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Pavėjui

I started this blog as a journal to document my impressions during a long (it turned out ot be 8 months) trip around South East Asia and Australia. However, it might become something else as I started enjoying writing and found myself willing to share more – not only about travelling, but being in general 🙂

Below you’ll find the original intro to my blog, as it was when I started travelling in 08.10.2016:

“Pavėjui” is a Lithuanian word that means something like “going with the wind”, “on the wind’s direction” and it kind of represents the concept of my trip in the south east Asia :). There is no particular destination or a mission. Mainly this trip is about seeing, feeling, experiencing more of this beautiful world and this blog will serve as a notebook and as a tool to share my experiences with the ones who are interested.

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Žodis “pavėjui” gana tiksliai apibrėžia mano kelionės po pietryčių Aziją koncepciją 🙂 Tikslas yra vienas – pamatyti, patirti, išgyventi dar daugiau šio nuostabaus (net ir suvokiant,kad ne visur ir nevisada taip yra) pasaulio. Ši platforma atstos užrašų knygutę, kurios turiniu mielai pasidalinsiu su visais smalsuoliais.

 

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Azores – Portuguese heaven in the Atlantic

Most of you probably don’t know much about Azores, the archipelago in the Atlantic ocean that belongs to Portugal. Nine tiny islands, home of around 250 thousand people, are surrounded by the vastness of water. To be fair I must say that before moving to Portugal I was not that well informed neither. However recently I had a chance to visit 2 of the 9 islands – São Miguel and Terceira – and will be glad to share my experience.

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We landed on São Miguel in the evening  of the 13th of May. Our trip started immediately without much time for warming up – half an hour after getting out of the plane we were sitting in a very cosy campervan, our home for the next 5 nights and days (huge thanks to the ANC rent a car , who were extremely helpful and professional with their services!!!). After the road trip in Australia I was convinced, that I wanted to travel the same way again, on a house on wheels as it gives so much freedom and flexibility! What a privilege it is to sleep, eat, spend time wherever you choose! This campervan not only had the combo of roof+bed+kitchen+car, but also bonus of a shower and a toilet! If you ask me, it is better than any 5 star hotel, which cannot move to the top of the mountain or park 10 meters from the ocean just because you feel like it. We stopped and stayed almost anywhere we wanted – we were the only campervan in the island on the road at that time. Maybe that’s why the locals observed us and our home with such curiosity.

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Today on the programm – ocean view

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In my modest opinion, our way of exploring was awesome by itself, but the island is jaw dropping even if you are travelling on a broom. Tiny towns are snoozing by the coast, on the cliffs and in the green valleys. It is very peaceful and safe, it seems that people live high quality lives with little rush and stress, a lot of nature, strong community ties and great food. The Portuguese vibe is very present ( I’ve described that vibe in the previous post). This calm pace attracts calmer tourists as well – more mature and aware of their surroundings than those, who just want to party, drink and demonstrate their beach bodies (the Phi-Phi islands in Thailand type). The weather conditions are not that favourable for the beach body contest, since the temperatures even in summer rarely rise above 25°C and it rains quite a lot, as it is typical for the maritime climate.

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Snoozing

Nature is still pristine and there are plenty of secret spots to discover. There is a lot of green and blue. Vast horizons of fields and ocean. To make it more spectacular, there are plenty of cliffs and hills from which one can see even broader view. Words are a bit powerless in this case, so maybe few pictures will work better.

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The whole waterfall all for yourself

Amazing waterfalls, hot springs, naturally formed swimming pools in the ocean, remarkable landscapes with probably happiest cows (as happy as a trapped and for human food industry used animal can be) on the earth. Most of the animals spend their days outside, chewing fresh juicy grass.

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Some marshmallows for the cows

Humans also have some good stuff to chew – Portuguese cuisine has kept its quality also on the island thousands of kilometres away from the mainland: various seafood options, fish, high quality beef (… at least those were happy cows).. Vegetarian choices are more limited as usual. However, the variety of cheese is impressive. It is hard to surprise a Lithuanian with dairy products, since we have amazing production too, but the Azoreans can compete for sure. In general – food is really important in Portuguese culture. Restaurants get completely full at the hour of lunch and dinner and people spend hours enjoying their meals and talking talking talking 🙂

My personal TOP 3 spots of the São Miguel island:

1. Lagoa do Fogo and a hike down to it

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A bit by chance we stopped at one of the many “miradouros” (lookouts) and spotted a little steep trail going down. It was not marked on the map, but we decided to take it anyway. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful trails ever!

