Our time in Taormina came to a close, as our tummies attempted to settle in the bus ride back down the mountain to the train station. A semi early breakfast and quick getaway allowed us… More
Let me start by saying.. Have I got some stories for you.
Instead of having a big party or hitting the town for my 21st birthday, it was decided that we would travel. From April first, all the way through to the start of May, an entire month abroad. My Pop, very generously, offered to fund my flights to Italy, along with my accommodation. Pop and I used to travel together all the time, but since leaving school, getting married and building a house, we haven’t been able to go on many trips since. This made it possible for us to travel before we move into our new house and for Jordan and I to spend some time together, whilst he is in between careers.
My Pop planned most parts of the trip. He was to meet us over in Italy and spend the first two and half weeks there, and fly home. The day trips to different towns, what train to catch, best places to eat, accommodation; everything was planned to a ‘T’. Jordan and I were to stay on for another nine days together, to do what we like, then head home at the start of May. It was, for the most part, organised. All we needed to do was get on the airplane.
The lead up was pretty hectic. Jordan was working as Head Chef at Lenzerheide, so I was barely seeing him. I was also taking all the work I could get. And not to mention, March 30th – April 2nd was Easter weekend. I also had some issues with changing my name to my married name, so I could change my passport. In the end, I got my passport (on the last possible day it could have been delivered) a couple of days before we left. I must say, I did cry in the post office when the office lady gave me the small parcel.
Once we were on the plane, all of my worries disappeared. There was no reason to think about work, or people, or things we may or may not have forgotten. It was just pure happiness to be spending some time alone with Jordan and disappearing for the month (even if it was on a crowded, long airplane flight).
We tried to bring a small stash of food on the plane, because let’s be honest, plane food just sucks. I was surprised by our first meal, which was dinner, slow braised beef with mashed potatoes and carrots. But the problem was that it got my hopes up for the other meals to come – which were disgraceful.
The flight itself wasn’t bad. We sat in the middle of the plane for the first fifteen hour odd leg to Doha, then on the window for the next six hours to Rome. It was already organised that my Pop would be waiting to meet us in Rome as we exit the International airport – but that didn’t happen. We spent about forty-five minutes trying to find Pop and figure out what happened. After speaking to a couple different information desks and piecing together the brief information that each Italian had given us, we realised that his flight had been delayed in Abu Dhabi for five hours, causing him to miss the next flight – a short, though expensive, domestic flight from Rome to Catania, Sicily.
After hesitation, contemplation and speaking with ground staff about the situation, Jordan and I decided to check-in to our domestic flight and go through security to our gate. Everything was okay. Pop would just get on a later flight when he got to Rome, but would have to pay nearly triple what he originally paid (insurance), and arrive at the hotel in Catania. The main problem was that we didn’t have any money changed over to use for something to eat and transport to the hotel. We had to get a small amount changed over at the airport because there was no else to go. This was seriously expensive and an absolute rip off. I very much suggest that you change money over prior to travel somewhere other than the airport and/or get a card that has minimal to zero charges on international purchases. We weren’t that smart. Ahh you live and you learn!
We chose to catch the bus as the hotel was on the other side of the city and a taxi was going to charge us something absurd. We boarded the bus with two backpacks, a suitcase (never again!), Jordans duffel/backpack and two surprisingly bulky, but squishy travel pillows. Oh, and a bag of food and my handbag, which I held very closely. The bus took an entire hour and was the very last thing we felt like doing, but it meant we could splurge on a nice relaxing dinner.
Once at the palace-like hotel, we checked out the room and tried not to sit down or dawdle. If I stood in one place for too long, I could’ve fallen asleep. We dragged ourselves down to the reception desk, on very little sleep, and asked about somewhere we could eat that was close by and inexpensive. She looked at us sympathetically and picked up her phone. Five minutes later, without much more than a ‘wait here’, a car picked us up and took us to his restaurant close by. We were taken to a table and the Head Chef came out and explained the entire menu to us, item by item.
We ended up getting a lovely platter of cold meats, cheese, olives and breads to start, and of a course a glass of wine. Then pasta and steak for mains. Half way through my pasta, I started to go into a serious food coma and was literally falling asleep at the table. We paid for our meal and the man drove us back in his car again to the hotel.
