Happy New Year – Fundraising for Leukaemia with WGS

A side by side

Happy New Year to All. While we are still at the Gold Coast we do intend to continue sailing south to Yamba – we first chose to defer our departure due to the fires burning in the Clarence Valley and then since the smoke cleared we have had strong winds from the south, 2m swell and messy seas – no good for bar crossings. So here we sit and wait patiently. Meanwhile Graham has gone down to Ballina by road – to catch his pre-booked flight to Melbourne for the latest round of testing and to collect the next 3 month supply of trial drugs. And on that note I’d like to share the following link to my Worlds Greatest Shave page. 41 people are diagnosed each day in Australia with blood cancer – that’s about one every 36 minutes! The Leukaemia Foundation raises money to help beat blood cancer and has set a goal to go from 20 deaths a day (as it stands now) to zero by 2035. That’s a lot of lives to be lost to blood cancer over that time and a LOT of money to be raised to find a cure. I love my blond locks and they have taken years to grow but volunteering to shave them off to raise money for this worthy cause seems to be incentive for people to dig deep – and my hair will grow back. Please share my link and donate if you can.
https://secure.leukaemiafoundation.org.au/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?RegistrationID=775426

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2019 YoYoing Up and Down the Coast

Happy New Year – 2019 is going to be awesome.  We started off the New Year, stuck in Island Head Creek – we tried poking our nose out a couple of times but it was too rough and wild and we just couldn’t make headway south so we tucked back in. Finally, after a couple of weeks the seas had eased enough to venture out the creek but the winds were still too strong from the SE to actually head south so we went back to the Percys! Why not! Graham slipped back into his fishing and I enjoyed pottering and doing yoga onboard and we enjoyed long walks together. Once again we were back and forth between South and Middle Percy due to winds and an awful NE swell. We were thankful for a heavy downpour – we washed the boat, washed clothes, took long showers and generally got everything clean and filled our water tanks. Graham’s feeling the best he’s felt in the 18 months since starting his trial so life is REALLY good onboard the Nap.

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Friends tell us cobia is nice, we tried cooking it several different ways and didn’t like it. Even the fish didn’t like it when it was turned into bait

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A nice day with what started as a double rainbow…

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And a not so nice day – had a few like this – Moorool anchored beside us at South Percy…it’s not always perfect days!

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Middle Percy – Took Graham in for a walk to the little waterfall I discovered last visit – this time it was actually flowing thanks to recent heavy rains

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Views from up the hills Middle Percy

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Called into Yeppoon and caught up with Stroudy

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On the walks at North Keppel

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View from hill on North Keppel

After a couple more weeks at the Percys we took a small weather window south and did an overnighter – arriving at Wilson Island by noon the next day – saw LOADS of turtles swimming in the clear waters. Had some awesome diving experiences at Broomfield reef – while swimming along minding my own business I turned my head ever so slightly and saw a massive turtle with her head turned staring at me – we swam like that for a while after I got over my initial fright. A big school of GT swam around us – I turned to look behind and the massive school of big fish were splitting up to go around my and the dinghy I was towing and then regroup in front of me – it was so amazing – I felt like I was in a David Attenborough documentary. (Wished I’d taken my underwater camera – but I’m hopeless).  But then I noticed some small reef sharks below them, the numbers and size increased as they swam with the school of GT and became more and more agitated and once they started posturing we decided it was time to get out. We saw more sharks that day – even had a bullshark swim several circles around us – than we have probably seen in our entire lives all put together! They were coming close and are obviously used to people – perhaps they were waiting for us to spear something but we didn’t see a legal size trout so nothing was speared – loads of other fish though and the water was clear and healthy colourful reef. Enjoyed some great weather and superb fishing out at the Capricorn and Bunker Reefs before continuing south.

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In the lagoon Nth Fraser Island

After sailing all the way to Mooloolaba, where Graham had a flight booked for Melbourne at the end of April, we then turned around and sailed north! Freezing! Fantastic sails with the wind on our back, and some excellent fishing. Explored some new reefs (new to us) out from Hinchinbrooks. With Graham now on quarterly appointments we had a little more freedom and sailed as far north a Cairns this year.

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View from the top of Dunk Island – we are hopeless at doing selfies – which is what we are laughing about

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Hinchinbrooks lovely views and sheltered anchorage

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Secret spot

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By the end of July we found ourselves sailing south again – early for us. Although strong SE winds during the day we noticed they eased most nights so decided to mostly do night sails just to be able to make some ground. From Brampton Island we headed east to the Swain Reefs – a first for us, as the weather isn’t usually in our favour to do this. We checked out several reefs and caught a few fish on each – but every anchorage was rolly all the way to the Percys.

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We did all the walks on north Keppel before heading over to Great Keppel

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By September we were at Fitzroy Reef and we had the most amazing weather that just went on and on. Loads of fish and loads of whales. Graham was fishing on the outside of the lagoon in the tiny tippy tender in about 20m. He’d been coming home with fish and stories of whales swimming near him and one day a calf swam under him. But the most amazing whale tale – he was sitting on the middle seat of the dinghy facing the stern when suddenly he found himself on the floor facing the bow when the dinghy did a 180 – and he was off. His favourite fishing reel was zinging away and water was coming over the bow. With one hand he was hanging on and with the other he had his rod which he had to drop so we could grab the knife from the very back of the dinghy and cut the anchor rope before being pulled under. He knew instantly what had happened – and it all happened so fast. He’d been watching an adult whale swim toward him when it must have hooked up it’s flipper on the anchor rope and fishing line and just kept going. Graham reckons it’s the fastest he’s ever gone in the dinghy – and the fastest he’s probably moved himself. He managed to retrieve the anchor as the end of the nylon rope floated to the surface but the whale took the rod and reel! So if ever you see a whale towing a fishing rod you know the story! He was pretty shook up when he got home but says it’ll be an experience he will remember for life.

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There were whales everywhere in Hervey Bay – we had a fantastic time there – September is apparently the best time – and we definitely saw a LOT of whales

In October we left the boat in Mooloolabah for 3 weeks while we flew all around Australia visiting family. Graham had another appointment in Melbourne – still clear – and we caught up with Lloyd there as we he was over from London for a friends’ wedding. Nice seeing family but lovely to be back home and hoist the sails and continue south.

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We spent a couple of weeks at Bribie – longer than we planned due to fires further south – and even nearby on some days

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Float plane kept landing beside us to pick up some water for the fire over on Moreton Island

So our plan for Xmas this year was to sail to Yamba so we could explore the Clarence River – but there are so many fires down that way and you can barely see the sea on the surf cam some days. So we decided to hold off a little and spent extra time waiting first at Bribie Island where Graham got into the golf. And then at the Gold Coast where he got into the body surfing – I’ve never been a fan of being rolled and tumbled in the surf and coming out with my pants full of sand but I do enjoy walking along the beach – so we are both happy waiting here for now. Had another quiet Xmas together, still on the Gold Coast, but since we thought we would be further south Graham’s next flight is booked out of Ballina NSW, so we still need to continue south. We’ve had a couple of great weather windows as far as winds, swell and the high tide being when we want to cross the bar at Ballina, but decided we didn’t want to be stuck inside with all the smoke, and now the winds are in the wrong direction and swell has picked up so it looks like we will be here for New Year’s Eve too. Oh well, been stuck in worse places. We don’t do presents as a rule – but this year a couple of days before Xmas I went to change our toothbrushes and decided to wrap his for a joke – he thought that was pretty cool and handed me a gift wrapped in a tea towel because he didn’t know if we had any wrapping paper – a phone holder to clip on my bike so I can use google maps to lead the way. We recently bought some second hand fold up bikes and they have been great fun. 2019 has been a much better year than last year – Graham really started feeling heaps better ever since last Christmas – much more energy and the nasty side effects have stopped (he finished the course of one of the two drugs he takes on the clinical trial). And we are certain 2020 will be an even better year and that he will remain in remission for a very long time. We feel so lucky that this trial started and was available to him here in Australia shortly after Graham needed treatment – these new targeted drugs were the first major breakthrough in CLL for a decade and since then they are coming out with more new ones – most are still in trial, but Ibrutinib is now available in Australia on PBS for patients who either relapse after chemo or like Graham the chemo doesn’t work for them due to their markers. But for many patients conventional chemo still remains a viable option. So what great news for people living with CLL. Anyway to all our friends family and a few strangers who read this post, we wish you all the best for 2020.

Cheers

The Nappers

PS I apologise to those who are following and have been bombarded by several emails this past week to notify you of our posts as we caught back up to date – and also added in 2007-2012 which we moved over from our old Telstra Blog (which actually shut down years ago and took me until now to reload here). WordPress have temporarily disabled the function so I can’t go in and deselect the sending of those emails which is what I would have liked to do until I got this all up to date and then switch back on.