2. Praia da Viola (and a walk-hike down to it through an abandoned village)

 

 

This was a recommendation of a friend of ours, but we still had very little idea, what to expect and it happened to be a breath taking hike passing an abandoned village. On the way we’ve also found the waterfall (pictured above).

3. Ferraria and the natural swimming pool in the ocean with thermal streams

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Believe it or not, but after living in Portugal for almost 1 year, this was the first time when I’ve finally swam in the Atlantic ocean, as the water was supposed to be much warmer at this spot (on the coast of Porto water temperature is around 15-16°C) . I am not convinced if it was really the case, since we went swimming during the high tide and there was a lot of water coming in from the ocean, but still – it was a fun adventure!

Terceira 18.05-22.05.

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Miradouro da Serra do Cume

Seeing São Miguel left us really impressed and content. We’ve embarked the plane to Terceira trying to lower down our expectations for the next island. It is not so favourable to have such a pretty neighbour. However, we didn’t need to be that modest. Terceira definitely has its own character, beauty and story.

We stayed in Angra – the main and the most impressive city of the island (UNESCO heritage since 1983). Our home didn’t have any wheels… but instead it had amazing staff, facilities and breakfast! We are especially grateful to José and Sancha, who are super helpful and kind hosts of this beautiful place My Angra Boutique Hostel.They run it with such passion and dedication!! Through them and other people that we were lucky to meet, we got to know a lot about the island’s history, daily life and traditions. Interesting and warm interactions with locals were a big part of the experience that we cherish the most.

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My Angra Boutique Hostel and their inner garden

I finally had a chance to ask someone a question – how does life on a such a small island feel like? Do many people emigrate? What about the young ones? What are their perspectives? Not once I was told that many people who were born on Terceira, choose to stay and create their lives there, even if they laeve to study to the mainland Portugal for some time. The island does seem to be very alive and active, there are many young people, kids, who have all they need around them. Actually, just recently I’ve read one article about, how people who live in smaller places are happier. I guess, that makes sense.

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Old market in Angra

We were not aware, how old and loaded with history Terceira is. This island was discovered and inhabited in the beginning of the 15th century and in the imperialist times of Portugal it was an important port for ships to stop by after months of traveling overseas. Vasco da Gama was here on the way back from his first trip to India. Angra do Heroismo was even Portuguese capital for some years in the XVI century… Anyway, I am sure, you can find all of this and even more on wikipedia 😉 So I will focus more on our personal experience.

What we did experience very personally, was the bullfighting or should I rather call it bull-dragging tradition. The good news is – the bulls never get killed or physically hurt (unless by accident). It goes like this: the bull is attached on a very long rope, so it has freedom of movement. It is being teased and annoyed by a bunch of guys, in order to make it run and chase them (you know, entertainment..). However if the bull is really getting some speed and gets too close to its target, it is being held and pulled back by 6-7 guys, who hold the rope. These events are happening all around the island all summer long and attract huge crowds of locals and tourists.

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As you might guess, there is an ongoing discussion, if such tradition should prevail. Though the animal is not being killed, it experiences huge amounts of stress. When hitchhiking from one village to another, we met a young woman, who told us about a local movement against this form of entertainment. José on the other hand pointed out that if not for these events, bulls would not be raised at all, as otherwise they are useless for humans (as cruel as it is).

Another very personal and actually quite dangerous encounter we had at the northern coast, close to the town of Biscoitos (biscuits). Walking between the rocks, I saw some little blue “balloons” floating on the waves, also stuck on the stones and I decided to take a closer look. A very close look, to be precise.

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These lava rocks look like biscuits, hence the name
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Ooooh, what do these blue balloons do here?

For your and my information these are the Portuguese men on war. And they are really on war – a sting of this creature can kill not only a fish, but, under unlucky circumstances, also a human. By the way, they sting also when on shore, so I could have got myself into a pretty painful situation here.

