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Vertanzt - Dance the night away in 196'360 steps
Geocaching in Mallorca
Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks in North Sudan
Interrail Geocaching Part 3 - Northwards
Interrail Geocaching Part 2 - Benelux
Interrail Geocaching Part 1 - Eastwards
Quokkas on Rottnest Island
Fremantle and it's Prison
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Geocaching and Lost Places on Christmas Island
 
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Vertanzt - Dance the night away in 196'360 steps

I spent the last four days at Vertanzt, a dance festival in the middle of Switzerland. Throughout the day different workshops were held and in the evenings live bands played late into the night.

This year's theme was Swing and so I got to try my feet at West Coast Swing, Collegiate Shag, Disco-Swing, Lindy Hop and Jive/Rock 'n Roll.
Next to Disco-Swing, which I had already danced before, I had the most fun with Collegiate Shag, somehow the strange leg movements just flowed easily :).

There were many great bands in the evening but I was most looking forward to see Katze Steffan und das Lügenorkestar again, a band focusing on Balkan music which has an unbelievable drive. And the music is perfect for improvised dancing! The festival finally ended at 4 am on Monday morning, by which time my feet really needed a break ;).

This time I had my cellphone with an integrated step counter with me and it was interesting to see, that over the four days it counted 196'360 steps with which I supposedly covered 147.85 kilometers! Interestingly enough, out of the countless hours of dancing, only about 29 minutes registered as running, and most of that probably during the Shag workshop ;).

As last year I had a fantastic time at Vertanzt and would like to thank the organizers, all the musicians, the countless helpers and of course the other dancers!

I'll be back next year!

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Geocaching in Mallorca

For our board-game week we returned to Mallorca, where we rented a nice house near Felanitx with a huge pool!

The highlights were our three (half-)days of Geocaching where we visited Lost Places and Secret Caves.

Our first foray brought us to the Monastery of San Salvador from where we had beautiful views of the surrounding countrysides.
Afterwards we hunted for Blackbeard's treasure, which led to a chase all the way to the coast and ended near stunning cliffs with salt deposits on top.




On our way back we stopped at El Palecete, a lost place with many interesting details.



On Thursday we headed to a second bigger Lost Place. La Ponderosa used to be a huge BBQ-restaurant with a lot of interesting wall decorations which are still intact.

We spent over an hour exploring the place and finally found the secret token of admission ;)


The best thing we saved up for our last day. Before the trip Team Breena was able to solve a difficult mystery and so we headed to the coordinates intrigued to see what we could discover. A small opening in the middle of a residential area, brought us into a breathtaking cave with a small underground lake!

This was definitely the coolest Cache we have seen on Mallorca so far!

Not yet tired we continued on to Punta de n'Amer, a peninsula which serves as a nature-sanctuary. There we found another 17 caches, one of which was located near an old castillo and another one in another small cave.







More pictures can be found in my webalbum.





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Friday, April 03, 2015

Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks in North Sudan

This years dive trip brought me all the way to Sudan.

For an easier arrival we started our journey in Port Ghalib, Egypt, where we boarded the Royal Evolution. After a delay due to bad weather we were able to sail South the next day and do some diving on the way to our destination.

Fortunately, we were able to get permission to dive in Sudanese waters before officially arriving in Port Sudan. This gave us the opportunity to spend a day at Shaab Rumi where we encountered our first sharks of the trip. While others had already spotted Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, I was always a bit too far away, but there were a couple of Grey Reef Sharks around to console me :).

 The first night dive took place at Sanganeb Wall, where we encountered a plethora of large nudibranches, such as Spanish Dancers, Large Pleurobranchus and Humped Halgerda.

The next day we had an early start with a 6am dive in order to get to Port Sudan in time for the immigration procedures. After a couple of hours in the harbor we were finally cleared to leave and continued onwards to the wreck of the Umbria. The Umbria was an Italian supply ship during the Second World War, which was sunk by the captain on purpose to prevent it from falling into Allied hands. The wreck is still in good condition and there are several places where penetrations are possible. The highlights are 3 Fiat 1100s, the engine room and lots of leftover ammunition.

