BALI – To dengue or not to dengue

Did you ever have the feeling that your life has turned into a black comedy and you are watching from the sidelines? I think its a coen brothers movie as they always confuse me. The script go’s something like this.
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It starts of as this typical midlife crisis thing. Woman wonders or this is it in life? Is there anything more to life again then being a mum and a waiting wife. So she go’s out and seeks out people from her past, and digs up lots of sweet memories. But after all the memory diging decides to returns to her life with the intent to make it work.
When due to lots of different factors the woman’s  life appears to fall apart she decides to go on one last adventure with her daughter before school starts. Hoping that during this quest she will find her adventurous self and independence again and upon return see things in perspective.
It starts out great.. Her daughter was an absolute trained pro travelkid on the plane and they got to see their future house from the airplane. Although she gets a warning at the airport for leaving her card in the ATM machine while her daughter ran away. But thanks to the backpacker kindness the card gets returned and she has faith. This is what it’s all about. Stranger kindness.
 Its humid and the smell and feel of asia make her feel alive and at home again. It brings back so many fantastic memories and she feels like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders.  She can do this, She is ready for this and it will be the trip of their lives.
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She starts the trip with taking surfing lessons as that was on the top of her bucket list for years.. She’s loving it!! But soon enough realises she might have needed a little bit more physical preparation. She feels free and alive as she is riding down the waves. But she feels half dead and like an old lady when she try’s to paddle back up.  After 3 days her beaten by board and waves body call it a day. But she is determined to finish what she started. It might just take a little longer.
After goodbyes thank you’s and paying at the surfclub she realises her bankcard is gone. Panick! Looks at the room – Looks at the surfclub – Checks again and again and again.. No Luck. Time to think and count and see if she can make it with the back up card. No Stress. Thats why she has a back up for things like this. So no stress.
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Out of nowhere her daughter gets sick she has a fever that is going through the roof. Is it just a fever? Is it just a flu? Is she being over worried? 2 nights go by as she didn’t want to be the worry sick mum.  But there was no sign of improvement and fever was around 40 degrees.
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Counting on the kindness of locals she finds a dr,  and the nurse came to the guesthouse. The nurse drew blood in the room, the fan is turning while her child is burning up and screaming like it is being slaughtered. The nurse gets nervous. The woman is not sure at this point what kind of nurse this is. For all she knows she could be a vet. And where is this dr?? After the nurse leaves the childs temperature rises to 40 again and the woman is unable to get it down. Still no idea or the people around her are trustable. She contacts anything and everyone she knows while trying in all sorts of ways to get the fever down. She panics she wants to shout and cry but knows it won’t help her daughter so she does what she can and try’s to keep it together.
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Later that evening the dr stands at the door with the lab results accompanied by the nurse who still seems pale from the screaming of her child. The dr go’s over everything and examens the child. The dr seems kind and knowlagable. He gives lots of information and will not leave before all questions are answered. The lab results are inconclusive. It could be dengue it could also be an infection the values are right on the edge so he can’t be sure. To be sure the child has to be treated for both and she has to be monitored. The mother would have to check for signs of dengue hemmorage and the bag for hospital needed to be ready. If any symptoms like a rash would show up she would need to be rushed as then it would be life threatening. Medication and fluids needed to be given every four hours also through the night. But the mother checked every half hour just to be sure. Days now that she didn’t sleep. All else there was to do was wait and hope for her to get better.
Even with the meds the fever is still above 39 except for that one time. As the fever dropped. She took the child into the stroller and runs to the ATM to get money for the dr and to buy more water and juice to make sure she got her fluids.
She runs back as even in those 5 minutes outside the childs seemed to do worse again and was crying. She was crying louder when the mother tried to leave her in the care of someone from the hotel. So there was not much choice and the woman was telling herself she did the right thing.
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Back in the room fully loaded with money to pay the dr. She gives the child, fluids and medicine and the child go’s to sleep. The woman lays next to her watching the fan turning and feeling the burned up child next to her. Same scenario for days now.
 Outside is a thunderstorm,  the hot loud and humid kind one. As the thunder blasts through the room she jumps up and realises something. She shouts nooooo and starts to cry. But child doesn’t react. She searches and searches only to confirm her fear. She has the money for the dr,  but the the card. Where is the card?. …….
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She had already lost one she could not have lost the back up. She runs down and asks the person behind the desk if he could watch her daughter for 5 minutes. It’s raining again, she runs through the puddles as fast as she can but there was nothing. No card at the ATM. She runs back up to check for the child to find her still asleep.  She runs again to the ATM to get the number from the bank maybe they can save her. She also try’s her normal bankcards but they don’t work in Bali only the credit cards seem to.
Back at the guesthouse she asks the desk to help her phoning the banks number as her phone doesn’t work in indonesia. The guy calls the number for her. She begs the person on the other side of the telephone line to help her, but the only reply she gets is the  words no english. After many transfers and what seemed hours later she gets hold of someone speaking English. Sorry mam procedure not card from this bank then the staff has to destroy. She begs the person on the other line and explains there is a sick child involved but finally has to hang up gutted and dissapointed. She breaks down and cries in the rain at the check in counter of the guesthouse. Ashamed She quickly thanks the guy at the desk for trying to help her and runs up. Her daughter is still sleeping. She looks up the fan its still turning and her head is spinning at the same speed. She cries and cries and cries. Feeling like her brain had left her and worried sick about the little girl she had no idea what to do anymore.
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She contacts her husband for help. The husband gets in contact with his bank and they promise to do what they couldn’t do before. Up the limit of the card for groceries. It will take 2 days or so, for those two days she can’t do anything and she needs to keep her fingers crossed that her daughter won’t need to go to hospital within those two days. But after that at least there is a solution to her stupidity.
Its the middle of the night the childs fever starts going down from 40 to 39 and the woman can breathe again for the first time in days. She checks the fever every few hours and by the morning she is sure that she is better. She is relieved. There is a knock on the door and its the dr and the nurse. Proudly the woman shows them how the fever has finally gone down sure that they are off the hook now.
The dr explains that dengue can still not be ruled out and that she should stay around and have another blood test before leaving to anywhere. As dengue haemorrhage could still happen. The woman agrees but the child doesn’t. Neither does the nurse as it seems that as well the nurse as the child are traumatised from the last experience. They leave and the woman agrees that she will call them for another bloodtest if the fever go’s up again.
The woman has hope and so does the child and the child runs and sings for the first time in days. There is a knock on the door. Its the guesthouse staff. They want to make sure the child is ok and ask if she is sure she doesn’t want to go to a hospital. The woman reasures them that the child is in good hands with the dr and that she is better now. The child runs and sings and confirms the woman words. For the first time in days they go down to have breakfast and all the guesthouse staff are happy to see her better. The owner comes to the room again and tells them that they shouldn’t leave the next day until the child has been ok for a few days. They say they will make a special price and they are welcome to stay as long as they need.
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The woman is relieved and sees beauty in all the kindness around her. After breakfast she and the child go up again as the child still needs rest. On the freshly made bed she finds a credit card. She can’t believe her eyes, It’s the first credit card that she lost. She squeals from joy and contacts her husband but can’t reach him as its the middle of the night in europe. She hopes and prays that they can undo the block. When she phoned for the other card there was such an option in the menu so it has to be possible.
She has hope again, could things be going in the right direction? Could she still get something positive out of this trip? Is the world just teaching her to be happy with what she has which is above all a beautiful daughter? She promises the turning fan above her as if it was god, that she gets it and that she will do everything in her power to be happy with what she has from now on. Just please let things go in the right direction from now on. And let her daughter be healthy.
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 To be sure she takes her daughters temperature about an hour after the dr left. Fever Again!  A few moments later she gets a text that the credit card can’t be activated again. She stares at the fan while thinking of ways how to ask the staff to stay longer but pay later. She also needs to call the dr for another bloodwork. The fan spins and so is her head… again….
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 After thinking about this from every angle she decides to try and get into contact with her dr back in Belgium. The dr also works at the tropical institute and specialises in things like this. So maybe she will have another say about the whole story instead of putting her daughter through this whole ordeal again. She looks for the email contacts but they are not advertised but thankfully she remembers receiving an email once from the reception. She finds the contact details and sends an email with the fever chart and the bloodwork attached. Only problem is that local time in Belgium is still only 6 am. So she waits it out.
After getting no response she tries to phone, in the meantime her husband credited her sim card and it should be working now. They pick up and tell her they received the email but that they can’t open the attachment as its too small and so unreadable. She tries to send a larger file and awaits response. As nothing happens she phones again. They didn’t receive anything. She has one last chance to get the blood work over there before the dr leaves her on call room.  She tries to send it from everywhere and in every format possible.
Ten minutes later she phones again, the credit on her phone now almost finished. They just received her email and are printing the bloodwork as they speak. They read it… And as result they tell her exactly the same as the local dr did. The result can’t rule out dengue so she needs another bloodwork if the child still had a fever, and she did. By the time she got an answer it was too late to have the bloodwork done that day.
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After having dinner together and receiving lots of support from the staff of the guesthouse. Who didn’t make a point of the fact that she would be staying longer and paying later. The woman tried to talk to the child and prepare her for what would happen the next day. Soon she found herself in a situation where she would need to promise the child a dog. Crying about wanting a dog and not wanting injections the child fell asleep. The woman held her and cried with her child softly while she stared at the turning fan on the ceiling. Begging it to make it all stop.  After about 20 fan turns she got herself together and made the appointment for the bloodwork in the morning and asked if they could bring someone extra as she herself would be useless.
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 The next morning the dr and the nurse came first thing for the blood work. The woman was a mess. A week of not sleeping and checking for symptoms every so often. But most of all she felt helpless and worried and scared. And now she would have to break her daughters trust and pin her to the bed so they could get more blood. She was in a state but she did what she had to do. Together with the Dr she pinned her screaming begging child to the bed for the nurse to be able to draw blood. Mummy please stop!! Those words were the hardest words she ever had to hear. Arm one was pinned. Milla managed to turn her arm and bent the needle inside her arm. Causing lots of pain. Straight to the second arm, don’t know what went wrong there. But no blood came out. Her daughter traumatised by needles for life the nurse had to give up. And they both left. Still no blood, still no result. The child was hysterical for another half hour after they left. The mother held her and cried. Cried out of guilt, disappointment, worry all sorts of emotions a mother doesn’t do well.
It took a few days more and slowly the fever went down. 11 days they had spent looking and praying to the turning fan above them. But after 11 days things were over. She wasn’t allowed to travel not far from hospital but they ware allowed to go. Things should be ok now.
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Normally we would avoid zoo’s but since I decided that the rest of the holiday should be all about Milla we stayed overnight at a safari park with mixed feelings. But for once i forgave myself. Milla was happy and I still explained her what was good and bad about the things we saw but she was happy and thats all I cared about at that point.