My top 3 of Terceira:

  1. Miradouro da Serra do Cume (scroll up for the photo) – beautiful lookout
  2. Furnas do Enxofre – scenic volcano park with walking trails

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3. Algar do Carvão (Cave of a vulcano) – you get to walk around in a natural cave that was formed by lava thousands of years ago.

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This is an ancient lava tube that didn’t collapse after the erruption

As you probably understood, we loved the trip and hope that some of this information will be useful for someone else too!

 

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P.S. this is my longest post ever!

 

Why to hurry? a.k.a. Portuguese lifestyle

I started writing this post just after Christmas, still in 2017, but never published it (for many different reasons). However the text is still relevant, so I will first share these few paragraphs from 2017 and then move on to the freshly written part.

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During all this time I was absorbing, observing, exploring, learning, how everything works/ doesn’t work in Portugal. Drops of this new culture and language are sinking into my liquid identity. I think, I have finally understood that I actually live here now and I finally started speaking Portuguese. Bam! With that I have to be very persistent, because most of the locals automatically start speaking to me in English (unless they don’t know how). My Portuguese teacher told me that this is typical for Portuguese, since they want to show that they: a) can speak English b)want to practice it. I was told to stay stubborn and stick to the Portuguese language, otherwise I will not get to use it.

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January in Lisbon

The process of getting to know someone or something deeper always reveals some amazing things, but also some less attractive sides. As for the less attractive (yes, it is very subjective) .. Personally I still cannot get used to the rather slow pace and inefficiency in certain situations. When you are in Portugal as a tourist it is great – everyone feels relaxed and services directed at tourists are usually faster, better organised (the faster the service, the more income), but being a local and dealing with some local issues is another matter. It is pleasurable to enjoy the moment, relax and drink your cafezinho (the ending ‘-inho’ indicates diminutive), but when the pipes at home are leaking and you need someone to come and fix them asap, but plumbers are having their “cafezinho moment” (that might last for some days), it can become a bit stressful. Or when you are waiting for a bus to arrive on time, but it doesn’t come at all (it’s a systematic thing). Also in some public institutions, banks and elsewhere – why to hurry? Customer service is taken with a lot of ease even in a private sector. The capitalist slogan “client is always first” (not that I am a big fan of it) is not really working here. It is rather like this: if the client wants a service, he/she will wait and come again if needed or the service will be provided whenever it works better for the provider. Like it happened to us – Saturday. 8am and someone rings at the door: “Bom dia! We are here to change the internet router, as it is the time, when we are available.” Why not? The client gets out of the bed and opens the door.

Generally I still find most of the Portuguese people very friendly and helpful and it feels genuine. Except maybe few cases, everyone has been always super nice and warm. I will give you an example. One Sunday I went to the São João National Theatre. At the counter I asked for a ticket. The cashier asked back: “Maybe you have a student identity card or some other discount card?”. As much as I wanted it, no I didn’t. I gave him a bill of 20€ and was expecting 8€ change, but instead I got 14€. I thought it was a mistake and informed the cashier, but he just smiled and said: “No worries, I used my discount card. You will sit in the VIP balcony. Enjoy!”. You bet, I enjoyed.

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Interior of the theatre

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And now back to May 2018. I still feel similarly about previously discussed topics. Just to add about Portuguese people and general feeling about life in Portugal – it feels very peaceful and laid back. In all this time I haven’t experienced or observed almost any micro or macro aggressions. It is hard not to compare – maybe I was extremely unlucky, but while living in Berlin I got punched few times (without no reason), I was shouted at many times and saw other people getting into conflicts in various situations, especially when drunk. Also in Vilnius, where I grew up, it was quite common to see drunk people quarrelling, shouting, harassing others or fighting and even sober people would be quite agressive or at least rude quite often. In Porto I have seen only few really drunk people, but still acting reasonably, no fighting or other forms of verbal or physical violence. It feels very safe and cosy. Maybe it is different in other Portuguese cities, please let me know 🙂

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Port at Viana do Castelo on the January 1st

As I mentioned previously, this overly relaxed atmosphere, “no rush” attitude has another side as well, which I perceive as lack of initiative and ambition. It is great that people don’t stress about each small thing or at least they don’t express it in destructive ways, but it does not mean that they are very content neither. There is a lot of dissatisfaction about differrent things, but lack of initiative to change them. Just one example – tourism has been growing very rapidly in Portugal since at least 5 years and it is reaching the level, when it becomes harmful to the local environment, but there are almost no new laws or regulations to manage huge crowds of tourists or foreign investors. Real estate prices, rents have jumped immensely and locals have to live with that and with airbnb flats popping up on every corner. Tourism itself also brings a lot profit, but some management is essential and unfortunately is missing.

