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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Stockholm

We had four days time to explore Stockholm before heading farther North. We stayed in the city center, near the main station, which was very convenient, because most of the sights were within walking distance and so we spent all four days on foot.

On our first day the weather wasn't too good, so we visited the Vasa museum. The Vasa is a huge battleship which sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage near the Stockholm harbor and was salvaged in 1961. After a lengthy restoration process it can now be viewed in the museum together with many exhibits from the ship as well as information about the context of its time. We ended up spending all day at the museum, there was so much to see!

On the second day the weather was much improved and so we started with a boat cruise. Our next stop was Skansen, an open air museum featuring buildings from all over Sweden from the 16th to the 19th Century. Many of the houses were open for the public and were occupied with people dressed in period clothing who explained how the original occupants lived with a special focus on Christmas celebrations. I enjoyed this very much, unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to visit all the buildings, because of the short winter opening hours, so my recommendation to you is to go there when it opens and plan a whole day for it.

The last two days we spent visiting the Old Town and other tourist sights.

A personal highlight of visiting Stockholm was its abundance of easily accessible Geocaches. Over the four days we found 21 Caches :). There is a series of Caches geared towards tourists with little time to visit the city, with seven Caches placed close to the main tourist attractions and a bonus Cache that could be found with hints hidden in two of the other seven. I found six of the seven Caches and had the hints after the first three. However, the bonus Cache seemed to have gone missing...

In short, I can highly recommend a short trip to Stockholm to any Geocacher!

More pictures can be seen in my web album.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Round the World Statistics

My amazing trip around the world has ended and since I am fond of statistics, I wanted to share a couple of figures with you.

Travel

Days traveled:112
Distance traveled:~54'150km
by rental car:2'413.6km
Countries visited (24h+):7
Countries visited (-24h):5
# planes boarded:17
Longest flight:13h (Hong Kong - London)
Shortest flight:1h (Papeete - Rangiroa)
# blog posts22
# pictures shared737

Scuba Diving

# Dives147
Time under water5 d 9 h 23 min (129h 23 min)
Longest dive72min (Fiji)
Shortest dive28min (Galapagos, Check Dive)
Deepest dive46m (Rangiroa)
Shallowest dive5.9m (Galapagos, Check Dive)
Average depth24.33m
Coldest dive15°C (Galapagos)
Warmest dive30°C (Honduras)
Average temperature26°C
Most dives in one dive site11 (Passe de Tiputa, Rangiroa)
# of Countries dived6

Geo Caching

# Caches found71
# Countries with finds7
Most findsAustralia (49)
Least findsFiji (1)
Find farthest EastFiji
Find farthest WestFrench Polynesia
Find farthest SouthNew Zealand
Find farthest NorthHonduras

Here is one final number before I close for today.
This is my 500th blog post.
Cheers!

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Dragons! Atherton Tablelands

My last day trip in Australia took me South-West of Cairns, to the Atherton Tablelands. An area that still feels very rural and offers many natural beauties. Interesting was already the bus ride up through the Gillies Range towards the Tablelands, where we noticed that the rain forest changed to regular forest. The change was so abrupt that it felt like an invisible line had been drawn through the landscape!

One of the first stops was at the humongous Cathedral Fig Tree. The Cathedral Fig Tree is so named because you can stand among its roots and it looks like a cathedral. This tree is a Strangling Fig Tree and they have a very interesting life. They start as a seed which is dropped by birds on top of other trees. There it gains hold and has instant access to light, which is a main consideration to grown in a rain forest. It will then grow a long root along the tree down to the floor. Once this root has a hold, it can take up nutrients allowing the plant to grow additional roots. All these roots grow around the original trees stem, reducing it's ability to grow, and thus strangling and eventually killing it. After a while the original tree will rot away leaving a hollow part inside through which you can look up!

Our next stop was a lake where we spotted two ducks resting under a picnic table and went for a short rain forest walk. There we met ancient and very impressive trees and our first Dragon! We walked right past it, the guide had to tell us where to look before we spotted this intriguing lizard. It was a Boyd's Forest Dragon, hanging 1.5 meters from the floor on a tree without moving, it probably thought that if it didn't move it couldn't be seen, which would almost have worked ;).

Before lunch we went for a swim at a nearby lake and there we spotted another Dragon! This time it was a Water Dragon, sitting on a log near the shore :).

After lunch we visited the famous Millaa Millaa Waterfall, which offers the perfect environment for shampoo commercials!