Up at the hotel room, I got a second wind and had a much needed shower – thank God for hot water and good pressure. We were then graced by Pop’s prescence – HE MADE IT! After being delayed for so long and things not going as planned, I was impressed by how happy Pop was. Although the false start, we were here and the trip was off to a good start. It was nice to be all together. I think our heads hit the pillow and we were fast asleep before Pop had even gotten to his room down the hall.
In the last couple of months, I’ve changed sceneries. Trading up the bustling streets of Adelaide and night work for rolling hills covered in vineyards. That’s right, I’m working at a winery. I’m not the one getting up at all hours of the morning and getting my hands too dirty, but I’m working in the cellar door and fine dining restaurant. Maxwell Wines is a family owned winery in McLaren Vale, a region in South Australia, that draws many tourists, wine lovers and enthusiasts, sommeliers, wine makers and everyone else in between. The property is roughly one hundred acres and is also home to the famous Maxwell Mead (FYI fermented honey).
As a staff bonding/learning experience, Mark Maxwell invited all of the staff to come out at dawn to handpick a couple rows of tempranillo. I was so excited the night before that I couldn’t even sleep properly. It was lovely getting up early and driving through the Adelaide Hills with the sun rising in my rearview mirror, creating sprays of hot pink and orange across the sweeping sky. Fortunately it was still cool, surprising after the extreme heat that had pushed itself over South Australia for the last week. I was handed a bucket and a pair of fluorescent orange clippers and got to work. The leaves were bulging from the branches. I hadn’t realised how big these crops were, I couldn’t see over the top. I poked my hands through the greenery looking for bunches of tempranillo. Unfortunately, birds and heat had already gotten to a lot of the fruit, but we persevered.
Once the buckets had been collected, we reconvened back at the winery. After some well earn’t bacon and egg wraps and black coffee, we were able to see the grapes be sorted from it’s stems and other debris, then pumped to a separate container where they soon would be crushed.
I’m very excited to taste the finished product. Check out some photos from the morning:
Tarajade, Jordan’s older sister, and David, her husband, recently had a baby! Not sure how, but literally the night before our wedding day – I know, crazy timing! David was a groomsmen too – extra crazy! And both David AND Tarajade AND cute baby were at our wedding AND reception – extra, extra crazy!
Anyway, they produced this little bundle of happiness – Meet, Amberlee Eva. Born on the 7.11.17, weighing in at 2.78kg, To my joy, I was able to take a couple snaps. This is ambi bambi at approximately 4 weeks:
If you’d like some professional photos taken of/with your baby, children, partner, family, I’d be absolutely delighted to do the honours. I am wanting to expand my portfolio, so I’d only charge what you think the photographs are worth. Feel free to shoot me a message and we can go from there.
A celebratory mimosa, bacon pancakes and black coffee (apparently fried rice for Jordan) went down well as our last breakfast of the honeymoon. You couldn’t keep us out of the water that morning. We absorbed every last bit of Vanuatu, snorkelling, paddle boarding and appreciating this wondrous island.
On our way out of the resort, we were escorted right to the shuttle bus and seen off by all the staff that were currently on. The bus ride to the airport was quiet. Neither of us wanted to go back home, knowing the biggest time of year awaited us at work and the aftermath of the wedding, and also the stresses of our new house We sat in silence, hand in hand, staring out the window, just wanting to catch a plane to another country, keep on travelling. Unfortunately, time, funds, commitments and responsibilities were slightly more important than wearing nothing but underwear inside a little hotel room as it rains, looking over the Seine river reading a book or snowboarding in Whistler, flask of fireball in hand. It was peaceful though. We watched everyone go about their day to day and got to see some of the towns that we quad biked through, again.
The airport was packed. There were three flights leaving all in the space of two hours. Once we past through security, everyone funnelled into this tiny little departure lounge with a 5mx5m duty free shop, two tacky gift shops and a counter that sold ice cream and alcohol. The rest of the room was filled up with people. Lots and lots of sweaty people frustrated and annoyed that the flights were delayed. We sat on the floor in the corner of the room, as all the seats were taken – the door to the VIP lounge would open every couple minutes, forging a gust of cool air our way, making it bearable. Once we finally boarded our 110 minute delayed flight to Brisbane, we checked our connecting flight to Adelaide. It didn’t look like we were going to make it. Up in the air, everyone had gotten so hungry, including us, that they sold out of basically all their food.