This much for now. I hope to finish the next post about the trip to Azores very soon (I am currently writing from the middle of the Atlantic ocean, the island of Terceira).

Stay tuned!

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Landscape of Terceira

 

 

 

 

 

Being a traveller, being an immigrant

Being a traveller

Now when I live a settled “normal” life again I keep on thinking about the long term travelling, people I met on the way and all of that impact on me. The most amazing thing that I took with me is the experience and belief that there is so much more beauty in the world than the opposite. We live in a so much nicer, safer and more welcoming place than we are made to think. Believe it or not, but for me it was a discovery. Time went by and at the moment I feel like I really need a detox from all of the negative news. Not because I don’t care about what’s going on, not because I want to ignore the bad stuff, but because the way it is being presented is so out of balance. What is actually mainstream “news”? It seems that the concept of news is based on our survival mechanism. It’s disproportionally about threats, dangers, issues. It might have made sense in the past and it used to be more simple – one used to get a signal about some threat, something bad happening or about to happen and the reflex was – run, escape from it! But what happens now? There is no escape, we just keep on scrolling and absorbing all of these “news” and don’t really do much about it, except maybe getting depressed. Rare news channel will tell you that some stranger has let another stranger into her house and treated her like a beloved friend or that in Vietnam people invited us to eat dinner with them and talk just because they wanted spend time with us or or or. During 8 months of travel I have experienced countless acts of kindness from complete strangers. I am convinced that beautiful things are happening every second and everywhere, but these small (though many) acts of kindness drown in the sea of dark + scary=IMPORTANT news. This never ending fear leads to irrational choices, attitudes, paranoia and election of fascist presidents, parties. Maybe I was just very lucky, maybe it sounds like a cheesy and empty statement, but for now this is the big news –  in the real life people are mostly kind and knowing this makes me feel so much happier.

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Being an immigrant

I am an immigrant/emigrant again – this realisation is slowly finding its place in the conscious part of my brain. I am not a tourist, not a visitor anymore, but a resident. It’s about time – 3 months have passed, since I am in Porto. An immigrant is expected to integrate: speak the local language, act according to the new set of socio-cultural norms, requirements. There is a constant confrontation of who you were before and who you are/expected to be here, in this new context. I am also being pushed to question my current and previous identities, cultural habits. As a foreigner I am a minority and abnormality by default. Nothing personal. For example… I still find it weird and uncomfortable to kiss people I don’t know, but I am expected to do it, since that’s how humans greet each other in Portugal. I might come across as distant or even impolite, since out of habit many times I still stretch my hand instead. It also occurred to me only now that my looks differentiates me from the local people (when I used to live in Germany that was not the case). Different enough to stand out from the crowd- lighter skin and hair colour, taller, uncommon facial features. Quite an interesting feeling to be obviously different. Rarely people think I am Portuguese. However, Lithuanian and Portuguese are not really alien cultures: both are based on Christianity, European, homogenous and rather conservative, reserved societies, economically on a similar level. Generally I feel comfortable here, but it must be really hard for people, who move to live in a completely different cultural environment. It’s not bad to keep that in mind and show some empathy.

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Few Lithuanian dots in Porto

Recently my mind was busy with all of these details, observations.  Once again I am trying to create a sense of belonging and to accept the new rules. All that lands somewhere in the foggy fields of the subconsciousness. Maybe thats why lately I have been haunted by Lithuanian folk songs ringing in my head until I open my mouth and let them out. As a reminder to myself – my Lithuanian saudade 🙂

Some Lithuanian folk from my throat> — HERE–

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Another brick in the wall

 

 

 

66 sunny days in Porto

Today was one of those rare mornings in Porto, when I have opened my eyes and the sky was grey, not blue. Actually, in 73 days, since I am here, I have counted maybe 7 such days that started with grey, but turned into blue eventually. I read somewhere that Portugal is one of the sunniest countries in Europe and now, ladies and gentelmen, I have some empirical evidence. It keeps on ringing in my head – sun sun sun. I am still on my streak of summer days (since last October after landing in Thailand).

