Ihre Browserversion ist veraltet. Wir empfehlen, Ihren Browser auf die neueste Version zu aktualisieren.

 After 26 Months Traveling Around the World



At the end of our 789 day long journey, we try to summarize here our appreciation for the visited places. In the table below we use four criteria, that we believe are the most important to assess our experience: people, nature, culture and Quality of Life. Anyone can make his own ranking based on these four criteria. If you’re going for a short vacation you may not bother too much about quality of life, so your ranking may be very different.
We can well imagine to relocate to New Zealand, Portugal or La Réunion, the places we most appreciated and scored highest in culture and quality of life but would never ever return to Hawaii.

Portugal: In 2015, we visited the wine region of Alentejo (along the Tagus river): an unforgettable experience. This time, in 2019, we followed the Douro river, another wine region. The Douro Valley is characterized by spectacular vineyard terraces. These begin in Peso da Regua and continue up to the border with Spain. The terraced vineyards were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Very friendly and open-minded people characterize this lovely country with a huge historical, architectural and cultural legacy. We’ll certainly return to Portugal a couple of times more and also visit the insular part of it. Viva Portugal! 

Aotearoa: The Māori name for New Zealand is becoming widespread and since the 1990s, it has been customary to sing the national anthem in both Māori and English. Since 1987, Māori is one of New Zealand's official languages, two television channels broadcast in Māori and most places have both their Māori and English names officially recognized. Contrary to Australia and many other places in the world, New Zealand has been able to re-visit its colonial past and fully recognizes the indigenous people. New Zealanders are leaving behind their Eurocentrism and working for a greater recognition of Polynesian culture. All inhabitants are proud of the Nation’s Polynesian origin, and many Pākehā’s (New Zealander of European descent) can speak and understand Māori. We’re amazed by the friendly and gentle people in this beautiful country. It’s the country of respect toward people and nature. Māori won recognition for rivers, forests and mountains of being treated as living entities with the same legal rights as a human being. It’s so peaceful here that we would like to stay forever in this magnificent and socially advanced country.

La Réunion: We started in La Réunion and everything was so incredibly lovely. Definitely, we’ll return there to see and experience more of the Malabar culture but especially to hike everywhere. There are more than 500 official hikes and 3 GRR (Grandes Randonnées de la Réunion). We’re missing the GRR3 (40.2 km) across the Cirque de Mafate. For sunbathers the island is a nice place but forget completely swimming and snorkeling in the ocean. Since 2011, 27 shark attacks occurred in the waters of La Réunion, of which 11 were fatal. If we compare the number of shark attacks and fatalities with other affected areas, we see that La Réunion is over-represented. Shark attacks per million inhabitants: Hawaii 24, Reunion 17, Australia 3. Shark fatalities per million inhabitants: Reunion 6, Hawaii 1.5, Australia 0.5. Out of the five shark species considered dangerous for humans (bull, tiger, great white, mako and oceanic whitetip shark), all are present in the waters of La Réunion, but the fatal attacks have been carried on by bull and tiger sharks only. We’re certainly returning to La Réunion.

TAAF: The Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises include five districts located in three very different areas: The Îles Éparses, a group of tropical islands around Madagascar, the Terre Adélie located on Antarctica and the French Antarctic Islands in between. The French Antarctic Islands are the most isolated place in the world, being without an airport and more than 3300 km away from the nearest inhabited location. The French Antarctic Islands and waters (673’000 km2) have the status of Nature Reserve, which is the highest environmental protection regulation that exists under French law. This is the largest marine sanctuary in the world! In July 2019, the archipelagos of Crozet, Kerguelen, Saint-Paul and Nouvelle Amsterdam have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. This is by far the largest UNESCO site! The French Antarctic Islands are the most protected islands in the world. The access to the islands is strongly regulated. The only means of transport to get there is the ship Marion Dufresne II, and this only four times a year. There is no airport and no harbor, nobody is authorized to navigate in these waters or access any part of the coasts. The vast numbers of penguins and seals that occupy the beaches are considered one of the greatest wildlife sights of the world. The worldwide largest colony of king penguins is on Crozet as well as the largest yellow-nosed albatross colony. The second largest population of elephant seals in the world can be found on Kerguelen. This has been our most amazing experience in our life. Pristine nature everywhere, and the air composition is measured every day: it’s scientifically confirmed as the purest air in the world! The weather on Kerguelen is harsh, with rain, sleet or snow falling more than 300 days a year. Winds blow continuously from the West, averaging 110 kmh year-round. The state of the sea reflects the high wind speeds with wave heights of 12-15 m being common. This is really not the place for sunbathers! It is very difficult to get there as a non-researcher. But definitely worth to return there once more!

