A Travellerspoint blog

From Rome to Dubrovnik

sunny 33 °C
View Round The World 2006 on Peter's travel map.

The trip ahead:

We left a chilly Melbourne a week or so ago, unfortunately taking the head cold it had conceived along. Head colds are no fun on a plane, where the additional pressure of altitude creates a horrible sinus headache that no amount of decongestant can get rid of. After 7 hours of such a headache, we touched down in Singapore and, considering we had an 8 hour stopover, decided to check in the transit hotel. Not a bad deal actually; S$50 pays for a room for 6 hours, just enough time to get a good sleep and a nice shower before boarding the next plane. The next leg I somehow managed to transfer my head cold to Janelle. It was also the first flight that I had been on that had in-flight internet available! Of course, I couldn't resist and logged on and checked my emails and read The Age for an hour or so.

Finally we arrived in a hot Rome and checked into the same hotel we stayed in last time. Having been in Rome, we didn't feel the need to see the major sights again. We enjoyed a few days of just wandering around; we went to Trevi Fountain again and wandered into the Pantheon. Last time we had missed going to see Palatine Hill, so we did that this time as well. It is a nice peaceful place to visit compared to the hustle and bustle of Rome and the throngs of people just next to it wandering around the Roman Forum. It's amazing what an entry fee can do! It is a bit of a let down though, due to a real lack of any signage (in Italian or English), making it very hard to work out what is what. Probably worth getting a guide to it from somewhere beforehand. Nonetheless, we did enjoy wandering around just looking at the ruins.

We watched Australia progress to the next round of the World Cup in a controversial match with Croatia at an Irish pub full of other Aussies. The atmosphere was very tense due to the atrocious refereeing, but thankfully it all ended well despite his many bad decisions!

We also purchased a new camera in Rome, after discovering that the one we had with us wasn't working. I haven't had the chance to take many photos yet (only a couple of hundred ;)), but I'm very pleased with the results so far.

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Spanish Steps

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Ancona harbour - check out the fancy boat!

We have now successfully made the crossing into Croatia. The ferry ride was extremely pleasant; the calmest waters I have ever been on and because it was an overnight trip, we just slept through it all. We disembarked in Zadar, a nice town, but very quiet due to us being there on a Sunday / Public Holiday. Some interesting photos in the papers showing some very disappointed Croatians and jubilant Australians!

Of course we were very saddened when both Holland and Australia were kicked out of the competition consecutively. On the bright side it means we won't have to worry about missing games (I know; clutching at straws ... ).

After a day in Zadar, we went to the beautiful Plitvice National Park. It did not disappoint in the slightest. The lakes and waterfalls are simply magnificent. I could try to find some more superlatives to describe it, but those can just sound insincere. Some photos might do the trick though.

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After a couple of days in the national park, we made the rather long drive down to Dubrovnik. The first few hours to Split were easy due to a very nice motorway (with a generous 130 k/h speed limit), but directly afterwards we got lost for about an hour and a half and ended up driving down dirt dead end roads that only led to construction sites. Finally we found our way back on to the highway along the coast and were very pleased; the drive from there was probably the most amazing I have ever been on (better than the Big Sur and Great Ocean Road even!) We drove along it for several hours and almost the entire way the scenery was breathtaking; there are picturesque Croatian towns scattered along the road nestling amongst the cliffs, there are beaches and there are mountains on the other side. And to cap it off we pulled into Dubrovnik late in the evening; one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

After spending the evening last night in the suburb our hotel is in, Lapad, we went into the old town today. The hot sun bore down on us while we wandered the streets, enjoying all the old buildings and history evident everywhere along with a drove of other tourists. Old buildings do have a way of all blending into one and perhaps that lessened my appreciation of them somewhat. At the end of the day, our visit to the War Photos Museum was actually the highlight for me. They had an exhibition of photos by female war photo journalists, which was both heartbreaking and eye-opening and of course there was a special focus on photos from the Balkan conflict of the 90s. Tomorrow we plan on going back again and doing the walk around the walls, which should give some nice views of the city from above and a chance to take some good photos (I think).

Posted by Peter 13:54 Archived in Croatia Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

Baghdatis wins!

semi-overcast 35 °C

A thrilling comeback from Baghdatis sees him through to the finals of the Australian Open.