The next day we returned back Northwards to Sanganeb reef where we visited the lighthouse, the only time we stepped on Sudanese soil, and then encountered enormous schools of Blackfin Barracuda and Bigeye Trevally.
 

At Shaab Rumi we visited the remains of Jacques Cousteau's Conshelf II project, where in 1963 several habitations were built in 10 meters depth, housing six oceanauts for 30 days. Besides some debris there is also a scooter shed and a large bell shaped housing, that might have been used for experiments or as a submarine garage.
 

After we had a look around in- and outside the buildings we continued along the wall where I discovered a group of Pyjama Slugs. Two of them were mating at the time!

 The following night dive had surprised again when I stumbled upon a tiny cuttlefish :)

And then it was finally time for me to see the Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks too. At Shaab Rumi's South Plateau we encountered first a single one swimming right past us, unfortunately I had my camera in macro mode at the time!!!, and then we encountered a small school of them.

Further North we stopped at Qita el Banna where we encountered a very curious Silky Shark. We were hanging out away from the reef looking around when he shot straight at us out of nowhere, a couple of meters away from us he stopped and kept swimming to and fro for about five minutes :)
The second dive would top this with a school of at least 11 Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks and a return visit by the Silky :).
Afternoon and evening dives were at Merlo reef where we spotted a couple of Flashlightfish lurking in the reef during the nightdive.
The last great shark dive was at Angarosh's South Plateau where a Scalloped Hammerhead Shark came very close to check me out at 40 meters depth!

On our continued way North we didn't spot any more sharks, but we did have a couple of nice encounters with Turtles and other fish.

The final highlight was at St John's back in Egypt when I caught a Red Sea Anemonefish with a Cleaner Shrimp.

Conclusion:
Diving in Sudan was very nice. The reefs were in very good shape and there was plenty of fish activity. We were a bit unlucky with the weather, there was almost no current which kept the large schools of Sharks at bay. Nevertheless I had a fantastic time.

During the 13 days on board the Royal Evolution I did 37 dives with an average maximum depth of 30 meters, with a maximum of 41.4 meters (that's where I encountered the Hammerhead Shark), spending 32.5 hours under water. Even though the conditions were relatively mild it is definitely advanced diving and can only be recommended to divers who have experience with strong currents.

More pictures can be found in these two web albums:
- Egypt 2015
- North Sudan 2015

If you want to know more about the different dives, you can check out my divelog for this trip.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Interrail Geocaching Part 3 - Northwards

Traveling from Amsterdam to Copenhagen looked straightforward enough on paper. Changing trains in Ossnabrück and Hamburg, with enough changeover time to look for a Cache in each place. So I didn't do any further research into the geography of this trip and was thus very surprised when the train suddenly boarded a ferry and we were asked to disembark during the crossing!
On the positive side, it offered an opportunity to stretch my legs on this last 5 hour part. At the end of the day I had discovered Caches in three countries: The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark :)

The next day with wonderful weather to boot I started to explore the city. I was surprised by the large number of Caches throughout the center and had a long list of places to visit.
A highlight was Kastellet, the late medieval military fortification with a beautiful moat.
Walking along the shoreline I was surprised to see a tourist bus. The reason for this was soon discovered, the famous Little Mermaid, of which I quickly took a picture and continued onwards.

Oh, wait, that was another sculpture ;)


After passing through the government district, my way led me to Nyhavn, the picturesque old harbor which is now a tourist hotspot.
In the end I found 22 Caches on this day trip, and there are still a couple more around which weren't on my route. So I can definitely recommend a trip to Copenhagen to any Geocacher! :)

More pictures from Copenhagen can be found in this webalbum.

The next day it was time to travel back to Germany. There would have been a direct train from Copenhagen to Berlin, but that would have meant crossing four German states without caching, and that wasn't an option. So I changed trains in Lübeck, Bad Kleinen (to visit the famous egg-tunnel) and Bad Wilsnack. After a late arrival in Berlin I ended up with finds in the following four states: Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg and Berlin :).