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Sunny in the park
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Sunny by the church

I guess, I finally can say that I live in Porto. Something symbolical happened, almost like a baptising. I was expecting it sooner or later and yet yesterday was THE day, when finally a seagulls poop landed on my hand. After 2,5 month I became one of many people in Porto, who share the same destiny. Yep, life of a local.

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Mission accomplished

But really, do I feel like a local already? Of course not. Among other things, the language plays an important role here. Though I do understand a lot of Portuguese (I didn’t expect that there are so many things in common with English – situação, confirmação, impressão, atenção, comunicação etc…), but not mastering the local language is something new and challenging for me. When I moved to live in Germany, I already spoke fluent German and felt sympathy for those who were struggling to order a beer. “Era uma cerveja, por favor”. I am getting there. Try me after the intense A2 course (will be done in November)! I bet, then I will be able to order the whole stuffed turkey with the sides and rosmarine and no pumpkin, pleaaaaase…

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One day I will come here and by whatever I want! (in Portuguese)

People talk – in the last 10 years Porto has changed a lot! I can believe them. I first came here in early spring 2011. Could be because of the time of the year, but it felt much calmer and emptier, partly abandoned. Now I actually avoid going downtown, where all of the touristy buzz is. Tourism brought money and actually helped Portugal to overcome the economic crisis, but we all know what else most of the tourists bring – selfiesticks, noise and themselves, which results in big crowds. Not only that, more and more foreigners (including Madonna) move to Portugal to live (did I tell you that it’s sunny 90% of the time?..), which has increased the rents. Actually, I was quite shocked to see the prices online – hardly any options below 10€/sq meter a bit closer to the city center in Porto. Of course, real locals (not like me) find some cheaper offers through their social networks.

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Now it is time to complain a bit, since my first post from Porto was overly positive, there has to be some balance after all. Cycling and bicycle lanes – poor situation here. I was used to cycle in Berlin, Vilnius and already tried it here, but I must admit that it is quite challenging and not only because Porto is hilly and there is stone paving in many streets. Few weeks ago I accidentally bought my bike from the organiser of the “Crytical mass” in Porto and had a chance to discuss the situation. Since many years, he is trying to encourage people to cycle more (has also established a bike rental-sale-repair shop), but, according to him, Portuguese still don’t see bicycles as a proper mean of transportation and might even look down to cyclists, as if they don’t earn enough to buy a car. There are only few cyclists – to the last crytical mass arrived 5 people (tragical mass) – infrastructure is also not well developed. Situation is slowly changing, I was told. Gladly the road from my home to the ocean is pretty decent and it took me only 25 minutes to reach the Atlantic. Dear Portuguese, who are reading this, tell me, what is your opinion, experience regarding cycling?

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Straight to the ocean via Boavista

To end on a nice note (literally) I would suggest you to listen to this wonderful Portuguese singer:

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Is it sunny or what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One month in Porto: like an astronauta

This is not the asian trip anymore.

Already more than one month I am waking up with the sound of seagulls. Each time they remind me that the ocean is near. It wasn‘t used to be a part of my daily life, maybe that‘s why my brain automatically switches into a vacation mood. In Lithuania I would go to the seaside only once or twice a year and it would always be on holidays or some special occasion. The sea and its vastness always felt exceptional and luxurious to me, the time that I could spend there, listening to the waves with my feet buried in the warm sand – as a precious gift. Therefor now, living in Porto, I feel a bit confused – really? The ocean is here and my home is too? There is no set ending for this?