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The next stop after the zoo was Ubud. Originally I was going there to do yoga and babysit was sorted. But after what happened I chanced those plans. We would take it easy and it would be all about Milla. So we rented a motorbike and went on child friendly exploring in and around the rice fields and stopped to have a chat with almost every local on our path. We also did a bike trail with ecotours. Me cycling and Milla on the back in a kids seat. We started at mount Batur where we had breakfast with the most amazing view and then cycled down in the rain through local villages and rice fields. Ubud although very busy now still has this friendly relaxing bus around it and the people are so incredibly friendly. And then Im not even mentioning the food. Yummy!
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After Ubud we took a taxi up North to Amed. I fell in love instantly. We stayed in a hut that had no lock. But felt safe none the less. Amed for me was perfect. Small enough so that when driving around the village after one day everyone knew your name. Or at least they knew Millas name. But big enough to find what you need in the supermarkets,  a good choice of seaside restaurant to eat from and the right kind of travellers around that you like to meet.  The beach is perfect for snorkelling? You just walk in and there is an abundance of fish and they put a little temple underwater that attracts the fish. Milla loved snorkelling there and even for me as a dive instructor there was plenty to see. Some reef had been damaged by dynamite fishing but there were artificial reefs trying to make up for that. The local ladies on the beach took their responsibility and shouted to tourists standing on the reef. They cared they know this is their income. Fish and tourism and that is the fish and diving are not there tourists won’t come so plenty.
One day while sitting at the beach there was a pod of dolphins just before us. It was my first time seeing dolphins from land. In my instructor days I’ve seen plenty but I still got excited as a little kid. Well honestly I got more excited then the little kids.
I wish we had more time to explore the lush green surroundings but we only had a few days. One unforgettable experience we had is that we got invited to a local ceremony. A cleansing ceremony before the big festival the next day. aaaah I forgot the name now.
Milla, our neighbour and I got invited by our guesthouse host. When we arrived we were greeted as friends and were introduced to the family. Everyone came to share food while our host explained the rituals. His toddler son was along and was learning from is father how to pray. All dressed up this was an adorable sight. I could have stayed in Amed forever. Its one of those places I could live. Driving our motorbike after dark there is this scent that the jungle only makes at night. It took me back to the beginning days when I was living on Koh Chang. Sweet memories those vivid memories that only smell can bring back. I felt home.
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From Amed we took the speedboat to Gili Trawangan together with a wonderful family we had met a few nights before. I was going to Trawangan to meet some friends. Trawangan always makes me feel old. I think the average age is 18. Especially the one night I went out was very bizarre. After that I was happy just to be a mum. The end of our stay did take another weird turn though.
One night while having dinner with our Canadian friends I had fish. I had been eating fish all the trip which I normally don’t do. But after having a severe headache for a while my face turned bright red. I then started getting a rash on my torso. Also bright red. Then I started to feel sick. My heart was racing but weak and I felt myself fainting. Just in time I managed to contact a friend  to stay with milla and the dr on the island and they put me on a drip with everything they had. Apparently I went into an allergic shock. ooh the joy. It scared the life out of me. And I was out for another day or so but after that I was fine. When I contacted my dr in Belgium to tell her what happened and if or there was anything else I should do she sort of laughed. This could only happen to you couldn’t it. Two medical dramas on one trip. Ha! I guess its catching up with me. As except for motorbike crashed I never had anything wrong with me living abroad.
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From Gili we went back to the place we started. Legian. Same guesthouse same everything. Only this time healthy and happy. We thanked everyone again for their help again in the beginning of the trip and we got treated like family.
When it was time to leave Bali I didn’t want to leave yet. I wasn’t ready to leave all the kindness and smiles around me. Even with the medical drama’s it gave me the energy and the insight that I needed. Be happy with what you have and  now go fight for your marriage to work.
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PS. A year later Milla needed blood work in Belgium. And I asked if they could check for dengue. And it got confirmed that she did have dengue. So now when we travel we need to be extra careful. She is now immune to one strain. But if she would get another strain the chanced for complications have doubled.

