitality of the turkish , the beauty of the landscape, the richness of the crafts. We bought a lot of things and especially beautifull hand painted plates.
Istanbul is a crazy and fantastic city. We were lucky to met some French girls teaching French in a Turkish school. They invited us over to their place and Margot and Marie even went to school for one day. It was a lot of fun for them and an interesting experience. Again, we’ve been to the most beautiful and touristic places in the country. The sites were deserted and the girls used to seat and draw for hours without being disturbed. They started watercolors when their little sister, Eve, allowed them to do so.
On the coast, we met a camelman, half French-half Italian, living with his camels and a bunch of others animals in a very simple caravan tent, travelling around the country for more than 30 years. The girls were very excited and impressed by the camels. After a while, they played,and combed them like pets and even went for a little ride.
In Konya, in the center of the country, we went to see the Spining Derviches. The show was stunning and the music impressive.
It was going cooler and cooler the more we went east. We entered the Kurdish region. It was starting to snow. The Kurds are very poor and isolated from the rest of the country. Here, there is not a lot of help from the government to maintain the roads, to carry running water or electricity. They live in medieval like villages, in poor houses, the kids are dirty and don’t always go to school. The families are big. We have been invited by Memet, one of the village’s « chiefs » to park in front of his house. He has a bunch of kids who used to come and stay in our caravan playing with our children and with the Barbie dolls. Nobody speaks English but we manage to communicate easily with hands and drawings. The Kurds have been persecuted for centuries and they don’t like to mix with Turkish people. They stay together isolated but really want to improve their condition. Memet wants to come to France one day, of course, alone without his wife and kids. It is a patriarcal family and the women are not educated at all . They stay in the kitchen and don’t mix to much with us. They marry at 18 years old, sometimes even younger and are made to have babies, like in France 150 years ago.
We enter Iran with the snow and Grégory managed to drive the van and the caravan with no apparent problems. He is very good at it now, even when he has to reverse. For myself, I prefer not to drive and especially not with the caravan. We are 11 m long !!
IRAN : January 2007
Everybody was frightened that we wanted to go to this country because of all the stupid things we hear on the radio or on TV. We decided to go because we really wanted to see for ourselves if it was true or not. We were very nicely surprised. The Iranese are very bright, cultivated and warm people. Once again, we weren’t there in the peak season in Spring so we had no tourists at all. The weather was unusually cold and we had a lot of snow.
The country is so closed and people are so willing to communicate and exchange that it was almost impossible to be just by ourselves for a long time. The Iranese used to stop us in the street, to knock on the windows to give us some presents or food and everyday, we were invited to sleep over or to come for dinner. After a while it was even a little too much because we had to keep a normal rythmn with the baby, to put her to bed not too late, to do the homework in the morning… Besides, the Iranese kids go to bed very late, around midnight even when they have to go to school at 8 in the morning but instead of us, they are used to take a nap after lunch, that’s how they keep going.
Because it was very cold ( -10 degrees in the average) we had to ask everyday electricity to someone to run our 2 electrical heaters. We’d never encountered any refusal and never had to pay for that. We slept in the streets in front of houses or even in parks downtown.
Only once, we had some troubles with road pirates. It was between Tabriz and Teheran, just a week or so after we entered the country. It was very cold and we were driving, the kids sleeping in our back bed when suddenly there was a black car behind us putting flashing at us. We decided to stop. They started to speak to us asking to follow them to the next police post. The police card was written in Farsi and of course, we coudn’t understand it. They opened the sliding door of the van trying to come in. The girls started to wake up. Hopefully, we were with an Iranese friend of ours, Ciamak, who started to speak to them. Then they fought because the guys wanted to take Ciamak’s cellular. We couldn’t understand what was happening, everybody was puzzled. Ciamak finally took their card which wasn’t the one of a police officer. The guys didn’t expect to find an Iranese and 3 kids onboard. Their plan wasn’t working out good so they just jumped back in their car and flew away. Everybody was shocked and we were very lucky. But it was a worthy experience just to remember us to be very carefull.
Teheran is a crazy city not pleasant at all, packed with people and crowded with cars and traffic jam. We didn’t like it too much. Hopefully, we had a contact there and we stayed in the street in front of Grégory’s friend from highscool in France. Katia is married with an Iranese doctor and they live in a nice house with their 2 kids. It was a relief for us to be able to stay some days with them. Pretty soon, we met an other Iranese family. The father spoke really good French and it was a real pleasure to stay with them.