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ocean

Each day I think to myself and actually pretty often I share this thought out loud – how lucky these people (Porto citizens) are!! Since I am here it has been pleasantly sunny and warm, but usually with a cooling ocean breeze. You grab a cup of the best coffee, a fresh and creamy pastel de nata on a side and sit down outside, on a sunny terrace for another zen moment, absorbing and digesting the beauty of simplicity. I am not the only one. Does not matter if it‘s a weekend or a weekday, there will be enough portuguese people sharing these blissful moments with each other. I close my eyes and hear many beautiful sounds of a language that still SOUNDS more than provides information. I dont need information yet, not now when pastel de nata is melting on my tongue 🙂 …

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The tiles – azulejos

Maybe one day I will become like one of them and will start taking all of this for granted. Cheap and good food? Well, of course! Sunny most of the time? Doah?? Ocean under your nose? It is my human right. It is cloudy??? Life is not fair. Maybe it is a universal rule. Lithuanians also don‘t value what they have that much. Someone from the outside must come and start pointing at all the amazing things and only then (maybe) a local will start nodding modestly or will stay a firm denier – but look what the others have!! But do you know how much they earn in Switzerland??

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Symmetry

Time. Here it works differently. Looks like people have more of it when waiting in queues, walking, talking. S-l-o-w-e-r. I am a quite impatient person by nature and even more coming from a young and ambitious country, Lithuania, where many people feel like they have to catch up and grab all of the possible opportunities, USE the time properly. Here I catch myself commenting in my mind on different occasions: „ufff…what a slomo.. can we mooooove??? It‘s taking ages!“ But then I look around and see other people peacefully waiting for whatever it is and for a moment feel a bit uncomfortable with my own urge. Ok, let‘s be fair on this – on the roads portuguese are not that slow, actually maybe too fast. Looks like speeding is a nationwide trend. Those speed limit signs are just to decorate the roadsides.

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Slower

People take time to chat with one another. Complete strangers may start talking to you and definitely will go out of their way to help, if asked. Close to my school (where I attend classes of portuguese) is the „Restaurante Astronauta“. Great name so why not to have a drink. I‘ve ordered fresh orange juice. What a hipster to ask for such a thing in an old school diner. Of course they didn‘t have it!! But guess what, the owner gave me a sign to wait. I obeyed and went back to my table. 10 minutes after I saw one of his employees coming back with a bag of oranges. 5min after I was sipping the juice (1,5€) and feeling like a real astronauta.

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Sharing the moment

 

 

The final destination: roadtrip from Cairns to Sydney

I am writing this already back in Vilnius, looking at the grey sky through my window in Antakalnis. Back since more than a week, after warm reunions with my family and some of the friends, after repeatedly answering questions “So… how was it??how does it feel to be back??”. Actually, it feels very normal and on time. Ok, maybe I did get spoiled a bit with all that warm weather and 80% sunny days while travelling, since now I am having troubles to accept the fact that Lithuanian summer is as warm/cold as Australian winter. 17°C, grey sky, rain every second day and strong winds do not encourage me to wear summer clothes that I bought in Asia (damn!). Therefor I will gladly let my mind drift somewhere warmer, dive into the memories from the Australian roadtrip and share some sunny moments with you.

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Tropical forest in the North Eastern Australia

On the 30th of March while in Lithuania everyone was still posting selfies with snowmen, we landed in Perth, Western Australia. At that point there was no plan to visit the East Coast as our budgets were getting tight after 6 months of travel, moreover internal flights are expensive in Australia, just like anything else. Despite of these rationalisations, with each day in Western Australia it seemed less and less reasonable not to visit the other side too. The same good old thought started buzzing once again – when if not now? Chased by this question, we began to search for alternative solutions. Bingo! We contacted a campervan rental company “Travel Wheels” which later expressed interest in collaborating with us – they agreed to lend us a van in exchange for some promotion on our social media during the trip and a short video of our adventures once we were done. It sounded almost too good to be true! After negotiating all the conditions, we decided to believe our luck and bought the flight tickets to Cairns, a major city on the opposite coast.

On the 7th of May we got out of the plane already on the East Coast. Cairns welcomed us with fresh air, wind and rain. Though the sensation was not very tropical, we found ourselves excited and impatient  waiting in front of the car rental shop half an hour earlier than arranged. While standing around I cought myself thinking that somebody could have simply tricked us and will never show up… My fearsome thoughts vanished, when 30 minutes later we had our new home, our new companion and last but not least – our vehicle to travel all the way down to Sydney.