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2018: 1770-Mooloolabah-Townsville-Island Hd Creek

Jan-April 1770 to Mooloolabah

Happy New Year! After a wild night (weather wise) anchored at 1770 we were pretty happy to leave bright and early on the 1st January, headed for Hervey Bay. Had a lovely sail down and picked up a little mackerel on the way… great start to the new year. Did our washing, shopped and refuelled and then headed over to Fraser island for a calmer anchorage. Graham had no luck catching squid though he tried at every anchorage – not like it used to be before we went overseas – he used to catch heaps! Spent quite a bit of time in the Hervey Bay area this trip – anchored, near Scarness/Torquay, which was super handy for restocking and going to the servo for fuel – water we got by dinghy when we anchored near the marina. Caught up with Bob and Gwen a few times which was great. Enjoyed the lovely walk along the foreshore a couple of times a day. Then we continued on our way south. Graham scooped a few muddies on the way down and we jumped in to clean the bottom – I was so nervous and for good reason, a couple of days later we saw a massive tiger shark on the news at the northern end of Fraser where Graham had jumped in on his own (I refused to get in – the water was all green and “spooky” there) and there was also news of a couple of crocs moved out of nearby Mary River!

We continued south and anchored at Inskip waiting to cross the Wide Bay Bar so we could sail down to Mooloolabah where Graham could catch his next flight to Melbourne. After 2 weeks of waiting for strong SE winds to ease and the swell to drop we had to go to plan B which was to head up to Tin Can Bay so he could catch a bus from there to the Sunshine Coast Airport. Amanda’s folks happened to be caravanning in the area so she had company while Graham was away, and then we had a couple days altogether before there was  break in the weather and we left. Although Graham was feeling sick most days and very fatigued – when his results came back there was truly cause for celebration – the best news ever – they could not detect any CLL cells in his blood or marrow. No one’s saying he is cured, as it’s virtually impossible to eradicate every single last teensy cll cell, but we can call this a remission, and because these drugs work for him, down the track when he needs a stem cell transplant he now has drugs that will work for him and help him get ready for the transplant. This is all great news – much better than this time last year! So he will stay on both drugs for another 6 months (to try and kill off a few undetectable cll cells) and then they retest. The first 6 weeks of this year had been such a struggle, we were really thinking that we would have to sell the Nap – she was just becoming too much for us and we weren’t enjoying ourselves. We were really wishing we were living on the land for this period, then we got these positive results and when we finally arrived in Mooloolabah we met these truly fantastic people who allowed us to tie up to their pontoon in the Mooloolah River. This was so very generous of them and it allowed us to regroup and relax without having to worry about the weather there or the cost of marinas. We carried on with some maintenance and replaced our outboards – all at a leisurely pace so Graham could rest up when he needed. We struck up a wonderful friendship. Thank you so much Helen and Kerry. Of course we also caught up with Brandt and Loretta who spoiled us rotten. Tidda popped down as a last minute surprise for my birthday and Lloyd came from the UK for a week with us.

4 bitchesAmandas 50thboys at the footyglass house mountains (1)the boys playing golfFather Son golf day

 

May: Mooloolabah to Island Head Creek

After monthly appointments since May 2017 we’d just had a 3 month break until his latest appointment, 1/5/18. All’s well. Amanda’s Mum arrived the day before Graham returned. She helped with the restock, then Graham was home. We had a farewell dinner with Helen and Kerry one night and Brandt and Loretta the next and we were off – back up north with Mum onboard for the ride. Picked up a yellow fin tuna on the way (our first) and Mum insisted we have sashimi. We played lots of rummikub in the evenings – great happy hour game – and had lots of big walks. It was good having Mum onboard as she’s such fun and up for anything – a welcome “distraction”. We celebrated Mothers Day at a lovely little restaurant on the beach at Hervey Bay and then Mum left and we sailed up to Lady Musgrave. Since Graham has had such a rough year I said we will go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants – only one guess what that is – FISHING! Lousy weather. On to Fitzroy for more lousy weather. Graham still went out fishing – it was so rough but he was so keen. I started on some new couch covers. I was SO relieved when Graham finally said it was time to head in. Spent a few days at Great Keppel enjoying the walks.

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I finally finished the couch covers in Island Head Creek while Graham went crabbing. It was pretty quiet but he managed to bring home one beauty!

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June: Percy’s to Whitsundays

Two fantastic weeks at the Percy’s. Magic weather and great fishing. Graham fought his fatigue to fish each day (great incentive), but could only manage a couple of hours at a time, and had to rest a few hours in the middle of the day – but he was so happy which made me really happy. Glad we were able to hang onto the Nap – this is what we live for. I was able to go kayaking and walking and do yoga on board most days as we had such lovely calm weather (and freezing). In between I continued with boat jobs, finishing the painting inside, painted antiskid at the back and lots of sanding and varnishing – happy to do it myself so my wonderful husband can have some fun and still get his rest.

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July-August: Whitsundays

Spent a month in Airlie – good place for restocking and cleaning and doing washing and going out to dinner at Banjo’s so Graham can enjoy some lamb shanks! Enjoyed daily walks along the foreshore. We removed the solar panels from the coach house and painted the last of the antiskid – yeah! This is a long slow work in progress but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s all just little bits here and there now. Graham went crabbing when the weather was right. His Melbourne appointment resulted in more good news. We went sailing in between appointments and jobs – saw loads of whales and had some lovely close encounters – even while doing yoga one day a couple came up alongside and “blew” – so beautiful.IMG_6325 whitehaven to cray bay walk

Whitehaven to crayfish bay walk

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Whitehaven post Debbie

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September

Graham arrived back from a trip to TI to work on our house, absolutely exhausted. A couple of days rest then we were off – super keen to go for a sail. We decided to head north this time, calling into Cape Gloucester to visit friends and catch a few muddies, and fish along the way. Spent a couple of weeks in Townsville catching up with friends and enjoying walks along the strand before heading over to Maggie.

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October: Townsville-Maggie

Checked out most of the walks and enjoyed happy hour ashore most days, and even a couple of meals out at Magnetic Island. Did a run up to Great Palm Island and then out to a reef for some fishing – still too cold for diving for us BRRRR!  Had to sail back to Airlie in the last week for a Skin Doc appointment for Graham. No worries – we love sailing. Sailed back by heading out to the reefs and then running all the way up to Maggie – great fishing.

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Views from Picnic Bay lookout…Magnetic Island

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Forts Walk

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Very cute baby koala on Forts Walk

November/December

Graham got some golf in at Maggie, we did daily walks, said goodbye to our Townsville mates, said goodbye to Bob at Maggie (Gwen was away) then we were off again. Did an overnighter down to Airlie, a major restock, caught up with Dave & Stacey and Amanda’s folks came up to say goodbye. Called into Thomas Island and because it was NE we were able to anchor in the southern bay for the first time, nice but not as nice as the Percy’s. Had two weeks at the Percy’s moving between White Bay on Middle Percy and then over to South Percy when the SE came in. The wind was all over the place and fairly strong a lot of the time – even up to 50kn – thanks to cyclone Owen up north. We just walked, fished, relaxed, played lots of rummikub and enjoyed our time no matter the weather. On the 16th we had to leave as forecast wasn’t looking good and we’d been moving back and forth due to the wind changes – which usually came in during the night. We got stuck in Island Head with strong winds for a couple weeks. Celebrated our wedding anniversary, Christmas and New Years Eve there. Unfortunately the crabbing wasn’t as successful as previous visits despite trying REALLY hard! At least we were in a safe anchorage and the wind could blow and change direction all it liked.

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First time up the hill at White Bay for the view

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To keep myself amused (and frustrated) I tortured myself for about a week to finish this puzzle – with the last piece going in New Years Eve. Not much else to do once the pots were set.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

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2017 Airlie – Gold Coast – Airlie – Clinical Trial

January-March 2018 Airlie to Gold Coast

Happy New Year. Although we had planned to sail into Airlie for New Year’s Eve it was so lovely out at Langford that we decided to stay. To our surprise and delight their were fireworks at Hayman Is which made it “feel” like new years eve. We spent the morning finishing off cleaning the waterline and then sailed into Airlie where our truly lovely and generous friends had offered up the use of their marina berth – thankyou you two. We had a stress free few weeks not having to worry about the weather – which was good as it was lousy – and enjoying the ease of stepping on and off the boat. We also decided to get the get the rigging replaced while there – so much easier than doing it on anchor as we had planned! It was long overdue. Amanda signed up for a 30 day yoga challenge – after the stress of the past year it was just what I needed. It really helped me settle my mind and got me back into a more regular meditation routine too.  Graham was feeling well rested and we were both feeling hopeful after his flight to Melbourne to meet with the head honcho who was in charge of the clinical trial at Peter Macallum Cancer Centre. After a few weeks in the marina we were ready to get some wind back in the sails.