To end my epic Interrail trip I continued on to Leipzig to spend a couple of days with good friends, playing board games and finding more Caches ;).

Part 1 - Eastwards
Part 2 - Benelux


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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Interrail Geocaching Part 2 - Benelux

Leaving Prague for Luxembourg was an astonishingly easy thing. With a direct bus from Prague to Mannheim, a train to Saarbrücken and another bus to Luxembourg, I managed the trip in about 11 hours. Luxembourg City surprised me by it's hilly nature. Walking from the main station to the Youth Hostel turned out to be a bad idea, since Google Maps led me down into a valley, up the next hill and back down again. For the way back I decided to take a cab ;).

In the evening I undertook the first trip around the city looking for some Caches, completing the circle the next morning. On my way I discovered a couple of hidden treasures, such as this small Chapel built into the hill.

More pictures from Luxembourg can be found in my webalbum.

From Luxembourg I headed to Brussels where I arrived late Saturday afternoon. After settling in I went to the city center for some sightseeing and Geocaching. I was overwhelmed by the number of people in the street. It seemed as if the whole of Belgium was up and about. Despite this I did manage to view the main attractions and find some Caches to boot :).


Sunday morning I headed out to the Atomium and its neighboring parks. The queue at Atomium was huge, so I only enjoyed it from the outside.

In the late afternoon it was finally time for one of the reasons of this trip. Scala and Kolacny Brothers had a concert in the Basilica in Koekelberg. That was a fantastic experience :).
Due to the impending strike in Belgium I headed onwards to Amsterdam the same night. Due to some spotty information I ended up buying an extra ticket for the Thalys service, because it wasn't sure whether the regular train would be stopped on the way or not...

More pictures from Belgium can be found in this webalbum.

Geocaching in Amsterdam is a bit more difficult than in other cities. Due to the heritage listing of most of the center the number of possible hiding spots is limited and thus the number of Caches isn't too big. During a long walk along the many canals I still managed to find a handfull.

What I found most amazing were the large number of different bridge types encountered. Next to old drawbridges, there was also a bridge which slid to the side to make room for passing ships.

Another fun find was the Petrus & Paul Church which is in the middle of the shopping mile and which has a revolving door!?!

More pictures from Amsterdam can be found in this webalbum.

Part 1 - Eastwards
Part 3 - Northwards



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Monday, December 22, 2014

Interrail Geocaching Part 1 - Eastwards

Doing an Interrail trip is one of the things on every European's bucket list. Now I finally found time to tick this off, combining it with Geocaching in a couple of countries I hadn't visited before.

The first part of my trip took me eastwards to Vienna. I'd been in Vienna a couple of years back and had visited some of the sights, so this time I focused on the old town and the area around the brand new main station.
More pictures can be found in this webalbum.

Bratislava is just a short hop from Vienna, so I traveled there next. Bratislava has a beautiful old town in the center and an impressive castle at the edge of the city.
It also features a very interesting museum of old-timers just next to the train station.
More pictures can be found in this webalbum.

My last stop in the East was Prague. There I completed two Where-I-Go-Caches which took me to all the important sights in the old town as well as in the "lesser town".
During my one-day walk around town I managed to find 13 Caches, which is a good number considering the high tourist density in this beautiful city.
More pictures can be found in this webalbum.

Part 2 - Benelux
Part 3 - Northwards




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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Quokkas on Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is best known for it's large Quokka population. Quokkas are small marsupials that only live on the island and in very small areas on the mainland around Perth. The first European explorers mistook them for giant rats and thus gave it the name Rotte Nest (Dutch for Rats Nest).

Nowadays, it is a favorite holiday location with many beautiful beaches and a large protected nature reserve with many birds.

The only mode of transport on the island, besides to a tourist bus, are bicycles. I didn't have to go far to spot the first Quokkas hiding in a bush next to a residential house.

After enjoying a nice swim at Parker Point I completed the short cycle loop. On the way back I encountered a couple more and very inquisitive Quokkas :).

Back in the town center there was also a peacock strolling around, hoping for scraps from tourists.

Overall the trip was very enjoyable :). You can find more pictures in my webalbum.

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