Persepolis is stunning beautiful and very well ruled. We wandered among the stones and the delicately handed carved « bas-reliefs ». Everything was great, even the warm weather.
We just loved Isfahan, the rich culture, the museums and the sublime central place with the mosques. The hand craft is good too and we bought some beautiful plates to add to our international growing collection. The food is excellent as well, delicate, not too strong and varied. We drank so many teas !
After a month, we were a little fed up with the cold so we decided not to go through Pakistan and to take instead the ferry-boat to go to the Arabic Peninsula and to Dubaï. Besides, Pakistan was not a very safe country to travel to, so we did the good choice, I think.
To catch the ferry, we had to go south of the country to the Persic Gulf (in the UAE, they just call it « The Gulf »). We ended to a small and unbelievable place called Minab, absolutly different from everything we saw untill now. It wasn’t cold anymore but even hot and dry. The vegetation changed suddenly and we discovered very strange customs : women didn’t wear the traditionnal tchador or scarf but something even more surprising. It was a sort of a burka, very colorfull, more like a mask they put on their face with a large « beak » coming in front. Very strange, like a red, orange and brown Darth Vador !! Beautiful but upsetting at the same time. We could feel the Indian influence very strongly with long saree like scarves they used to wear. It was one of the greatest experiences we had.
I was happy to leave the country and to be able to get ride of my ugly scarf I had to keep for a month.
THE EMIRATES : February to mid-March 2007
At frst, we hadn’t thought of going to the Arabic Peninsula but afterwards, It was a great idea. What a shock after Iran ! Everything was clean, easy and it was warm. The first thing we did was we went out of the ferry was to run to the first Carrefour, the big French supermarket, to buy some cheese. We were craving for cheese for too long. The girls rushed to the pastries, Greg to the « French saucisson » or « charcuterie ». What a feast !
Dubai is stunning, they are always erecting a building somewhere, opening a new road, planning a new extension of land on the beach. Crazy city. People are very polite, the drivers stop when we want to cross a street. We can’t believe it ! The skyscrappers are big, well maintained and all air conditioned. Black gold seems to bring wealth and happiness everywhere. The authorities are smart, they put a lot of money into parks, flower beds, nice beaches, roads et public utilities that belong to everybody.. Of course, all this brand new wealth is a little bit too shiny sometimes, eveything is a little bit too perfect, too clean , too well organised.
They have so much money that every funny idea, every crazy project becomes true and possible. We‘ve been to « Ski Dubai », the fantastic ski resort under a huge glass bubble, in the center of a gigantic mall, in the middle of Dubai city which is itself in the middle of nowhere in the desert. ! It’s more than 30 degrees outside, you put on your ski outfit, your gloves, your skis and you enjoy good snow for a couple of hours. Crazy ? Yes. Anti-ecology ? Yes. That is the Emirates, the place where everything is possible. A little bit like Disney world, perhaps but funny, exciting and creative.
We saw as well, the beginning of the big « Palm Tree Resort » in the middle of the sea. Little by little, stone after stone, tonne of sand pumped in the sea after tonne of sand, they are erecting a huge palm tree to build very expensive houses for very, very rich people.
Welcome to the city that changes everyday. Motivating, isn’t it ?
We were surprised to see so many Indians, the working labor. It was like having a bit of India a little bit before.
Abu Dhabi is fascinating too and more culture oriented. They are planning to build huge museums pretty soon designed by very famous architects and especially the French Jean Nouvel. Sounds good. We are really looking forward to going back in a couple of years to see the evolution. Once again, we were very lucky to meet a nice French family living there with their 4 kids and one more to come. We spend a lot of time with them and the girls were very happy to speak French and play with all the kids in the swimming-pool or in the nice garden.
We met also Aruna, a young « Born Again Christian » Indian living in Dubai. Very quickly, we were invited to go and visit her family in Goa, India from her behalf.
We are always meeting a lot of people inviting us over. I think that having kids helps a lot. Since Margot and Marie are perfectly fluent in English (because they‘ve been to an English school in France) it’s very easy for them to communicate and make new friends.
We never heard of this country before to go to the Arabic Peninsula. It’s a long and desertic country between the Emirates and Yemen.We just loved it. It’s still wild and not too touristy, the perfect destination for a week or two from Europe.
Again, we were at the perfect season when it’s not too hot. Oman has the reputation of being the hotest country in the world in summertime.
We spent some time camping in the desert. We camel rode and the girls even skied on sand. It was a lot of fun. A little after, we even had been invited to a typical Omanese wedding and shared the festivities with the family.