Australia: We’ve been only nine months on this continent nearly as large as Europe. There are many landscapes that are simply beautiful and so different. However, Australia has no responsible development nor sustainability nor respect for nature. Even in the National Parks, there are no recycling bins! It’s a pure exploitation of nature. The nature is a large dump site and one day, there will nothing left for the future generations. Generally, National Parks are a disillusionment for nature lovers. Many parks, especially in Queensland, have sealed trails and one has the impression to walk over a highway … this is not what one expects. The National Parks have not been established for the protection of nature but for the fun of people. These are big amusement park and visitors behave accordingly. Moreover, the wildlife mentioned on the posters in many parks has disappeared years ago … Well, we can only recommend visiting Western Australia, there you can still find patches of untouched nature despite the huge mining works. We’re discussing visiting the states we’ve left out so far: New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria.

Vanuatu: Most of the tourists are only going to the one island where the beach resorts are being built (Espiritu Santo) leaving the rest of the archipelago quiet and unspoiled. Vanuatu is magic! The islanders are the happiest people in the world and very proud of their tradition and local culture. To travel in Vanuatu, one must forget all Western attitudes and the consumer society, it’s back to the inner values of life. If we were to return there, we would try to get to the most remote islands in the North of the archipelago.

Polynésie: A beautiful place for snorkeling! Once out of the horrible Tahiti, the archipelago is really outstanding. Most outer islands are difficult to reach as they stretch over 2000 km of ocean, this allows the traditional Polynesian life to be preserved from mass-tourism. The government has been clever enough to brand and commercialize only one island (Bora Bora), in this way the flux of international tourists searching for the kitsch-ambiance is well channelized. If we were to return there, we would only focus on snorkeling in the most beautiful atolls in the world and try to swim with the humpback whales.

Nouvelle Calédonie: Certainly the most amazing seascape we’ve ever seen! The New Caledonian barrier reef is the longest continuous barrier reef in the world and contrary to the nearly-dead Australian Great Barrier Reef, it is still intact and pristine. The beautiful lagoon is the largest in the world, two third of it (15’700 km2) are fully protected and listed as UNESCO Heritage. The landscape, especially on Grande Terre is quite boring and unattractive. The Kanak society has its own customary authority and jurisdiction over the clans and tribes. As a consequence, most of the land and parts of the sea are considered taboo and cannot be accessed by people outside the tribe. Not the best place for hikers. If we were to return there, we would only explore the reef and the lagoon near Bourail.

Hawaii: We certainly will never ever return to these islands… Despite offering an acceptable quality of life, culture is a void concept over there. The famous seascape is a total scrap. Snorkeling in a sewer of a European city would provide a better experience. The sea along the coastline is deeply destroyed. The only exception is Kealakekua Bay with a quite preserved sea-life but for how long? Every day big commercial boats full of disrespectful tourists are conveying there … It’s therefore even more astonishing to see so many green turtles along the Hawaiian coasts. The huge number of green turtles on the islands is really impressive, and they still survive! The Hawaiian archipelago offers only 3 noticeable highlights: the Nā Pali Coast, the Haleakala Volcano and the green turtles. We were very happy to leave the islands after 3 very long months… It was a big waste of our precious time. We feel pity for the poor green turtles.

Life-hacks and lessons learned

Mobile phone (1): Have you ever been in a place where your neighbor is loudly chatting on his cell phone and you’re desperately searching for a network? Well, traveling is getting more complicated as more technology is used locally and not globally. We used 9 SIM cards for our trip around the world but also needed to buy 3 more cell phones.
Ten years ago, it was possible to travel around the world with a quad band GSM phone (2G). Unfortunately, the old but global 2G is being dismantled everywhere.
Our 15-band phone was not sufficient to cover all the different 4G bands encountered: there are simply too many frequencies allocated around the world. In addition to a local SIM card, you often need a cell phone with the right frequency band for that provider. It’s not only a matter of data usage on 4G but in some rural area it’s the only way for an emergency call.