Are you really a dolphin lover?

11781793_10153997054838362_2394030715184984600_nI’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last days. Read this until the end please to get my point. Anyway I think it’s clear that everyone finds this picture from the Faroe Islands in Denmark very upsetting. Yes 200+ of these loving animals got slaughtered and it upsets me and I hate it! However I always try to be advocate of the Devil and I have been trying to understand why they are doing this. So they use it as food in the cold winter months as they have been doing this for years..And that is the only thing that sort of makes this a bit less evil in my head. At least it doesn’t go to waste. Do I think that they should find a better more sustainable food source that doesn’t involve gruesomely slaughtering these beautiful sea creatures that won’t be around forever because there is not enough of them? Yes definitely!!!! I hope they will be pushed and advised and helped in a better way of dealing with this and that one day this tradition is merely a ceremonial day with fake animals being slaughtered at the beach while they honour their grandparents and thank them for the food when it was actually needed.. It is now however not needed.. Im sure in this day and age there can be a good alternative..

I also do think that some people are being very hypocrite about this.. Suddenly everyone is an acitvist but please look at yourself first to make sure you are clean..What do I mean?
When we stay with the dolphin kind.. A lot of us people ar not saints.. Like for example people that visit dolphinariums. Why?? These animals might not be killed straight away but they have been taken from there homes an are not very happy in captivity. When they die (which is usually a lot sooner then they would do out in the open) they get replaced by another creature taken from the sea. They often get taken in slaughters like this and some of them get hurt while being taken and so on so on. It might be nice to see these animals performing and doing their tricks.. But please picture yourself how they got there.. Its not like someone invited them out at sea to come and join a dolphinarium and they said oh yes captivity seems like a great idea Let’s do that and jump on a boat themselves without being stressed.. No they get taken, they get kidnapped by force and if they are lucky no one dies in the proces.. And why?? Not even for food or medicine.. No for our own silly entertainment.. So please think about this next time you feel the urge to go and see these animals perform.. Only by not buying tickets you are actually not taking part in the cruelty against these sea creatures. If there is no demand for dolphins and whales then eventually people will stop taking them out of the sea.. So if you really love dolphins that take the pledge of never ever ever seeing them in captivity.. There is other ways to see them that are not harmful and a lot more rewarding.

I also feel a rant coming up about hunting and how unresponsible we eat our meat. But I think this is enough for now.. While you read this I am out hugging a tree smile emoticon

Why I became – was – am a music photographer.

It takes a strange breed of people to start doing it. Why do I?  

Some people write, others play music or have other ways of “therapy” for me it is this. 

I have always chosen passion over money and I always needed that little bit of extra in life. I always need to do something that makes my heart beat a little faster. For a long time those extra beats were created by diving and travelling the world. After living in Jungles, deserts and on boats for about 10 years, I moved back to Belgium.  Not much time was waisted before I started a completely different adventure: I became a fulltime mum! Although I love my daughter more than is humanly possible, after staying at home for two years with a baby for only social contact because the husband is always traveling for work. Let’s just say I came close to losing the plot. I needed to breath, I needed something of my own, I needed to feel appreciated for more than being able to chance the perfect diaper. Even though motherhood is the best job in the world, I needed to know that I was capable of more and I also needed an outlet. I couldn’t bear to leave my daughter yet while she was awake and going out drinking without a reason except to let steam of gave me guilt and no pleasure. Somehow music photography stumbled on my path. And it turned out to be perfect and just what I needed!

When I got into photography I used to browse sites of music photography and be in complete awe. I didn’t dare to think or dream of ever doing this. It seemed to far-fetched and very unrealistic, so I left it to the photographers I admired.