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Our home for 2 weeks

The 2700 km journey (many more kilometers with all the detours) began! We left Cairns on the 7th of May and had to be in Sydney on the 22nd to catch our flight back to Kuala Lumpur. We had 14 full days to complete the trip, which makes the math pretty simple: 2700/14= at least 193 kilometers per day.

To make a roadtrip was one of my old dreams. To have a house on wheels for me seemed like an embodiment of freedom. One has where to sleep, where to hide from the rain, drink a cup of tea, cook, store the food and other stuff  and a tool to go wherever eyes/roads lead. I dreamt about travelling like this in Europe, but not Australia. My dreams did not reach that far :).

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There we were – on the road

It is hard to imagine a better ending for a 8 month trip than a contemplative, long and slow drive watching the Australian horizon changing: morning, evening, sunny, cloudy, cars passing, trees waving, mountains, flats, forests, fields and the ocean always there, on the left. There was enough time to rethink and digest all the previous experiences.

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sunseton the roadsnapshot tripThis roadtrip was a highlight as a whole, but I will still mention a couple of memorable spots that we’ve visited. To start with Wallaman falls (268 meters height) and a jungle walk leading to it.IMG_5261

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On the halfway we’ve arrived to Brisbane (the worst city to park your car, especially if it is higher than normal) and further south, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast and Byron Bay. These beautiful names actually stand for beautiful coastal cities with never ending GOLDEN beaches that are of course full of SURFERS. Here we’ve spent few days enjoying the sun, waves and beautiful sceneries (a.k.a. paradise).

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On the 18th of May we’ve reached Port Macquarie and were warmly hosted by a German emigrant from Berlin, Ines. We still slept in the van, but this time parked in a private territory and with a private bathroom in the house, which can feel like a luxury after more than a week of cold showers at free camping sites. Vielen Dank, Ines!

The next day we’ve visited a very unique Koala Hospital (working since 1973). Apparently, these cute and fluffy animals get into different sorts of trouble: dogs attack them, they get burnt in forest fires, various diseases and infections are also a threat. Some of the animals are being set free after the treatment, but the others have to stay in cages till they die as they would not survive in their natural habitat.

 

Few days after we’ve reached our final destination – Sydney. Here we were lucky to stay with another welcoming couchsurfing host, Agathe from France (or should I say from Portugal, since she loves the country and has been living there for 5 years). Very warm and pleasant encounter!

SYDNEY. The furthest I have ever been from home and yet it felt so close and familiar, in other words – Western. We went to walk around in the old harbour area, The Rocks district, where the British Australia started growing less than 250 years ago. It’s so little, yet more than enough to destroy the natural lifestyle of aboriginals. Next stop – another must see in Sydney, the Opera House. So many times I have seen this building in photographs that it was hard to believe it was a real material object in 3D. I had to touch it and observe its imperfections from 10 centimeters distance to finally confirm it to myself – yes, I was in Sydney, this building existed and it was as human as any other place on earth.

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Last but not least was our daytrip to Blue Mountains around 120 km in the West of Sydney. I will let the pictures speak. Breathtaking.

 

The next day we had a flight back to Malaysia, which meant the end of the roadtrip and the whole 8 month journey. The feeling of gratitude that overwhelmed me when leaving was as vast and endless as Australian continent. And I still feel it.

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The stars mark our footprint

PS. Check our Fbook page to see the trip video (should be ready in a month)

 

Western Australia: before leaving Perth

Three weeks have passed in one blink. On the 13th of April we were on the way from Albany to Perth and this Saturday, on the 6th of May, is our flight to the East coast, to Cairns.