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Sailing back into Airlie – after about 5 years since last saying goodbye – always feels like “home” when we return

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Happy to be returning to Airlie (in the distant background), hopeful of what we will learn from Graham’s upcoming trip to Melbourne

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Nice little hookup sailing to Bundy

We left Airlie on the 12th Feb and arrived at the Percys at 2am Valentines Day, after an overnight stop at Lindeman on the way. Graham enjoyed a week of really good fishing – and we had lovely weather. For my birthday he caught me a 68cm trout! It was hard to leave, but we eventually did and sailed 3 days to Bundy, starting off with light NE and ending up with 25kn SE on the third day and we just couldn’t make Fraser island as planned so we pulled into Bundaberg. The next day Graham was eager to continue to Fraser Island and the forecast was 10-15kn so we left. It soon picked up to 25kn on the nose again and rough as guts. After 4 hours we were only 2nm south of Bundy, having made numerous tacks but gained virtually no ground. Of course Graham wanted to continue as “we never turn back”, but once we turned around it was bliss and we were back in the river and anchored up within half an hour! It continued to blow strong SE during the day but we noticed it dropped off during the night so after a couple more days we set off at midnight and anchored up at Kingfisher resort by 7pm that night. It was still a rough trip but after 9 hours we were at the top of Fraser and thankfully out of the swell. Ah the joys of sailing. We then sailed to Inskip Point where we sat a couple days waiting for the wind to ease – if anything this cruising life certainly has taught us patience! We finally made it to Brisbane where we picked up Amanda’s Mum and the kids and darling granddaughter before carrying on to Bums Bay anchorage on the Gold Coast and meeting up with Graham’s family.

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Little Lila and “pop” are the cookie monsters

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Heading out for lunch with our lovely girls

April – Gold Coast to Yellow Patch

Quiet and a little sad when everyone left, but it did mean we could hoist the sails again – yeah! Couple of weeks in Mooloolabah to catch up with friends, shop at Whitworths (our fave chandlery) and enjoy the beach and the surf. Left on the 24th and took a week to get up to Yellow Patch, Curtis Island. Great run up.

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Double hook up rounding the tip of Curtis Island.

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Kayaking ashore something like this came charging at me – I thought croc – paddled like mad to shore and ran up the sand dune. The dolphin actually beached itself half a dozen times and then wiggled back in the water presumably chasing bait – the camera was still in the kayak of course. Once I realised it was a dolphin the show was almost over. It was like a torpedo at times.

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May – Yellow Patch to Seaforth and Graham off to Melbourne to start his trial

Four days of successful crabbing in Yellow Patch before continuing north. Arrived at Seaforth Creek a few days before Graham had to fly to Melbourne for the final round of tests to determine whether or not he would be eligible for the trial. Amanda’s Mum lives here and some friends loaned us their mooring, so it all worked out well and was good to have family support. We were all nervous and excited when Graham left – 16/15/17 – for his tests the following day – more blood tests and this time a full body scan to determine the size of his lymph nodes and a bone marrow biopsy to determine the amount of CLL in his bone marrow. Patients need to be at a certain level to qualify for the trial – they were pretty sure he would qualify, but we still held our breath. Graham was back on the 17th and we were all so excited and anxious on his return. Please please let him get on this trial – he has no other options and in January the Doctor could already feel his spleen was enlarged, and blood results showed disease progression. We thought it’d be a few weeks before we heard back but within only one week we got the best news ever – he was IN – and due to fly back down on the 30th May…

June – Seaforth to Airlie and lots of sanding and painting

1st June 2017 Graham arrived back from Melbourne clutching a small brown paper bag of his first lot of trial drugs. Woohoo…after all this time what a relief. We sailed up to Airlie and began sanding topsides in readiness for some painting. Graham will have to fly to Melbourne for an appointment every 28 days, so we have decided that since we really can’t do any big trips or go remote we will spend time in the Whitsundays where we can sail out around the islands and easily return (not that that happened once we got into the work), and also do some boat reno’s to tidy up the Nap and have her ready to sell should the need arise. We don’t want to but may have to – we don’t know how this trial will go and whether it will work for Graham and if it does work and put him into remission, how long that remission will last as they are not touting this as a cure, more of a treatment. Something to slow the disease down and get it under control and hopefully keep him in remission long enough until they find a cure – it seems they are close.

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Debbie does South Molle

July – More sanding and painting and a visit from friends

More sanding and painting. Graham’s starting to feel some side effects of the drugs but he soldiers on. Some of his old school friends arrived – and we went for a sail – first one since arriving back in Airlie. So nice to pack up all the work gear and have a clean boat for a few days. Saw some whales and took everyone up Whitsunday Peak for the view. Graham flew out to Melbourne the day after they left.

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August

Graham is getting sicker each day – vomiting and diarrhoea – and fatigue. We’ve tried stuff from the chemist and he’s seen a Doctor and spoken with his specialist in Melbourne and tried heavy duty drugs they use for chemo side effects but nothing works. These are side effects of the drug. He’s just to got to hang in there. It’s really hard on the boat especially as we still had our project to finish – now we were sanding and scraping and using a heat gun to remove the old antiskid – the smells just add to his nausea. Graham could only manage a few hours a day but we got there and by the 10/8 were able to pack EVERYTHING away and then spend a few days cleaning and putting deck fittings back on and getting the boat ready to leave. Poor Graham, he is such a trouper, I don’t know how he’s doing it but he’s determined to help me get the Nap ready for sale. We sailed back down to Seaforth and put the Nap back on the mooring, then painted the new antiskid on the decks and tied cd’s and plastic bags all over the boat (to keep the birds away). We were going to Melbourne for a month for the next phase of the trial where they would be introducing the second drug – venetoclax – a super drug that had to be gradually ramped up due to it’s potency. Graham celebrated his 50th, feeling pretty sick, but just “glad to be alive”. I couldn’t arrange a big party due to circumstances. A couple of days later we left for Melbourne.

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Dressed in his winter wear for Melbourne Mum said he looked like a cowboy, stuck this hat on him and took this photo. This is a very special moment in time for us. Once again – exciting and nerve wracking.

September – Melbourne

Graham started his first dose of venetoclax 23/8/17. The first drug, ibrutinib had done the job of reducing his lymph nodes and therefore his cll burden so he didn’t have to go into hospital – which he was happy about. The Leukaemia Foundation put us up in apartment across the road from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It was a safe and sterile environment – which he needed as the treatment had weakened his already weak immune system. His first dose was only 20mg – by the fifth Wednesday he was on the full dose – 400mg. Within 6 hours of taking the first dose they checked his bloods again and despite vomiting shortly after the pills his white cell count had dropped dramatically. This was extremely encouraging. We tried to do some sight seeing but apart from a couple of days Graham just wasn’t up to it – a walk around the block was all he could manage. It’s a struggle but he won’t give up. He has lost so much weight. I am cooking what I feel is unhealthy food to try to fatten him up under the guidelines of a dietician – so far I’ve gained about as much as he’s lost! It’s impossible to fatten him up while he is so sick – and he just keeps losing more weight. But he hasn’t lost his lovely smile or his determination and positive attitude.

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Graham the Leo – my hero

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Love this man to bits. So courageous..it’s a tough battle I know but you are such a trouper.

The week after we returned from Melbourne we sailed out to Brampton to finish off some painting on the decks – the final coat was hit by heavy rain – great!

October – Restful month

A quiet month – we did some more work on the boat, hung out at Seaforth at Amanda’s folks and Graham had two trips to Melbourne. Although feeling nauseous and plagued by fatigue Graham soldiers on with a big smile on his face most of the time.

November – Whitsundays

Another month another trip to Melbourne – his results are all favourable in that the leukaemia is reducing, but side effects are increasing and this month he returned with a cooler bag of injections to help raise his neutrophil level to fight off infection. Although Graham was feeling weak, fatigued, nauseous and still having diarrhoea we needed a break so spent the month just cruising the Whitsundays.

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View from Lindeman Island

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View from Brampton – a bit of a tough walk up the hill – worth the view…good to be back out here

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A motor wouldn’t start – check out the rusty starter motor! Graham ordered a part for $20 and got it going – I just couldn’t believe this was ever going to work again but it did!