I started off shooting for an online magazine like most of us and as everyone I was limited to the 3 song no flash rule. I hated and loved the fact that we only got to shoot 3 songs.. I hated it because the light is always shit in the beginning (next time you are at a gig watch the lights for the first 3 songs, they are usually bleu or red and try to take a photo with your i phone and you will see what i mean)  plus the action on stage would usually only start later in the set. Still you had to deliver and show a set of photos that look like they could represent the whole show.  At the same time I loved the three songs rule and still do because it sort of gives me an adrenaline rush.. Light or no light you have to deliver while having no control about anything around you. Not the lights, not the singer and not the die-hard fans in front of you if there isn’t a front stage. The other reason I love it is because I get into my own little bubble.. Everything around me fades away and the only thing I feel, see and hear is the rhythm of the music. For three songs there is only me and the artist(s) in front of me, and for three songs I believe their performance is just for me. For three songs I let the beats control my breath and the lights control my blinks, If the artists go’s inside him er herself I follow.  Somehow that way I can sort of anticipate what the lights and the singer will do.  Sometimes it all gets a bit weird and intense but when you focus so hard you can feel the build ups and you are usually in position to press the shutter when you need to.  It all sounds very romantic and most of the time for me it is. Of course it doesn’t work all the time but only shooting artists that I like sure helps. I was always on a high until I got in front of my computer as that is the part I will never enjoy. For three songs I would spend hours choosing and choosing and choosing and editing.

After doing it a bit more I started to get more picky and maybe less motivated.. Yes it was fun but it wasn’t really going anywhere and I sure wasn’t making any money. So I set myself an end date to the whole thing.. ONE YEAR.. One year I would go for it and then return to a normal life. Halfway during that one year things started changing. I needed to do some photo reports for evaluation at photography school. It made sense to me to try to do it about music photography so I decided to use the few contacts I had and send out a few mails. To my surprise those mails where happily received and I could do a backstage reports about ID!OTS and Customs on top the local venue gave me all access to shoot whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. From then on things started growing and changing and I started to change as well. The three songs started to become more of a routine and this whole new world opened up. I got to meet the people behind the music: Musicians, managements, light and tech engineers and roadies. The world backstage was not all the glitz and glamour as most of us normal earthlings would think and I got really motivated to put that on camera. Slowly here and there trust got built up and in the meantime I was getting better and more self-sure about what I was doing (although there is still a lot to learn, I guess there always is) I think it is around that time that it was safe to say it sort of got an addiction. The more I did the more I started getting back and the more I did again. The one year end date was coming soon however and only a few months after that end date we were going to move to Dubai. It all fitted well: finishing the work,  our goodbye party and a year overview exhibition at the venue where I was a in-house photographer. So for the last months I was crazy busy and by the time we came to move to Dubai I said goodbye to Music Photography with lots of tears. I now needed to find a new outlet, new therapy, a new way to keep me sane.

While I was doing just that and got in touch with my traveling self again I started getting some emails and seeing some opportunities myself for the month I would spend in Belgium over the summer. Somehow that month turned into longer and I will now be spending most of summer in Belgium while I’m nicely booked with concerts.. I think it’s clear that its impossible to say goodbye to music photography completely.  If it’s not to feed my addiction to push that shutter then it’s because of all the fantastic people that I get to meet on the way. So I am more than happy to follow therapy a bit longer as planned and I will probably have some therapy sessions here and there for the rest of my life.. Whatever to keep me sane I guess (smile)

Sincerely “the addict”

My diary from A season on a boat called Fraser in the middle of the Red Sea…The time of my life!!

The Time of my life started after having a bad break up with my long term boyfriend who was also my coworker on safaris. While still contemplating what to do with my life,  I was sent on a safari on Frazer. Coming from the largest newest en prettiest boat Frazer was supposed to be a downgrade because now I wasn’t a couple anymore and wouldn’t be able to provide the same service, it was even against company policy to hire singles long term. Anyway here is the moment it all started.

I was sitting or laying at the bow of the boat (my office) on the bit sticking out over the water. I had my I pod in my ears listening to emotional break up music. It was my first safari on my own an I had no idea if I could and wanted to do this job by myself. Would I be able to handle the all men Egyptian crew? Would I be able to handle the 18 guests? Would I physically be able to do all the current checks and everything that came with it. Was I good enough? I had no plan B for my life in case we would break up so my head was full of questions. Not knowing the answer to any of these questions I decided to let faith decide. As I layed back I told myself that if dolphins came today I would stay and give it a go. If no dolphins would come I would go back to Belgium and leave the life I  once loved so much behind.

Soon after while still having my eyes closed I jumped up as soon as my guest and crew started shouting like maniacs. I opened my eyes and as far as I could see there were dolphins. In front, on the sides and on the back all the way to the horizon. It was so intense that I burst out in tears. Because I was supposed to be the cool diving instructor I did my best to hide it until someone shouted. It’s ok to cry even the guide is crying. I looked up and half of the boat was in tears. I couldn’t believe it!! This was the most intense thing I have ever witnessed and it even got a bit weird. However this was the start to a great safari and to a life on Frazer.

19th August 2007

I Just got back from Marsa Ghalib.. Did a safari with all Spanish guests to the brothers and also ended up in Deadalus. Deadalus wasn’t on the planning to start of with but it was an adventurous week. The diving in Deadalus like always was fantastic!!! Hammerheads on every dive, to an extend that I had to push myself to finally look at the beauty of the wall. For me however the best part of the trip was that I finally got to see a manta!!!!!! And not just one but two!!!  They passed by on the east wall, one at first then the other.. The second one decided to turn back and put up a little display for us, so beautiful and so graceful. I couldn’t have been happier. Sadly enough I didn’t take the camera with me so there is no photographic proof. I was guiding quit a few people so than its better to leave it on the surface. You never know when you need those two hands.. After Deadalus we made our way to Brothers a bit different then usual as we were traveling in the opposite direction.  It turned out that even f for most of my crew it was the first time to make the travel that way (south to north). Soon enough we all understood why this was never done.. The travel was mad as we were continuously crashing into waves for 12 hours straight. On top it took as over and hour to get the boat moored up upon arrival as the currents and wind were going crazy down at the Brothers. The boat was moving so badly that even some of the crew got seasick. God knows how but I managed to stay fine..I mad a sport of trying to catch coke cans that continuously roled over the sundeck as they kept falling out of the fridges.