The beaches are gigantic and well preserved. We were lucky to be able to see some sea-turtles, the green ones which are protected, laying eggs in the middle of the night and back on the beach at 6 o’clock for the sun set, we picked up some new born baby turtles and handed them back to the rangers.
We couldn’t stay much longer because we had to meet some French friends of us with their 3 kids in Dubai for a week. We were very happy to have some visit. It was like having a little part of France coming to us.
We sent the van and the caravan from Dubai to Mumbai Bombay) in India and went to Goa in a guest house waiting for the vehicules to arrive.
INDIA : mid-March to mid-May 2007
We had been very disappointed by India. We knew that it was a tough country and were all wrong from the beginning. To us, there are 2 ways to travel in this country : the first way, when you have money, is to go to good hotels and travel flying from an interesting point to an other one. The other way is to travel backpacking, sleeping in cheap hostels and using the public transportation if you don’t have a lot of money.
It was crazy to drive in India first because the road conditions are awfull (it takes about 4 hours to drive 100 kms) and then because people drive like mad. Not only you destroy your car but you don’t even enjoy the countryside.
Of course, everything is filthy, muddy, dusty, ugly and poor.
Luckily, we weren’t very sick, just the standard « tourista » after 2 months but the kids were very fed up of the too spicy food. I was still breastfeeding Eve and it really helped.
First, we couldn’t sleep in our van because it was too hot. Then we couln’t find any spot at all to stop overnight and if we decided to sleep in a petrol station within 5 minutes there were hips and hips of curious Indian around our vehicules, entering without asking the permission, peering through the windows, talking loud all night long. A nightmare !
We found some rest in the mountains where the weather was cooler. Once we even found a small « eco » camping hold by a French Canadian 4 hours driving out of Bombay ! We stayed there 2 weeks not willing to go back to the pollution and the heat.
We used to go to cheap hotels (some of them still expensive for what you get) didn’t sleep well and were more and more tired and depressed.
We went to nice places from time to time. Goa seems to be the nicest place in South India. We used everyday to sneak in the very select Hyatt Hotel to enjoy the beautiful swimming pool and the cristal clear beach. In Bombay, Grégory was even enrolled to play in an Indian movie for a day ! It was a good experience. In Puna,we visited an incredible ashram, a mix of sex and meditation.
We also went to a wild life center to feed and wash the elephants, to beautiful, colourful and smelly markets, to amazing temples. Finally, just wondering in the streets was a big shock itself.
What surprised me too in India is first the housing price in the big cities and in some famous places in the mountains (much more than in downtown London !!!) and the number of the very rich and wealthy people. So moneywise, it’s better to have an old, dirty and wrecked house in Bombay than a clean and nice appartment in The City !!
Our first will was to visit the north of India, to go to Rajastan and see the Tajmahal of course but we arrived in India late in the season and the weather was already very hot and humid so we assumed that it would be better in the south than in the desertic and arid north. After Bombay, we mostly stayed in the Bangalore region and the close by mountains. There in Ooty, we were « adopted » in a foster family taking care of more than 20 kids in their own orphenage. We spent 10 days to rest a little bit and the kids played a lot together. It was very good for Marie and Margot to discover what means to be an abandonned child in India. The house was very clean, well organised and the foster kids seemed to be happy even though it wasn’t luxurious.
After a little bit more than 2 month in the country, we were impatient to leave and go to Bali while we sent the vehicules to Perth in Western Australia where it was winter time wich means 15 to 20 degres only. Our dream !
BALI : mid-May to mid-June 2007
Bali was a kind of a relief after India and we just loved it. First, we went to beautifull and cheap hotels on the beach with air conditionning. It makes a huge difference. Then, we rented a car for a month and visited the island. We rested and took it easy.
Kuta, the main city close to the international airport is very busy and touristy but when you head a little bit more north you can enjoy the real face of the island.
The crafts are fabulous and the food is good. But, even though we weren’t so sick in India Eve and Isabelle got high fever and strong diarrheas suspecting something worse than a casual « tourista » . Indeed after a blood test, we discovered that we had Typhoïde and that the shots performed twice in France were not so efficient. Anyway, it was really easy to find a good doctor and everything was quickly under control thanks the appropriate antibiotics.
Quickly on a good shape again, we visited nice temples, went to amazing dance shows, enjoyed snorkelling and tasted some of the multiple pleasures of the dreamed and peaceful island.
One month was enough, it was time to go to Australia.