December

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Started the month with a catch up with Dave, Stacey & Smarty at Hill Inlet – always good reconnecting with old TI mates. Then in the second week this lovely lady rocked up. Had a lovely sail around the islands then a couple of days at Airlie. Graham flew out the day before Claire and returned with good results, although neutrophils still low so the weekly injections into his belly must continue.

fishing (3)Mantaray Bay wrasse and batfish (4)Onboard (7)For our wedding anniversary Graham whipped up a lovely prawn and mango salad – which we ate after finishing some painting and u-tubing a motor problem – how romantic. And to finish the day caught a big blue bone. We started our journey south – to make our way out of the cyclone belt. Enjoyed days fishing, walking desolate beaches, sailing, exploring, and just enjoying life and being together. Arrived late into 1770 on NYE and a big storm meant we stayed onboard on anchor watch. Happy New Year.IMG_6111 Digby Island 2017 (3)Checking out a boat wreck on Digby IslandIMG_6115View from top of NE Island in the Percy groupIMG_6129We thought we were being clever with this shot but instead it turned out to be funny as I ended up looking like a giant instead of looking like we were standing beside each other – due to the big drop off!IMG_6135Catch and release – just a quick photo opp – this towed Graham around in the dinghy for a whileIMG_6142One of many views from our beloved South Percy IslandIMG_6148IMG_6153Our anchorage at Yellow PatchIMG_6159NYE catch of the day

 

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Bali back to Oz

IMG-20180707-WA0000Cheers we made it – just arrived back in Oz on the Nap after 4 1/2 years sailing overseas

Dear Diary – After taking a couple of years off posting we have decided to pick up where we left off….. After Lombok last month, we returned to Bali and flew to Australia to renew our visas – this also gave us a great opportunity to see our families. We landed back in Bali 4/10/16 and by next day we had topped off the fuel and stocked up on fresh produce (having done the dry goods restock before leaving for Australia) and were off. A few days in Lombok, to squeeze in a couple of last massages and pick up some gas and then we were off again, leaving Lombok 10/10/16. Our first day there was no wind  but the following days there was plenty – on the nose – and so we tacked and tacked and made it to Kei 17 days later. It was a really long rough journey – the first five nights we anchored up, but after that we were sailing in strong winds on the nose and numerous thunderstorms, too far off land to anchor up anywhere. One of the highlights along the way was spying my first ever sailfish cruising along the top of the water! Another was on a rare mellow day and we were sailing along in 7000m according to the charts, when we could see a sand cay – which was actually the top of a volcano! Oh how we wished we could have pulled in there for a few days – imagine the fishing!  

On the 26/10, only 6nm away from Kei, we decided to drop anchor at a little island. It was late and we were tired – and that night we had our best sleep in over 2 weeks and it was wonderful. The next morning we awoke to a gorgeous location and thankfully clear water as Graham had to dive over the side to see what was stopping the daggerboard from lifting up – a coconut husk would you believe!?! Once that was sorted we made our way over to Kei to clear out. A couple of VERY friendly customs guys came out to the boat to do a thorough search for guns and drugs, and then we spent a couple hours on the paperwork – they don’t have a photocopier which isn’t unusual but they also didn’t have carbon paper which is the usual backup – so it took forever but they were really lovely and filled it all out for us and Graham just had to sign.  By the time they were finished it was too late to go ashore, but they said we could go in the next day no worries. So the next day we restocked from the market, Graham bought petrol at 80c a litre (pricey as elsewhere was around 60cents!) and I cooked up some passage meals, this took us most of the day, and after another good nights’ sleep – feeling recharged we were off again – for Thursday island.

So another 12 days without anchoring – more thunderstorms and to add to the mix LOADS of long unlit nets to try and avoid – it was inevitable that we would hook up on a couple. They sit just below the surface so you can’t see them. Graham had to jump in a couple of times – the first time it was daylight but in murky waters out the front of several croc infested rivers. There was a lot of swearing and cursing going on below while I nervously awaited his return on deck. The worst “net attack” was at night – it stopped us when we were going along at 8knots! We couldn’t let the boom out far enough to get the mainsail down, and we couldn’t back out of it so we had wind and tide pushing us onto the net. We were really stuck and it was really rough and Graham had to jump over the side with a knife between his teeth and because I was scared of losing him – a rope around his waist. The boat was lurching up and down and it took forever to detach ourselves from the net and then of course as soon as we were free the Nap took off, but we managed to get Graham back on board safely – thank goodness. Very scary and very dangerous!

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On 10 November at 0500 we passed Booby Island – and at 11am we anchored up at Thursday Island, did the clearance and then straight in to see friends and share a few drinks and yarns.  Phew 37 days since we left Bali and now we are back in the real world. Had a couple weeks in TI catching up with friends and doing some maintenance on our house and of course getting the Nap ready for the next leg of the journey. So stage one was about 1500nm Thailand to Bali, stage two 1060nm Bali to Kei, stage three  was 640nm Kei to TI, then from here we have to get down to Brissie which is about another 1200! So we still had quite a few miles ahead of us and of course with all the tacking the distances we travel are much further. Go team Catnap. Took us just under 8 days to get to Cairns – a record for us as it’s usually a month at least being holed up with strong SE winds along the way. Apart from a couple days we had very favourable winds – moderate E-SEly. 5 days in Cairns to restock and most importantly for Graham to see his haematologist and find out what the plan for treatment was. We weren’t at all happy with their plan, so we decided to find a haematologist that was more up to date with his disease and current treatment protocols. We only had to go as far as Townsville to find one we were very happy with. In the meantime we also managed to progress with information regarding a trial in Melbourne that Graham would be well suited for. So here’s why we had to return to Oz – Graham has CLL which is usually a slow growing blood cancer – leukaemia – one usually diagnosed in 70 year olds. When we first found out we were in Thailand preparing to head out into the Indian ocean with plans to visit Sri Lanka, the Maldives and down to South Africa… After reading the booklet handed to Graham by his haematologist we discovered that the average patient gets 10 years from diagnosis to treatment. At first we thought we could still sail around the world – especially since he still seemed well, but then we discovered he had a couple of bad markers that gave him a poor prognosis and only 1-3 years until treatment on average and no cure, which is why we decided we must turn back – be different if we were backpacking around and could just hop on a plane home when treatment was required. He also wanted time with family and close friends. Before turning back we spent a heavy 6 months researching the disease, trials, looking into Eastern Medicine Alternatives while in Asia. We then took time out to create more special memories together when we went on our 2 month backpacking tour of Asia, before working the weather to our best advantage to get back to Australia. It was a tough time, and we were so far away from family and friends. This is why we went a bit quiet for a while. Good to be back home and have the love and support of friends and family. Anyway a couple of months before arriving back in Oz we learned of a clinical trial due to start 2017 – and that’s what we are hoping for – it sounds like his only chance at the moment.  We are very hopeful.

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Missed this…

crabs at Cape Gloucester

…And this

We spent a couple of weeks in Townsville waiting to get into an appointment to meet the new Doc, and then the very next day – Christmas Eve – we were off again, with Christmas Day at sea. We had plans to meet family in the Gold Coast, so gotta keep sailing. Got some crabbing in at Cape Gloucester on the way down, while waiting for the right winds and caught a couple of decent mackerel (one bent the gaff!) New years eve was just the two of us on a mooring near Hayman Island watching their little firework display. Unfortunately without a camera again as both our cameras and video recorder stopped working in Indonesia – (eerily enough this happened on our first visit into Indonesia!), not many missed photo ops mind you as it was pretty much blue ocean for about 5 weeks there!  But as you can see we have a camera in action again.

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Merry Christmas and Cheers

The Nappers

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Lombok

17/8/16 We made a run over to the SW corner of Lombok to check it out and bide a little more time while we wait for our chance to make the next leg of our journey back to Oz. We have 3 broken cameras on board atm so no more photos for a while, which is a bummer as this has to be one of the prettiest spots in Indo – both below and above the water, and it’s still a bit of a secret which makes it all the more appealing to us. (SECRET ISLANDS) This area is great for sailing around – good winds and a large sheltered bay (shelter from swell – there are surf-breaks nearby). There are numerous islands and reefs for us to explore in between boat jobs and games of backgammon. The water is lovely and clear (and clean), although a little nippy – wetsuits are required for us to get in. On our walks on mainland Lombok we have discovered that there is “gold up in them there hills”. We saw a few shops with guys out the front stirring large ceramic woks – never seen that before – we went over for a sticky beak and one guy spoke a little english and said it was gold. Don’t really understand the process, but there are also lots of round metal barrels spinning around here, I had been guessing they were old fashioned washing machines but now we think it’s something to do with the gold – the clunking noises we hear as they turn support the theory. In the water there is a lot of aquaculture and marine conservation.