The diving itself at Brothers was mad.. The currents where way too strong to be fun.. but we all handeled it in the end. Didn’t see anything spectacular except for a pretty reef that was flying by. After two sleepless days at Brothers we made our way to Elphinstone to finish our last day there. The travel to Elphinstone was the first night for many of us without hanging overboard.. And so the crew and the guest celebrated. A good party it was. While the boat was moving the crew sang their arabic songs with me joining in for the odd tune.. The spanish eagerly demonstrated their singing skills.  We ended up dancing until we moored up at Nabaa Reef to sleep there for the night. Tensions released after a strenuous adventurous week. After diving Elphinstone the guest left the boat and I stayed with the crew in Port Ghalib.. This week we all got quite close since my arabic is much better then my Spanish wich is zero so I ended up spending quit a bit of time with my crew speaking and learning even more Arabic.   I love my crew from Fraser!!! They hardly slept all week and didn’t complain once, unlike me who didn’t sleep either but they sure got to hear it. We always seem to think that crew are uneducated. But now that I’m finally starting to actually understand them. They might not have a clue about some things. But they know the sea better then anyone and I am learning a lot from them on a daily base. I thank them for taking good care of us this week in hard conditions.. I am not religious but I thanked god a few times this week for giving me such a trustworthy crew. The moment before sending up my SMB I would get nervous but the second it reached the surface there would always be a zodiac beside it and I would feel safe.  Without that and them this week wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

After the guest left we stayed a night in Ghalib to leave in the morning. Normally the boat and crew travel back alone. But this week I travelled with them to Hurghada. We left at 10 in the morning and we had 12 hours of traveling in front of us.. At first I wasn’t completely sure It was a good idea. But in the end it was probably the best part of the trip. We had dolphins around the boat 3 times and the last time was picture perfect as dolphins where leaping out of the water in the sunset rays. As usual I was to late to get the camera so you have to take my word for it. About two hours in to our travels we had a whale shark swimming next to the boat. Yes a whales shark!!  Again no pictures as I was to busy being over excited. Also it was the crew driving the boat and not the captain who gave them shit when he woke up for not turning back. Im sure that I will regret not having jumped in while I had the boat to myself.  But at the time everything was perfect!  Me on the bow of my favorite boat, I pod playing,  enjoying the wind and waves. It was the perfect way of unwinding after a strenuous week. I fell asleep on the deck where I now have my own space. Forget about beds, they are completely overrated. There is nothing more perfect then to sleep outside underneath the stars. Around midnight the captain woke me up to say that we had arrived in Safaga. Sleepy me fell for his old mans jokes only to realise shortly after that we were in Hurghada. I did think those other boats looked a lot like our fleet..mmmm.  We had some dinner and went to bed again to be woken up by the sunrays on my face a only a few hours later.

I might have stayed in work environment a few days longer but it beats staying at home and watching telly any day !!! Many great fishy memories and no pictures to show for it.. But who cares I had it and will probably have it again soon!! That’s why I love this job! I might have no personal life and I probably wont spend the rest of my life out at sea but at the moment I love it so much. So until my biological clock starts ticking and until I will ever feel the need to settle down I will just keep filling my head with these fantastic experiences and memories.

I now just got home in Hurghada and will be here for a week or longer. No clue what I will do yet. Except maybe going to the camp in Marsa Alam, and to Wadi Gemal to practice my camel riding skills.. For the rest I will let you know… Our home for the next three months. Fraser…

22nd august 2007

My last day at home.. Like a manic person im trying to prepare for the next few months. I will be out at sea for a while. And I’m wondering or at the end of it all im going to be turned into “bush woman”. Every week I look less and less like a girl and every week more and more I lose my manners. What does this shiny thing in my hand do again, whats it called f… ? What do you mean no feet on the table.? Being the only single girl in the company now has been quite an adventure over last few months.. The line to draw is very thin. How am I friendly but keep a distance and keep respect all at the same time? That is probably to most difficult and the most important one.  Somehow I’ve managed so far but I have to admit that I am very happy to hear that im getting reinforcement soon.. I will be part of the only all girls diving team on a live aboard in the Red Sea.. It’s still all in the making but hopefully from next week on Ania and I will show those macho men that two girls can do the job.. We might not have the physical power but we have our smiles that makes our crew use their physical powers for us. Last week I asked some of my crew who they would want on the boat together with me if they had a choice. Their answer another girl and yes Ania. When I told them yesterday that there is a good chance that this is what is going to happen. They got out the tablers and started dancing and cheering that they were going to work on the only girly boat in the Red Sea. After all that they did look a little bit concerned. You saw it in their eyes, they couldn’t hide it. They are probably thinking cool,  but will we be able to handle it? And they are probably also wondering how they should explain that back home. Bless them in the end they are so sweet and innocent. Anyhow more than ever I’m looking forward to the next season. Just need to get things organised and need to make sure im not forgetting anything this time. I will keep you all posted on our fishies sightings because yes for 5 euros for half an hour I can use the internet from the hotel in Ghalib.

Wish us luck and see you soon!!!

29th september 2007

A quick hello from the very expensive internet in Ghalib.. The A team or the girly team have happily survived the first month together. Life is no more than: sea, wind, waves and diving. I’m still in love with my boat and we did have some interesting trips in the meantime. Some better than others of course. Sadly enough the shark sightings have gone down as to almost zero. But the wind is blowing and the water is getting colder so who knows.. Hopefully soon we will be posting sharky pictures again.. I wish I could write more but you have to forgive me as the sea is calling.

3rd October 2007

Halfway trough my high season.. Sort of lost count on how many weeks I have been out at sea. Ania has joined me about 5 weeks ago. And we had some interesting safaris. Some of the groups we had are as always difficult to let go, but then we had some very strange ones as well. For the first time and hopefully last time I couldn’t wait for a group to get off the boat. Up until last week we had lots of wind. One week almost continuously 20 knots. This made diving and traveling quite an adventure. But thanks to our fantastic captain and great crew we were 1 of the 3 boats out of 11 boats that were ment to travel south that actually made it. The sad thing is that the guest didn’t realise what a big deal it was to travel and dive in those conditions. And no matter how hard the crew, captain and us worked to make it happen, we just weren’t able to please them.