As we were landing, the hosts went through all the connecting flights and ones that were cancelled. We still didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane. Someone was holding a sign with our name on it. As we approached, she proceeded to hand us a bundle of papers including a cab fair card, times for bus shuttles, a $50 food voucher each and our booking sheet for our hotel room – SCORE! The airline had organised us a hotel room to stay in for the night, as we had already missed our flight. When we got to the hotel, we made sure to use the entire $100 on delish takeout from the joint restaurant downstairs and even watched a movie, savouring an extra night of the honeymoon. Pitifully, we had to get up really, really early the next morning as they had placed us on the earliest flight back to Adelaide.
Three breakfasts’ for Jordan and one for me, and we’re back on the quad bike. Via the quicker way back to Port Vila, we bypassed ‘Evergreen Cascades Waterfall’ that had been spoken about a lot by some of the locals and people in the Havannah resort.
It wasn’t cheap to enter the cascades area, but once we got a wristband, it was approximately a twenty minute hike on a guided trail to the top. Luckily we took the reef shoes provided by the resort, as they came in handy when we started crossing the streams.
The water was crystal clear blue. The sound of the water and immersing ourselves in the dense forest was so peaceful. There weren’t too many people either, which made the trip really relaxing. Jordan was hilarious! He was climbing the rocks up the waterfall and exploring the waters and rocks. It was a really worthwhile trip.
We even got to eat some local fruit – do not ask me what it was because I have no clue! The kid was all the way up in this tall tree. The only reason we saw him was because the other person he was with told him to come down. He climbed down the tree so skill fully with his teeth gritting the bottom of his shirt, which was full of fruit. We said “hi” and he offered us his only ripe fruit and then said goodbye. It was just pure kindness.
We made one more stop at a coffee shop before returning the quad bike. I had been really enjoying the ‘Tanna Coffee’ back at the resort, so we stopped off at their factory on the way back to Port Vila. Their tables in the cafe were made out of pallets (brings back some memories from the wedding) and the place smelt of rich and bitter aromas. They were also selling art and homemade candles, soaps and moisturisers. One of the guys that worked there was really excited to show us the process and how they make the coffee that they sell, which was really cool. Of course we left with coffee, but nothing to actually prepare it in.
Unfortunately it was nearing our 24 hour hire and we had to catch the free shuttle back to the resort. We filled up the quad bike – not that we used very much petrol at all, it just needed to be filled up when we returned it. And enjoyed the city driving. Somehow navigating back through Port Vila, we found the hire place and dropped off the quad bike.
Back at the resort, we had a sunset snorkel and then had dinner out on the jetty over the water. After some delicious coconut pumpkin soup and a drop of chardonnay, we came back to the villa to see flower petals scattered all over the room, a bottle of wine and fruit platter. We spent the rest of the night relaxing and talking about the wedding and our amazing honeymoon.
Monday morning consisted of a quick brekkie and a trip into town on the free shuttle. On the way in, it started to get busier on the roads and there was a lot more people outside on the streets. We past a lot of stalls and a couple bigger fruit and veg markets. There was also quite a bit of construction of new buildings/hotels.
The bus driver dropped us off in the middle of Port Villa. We wandered off into the streets. The shopping was very different to back home. There wasn’t really any clothing shops or really any cafes, just a lot of buildings. We stumbled upon a huge building that was filled with a hundred stalls selling local styled clothing garments, homewares, art, henna and hair services. I was so excited to get my hair braided as I hadn’t had it done before. I started with a section on the side but then proceeded to get my whole head braided. Whilst Jordan waited patiently, I played hand clapping games and magic tricks with two kids – I’m guessing they were the children of the lady who was doing my hair.
After a bit of looking around, we made our way to the farmers market. It was huge and a central part of the city where a lot of people came to sell their produce. There were also stalls selling gifts, art, clothing, flowers and food. I loved seeing all the hand woven baskets. So skilful to hold that much weight!
Starting to get peckish (how unusual), we sat down at a tavern that served wood oven pizza – and also because it had a really groovy sugar skull stuck to the side of building. We were served by a very friendly chef, as we listened to covers of old school rock songs. Once finished, we grabbed an ice cream and began our climb up a giant hill to find a mysterious (very difficult to find) bike/car hire place.
Nearly dying of dehydration (not really, but it felt like it) we made it to the hire place to hear that all of the quad bikes had been hired out by some people on the cruise ship that had come in, but were soon to be returned. We went and checked out the supermarket across the road (air conditioned) and had fun looking at the different products. We left with an iced tea.