19/8/16 Celebrated Graham’s 49th with mini pizza and chocolate cake all made by his lovely wife (hehehe). Checked out Gili Gede, where there is a proposal to build a marina – pretty sheltered spot and very scenic sitting back at happy hour and looking toward the hills. Did a few walks on the island and took the tender over to the mainland where we walked to a market to restock. Gili Layar was a favourite – we found great walks around the islands and up the hill to enjoy a REALLY nice view (spewing no camera). And under the sea we viewed some really nice coral – a lot of run though so we waited for slack tide otherwise it was a little silty, which spoilt the colour. Loads of soft corals and different sea creatures to spot. We spent 3 days there enjoying snorkelling and the walks – we were lucky to jag some light winds during that period as it’s definitely a fair weather anchorage. The weather forecasted winds to increase along with the surf so we moved back over to the mainland for a more sheltered spot and so we could rent a scooter and check out the world famous surf break Bangko Bangko – or Desert Point. Unfortunately it was flat as a tack when we got there – after a hell mission on the bike (what a “road” or should I say “what road?”). After our disappointment there (Graham was hoping to see some big waves) we rode over a hill, past all the gold prospectors to a gorgeous beach where we sat under a shady tree while we guzzled some water and snacked on some locally made crisps – and we bought a green coconut off some kids to take back to the Nap for happy hour. With that ticked off the list the next day we sailed over to Gili Asahan where we walked all the way around, past goats and cows and then sat in the water under a shady tree – heaven. Next stop was Gili Nanggu (there’s about a dozen islands to explore down here). Had a lovely little headsail over and jumped straight in – it was pretty milky but lovely reef. Really need to pick neap tides and go in at slack to have the best experience. A bigger reef than Layar, look forward to checking it out again when the run eases off.

After a fortnight we decided to go for a sail up the coast to Senggigi, where Graham could sit at the bow watching the surf break with his morning cuppa while I plodded around town gathering a few more provisions. After all that shopping it was only fair that he took me out for dinner – I chose Mexican as cheese is such a treat out here. The next night we had the hugest curries at a different restaurant (definitely going back there). On the Sunday Graham discovered some quarter finals for the rugby were on so he sat and watched while I popped next door for a massage – we each have our own way of relaxing after such a busy time down in the Southern Gilis. We rented a scooter so Graham could strap the gas bottle on the back and take it for a ride up to the Medana Bay Marina where they have an Aussie adaptor and fill them for $2/kg as opposed to $6 or $8/kg in Bali (tip for fellow cruisers). He remembered to come back and take me for a ride up the coast – stunning. Love coastal rides with surf and great views. 6/9/16 we sailed back down to the Southern Gilis, hoping to spend more time checking out Gili Nanggu, Tangkong and Sudak. Spent a night at Sudak but moved over to the mainland next day when a forecast for 20+kn came in. These islands offer up deep anchorages and mostly on the southern sides making it onshore – best to move to a more secure anchorage. Spent a few days back down in the south before sailing back up to Senggigi so Graham could watch more footy – unfortunately when we arrived it was onshore and HUGE surf so we carried on a bit further north to a more sheltered bay in from the “Northern Gillis”. Rented a bike and rode up into the hills from some col air and great views back down the valleys to the sea. And then it was time to head back to Bali – with great memories of Lombok which we must try to hang onto since we have no photos to prompt us. So good to have some decent winds for sailing again and although no decent fish for Graham to spear or jag on a hook we both enjoyed our time underwater here.

15/9/16  Back in the smelly dirty waters of Serangan where we will leave the Nap while we fly back to Perth so we can make a visa renewal and visit family. On our return we will grab some fresh food, the rest of the fuel and some water (didn’t want to load her up too much before we left or she will sit low in the dirty brown water – got all our dry stores though) and continue heading East.  Hoping to clear into Thursday Island early November. From there we will be making our way down the Qld coast, expecting to reach the Gold Coast by March. Looking forward to sharing a few beers with our dear friends and family as we catch up along the way. Hope this gets you all up to speed, answers a few questions and finds you all well. Cheers from The Nappers.

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Amed – Bali

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After leaving Lovina we took three days to get to Amed…and this mountain seemed to follow us everywhere. Sure is a scenic coastline.

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The wind was either non existent or on the nose the whole way..bad for us but great for the little Lapita sails.

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Finding a secure spot to anchor in Amed was tricky – sand over stone – but came with a great view.

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Amed is all about underwater so that’s where we spent most our time. Our first day we checked out the snorkelling nearby..average but the water was clear, and cooler than around the corner. The following day we rented a scooter so we could head back to USAT Liberty – we had tried anchoring there on the way past but it was either too deep or rocky, anyway good excuse to fire up the bike. We waded in and in no time at all were on the wreck. Neither of us had ever snorkelled on a wreck so it was a bit exciting. Once again clear water and this time LOADS of fish and even big fish like we haven’t seen in years – I could see Graham trigger finger twitching! Oh yeah the wreck was pretty cool too.

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The fish were super friendly…

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Maybe a little too friendly at times…

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It was only 0830 but already there were loads of scuba divers – we were the only snorkellers. The bubbles looked cool coming out the holes in the wreck – those photos didn’t really work out too well so you have to take my word for it.

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Now I have a pretty basic camera that goes in an underwater bag – check out this guys camera!!!

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The beach at the anchorage was full of smooth black rocks making it tricky to get ashore. The bay around the corner (Jemeluk) had some sand and smaller stones AND massages on the beach as well as cold bintang and huge tasty lunches so that’s where we hung out a few times. There was also snorkelling off the shore, once again average, though the western headland had some decent sized fish and was clearer most days.

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Took the bike for a burn around the coast and up into the hills. Had a snorkel on the Japanese Wreck nearby – a bit of a let down after the USAT Liberty,and CROWDED! The water was so clear and a great view from a height, and the drive along the coast gave some cool views, up in the hills wasn’t a patch on the scenic drives around Lovina but still fun and Graham just loves being on the bike, great value entertainment for $5/day! 2nd of August we thought we had a weather window to try and make it down to Serangan (SE Bali – so we could get that last visa extension done), but once we rounded the corner the wind was hard on – and full on. We did a huge tack through what seemed to be a sailing regatta, but turned out to be the friendly fishermen making their way back into shore in their sturdy little boats with fascinating sails. Once we got closer to Lombok the wind and waves eased up a tad so we decided to run down the coast and take another shot at Serangan the next day from the SW corner of Lombok (which looked very nice btw and worthy of a return trip). In Serangan harbour we found ourselves a spot to anchor out of the way of the moorings and went the next day to  report in to the local harbourmaster and then over to Benoa Harbour for customs and immigration, which took us most of one day (since we walked there and back – fools that we are). The following day Amanda went into Denpasar and started our visa extensions – 12 days later our passports were handed back to us (12 days!). During those 12 days we tinkered with boat jobs and started the restocking process – slowly getting things ready for our mammoth voyage back to TI – 1725nm away, via the Kai Islands. In the evenings we sat up the front to watch the kite surfers, beer in hand (us not them). We couldn’t get out of Serangan Harbour fast enough once our passports were back in hand. Plan to spend the next month cruising Lombok. Last two weeks of September we are back in Oz to renew visas and visit family in Perth. On our return we continue East. ETA Torres Strait sometime in November. Yes this year!

See you all soon. Stay safe. Have fun. Live life to it’s fullest. Cheers from The Nappers.

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Lovina – North Western Bali

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We arrived at Singaraja, near Lovina, in the North of Bali  9/10/16 and started the visa extension process the next day. There’s a form to complete, sponsor letters to gather, photocopies of a heap of stuff (even a few pages from your passport,  which seems odd since they keep it anyway). We had 9 pages in total! Drop that all in then return in 2 days for photo, fingerprinting and payment and another 2 days to collect. So you are kinda stuck in one place for a week really. It was pretty handy though as we were able to anchor very close to immigration, and caught up on laundry and grocery shopping while there. Once that was all sorted we moved to Lovina and anchored out from the jetty at Kalibukbuk. This became “home” for the next 9 1/2 weeks, and we ended up just walking the 5km to Immigration or catching a bemo for our next 2 visa extensions. Anchorage was calm even when the wind picked up – reef out the front kept the swell at bay. There’s a jetty but you can’t use it at low tide as it dries out, it’s easy to dinghy ashore then. We quickly sussed out where the pasar was (for all our fresh produce), where to get water, fuel, cheapest laundry and most importantly cheapest beer shop as we were going to need a few Bintangs to keep us sane in one anchorage for so long! We passed our days catching up on boat jobs, befriending the locals and taking motorbikes up into the hills (fantastic views and cooler climate). The highlights were the motorbike rides and when our friend Paul came for a week followed closely by family. As the picture shows..it’s all about dolphins, religious ceremonies and black sand beaches here.

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Went to Jimmy Hendrix Dance School where your donation goes toward helping to purchase new costumes and musical instruments for the students. A tiny kid dressed as a monkey shimmied up that tree! They were all so cute.

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Enjoying the serenity and the views from the nearby Buddhist Monastery on one of our rides.

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Nearby Melanting Waterfall in Munduk

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Up in the hills there are the twin lakes and Lake Baretan

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Sekumpul waterfalls – half a dozen waterfalls cascade into a couple of freezing cold pools of water, a scenic hike down some pretty steep and sometimes hairy stairs. And then you have to get back up!!!

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Rice terrace views on the walk down to the falls…

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More of the scenery and a confusing sign??