We had spent our first 4 weeks down in the south mostly St johns Rocky and Zabargad. The diving was nice as always but no special sightings except for humphead parrotfish at Marsa Mubarak. Last week things did change again. We had a trip to Brothers and Deadalus and I think the shark season has kicked off again. Thank god!! At the Brothers the oceanics are circling the boats again. Not entirely sure or the next story has anything to do with it as other boats are still so careless and keep throwing stuff in the water. On our first night I was talking to one of my crew about why the sharks are disappearing. It seemed like mr oceanic at that moment was trying to prove a point.  He came up and took a big bite in a black garbadge bag dumped by another boat. We can only hope that this mr oceanic has a good digestive system. To continue… At Small Brother the Grey Reefs were circling underneath the boats and joined us for our safety stops and  for some reason these where also more curious than usual. The diving on Deadalus (still my absolute favorite reef ) was amazing like always. Hammerheads in the north, Oceanic’s underneath the boats in the south and a beautiful wall to finish of your dives. Honestly what more do you need?

During the nights however the oceanic’s where displaying quite an aggressive behavior. There where about 4 of them and one (the biggest) had black markings on its back, he was very aggressive and kept bumping our zodiac for no reason. We had a hard time on this trip to convince the guest that snorkeling with these oceanic’s is not such a great idea. When I forbid them to do so they looked at me like a was being an overprotective mum. I tried to explain that they have tasted snorkelers here before but that still didn’t do the trick. They stayed out the water but they sobbed. As soon we came in to mobile connection range we got the news that someone had been attacked just the day before we arrived at Deadalus.  And so the guest did thank me in the end. These animals are not aggressive towards us naturally but because certain boats keep throwing bait in the water things get unpredictable.

We did do one little rescue on this trip, a pigeon ended up on Fraser at Deadalus , being completely overexerted. One of my crew took her in his care, we fed her and gave her water. For two days she traveled with us and slept in the bridge . When we arrived back to shore she spread her wings and flew away in full strength. oooooooh!!

8th October 2007

Another week is coming to an end. This week we did Rocky, Zabargad and St Johns. Again the wind has not been in our favor but the water is still 28 down there so that makes up for a lot . The downside to the hot water is that there were no sharks yet. My sighting for this week was a Sea Hare on a night dive in Umm Aruk. Lots of Nudibranchs everywhere, I might even say that they seem to prefer the little bit colder water as well. The strangest thing is going on with moray eals all over the Red Sea though. My colluege Helen has some video footage of 4 morays up north going for a large parrotfish at the same time and this week we had a moray nibbling the fins of one of our guest. On top we had one missing half of its face and banging a rock during a night dive and also a napoleon and a group of bluefin trevallys hunting down a moray. They look a lot more restless and very odd indeed.

You definatly feel its change of season. Lots of fishies mating and lots of changes to be seen. This week I worked with Helen while Ania has been fixing stuff for us back in Hurghada. So we kept the girly boat going. The physical power is getting a little bit less as we are waking up every morning at 4 o clock to be in the water at the break of dawn. But we are also going to bed late in the evenings as we still have a night dive to do and guests to entertain. Sometimes we do overnight traveling and we hardly get sleep at all. I think its safe to say that there is no other job in the world that could make me do this and still have me waking up with a smile.  I do have my moments especially when really tired but I still love it so much.  There is nothing that beats the feeling of freedom when you are sitting on the bow with the seabreeze and the sun on your face. When you are really lucky some dolphins join in. My only reality at the moment is the sea, the fish my boat and my crew. And as they would say over here only god knows what will happen after I am finished with my next 2 upcoming months of work. It makes me sad to think of it as the basic life that I’m living now is very addictive. I haven’t watched the news for almost six months now and don’t have a clue what’s going on in the rest of the world and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest bit.  The only politics I have to worry about is the one on the boat and to be honest here on Fraser there is no such thing. I have worked on this boat and with this crew for more than 4 months now. Every day more and more they become like family. The whole no respect for female’s thing is just blabla. If you respect them they will respect you. Give and take that’s what it’s all about. Ania is coming back from Hurghada the day after tomorrow with my new regs and new hard drive. Both my regulator and my laptop have not been handling the sea as well as I have.  Will let you know how the rest of my on sea journeys will go, it could be that by then I will have gills.

15th October 2007

Another week spent in St Johns. This week we had Belgians. That for me was a very interesting trip as it was the first time to do briefings in my mother language.  This sounds a lot easier then it actually was as  I’m not sure how Belgian I still am after all this time. I still like frietjes met stoofvlees but I don’t know how much that makes you Belgian. Anyhow it was nice to have a week full of nostalgia of a former life. It did make me miss my family and friends a bit more then I usually do but however much I miss people Im still not ready and don’t think I ever will to leave this life behind. The diving this week in st johns has been nice again. The grey reefs are back from the depths at Habili Ali and after a week of break the strong south east currents are back as well. It has been for almost 2 months now that it has been this crazy. (normaly currents come from the north) I cant remember it being like this last year and have no idea what is causing it. The nightdives have been very entertaining both in Dangerous and in Shaab Marsa Alam. Baitballs constisting of tiny little fish underneath the boats being attacked by fuseliers and trevallys Next week we got Belgians again so who knows maybe by the the end of that week I will master the Dutch language again.

19th October 2007

Halfway through the week with my new group of Belgians. It was A pleasant surprise to find out that my new guest are from my home village Kapellen. For some reason the first days were more relaxing and went smoother then ever. The first overnight travel was very entertaining. For the first time since my stay in Egypt I saw lightning causing both me and Ania to act like storm chasers upon the flydeck and enjoying the spectacle with a glass of sakarra. To our surprise the storm followed us and water came falling down from the sky. I think this might be what they call rain?! Waking up early morning at Deadalus was very exciting as the Oceanics were surounding the boat as usual but to make it more dramatic they were lit up by the lightning.  As soon as the sun came up everything changed back to normal and Deadalus showed it’s natural and tranquil beauty. The hammerheads were still waiting for us up in the North on the first dive. On the second dive of the day we did the south plateau weedier we where greeted by 4 oceanics upon entering the water. They were as curious as ever if not more. My pictures of them would have come out better if I actually pressed the shutter but I think I was in Awe.  Luckely enough my guest did press the shutter and I now have a cracking shot of me and my new friend.

anneke met haai

23rd October 2007

The Belgian week has come to an end and what a week it turned out to be again. The rest of the week the wind picked up a little bit. Not realy anything more then usual but enough to make half of the boat sick. You could say that we ran a hospital ship. Lots of tears throughout the week as well, good and bad. When we came in to phone connection it was time for us diveguides to have tears rolling as we got the news that I had to move to another boat.  It could be only for a week but it could be longer meaning this would be the end of my time on Frazer. It must be hard to understand for a landperson but when you have been living out at sea for months and when you have been sharing every second of the day with the same people, it is a really big deal. Let me try and explain to you what it is like for us.