On the following URL, you can check the frequencies used in each country: www.frequencycheck.com

The best coverage in the Australian Outback is provided by Telstra, however they use the 700 band (B28) and many European cell phones don’t have that frequency as a standard. Band 28 has an excellent wide area coverage and is becoming a new standard in some countries. You have the choice of a provider that uses the frequencies of your phone but less coverage or a new cell phone.
Anyhow, in Australia, the best is to have a vehicle equipped with a UHF radio, the coverage in the Outback is quite good and of course a digital 406 MHz distress beacon for emergency rescue.

In Namibia, a landscape comparable to the Australian outback, we had a good mobile phone coverage along all major roads. In Australia, the mobile phone coverage stops abruptly at the town suburbs. 
In Australia, instead of improving the long range communication, they install huge passive parabolic antennas, where you can stand in with your cell phone at hand and wait until you may get 1 line of network, if you’re lucky!
To note, that this works only up to 40 km outside a major town, passed that point: no network!

In most rural areas of Australia, Wi-Fi is a nightmare, especially if you're in a caravan park! If you have to make a payment or a reservation better you do that when you’re in a major town, and even there it’s not a given!

Mobile phone (2): Local SIM’s are very convenient. However, one needs to be reachable on one permanent number for family and friends as well as to access e-banking. If you consistently use your home mobile number around the world, you'll have very high roaming costs. So what was our solution for the one number to be always reachable without having to pay a fortune in roaming costs? We used XXSIM (https://www.xxsim.com): it has no roaming costs in 150 countries and very low rates worldwide, sometimes even cheaper than a local SIM! And cherry on the cake, you can have more numbers on that single SIM including your landline home number! We used its original Estonian number and a UK number on it. Of course, all phones we used were double SIM phones: one local SIM and XXSIM.

Mobile phone (3): What to do with the local smart phones collected during your travel? Well, you can keep them for your next travel or bring them to the next recycling bin for electronic trash. Be careful: The environment friendly recycling of old smart phones is possible only in a very few developed countries. In the US for example, they would simply end in a landfill like everything else … the glass, the cardboard, the plastic, the batteries, the cans ... dump dumb! …

Maps: We confirm that Google Maps are not made for traveling! Outside of towns and main roads Google Maps are considerably imprecise and can bring you into deep trouble! We noticed inaccuracy of kilometers in remote areas and astonishingly, if one switches to the underlying satellite view, one can recognize the correct road! It’s really their maps that are scrap. Google Maps are useful to find restaurants, hotels and other commercial facilities in a town but not for driving in rural areas, it can be very dangerous.

For driving, we only used OSM (https://www.openstreetmap.org).

For walking in the cities or hiking in the mountains we used the MapsMe App (https://maps.me), this is based on OSM and thus very precise and reliable. MapsMe has 4x4 tracks, trails and topography on it! Further, OSM maps can be converted to BaseCamp or Garmin. All continents including the most remote areas are well mapped in OSM. When we started our tour in Australia, mainly along 4x4 tracks, we thought we would need to have an Australian navigator (GPS device) for more precise information, especially when driving off-road. We rented a Navman, one of the widespread brands in down-under. We tested it during our first week of travel against our Garmin loaded with the free OSM. Guess what? No difference in map precision and the Garmin graphics and OSM information are by far better! Free OSM maps easily wins against Navman.

If one is looking for a nice hybrid between Google maps (commercial information) and precise street maps (OSM), one can use Mapcarta (https://mapcarta.com). Mapcarta uses OSM as the underlying map and has in addition all commercial information and satellite views like Google maps.

Hiking: Hikes can be done everywhere, it’s sufficient to follow the trail … isn't it? What we experienced is that the grading of the trails are very different from country to country. In Australia a grade 4 (difficult) corresponds to a simple walk for old ladies. The same in the US, despite the ten-thousands of warnings at the beginning of each trail. This is very different in New Zealand, where the tracks are in alpine style and can be very difficult for a non-experienced hiker. When it’s marked “medium” it means that is rough, muddy, poorly marked or unmarked, with steep ascents of up to 2000 m, exposure to potentially dangerous falls and up to 8 hours hiking. The same is true in La Réunion. If somebody tells you that it’s a trail for the family … expect to have a merely visible track, exposed to knife-edged ridges, rough, muddy and steep. On La Réunion, we used to multiply by 1.5 the time stated on the sign posts when hiking, in Australia we used to half the time mentioned! We haven’t transformed into better hikers though, it’s just that the place and the people are definitely different. For hiking the best is to use topographic maps in 1:25'000 scale, if not available, the best alternative is to use the MapsMe App (see above about maps).