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Now that’s one ugly baby…

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Is that a Mohawk and is he poking his tongue out at me?

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Ho hum life in front of the paparazzi.

On a coastal motorbike drive we headed west as far as the Pura Agung Pulaki temple which is full of smelly monkeys – across from them was some better ventilation for snapping the monkeys. There was a religious ceremony going on while we were there – our second visit to this temple and the second time my camera played up within the temple grounds – spooky. We visited here previously when we left Lovina for a week to explore the coastline and visit Pemuteran Beach and Menjangan Island. Pemuteran not really impressing us and Menjangan not a safe anchorage, and average snorkelling. Another scenic ride we did was over to Balian Beach so Graham could enjoy watching the surf – loads of rice paddies, terracing, jungle,old villages and super friendly locals. Riding on the bike you caught the scent of cloves in the air – a pleasant change from “eau de asia” as Graham calls it. Since we use cloves when we make chai (indian tea) we stocked up.

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One of many rice paddies near our anchorage.

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No shortage of boat captains to take you out on a dolphin chasing tour!!!!!!!!

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My view from under the shady trees where I had my weekly $5 beach massages. The skinny “spider boats” you go out on for the dolphin chasing tours. We were actually alone as the other yacht had been abandoned since September 2015. On spring water lows the fishermen would wade out almost to the Nap with long bamboo poles  and fish for hours for a small catch of tiny fish.

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The boys enjoying a cuppa and the view over the twin lakes (we did this trip several times but this was the clearest day). Paul is that grimace due to thoughts of drinking poo coffee (aka Luwak coffee).

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Boys in skirts. Back at the monastery with Paul this time.

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Our darling nieces Ava and Ellie spent many a night on board, so we got to enjoy early morning wakeup cuddles, breaky on the tramp, followed by feeding the fish the crusts…

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…dinghy rides to a nearby snorkelling spot…

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…underwater fish feeding…

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…watching the girls progress in their snorkelling prowess…here’s Ava (9) following Uncle Graham down…she’s like a little mermaid…

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…Ellie (5) told me what it felt like to “catch Uncle Graham’s bubbles”, this started an underwater bubble blowing contest. We had loads of fun.

Life in Lovina just wasn’t the same after they all left, and within a couple of days we left too. Cheers from the Catnap Crew safe and well in Northern Bali.

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2016 South to Bali

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Finally, after 3 months on the hardstand – (2 while we were doing our overland travel through Cambodia, Vietnam and Northern Thailand, and the other month working our butts off on the Nap), we were ready to go back in the water. We had new headsails made and new side clears (all long overdue and essential for the trip home), we did our own antifouling as usual and also painted top side around the bow and some of the waterline, by hand using the roller tip method for the first time (which surprisingly worked out okay). Then there were the usual bits and pieces to keep us busy until finally we were ready to say farewell to G&T Boatyard and hello ocean. We made our way straight over to  nearby Nacha Island and rested up and tidied up before a great sail south to Ko Lipe where we celebrated Amanda’s birthday before clearing out of Thailand for the last time on 17/2/16. And yes thankyou I had a lovely birthday and spoiled myself with a massage then did lunch and dinner ashore and of course cocktails at sunset with my darling husband. We are sure gonna miss the yummy Thai food – except Penang Curry as we have stocked up with loads of the curry paste and got the recipe off a local cook. Then it was a quick pit stop in Langkawi  to load up on duty fuel and booze. This dragged out into 2 weeks while we waited on a new windlass (It packed it in as we were pulling up anchor to leave Ko Lipe). We managed to pass the time quite easily at Cenang Beach indulging in a few meals and drinks on the beach and downing a few cocktails at sunset. Caught up with Hubert and Jasmin off Investigator II for a few days when they anchored next to us – he was waiting on a part too – bloody boats!

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As soon as we got the new windlass in place we set off for Penang, each about 3kg heavier. Had a dream sail and got there in a day! We went into Straits Quay Marina so we could send chain in to be regalvanised. While we were there we stocked up on food which is made so easy with 2 supermarkets within walking distance – one inside the marina complex! When the heat became too unbearable we sauntered around the supermarkets in the a/c dawdling over our shopping list. We enjoyed really cheap and tasty indian food in the nearby tesco shopping centre on a regular basis, also in a/c – it was way too hot to cook onboard! We later found out they were having a heat-wave. Early each morning we woke up and felt like we were back on the hardstand – and we were in a sense. Yep the whole boat touching bottom, with the bows actually lifted up out of the water a bit.

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Had great winds and managed to sail most of the way down the Malacca Straits. We cleared out at Malacca on 19/3/16, which once again was quick and easy, and within 3 days we were crossing the Singapore Strait for the second time – this time under sail. We managed to get across without having to change course once or having to wait for a ship – don’t know what all the fuss is about (private joke – I stress, fuss and sometimes close my eyes, while Graham steers us across stress and worry free). Last time we noticed piracy measures like barbed wire on many of the ships – this time we also saw mannequins positioned around a ship. We arrived in such good time and with a storm fast closing in we decided not to anchor outside the Nongsa Point Marina at Batam, Indonesia until morning but head straight on in. Now we are not usually marina people but here we were using 2 in a fortnight! The reason we came into the marina was that we were entering Indonesia without a CAIT and trying their new system. We were told we could only do it at one of 18 points throughout Indonesia and this one being the first one as we entered the country we decided to do it here so we could make legal stops throughout Indonesia. We weren’t allowed to clear in ourselves here and instead had to go through the marina – hence the marina berth. Fellow cruisers – it was a breeze (and we quickly forgot about the $65AUD total for marina berth and clearance – which was far better than $300 for  CAIT and all the frigging around DIY which we did last time), and by 1pm the next day we had our clearance papers delivered, cast our lines and departed. But not before we had taken advantage of the water and washed our boat, hung out a load of washing and then wallowed about in the resort pool for the rest of the arvo.

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Plenty of obstacles to watch out for while sailing – unlit nets, some unlit small boats (you smell their cigarettes but no light on the boat), floats for crab/fish pots, and then of course plenty debris, and unless the fisherman is on his FAD/Fishing platform (above) then there are no lights on these and they can be in quite deep water just to trick us. Even on anchor you have to remain on alert – we dropped the anchor to wait for some wind one arvo and half hour later we heard a scraping noise from the bow so we went out to investigate and discovered ourselves caught in a drift net with the fisherman now behind us and still winching in his net (and us). Amanda yelled and waved for him to stop (surely he must have realised but oh well, point out the obvious – “you haven’t caught the motherload you have caught us, so STOP pulling”) while Graham went below decks to lift our motor before the fisherman pulled it off. Just then something had to give and thankfully it was the net which snapped in two and drifted away from us to the sound of a cry from the fisherman “my net my net”.

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Different village different style.

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Not sure of the real name but I call them spider boats.

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Some precision anchoring..just enough swing room amongst the boulders and reef.

Up until the end of March we were able to sail every day, dropping anchor each night (to avoid the unlit obstacles), with only the one overnighter to Bangka Island. The day we sailed over to Belitung the wind was howling and on the nose so we were unable to make it to the NW corner of the island where we had heard most cruisers stop and enjoy the clear water for snorkelling. We were ready for a bit of a break, but unfortunately couldn’t get there, so we headed to the SW corner and enjoyed a couple of peaceful bays all to ourselves. Unable to locate a weather channel on the HF we were in need of an Indonesian SIM to check the weather for the next leg of our journey as this would be a 3 day trip and we didn’t want to get caught out in a blow. So for once we didn’t want a peaceful bay to ourselves we wanted a village – and it was really hard to find one. The wind dropped out completely and we had to motor most of the way around the southern end of the island to find life…and a SIM. Found a little village when Graham hopped on a motorbike and went about 10km for a SIM and some manky potatoes and bananas. After checking the forecast we saw that we were in for a few days of no wind so we made our way further around Belitung to Lalang Beach to reprovision while waiting for some wind. Enroute Graham jumped in one day to check the hulls for any growth, nothing to see other than a couple of sucker fish lurking around. When we went ashore looking for bensin (petrol) or pasar (market) we “think” a man told us there were crocodiles there. The coast was mangrovy and the area murky so we weren’t too surprised.

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How skinny are their fishing boats!?! Lalang Beach…thankfully no crocs here but really friendly people. We managed to hitch a 10minute ride into the city – Mangarr (they really roll the rr’s around here) – and load up on petrol and fresh produce – we found drinking water nearby. A friendly lady allowed us to take some water from her well so we were also able to get on top of our stinky laundry (phew). One arvo Graham felt a breeze and we were off. By 0600 the next morning (18hours later) we had only travelled 70nm. Oh boy, this was going to be a long slow journey. We wanted to head East along the south coast of Borneo and for the first couple days we could, then the “wind” (very light wind) changed and we set a course for Karimunjawa islands.