You leave your home and friends for high season and you know your going to be away for a while. You know you will have poor or no phone reception most of the time and an internet connection can only happen once a week if you are lucky enough that it works. The first few weeks you look at it like its just a job and you know that your real life is somewhere else. Without realizing it a big change happens and suddenly life out at sea becomes your only reality.  Slowly everything away from the sea starts turning in to a distant memory. You call family and friends on a weekly base but you find less and less to talk about. The outside world starts to fade away. You forget about things like war and money and whatever else that go’s on in the world. You stop combing your hair, you start sleeping on engines and on ropes or whatever else is empty and you come to a point where you can predict wind and currents by the smell of the ocean. You are happy tired an You are looking forward to a week off and at the same time you are scared because you don’t have a clue what you have to do with yourself on land. The boat becomes your home and the crew becomes your  family. Because you rely on both with your life during times when nature shows you who is boss I think you get even closer then with anyone else. At the end this is all what matter and it is all you have..

Now this is sort of what happened to us. I have been on Fraser for 5 months now and the last 3 months in one go. On those last few months Ania has joined me and as humans have a tendency to do: We are never happy with what you have as you always want what you dont. For us that struggle was with time off. We knew high season was going to last another one and a half month and we sort of avoided the subject what will we do when it all stops?  Where will we go what the hell will we do next in our lives? We decided to only think about that and making any big life decisions when the time came and that was supposed to be almost two months from now and thats where you find comfort in. The suddenly out of nowhere you get a phone call saying it is all over. Without preparation without proper goodbyes the thing that is your reality will stop now the people you call family will no longer be there and the boat that keeps you safe won’t be your home anymore.. Neither of us were ready for this.. Not me not Ania and not the crew.. We were ready to keep living in our perfect little exhausting bubble for another two months.. It can’t be over.. What now????All these realisations and emotions turned into tears.. We cried the crew cried and even our experienced captain Salah was upset. We weren’t ready for this.. We weren’t ready to stop being safe and loved and to stop doing what we do with such passion. In our simple world this was about as bad as it would get even the music that we had danced and sang to over the last months couldn’t give us comfort.

The next day we got another phone call stating that  I didn’t have to leave. We can stay in our little Fraser world for another month or so after all. We know that soon our dreamlife will stop but at least not now. And at least we can sort our heads out before we have to go back to land. At the moment I really cant imagine being without Ania and my boys. Some moments I hate them but if Im honest I love them like family. After some tears of joy everything has gone back to normal and we are all pretending that our little emotional thing didn’t happen. We have an image to keep up as strong seawoman and seaman. However much time we all have left together I will enjoy it double and no matter what happens I will always carry these few months with me in my heart As the best time of my life so far.

written by Ania: And so as mine,,, and I can not write on this strangest computer of yours-soooo! Get yourself a new one!!! It took me ages to write this… so I lost my all emotional speech now and stop smelling your t-shirts! Wash them

28th October 2007

On our way to Deadalus again. We just spent two days in Brothers and we were not the only ones. We arrived in brothers after dark and as usual were greeted by our friends the oceanics. One of them was particulary big. Our first night sleep went quite smooth and the days diving that followed was great. We dived the south plateau as a first dive and where accompanied thoughout the dive by a few threshers. The first Thresher was on the plateau itself and then we were greeted head on by another two at the east wall. These normally shy creatures were more curious then I have ever seen them and I got to get a really good look into their big eyes. Ofcourse those eyes told me they love me.

1st November 2007

Between Safaris again and as you see I finally managed to get on the internet. More will follow later…miss me!

Upon arriving at  Deadalus we were greeted by our friends the oceanics who were waiting for us underneath the boats. For two mornings we tried to find the Hammerheads but those one have gone down in the depths to about 50 – 60 meters. When diving on the south plateau we had an exiting dive again with the oceanics. One of them came up to my divers looked like it was going to grab the fin and then twitched away. They are really not scared of us in the slightest. Again a very nice week on my boat..