Back at the hire place, we hopped onto a bright red quad bike after Jordan got a safety run down on how to use the bike by someone half his size (hehe it was kind of funny).
Jordan jumped on the front to drive and I hopped behind him with the bags and camera. We spent a solid half an hour trying to get out of Port Vila with a very colourful (Dora the Explorer type style) map and hit a number of dead ends – we must have said ‘that trail we blaze’ about three or four times (Eldorado, anyone?). It was nice when we finally got out of the hustle and bustle, it was starting to get confusing driving on the wrong side of the road (on the left) and going around roundabouts; “Jordan! Give way! Give way! Give way to your left! GO!”
The one thing that was a definite on the map was the one road that went around the island. It was bitumen for the most part and went through the costal towns.
At first there was a lot of green jungle. It reminded me of a scene out of Avatar. It was magical. We pulled the quad bike over and took a couple happy snaps. There were barely any cars. And the only one that actually did past us, stopped and asked if we were okay and if we needed any help #whatevenisthisplace.
On our adventure, there was this crazy time where we past a very friendly group of people, waving and yelling out something we couldn’t hear, as we neared a bridge. Thinking nothing of it, we continued, weaving around fallen down palm trees and debris. Right as we were crossing the bridge, we saw a bit of a gap. As we got closer, we realised that it had been damaged, most likely in a storm/cyclone, and hadn’t been repaired, thus the palm trees to stop cars and trucks from crossing – not helpful when your riding a small, powerful quad bike. We were so close to crossing the bridge, but decided that we’d best not as it was quite a drop down into the gorge and we wanted to go back to Australia in one piece. Giggling, we made our way back to our friendly group of locals. They directed us down a detour that put us back on our path.
One of my favourite things about driving around Vanuatu was the people. I haven’t had so many waves in my direction – like ever. There were kids running up besides the quad bike, holding their hands out for high fives, people in the cars coming the opposite direction flashing their lights and waving, even people deep into the town that you wouldn’t even think could see us were saying hi. Literally, every single person we past, without a doubt, waved and/or said hi. It was really warming and we felt super comfortable exploring their island.
It was quite an ordeal to find petrol. There were no petrol stations in any of the towns that we could see. Starting to get a little worried, we asked some friendly people that pointed us in the direction of a small shop. It was the last building, right on the outskirts of the town. It was filled with approximately two of every basic need. Tampons, chocolate, tuna, and even pizza shapes – yes, we did get some for the road. We asked the shop assistant for petrol and he nodded, turned and headed out the back door. He returned five minutes later with a large glass bottle and proceeded to fill up our quad bike – the last place we would’ve thought to look.
Oh and that’s just some cute piccy’s of Jord drinking some cocktails.
After a refreshing nights sleep, we headed to breakfast with a motivation to do some exercise. We filled our bellies and borrowed some tennis gear. It was hot. We pumped ourselves up with some Pnau, Chameleon in particular, and some pre-workout (yes – I packed pre-workout in my suitcase, so what) and started hitting back an forth. It didn’t take long for the sweat to start pouring off of us. Soon enough, it was time to hop on a boat and head to a deserted island for a picnic.
The resort organised us boat transport to the island, with a small esky of baguettes, some nibbles, a rug and an an icy cold bottle of wine. After Jordan had his fun on the swing, we had lunch then went for a walk through the jungle. We even ran into some locals with machetes (not scary at all). We tried doing some snorkelling but unfortunately, there wasn’t too much to see on this side. So we lazed on the beach awaiting our boat.
Once back on Efate, I grabbed my backpack and new hiking boots and we walked down to the closest village. There were nice big houses closest to the resort, but as we kept walking, the scenery changed. Besides the many goats that were tied up to trees and roaming chickens, there wasn’t much else happening. Perhaps it was the time of day or maybe season, but it was surprising. We hadn’t yet seen how poor Vanuatu actually was. Most of the buildings were tin or looked to be only half completed (maybe in light of the recent hurricane). But I was shocked. As we started to enter the village, we met up with a staff member that worked at the resort. He had cut through on a different pathway. He walked with us and took us through the village, pointing out his home, church and other places. It was most enjoyable talking with him and learning about his community and culture.
Cutting back through on the dirt path, Jordan spotted some humongous trees and decided to attempt climbing one. I was actually quite impressed how far he got!
Now back to the restaurant for some more seafood and maybe a mango daiquiri or two.