So how is/was Perth? Very calm, but very social at the same time. To be more exact – the city itself is huge and most of the time it feels empty, but once we were in someone‘s house, there was a lot of action. To start with, our reunion with the Rova family. Boriana and Ivo, Bulgarian immigrants,  their 3 teenage kids and 4 extra housemates – Petra, Greek-Australian arts student + 3 Dutch backpackers (I will not risk to write their Dutch names) , who eventually became long-term residents. This lovely crowd was our family during Easter celebration. To my surprise, Bulgarians also (just like Lithuanians)  do eggfights for Easter and I was very excited to participate and to win! All those years of practicing have been worth it after all 🙂 However, another activity was new for me, but also super fun – easter egg hunt! A good observer, as I am, has a great chance of stuffing her/himself with chocolate 🙂

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In Perth we’ve changed 3 living locations, Cloverdale – Rivervale – Cottesloe, with each moving closer to the beach. However each time it felt the same empty. Australia is huge and the population is small~24 million + wealthy, so most of the people can afford living in a private house, which is the norm here.  There are kilometers and kilometers of “sleeping districts”, as we call it in Lithuania. This term is meant to describe living areas, suburbs further from the city center with little action, which occurs mainly when people get back from work to sleep. It felt a bit depressive to be the only pedestrians wherever we went. We saw a couple of leisure cyclists, but bike is not used as a main mean of transportation, like in Tokyo, Berlin and even Vilnius (when the weather is good). The biggest crowd on the street, the biggest noise makers in these areas were the crows. During my first days here, I was pretty impressed to see so many huge black birds, peacefully swinging in the trees and making not such peaceful sounds.

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Sleepy suburb (crows soundtrack in the background)
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The normal house in the suburb

The liveliest and the most interesting public space in the city to me was the King’s Park. We spent there at least five hours walking around and observing extraterrestrial plants. The colours,  the sizes, the shapes! I have never seen anything like that.

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We also tried to have a picnic in the park. I say “tried”, because after about 5 minutes of eating my chicken sandwich a sneaky bird attacked me from behind,  grabbed a piece of chicken, flew a couple of meters further and ate it in front of my eyes! A bird eating a piece of another bird! I said to myself: “You are eating your sister!”. However, for the laughing kookaburras it is a normal diet. I got to know these birds in the bush, around Albany. There would be gangs of them sitting in the trees and LAUGHING. Very contagious 🙂

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Place of the incident

Another social hub in Perth for us is Marco’s house, where we are currently staying. Marco is an immigrant from Italy, who has finally been granted Australian citizenship. Easy going and warm guy. He was right on time, since Australian government is making the immigration laws stricter and stricter. We met many other Italians (Marco’s friends), who are still fighting for their future in Australia. Marco has experienced that it is not easy to arrive to a foreign country and try to settle down, therefor he and his Australian girlfriend Jade want to help other people and provide as much useful information as possible on the online platform http://www.myOZexp.com , that they are still developing. Actually, that is one of our daily tasks, while staying here. We aim to help Marco and Jade promoting their idea and create contact with more bloggers, travellers, expats, who can give their own advice about multiple subjects, in multiple languages regarding experience in Australia . If you feel like you’d like to support this project, visit: https://www.facebook.com/myOZexp and like, of course, I you like the idea 🙂 Contact myOZexp if you’d prefer to contribute otherwise!

As I was saying, now we are staying at Cottesloe, one of the most desirable districts in Perth. Easy to figure out why – it is not too far from the city center and right at the beach. It is a luxury, to be able to see the ocean and sunbath every day, after 5 min walk. The beach is wide, clean and, guess what, EMPTY! From time to time there will be a helicopter flying by – patrolling the cost and warning, if there are sharks around. Actually, one day the siren went on, which means that they have spotted a shark somewhere nearby. Once it was off – peace and quiet again.

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The never-ending coast

Probably this calmness has had a good effect on us. Little distractions helped to focus and develop new ideas. During this trip we started filming small videos in exchange for something (at first mainly food and accommodation). This would happen naturally, without putting extra effort into finding people, who would be interested. However, since we are in Perth, we started thinking, why don’t we offer our services first? And why don’t we make it more official? Ladies and gentlemen, we introduce you the one and only:

                                           TAVO video

In Lithuanian “tavo” means your. In any other language it just sounds goood 🙂 Since in Perth we have finished 3 video projects and currently working on another one. Pretty exciting and very unexpected twist in our journey!

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Shot from the last filming

Not less exciting is the fact, that starting 7th of May we are going on a roadtrip from Cairns to Sydney, which also will be documented on camera. Another video project for TAVO video 🙂

For now it’s time to say goodbye to Western Australia. We loved it here! So much warmth  (also literally) and discoveries!

Talk soon from the East coast!

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A random tree and no pedestrians