After another relaxing swim we headed to Dinner Falls, which used to be a place for picnics a century ago, but since a small dam was built it offers another small pool for swimming instead.

Our last stop was near Yungaburra, where we visited a place where Platypus are frequently spotted, unfortunately, we were out of luck and didn't see one of them.

It was an enjoyable day trip and with a bit more luck we might have seen even more exotic wildlife.

These pictures can be seen in my web album.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

There and Back again - Kuranda Skyrail and Scenic Railway

Kuranda is a small town in the mountains near Cairns. In the past only hippies and artists found their way their, but after the introduction of an Arts & Craft market word slowly got around and more tourists started to visit. Today, it is one of the most frequented day trips from Cairns. Not only for the sake of the town, but also because of the way to get there. The most boring way is to take a car or a direct bus. It gets more interesting if you use the Skyrail or the Scenic Railway, or as I did, when you combine the two.

The Skyrail took me high over the rainforest and up towards Kuranda. On the way there were two stops. The first at Red Peak, where a short walkway leads through the rainforest and where we were lucky enough to catch one of the free guided tours. Back on board the Skyrail took us towards the Barron Falls, in places almost touching the rainforest canopy, allowing for breathtaking views.

At Kuranda station I took the meandering river walk towards the market, finding a Geocache on the way :). Even though it is now a tourist hot-spot and there are a plethora of shops and markets, Kuranda kept its old-style hippie flair and I enjoyed walking around browsing for gifts and souvenirs.

On the way back I took the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which consists of restored heritage wagons and drives slowly back to Cairns along sheer cliff faces, rainforest and waterfalls. There was a short stop at Barron Falls Station, giving us the opportunity to enjoy the falls from the other side.

I really enjoyed my day in Kuranda, especially the way there and back again :).

A couple of more pictures can be found in my web album.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Salt Water Crocodiles and Crazy Birds: North to Cape Tribulation

From Cairns my way lead me further North when I joined a three-day trip to Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation is well known for its natural beauty, it is the place where the subtropical rainforest meets the Ocean, and was named by Captain Cook after he ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef nearby.

On our way up we spotted two Saltwater Crocodiles, the first next to a bridge we crossed and the second during a Crocodile spotting boat ride on the Daintree river.

After crossing the Daintree river we were in Cassowary country. The Cassowary is one of the largest flightless birds in the world, which is vital for the continued growth of the rainforest as it eats various fruits and spreads the seeds in a wide area, helping plants to disperse. Unfortunately, it is highly endangered and for that reason there are Cassowary warning signs all the way along the road. We were always on the lookout in hopes of spotting one, but we weren't lucky enough. Apparently, one local told us, there are more warning signs than actual Cassowaries around ;).

One of the stops was a guided walk through the jungle across a marshy area, where we spotted some wildlife: spiders, a mud crab, some fish and a strange bug.

In Cape Tribulation I stayed at the Cape Trib Beach House, which is spread across a long stretch of jungle reaching from the street down to the beach. I really enjoyed staying there, everything felt so wild and natural :).

Not wanting to spend the whole day relaxing, I undertook a Jungle Surfing tour in the rainforest canopy. That was great fun and very informative too, because the guides told us a lot about the trees we were standing in and the way that the platforms were built. We almost saw a Tree Kangaroo, it was spotted two hours before, but had decided to move on in the meantime.

After dinner I went for a short walk along the dark road, spotting a Cane Toad and two Bandicoots. But with only the light of a small flashlight to guide my way, I didn't dare to venture too far away, since it was quite a creepy feeling with all the noises around me.

On the way back we stopped at Mossman Gorge, where an Aborigine explained about their traditional clan body paintings and where we had an opportunity to swim in the refreshing river. I used the time to look for a nearby Geocache before cooling off in the river.

The second night was spent in Port Douglas, a town known for it's ritzy resorts, but which still kept a laid back attitude in it's town center. After enjoying the sun set, I walked back to the town center for dinner and was surprised by an extremely loud noise level. Looking around I spotted two trees which were crowded with small birds, they numbered in their thousands! I was glad I didn't have Ornithophobia ;).

My last day was spent walking around Port Douglas and along it's beautiful Four Mile Beach, looking for Geocaches :).

In the evening we were picked up again for a short trip back to Cairns. On the way we spotted a large number of Rock Wallabies in a meadow next to the road.

Pictures from this trip can be found in my web album.

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