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Posted by Peter 06:39 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Christmas and New Years in Fiji

sunny 34 °C
View Fiji December 2005 on Peter's travel map.

Tropical airports offer a familiar welcome; the humidity, the easygoing immigration officials, the welcome serenade and the permeating smell of sweat. Janelle and I touched down in Fiji to just such a warm welcome.

Our first hotel, The Raffles Gateway directly opposite the airport, offered a courtesy shuttle bus, but this seemed rather counter-productive considering it was only a two minute walk away.

Nadi is not the kind of town that warrants much praise. It could be interesting due to its pacific/indian cultural blend, but this potential tourism drawcard seems more a point of confrontation than anything in most of Fiji. Driving into Nadi the day after we arrived our Indian taxi driver explained how Jacks, the equivalent of Walmart in Fiji, would always be the cheapest, because all the small shops bought their stock from there. Interesting information, even if it was from someone who was clearly on commission. It wasn't more than 10 minutes later that a Fijian kindly informed us how Jacks was full of wares from places like Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands rather than actual native Fijian goods. Of course, it was all a ploy to get us to shop at his local market. In Nadi, it's hard to know who to trust. Even the 'Information Centre' is in fact a travel agent. And according to the Fijian we spoke to, it's run by Indians. Why that's bad, I'm not sure.

We had landed in Fiji with the primary purpose of attending a couple of our friends' wedding at the Shangri-La. And so, days went by sitting by the Shangri-La pool sipping Fiji Bitter, reading, playing Uno and generally not doing much at all. Christmas eve arrived and we had the pleasure of Fijian christmas carols. Their singing was phenomenal and a nice way to set christmas apart from all the other days, which just seemed to blend into one. A Fijian santa rode around on a golf buggy on christmas day singing "ho, ho, ho" to those of us lounging by the pool. I think that may have been the end of many kids' beliefs in Santa.

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The boxing day wedding was a pleasant beachside affair, complete with a Fijian choir. The cocktails weren't bad either.

On the second boxing day (they have two in Fiji and both are public holidays), I decided to go have a look at the nearby Taveuni Hill Fort. Just outside the town of Sigatoka, there are some interesting piles of rocks up on a hill which supposedly were once a fort. It was the kind of place where humans ate each other, providing some interesting food for thought for present day visitors. Its hilltop position also offers some great views of the surrounding countryside.

The Garden of the Sleeping Giant was also a worth while visit the next day. A sprawling tropical garden, complete with lily pond and a massive collection of orchids, it's a nice way to spend a hot and humid afternoon.

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We headed for the Mamanucas to spend our last few days, first stop Mana Island. A far cry from the luxury of the Shangri-la, we shacked up at Ratu Kini's backpackers; "We can't walk down that path, the Japanese owners of the resort don't want backpackers there". The hostel is kind of interesting, its most prominent feature the two burnt down dorms in the middle of the village it is located in. People are friendly enough, the price is cheap and all meals are included in the price (though the quality leaves something to be desired), so it wasn't a bad place to spend a couple of days. We spent a good couple of hours walking around the island one day. The beaches weren't particularly good, but the spectacular tropical sunsets more than made up for it.

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We checked into The Resort Walu Beach for our last few days in Fiji. It was the setting for a flopped Australian reality TV show a few years ago, which involved a group of people trying to fix it up. It's a nicely maintained place now with some very friendly staff, a young clientele and a terrible taste in music. New Years was spent with various people we met at this resort and spent even more days by the pool. I even got active and played some beach volleyball while there. The day before we left, one of the guys had a coconut fall centimeters away from him while playing volleyball - a near death experience considering it was roughly the size and weight of a bowling ball.

We checked in for a Dolphin Safari on New Years day. The driver of our boat was supremely confident that we would see some dolphins. In actual fact, the whole trip was a bit of a dud. No dolphins to be seen and the snorkelling that was included was far too irritating on account of the choppy waves. The choppy boat ride instilled fear of death in several of the passengers, particularly when one of the chairs came loose with its occupant attached, tumbling to the floor of the boat. The most exciting thing I saw on the trip was a couple of flying fish.

Fully refreshed and sporting a more tanned exterior than two weeks earlier, we returned to Melbourne the next day.

Posted by Peter 21:44 Archived in Fiji Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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