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Thank gawd we loaded up on petrol. Jumped in for a cool off in the middle of the ocean while waiting for a breeze to pick up and saw our pet sucker fish still tagging along.

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Indo Fishing Boat

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Took us three days and 40L of fuel to travel very slowly for about 200nm to land. But we made it. Anchored up at Benkoang – one of the islands in the Karimunjawa group. Enjoyed a couple of days snorkelling there for R&R. Had it all to ourselves.

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Karimunjawa underwater world.

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We saw a mass of feelers poking out from under some coral – I asked Graham to dive down and take photo of all the baby cray….…As he got closer they all came out and said “cheese”

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Graham stroking the feelers of the baby cray. They were super friendly, no wonder you see bags of live baby cray for sale, they would be easy to grab.

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Pulling into the main island in the group (where the village is) Hassim came out to greet us and show us the best spot to anchor. He gave us a couple of coconuts and said “welcome to Karimunjawa with a big grin”.

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Did lots of walking and took in the views from the hills.

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Rented a motorbike for a day – and Amanda was allowed to drive as the traffic was minimal and roads easy going (except for the bumpy bits). A very strange thing happened and we are still not sure exactly what….Graham went to fill up the motorbike, he went inside and paid the guy and then came out and jumped on the motorbike. About 15mins later the bike spluttered and stopped as we went down a hill. He managed to start it a few times but it would keep konking out. The last thing he checked was the fuel (as he had filled the tank to the very top)….EMPTY. WTF. Luckily we stopped right next to a stall selling bottles of petrol so we refuelled and continued on our way. At another stop he lifted the seat to put something under it and remembered there had been a fishing net there when he fuelled up. It wasn’t there now. “Shit I think I have taken the wrong bike after I fuelled up”. So he left me on the side of the road (so he could make better time) and raced back to see if there was a vacant bike full of fuel sitting there and a bike owner scratching his head looking for HIS bike. Na-da. Did he take the wrong bike or did the bike owner follow him around the corner to the fuel stop and VERY quickly drain the tank and take the net while Graham was inside paying(seems unlikely given the time frame)? We will never know but puzzled over it most of the day and cringed when the police drove past….All seemed okay when we returned the bike, mind you the guy we rented it off wasn’t the owner and was in a rush and we left the next day…

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Raking the rice along road side.

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The “town square” was more an overgrown oval where Graham enjoyed watching the guys play soccer in the evening. We sometimes followed the game with a simple dinner served to us on a tarp on the side of the oval where we sat cross legged at a tiny table. Here we are eating at a fancy venue – up off the tarp on chairs and eating at the only table at a roadside stall.

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And this is what we are eating with toothpicks..tiny shells and scallops…fingerlicking spicy delicious sauce.

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Common sight that Graham “loves” – busted arse house and satellite dish.

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Heading into Jepara to see about getting a new frame made for our door. Lots of obstacles to tack around.

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The day after we arrived in Jepara we met Thomas and Jerry who couldn’t do enough to help us find someone to make a door frame. Jepara is famous for beautiful timber furniture which is exported worldwide. It’s certainly impressive and worth a look. We thought it would be easy to get one of the carpenters to help us out but comms were a problem – something that Thomas and Jerry helped us out with. We also discovered some fantastic flavours for breakfast lunch and dinner with these guys. The water buffalo soup (soto kerbau) was a hit with Graham (I preferred a vego version with tempe – the tempe was divine). Graham also tried his first beef rendang and has been chasing it ever since – not found one as good yet Thomas. Can’t remember the name of the style of restaurant we went to but it was a buffet style – Graham thought his chicken was a bit strange tasting and texture, then decided he must have picked some tofu (which he eats a little of but doesn’t really like). Jerry then informed him it was brains!

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We thought they were going to use an electric router, but with the timber held between his feet he just whittled out the groove.

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Heading out at sunrise – just us and a few hundred fishermen.

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The winds were light but favourable for us to sail close to the north coast of Java, giving us a close up of village life – and plenty fishermen and fishing nets to watch out for.

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We LOVED the decorated fishing boats in NE Java. And the fishermen were mostly REALLY friendly.

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A stop for the night at Gillyang. The village kids followed us back from our walk then helped us drag the dinghy into the water. We had to then drag the dinghy out over reef as far as the fishermen in the background before we could jump in and start her up. One of the many joys of cruising. On the evening of 9/5/16 we finally arrived at Singaraja to extend our visas, from there we plan to go to Lovina. Long trip down from Thailand but we were happy and surprised to be able to sail as much as we did – BONUS. Once we extend our visas we look forward to catching up on some rest, some boat jobs and checking out what the North of Bali has to offer, before continuing to Australia.

Categories: Indonesia | Leave a comment

N Thailand 3 Chiang Mai

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Woohoo Happy New Year Chiang Mai style. The lanterns and fireworks reflected in the moat. Some lanterns wound up in trees. Great fun.

We took a scenic bus ride from Chiang Rai city to Chiang Mai city, arriving the day before NYE. We decided to find a place in the city centre; which is surrounded by a moat and still has the old city “gates” standing. We’d heard that’s where the main fireworks would be and we wanted in on the action. We took a walk around the city enabling Graham to locate a nearby golf course and me to take note of the massage joints. We feasted on Thai curries and the next day, NYE, Graham got himself warmed up for the action with a game of golf while I tried out one of those massage joints.  (Note a trend here!) New Years Day we woke without hangovers and decided to repeat the previous days’ activities!

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“Hey I wonder if those little bungalows are for rent?”

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Turns out they were…and just in time as it’s beer o’clock.

On the 2nd Jan (can’t believe a new year) we hired a bike and set off for the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) just outside of the city.  First up we had to find a bed which wasn’t as easy as we had thought. We had hoped to stay at the ENP but the rooms were fully booked.  There weren’t any signs for accom – plenty for the various nature parks, but just as we were getting nervous about finding a bed for the night we spotted these bungalows on the river. We went to the nearby resto and used our limited Thai and by now excellent charade skills to ask if the bungalows were for rent and if they owned them etc. In no time at all we had a cute little bamboo and leaf bungalow on the river for $10. Woohoo. Not even a squat toilet – but the hardest bed you can imagine – if it hadn’t been so cold it would have been softer to sleep on the bamboo floor – Graham said it would be good to play ping pong on! We have waited SO long for this visit to the ENP. Although we originally arrived in Thailand with plans to ride an elephant, after learning how they are”tamed” we decided against it and chose a different option for our elephant encounter. Here we felt we could do some good and still make contact with elephants. I have 250 photos to sift through so I am going to make a separate post for the ENP where I can store my photos offline and share with our family and friends (not the whole 250 obviously). I will also see if I can upload our precious video of “Baby Elephant rolling in Mud and Farting…very loudly”.

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We dumped our bags and went exploring on the bike. We stood on a bridge and puzzled about what these rafts were for. Later on while having sundowners at the hut half a dozen tourists went past on them like SUP’s.

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MAE HONG SON LOOP

After our day with the elephants we set off elated in search of our next bed. We had decided to do the Mae Hong Son Loop with our little 125cc bike. Graham wore the day pack on his chest, I loaded our main pack on my back (it wasn’t that heavy since we were wearing almost all of our clothes), and we stuffed a few bits and pieces under the seat. And we were off; up the very windy hills in search of stunning scenery, hilltribe people, yummy food, new friends, adventure and of course cold beer. Part way up the hill we were losing light and pulled into the Road View Hotel for the night – we haggled away for a good price and scored a REALLY nice room. Ahhh the bed was so comfy. Next morning we were so excited to get going we could hardly wait for the mist to lift, we piled ourselves on our little bike rugged up in all our summer clothes, donned our helmets, and used socks as gloves (it was FREEZING) and were off. We both regret not asking someone to take a photo – we must have looked a sight – we cracked ourselves up just looking at each other quite regularly. This loop has thousands of curves and hairpin bends and for the most part is a good road. There were some potholes on the way up to Pai, our next stop. This is a really cool laid back Rasta Village. They have the BEST markets we have ever seen – and that’s coming from a couple who hate markets and shopping. The stalls themselves had a different array of goods (instead of the usual repetitiveness), and the whole market had loads of items we had never seen anywhere else which was refreshing. It’s open air on the roads at night, (instead of cramped) so Graham didn’t constantly bang his head on things. Lots of yummy street food – we enjoyed curries and chai to warm ourselves, played pool and listened to live music in the evenings at various bars. Took the bike for rides during the day.

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It was late in the day and we were keen to get off the bike and wander around Pai so we grabbed the first place we could find. The hammock on our verandah was a hit, and the rail was good for drying some hand washing but we weren’t into the shared bathroom over in the paddock, so we found another bed the next day. This was our only shared bathroom the whole 2 month trip in our budget accom.