Cultural shock: When traveling for two years around the world, one expects to see unpleasant things that may upset his or her understanding of life. We’ve seen two such places that we believe should not exist in this format: Yulara and Waikiki.

In Yulara, it starts at the campsite. Up to here, we only encountered Australian long-term campers, very friendly, educated and well-behaved. You arrive at the campsite and immediately you feel at home, drinking a beer with the nice neighbors ... this is completely different in Yulara. The campers here, mainly one-day visitors, are disrespectful, loud and unfriendly, just coming to see the “Rock” and leave ... leaving behind a long trail of waste.

In the resort, it’s even worse as far as ridiculous … where people are either dressed like Crocodile Dundee or dressed up like George Clooney with nice shining shoes! … Lamborghini, McLaren, Ferrari are parked in front of the upper class restaurants! It feels like being in a bad comedy: you can hear the Italians lamenting that nobody understands Italian or the French complaining about the food … The worst consumer freaks of the planet gathered here and don't care about nature …

Remember, we are in the middle of a vast desert and 450 km from the nearest town … and you’ve air-conditioned restaurants, lounges, bars, souvenir shops and not forgetting swimming pools and green lawns. We have here a terrible example of what touristic development should not be! A huge waste of resources that will never regenerate, absolutely not sustainable in this arid environment. We wonder what the owners of this consumer temple were thinking? The land and resort owners are the Anangu aboriginal people. Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed by their creation ancestors during the Dreaming. Tjukurpa in the Anangu culture is the link to the environment and the ancestors. They must have forgotten this by creating this monster of luxury and consumption in the middle of the sacred land.

The second great shock was Waikiki. We didn’t expect anything from this place, well known as the world capital of kitsch. Unfortunately, the reality is even worse than the most pessimistic scenario. Commercial kitsch is omnipresent, it’s like a nightmare you cannot escape. Beside traffic, skyscrapers, shopping malls and unappealing restaurants, Waikiki has nothing to offer. The ocean in Waikiki is cloudy and gray like the water discharged from a sewer. There is no seascape, everything is dead … nothing compared to the fantastic clarity and life of French Polynesia waters. Anyhow, most people are here for the shopping and not for the ocean.

Alcohol: There are some restrictions to buy alcohol in Nouvelle Calédonie. The sale is prohibited on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays afternoons as well as on the eve of public holidays. The sale of expensive high quality bottles from wine merchants escapes this ban. This was not a problem for us as the wine sold in the supermarkets is generally bad.

In Queensland there are a few restrictions regarding the opening hours of the bottle shops and sometimes limits to the quantity you can buy, which can be troublesome if you like to fill-up your camper for a month… Of course, you can't drink alcohol in a public place. RBT (random breath alcohol testing) is checked frequently by the police, even at noon and in the middle of nowhere. In addition, there are alcohol restrictions in 19 communities across Queensland, prohibiting to carry alcohol in your camper when crossing aboriginal areas. This can become an issue if you’re running out of fuel and the only station is within a dry community!

The very big issue with alcohol is in the Northern Territory (NT). Aboriginal people consume a lot of alcohol and easily become aggressive. Alice Springs is one of the most dangerous towns in Australia and you feel it when driving around at night or when stopping near a liquor-shop or a tavern, where large numbers of indigenous people gather together. Alice Springs is not the town for going-out ...

Buying alcohol in a NT bottle-shop can be quite embarrassing for the tourist not used to the NT severe alcohol restrictions. Since September 2017, all Territorians and visitors need to show a photo ID to buy takeaway alcohol. The photo ID is scanned and recorded in a database to monitor your individual drinking habits! There are specific hours and days when you can buy takeaway alcohol and how much. Re-fill your camper with a large amount of wine may become a difficult task and it may be refused.

Can you imagine such a law in Europe? No privacy rights and your passport with all your personal data scanned by a shop in order to buy a bottle of wine? All civil rights associations would jump up! You really get the impression that drinking a glass of wine is a crime... and we're not in Iran, we're in the wine country Australia!

There are 100 dry communities and you cannot cross them with your camper if in possession of alcohol.

Finally, the NT government entices people to denounce public drinking! Denunciation has a very negative connotation in Europe. It reminds us to the era of GDR or Third Reich, when denunciation was promoted by the governments as a means of obtaining information about citizens. 

Storage: When traveling for long time across several climatic zones, you automatically have a lot of luggage, unless you would throw away everything every-time. We needed clothes and equipment for hiking under tropical, alpine and antarctic conditions, for snorkeling, for camping and many more activities. We decided to keep with us all our equipment for the entirety of our journey. The flights were more expensive (luggage surcharge) and we needed to rent a storage in every place. However, this was the more environment friendly solution.

In total, we used eight different storage places (St. Pierre, Cairns, Brisbane, Auckland, Nouméa, Papeete, Kihei and Lisbon). The longest rent was for the storage in Brisbane: 9 months. It was very helpful to have this primary storage in Brisbane, we thought about it as our “home”! At a time we had 3 storage boxes in parallel in 3 different countries (Brisbane, Auckland and Nouméa). Sometimes, a storage was a must not only a convenience. In Vanuatu the maximum luggage weight for those small planes was only 10 kg.

Finding the right storage at the right time was not always easy. All storage professionals contacted have always been very helpful and proposing the very best solution. We were very happy with all rented storage places. 

Safe driving: Per definition every driver always believes to be the best driver in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the large majority of the drivers. We’ve seen too many stupid and avoidable accidents in the last years.

In this paragraph, we only focus on a couple of simple recommendations for off-road driving.

The very first recommendation is to never rent a 4x4 without a portable air compressor and two spare tires.

Two spare tires are a must if you really intend going off-road. Well, I know, most people will say I never had a flat tire in my entire life … they probably never went off-road. If you venture into the dirt, your chances of a flat go way up. Already a simple gravel road can be lethal to your tires. A typical gravel road is made of a layer of small crushed angular stones, even in tropical countries those stones are made out of the hardest rock available in the area, usually granite. The reason is to avoid rapid degradation of the road if you would take weathered or soft rocks. Now imagine driving at 80 kmh over millions of crushed hard stones for hours … and in several countries the highways are gravel roads.

Driving on gravel can cause some serious damage to your tires: a puncture, a cut or in the worst case a blowout.

If you only have one spare tire, you may be obliged to stop your journey and get back to the next town for the repair. Continuing without a spare tire, becomes a hazardous adventure if you are in the middle of nowhere. Thus, always have two spare tires. 

Lowering tire pressure is a standard procedure when driving off-road: the vehicle will have a larger contact patch that provides more grip. This is especially helpful in deep sand. It will also allow to more easily crawl over large rocks. If a tire normally holds 35 psi (2.4 bar), it might work well at 25 psi (1.7 bar) on a gravel road; at 20 psi (1.4 bar) on a bumpier trail and at 15 psi (1 bar) in deep sand. Remember: low tire pressure in addition to low gear has a strong impact on fuel economy. Fuel consumption may be more than double depending on the terrain.

An under-inflated tire flexes more in the sidewall and heats up far beyond the normal operating temperatures. The situation gets worse with hot outside temperatures. To avoid a tire blowout it's fundamental to have the pressure adapted to the terrain. Keep your tires properly inflated when on a sealed road and get in the habit of regularly checking your tires and remove sharp objects from the treadAlways have a portable air compressor with you. By the way, an air compressor will help you in cleaning the inside of your 4x4 vehicle from the bull dust.

The last recommendation: On beaches be aware of the tide times. It seems a superfluous remarks but we have seen a family of Māori stuck in the wet sand. They made it just in time to escape from the high tide but their vehicle got heavily damaged. Even indigenous people get in big trouble with off-road driving.

Don’t be to self-confident but rather cautious and attentive, always be prepared for the unexpected.

More on safe driving here: https://overlandsite.com/overlanding/how-to-drive-safely

The Toyota Land Cruiser is a legend and the most reliable off-road vehicle worldwide. Since the 1950s, Toyota’s 4WD’s have been vehicles that were aimed at going anywhere and bringing you back safely. Toyota earned a well-deserved reputation for building 4WD’s that won’t let you down. No one wants to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. One out of 10 Land Cruiser’s is sold in Australia! In the harsh Aussie outback, it is unmatched in its performance and reliability. Where other vehicles stumbled and succumbed, the Land Cruiser and its sister Hilux go on! This sounds like a commercial but for 4WD-rentals, Toyota is always our first choice, and this since many years. For normal cars, we really don’t care … during this travel, we had Renault, Hyundai, Ford, Toyota, Kia, Dacia, Volkswagen...

96 pictures to summarize our travel around-the-world!