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We heard about this place called “The Canyon” so we went to check it out. The first part was easy to walk out to but to get out to the really cool parts was a mission. There were some really really narrow parts, slippery parts and parts where I needed a helping hand to get up. I have to say at one point I was ready to turn back but Graham urged me on and I’m glad he did. We never did get back for sunset but heard it’s meant to be spectacular. The scenery was great, and we really enjoyed the physical challenge. By the end of this day out we were filthy.

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Next day another early start in search of adventure. But first we needed to fuel up – thick toast, a couple of boiled eggs and some piping hot cuppas on the side of the road out the front of our new accom (Pai In The Sky) and we were off. We rode past rice paddies, through quaint villages, and went in search of waterfalls

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Went to a traditional Chinese Village where they had mud houses, and a tacky castle…I challenged Graham to archery and managed to retain my title, then we went up a hill and sipped chinese tea and looked out over the village.

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Then back on the bike, through more rice paddies and villages and suddenly in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere we stumbled across Isara Garden – a funky little cafe and guesthouse in amongst the rice paddies and fields. The woman even had a beehive.

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Peeling off the layers as the day heated up…down to his blue wiggles shirt (aka sunsuit) and only one tshirt. Looking very relaxed.

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I’m not sure if the day pack has slipped down or he’s just excited about his bike ride. He was really loving those hairpin bends on the bike…me not so much. We really enjoyed Pai but it was time to leave as we had a lot of hairpin bends to round. We staggered out onto the street for another early start and found piping hot noodles for breaky, green tea and a little fire in a bucket which we totally hogged. We set off but had to pull over twice just to warm up with a coffee. The early morning mist makes for some great photo ops but we were freezing. I was wearing 3 tshirts, 4 long sleeve shirts, 2 pair of bike pants and 2 pair of long pants (all summer wear of course), socks on my hands (and feet) and my sarong wrapped around my neck. Graham had on all his clothes plus a red shirt we picked up at a “used clothes” stall in Pai and the raincoat (for warmth, no rain thankgoodness). We both wore surgical face masks just  to keep the chill off. Graham was in front copping most of it, at least I could snuggle behind him.

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4 seater crazy swing..how does that work? Feeling like we are on top of the world.

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The scenery on this ride is fantastic, unfortunately the skipper didn’t pull over as often as I would like for photos – he was enjoying the windy road too much. We stopped at a guesthouse and met this SA guy who was cycling around the loop – and he was also going up a hill and doing an extra bit we had decided not to do as “it would be too much on the motor bike” – we had already lifted the front wheel off the road twice trying to get up some hills. Of course after talking to him we extended our route, and kept bumping into him on the way round. Wow what a mission on a bicycle! We stopped for lunch at a little place next to Wat Huai Pha (which was interesting to walk around). Great views and one of the tastiest pad thais around.

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Made it to Mae Hong Son (the capital), and checked into the Jongkam Guest House which was near a lake (helps us navigate if we are near water). Took the bike up the hill to the Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (temple) for sunset and decided the view was actually so good we would return for sunrise. Sunrise was spectacular and you just felt like you could step out onto the clouds.

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After our “floating on clouds” morning we set off on a day trip to Ban Rak Thai – a little Chinese Village situated on a lake fringed with tea houses. The scenery along the way was once again breathtaking. We walked around the lake in search of lunch – pork leg in a bowl of broth was popular but not a fave for us…we ended up back where we started and ordered a pretty plain meal before heading back to Mae Hong Son. Made up for food that night with a scrumptious curry from a local market (not the tourist one, so it was super spicy as we like it). Sat beside the lake and watched the world go by sipping hot green tea soy latte – YUM!

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Not often Graham grabs the camera to take a photo but this time was an exception. We thought the clouds looked so cool.

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Next morning we were up bright and early once again to brave the cold and head up into the clouds.

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Then we were off on our longest day trip yet – 164km to Mae Sariang. We had planned on a shorter ride to Mae Lanoi but we blinked and missed it. The scenery was changing – fewer rice paddies and more bush. Still good roads (mostly), friendly people and of course plenty temples. The very first guesthouse we stopped at was within budget (whoohoo – sometimes it takes a few attempts to find one  or just plenty haggling). We were tired from our day and didn’t feel like haggling. The shower was piping hot – dare I complain too hot since the last few had been freezing – which soothed the aches and washed off the dirt and bugs. After a little rest (we’re getting old) we went in search of a drink and found ourselves a lovely little bar with views over the river and cool jazz playing in the background. We pulled up a dentist chair (all sorts of odd furniture to be found) and rested our feet on the balcony while watching the world float by on the river. Finding a cheap feed was a mission and we thought we were being given a bum-steer when directed to the bus station…no they weren’t telling us to get out of town, there really was delicious pad thai to be found there.

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Mae Sariang is where we had planned to turn off and head back to Chiang Mai, instead we extended our bike hire for the third time and continued SW to Ban Mae Sam Lab. SO GLAD WE DID THIS.

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We headed over the bridge to Salawin NP then turned left about 4km before it. The scenery started to change…as did the condition of the road – the last 10-15km was either badly damaged or no bitumen at all. The road was steep and boggy in parts – Graham pretended we had a dirt bike instead of our little road bike. The villages became more “authentic” as we neared the Salawin River….bamboo sticks and leaf huts….all covered in dust from the road. People were super friendly despite the language barrier and seemed surprised and happy to see us.

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We finally arrived at the boat landing, on the Yuam River at the Thai/Myanmar border – pretty low waters atm. Had the WORST lunch ever and have absolutely no idea what it was – Graham tried feeding his to the dog under the table while the shop keeper was busy wrapping betel nut in leaves for his customers. I think it was a bit too authentic here. We managed to make it up the hill and back to base in Mae Sariang by 3pm, more than ready for another hot shower and cold beers.

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Next day we checked out of our hotel and headed for Mae Cham, 152km away. Once again it was freezing cold and we had to pull over after 90mins for a hot cuppa and a defrost. People would often motion to us that we needed a jacket but Graham insisted we were fine as it was only for a couple of hours each morning then conditions were fine – and I would have ended up with the jackets in the backpack for the rest of the day. We drove through a pine forest and then land cleared for farming, that looked like giant patchwork quilts for miles. Although another long drive this one seemed easier – perhaps due to the ever changing scenery – kept our minds occupied. Not so many hills and we made good time, arriving for lunch. Having not had enough of the bike and thoroughly enjoying the road as we came in Graham took off for a ride on his own while I indulged in a well earned massage (hard work carrying that pack on my back). The whole trip we had been looking for hill tribe experiences (without going on a commercialised tour). A few times we rode through ethnic villages but at Mae Cham markets there were loads of hill tribe people selling their produce and going about their shopping all dressed in their lovely bright ethnic costumes (and of course I didn’t have the camera as we were only going for breaky!). We didn’t see any other tourists and felt like this was an experience not to miss so we hung around for a couple of days. We ate breaky at the market – hot broth, the hugest plate of fried rice with fried egg on top for $1. We visited a local weaving shop – Tin Tok Art – the prices were VERY reasonable, and it helped out the poor and disadvantaged by encouraging them to keep their art and culture alive and giving them an income.

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No idea which of the 13 villages of Ban Thap we are in but we found cold beer, “lunch” and a view.

I’m not even sure how we heard of Ban Thap, a nearby subdistrict of 13 villages, but since the area was so scenic we decided to leave the packs and head off into the hills and see if we could find it. Well who knows since there were no signs and google wasn’t really helping us, but we enjoyed the ride anyway. We were looking for a resto in the hills with a view – the best we could find was a little shop where we bought a cold beer and packet of crisps – which the very friendly shop keeper opened and served to us in a bowl with tomato sauce on the side (the crisps were like shoestring chips and we later discovered the sauce comes in the bag – we thought it was some novel way they had thought of to eat the crisps).

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We made it safely back to Chiang Mai handed in the bike and flew back to Bangkok – this trip was coming to an end all too soon. In Bangkok we stayed at The Krungkasem Srikung Hotel, near the train station (making transport to and from the airport easy)and decided it was time to check out Khao San Road – I think you have to do it but we wouldn’t want to sleep there (or try to).

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My 3rd time of coming across critter dinner and I finally worked up the courage just to photograph them – beetles, worms, slugs, frogs, scorpions and of course tarantulas. Ugh those big hairy tarantulas really freak me out. We were wondering if they were just there for the farangs (tourists) and if the store keepers sniggered when the farangs actually ate them – but we met a local lady who not only told us how the tarantulas are one of her favourite delicacies but also how she goes out and catches them. Ugh my skin crawls just remembering! Time to return to the Nap, finish off our hardstand jobs and sail down the Malacca Straits while there are still some NE winds around. Time to make our way back to Oz. See most of you at the end of 2016.

Categories: Thailand | Leave a comment

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