8th November 2007

Our trip started of with Brothers, over the 2 days the currents at brothers have been as crazy as ever and changing directions in just minutes. To start of on Big Brother they weren’t that strong and coming from the west. The surface conditions were great so we got to dive the Numidia and while drifting back on the west we had a manta on the Aida. The Manta was far away but it was definitely there, no argue.  Same like last week we were one of many boats,  I think about 15 or so spread out over both Islands. Fraser was again one of the only two boats who managed to keep the mooring throughout both nights on Big Brother. All other boats were on engines the whole nights so yay for Captain Salah.  Our last day in Brothers we spent on small brother. The currents decided to mix everything up even more and we ended up with currents from the East on our first dive. We jump in at the current split on the east wall drifted with the current around the north plateau and finished our dive halfway on the west wall. It was definitely a first timer for me to Dive the Brothers this way but no regrets.  The usual residents passed by. One of them a  Hammerhead (not sure or it was a great on or scalloped however it was very big) . Halfway through the dive one grey reef in particular who was very big, came to say hello on the north tip. On the second dive the current had slightly changed to a more SE direction. So on this dive we drifted north on the west wall. By this time the guest had covered every inch of reef under water and we thank the weird currents for that. However unpredictable currents isn’t all good of course. While the guest were in the water the current decided to have and abrupt change again. Lucky for them, they didn’t feel to much of it as it was on the end of their dive.  The boats did feel the change and they felt it big! It was absolute madness and chaos.  Several boats almost crashing in to each other while divers were getting on to them. Crew and captains shouting and running in different directions and lots and lots of ropes getting entangled. Only Fraser managed to stay on its original mooring while all the other boats had to go on standby so there was no stress on our boat. Thank you again for my captain and crew!!!  On the last dive of the day I went to check the current for a third time to witness things I have never seen before on a current check. Absolute madness down there, fishies were swimming in circles every few meters meaning at those spots the currents came from everywhere (washing machines) On top of it the main current was going from south to north  and it was as strong as I’ve ever seen it.  This made it quite tricky for our dive plan but in currents like this the only way to dive it is with the current and get out somewhere sheltered. I checked the current at all possible entry and exit points and there was no way to swim to the split point at the south of the reef even when it was only 5 meters away from the boat but the current was just to strong. To drop them by boat with a negative entry wasn’t a plan either as we would have to do different groups and they would be spat out at different times at the end of the reef. We needed one group of divers that we could follow during the complete dive with a zodiac above them because the currents could take them away for Miles in minutes at the end of the dive on the North.To start the dive the divers pulled themselves to the split point only 5 meters away from the boat. Still getting there was tricky and some got out again an aborted the dive as soon as they felt the current pulling them. I had told them in the briefing that this dive should only be done by people that are absolutely sure they could handle it. The less experienced used their brain and stayed out as  it wasn’t a competition.. Once they got down we stayed above the divers with our zodiac following their bubbles. They drifted north in less then 15 minutes, to give you an idea how fast that is. We had to crack the engine up to keep up with them.  As briefed they send there SMB’s up as soon as they came close to the north tip. There was to way going around it as the current was to strong pushing north on the east wall as well. The only thing to do was stay close and try to make the drifting north to a minimum. Far away from the reef they came up with us next to them. Every body excited about what they saw in their 20 mins dive sharks and more sharks. Thank god we had experienced divers this week and only ten. With more people this dive would have been impossible to make. It was an adrenaline rush for them as well as for me watching them from the surface. After this we left Brothers ready for the security of Deadalus. On Deadalus we still had another 8 boats joining us. As usual we did the first dive on the North Tip where I had been checking the currents at 5.15 waiting in the zodiac for the fish to wake up and the sun to come out so I could see something. Back on the boat as soon as I had the board in my hand to do the briefing one of the heaven boats already started going out without current check ofcourse. Half of the time it is not needed in the north. But I don’t want to be that diveguide who didn’t check the current just on the one day that things go mad. I rather play sure and look stupid but know what Im briefing my guest on. In the end it was just us and two other boats who decided to go for it so it wasn’t that crowded. As we jumed we were greeted by a very curious oceanic at about ten meters. The oceanic went down with my divers or the divers went down with the oceanic im not sure. I just know that at 35m they were all one big bunch oceanic cirlcling one by one over and over again and he was very close. I started swimming back towards the reef trying to get them with me. But everyone probably knows how hard it is to get divers away from shark even when he is to close. Anyhow it was my first time to see one at such depth. Any other time I have only seen him in the shallows. Toward the end of the dive we still had single hammerhead but I was already hanging on my SMB. The second and 3rd dive we did from the boat oceanics all around.

In the evening we had our BBQ. We heard some splashing next to the boat to our amazement there were Dolphins they were hunting soon they were joined by 4 oceanics they were all going for the kill. I don’t know who was looking more scary from up here the dolphins or the oceanics. It looked like they were all working together circling the fish and then the dolphins went for them with a speed that is indescribable. I think its one of the most amazing things I have seen so far out at sea. Beats national geographic any day. It lasted until a zodiac came from the lighthouse to scare a fishing boat away. What were they thinking throwing their nets out to catch something big. Its so sad Deadfalls is supposed to be a marine park but still people try to fish if its not a fishing boat then it is crew from another boat driving around on the zodiacs in the dark. And then there is the shark feeding every night every week we are here some has been feeding. And still people go snorkeling. Is it really necessary that someone has to get bitten again before they will realize that it’s not a good idea. The last one is only a month ago but still the point doesn’t get taken. Sharks have teeth respect them and leave them alone to continue their own natural behavior.

At the end of this week Ania left after spending almost 3 months with us on Fraser . A part of our Fraser family is missing now and we miss her dearly. The season is running to an end. So the leaving of Ania is the first step in a lot of changes to come. The idea off leaving my Fraser really makes me sad but who knows what the future brings.

15th November

Only 7 guest from those 7 only six are diving this means only one zodiac. This week Ahmed joined me. The weather was not very accommodating and we were limited to our diving. Winter has realy come its time for soks gloves and wooly hats in the red sea. But even though on the surface it was madness and even though we had limits, we still saw loads of sharkys on little brother, 7 at a time. Because of the weather conditions we could not leave for deadalus. The chance of not making it back was too big. We dived the onshore reefs of Marsa Alam instead. Like Habili Marsa Alam that I have not dived since I am working on safari. Another week closer to the end of the season.

25th November 2007

Back home, just finished my last week on Fraser and with emperor for now with Helen and 18 norwegians.. The weither was beatifull the diving was great… But the only thing I could think of that this is it.. In total I have spent 5 months on Fraser over the last year and it became my home out at sea.. I have had one of the most beautifull times of my life on this boat.. The simple life the way it should be.. Thinking back and trying to figure out what was the nicest about this season… To be honest I dont know. Every week has been great in its own way. So many people that came on our boat. That shared a week of their lives with us. So many different nationalitys and personalitys, everybody bringing with them their own story. Alot of people arrived as guests and left as friends its nice to know that we didnt only make a difference on diving but also for some people to be reloaded to deal with whatever life is bringing them back home. Thank you everyone for the wonderfull memories..

Love anneke

17 December 2009

Dear Fraser…You once owned the sea.. Now the sea owns you..

I heard the news last night.. While you were still sinking beneath the ocean.

It felt like losing one of my dearest friends.

You gave me the time of my life, you gave me family, you gave me love, you gave me hope.

I am now moving on with my life in Belgium trying to forget, but secretly always hoping to experience it all again.

That dream is lost with you.

You guided me on the ocean and beyond.

You were home!!!

RIP

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MY FRAZER
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DEADALUS

Top Travel stories and memories

Some of these are funny, others are scary, some just beautiful. But these are the moments that have stuck with me over the years. Mostly the reasons why I would do it all over again.

  • Being Kidnapped by Shirley the elephant and meeting that same elephant again pregnant with Milla many years later. Footage to back it up.. Here
  • Given a scorpion as a pet by the Nubian crew in the south of Egypt. We named her baby Jane and fed her fly wings but she died. Photo
  • Waking up to a sandviper at the end of your bed, thinking its plastic and trying to play with it.
  • Swimming in Crystal clear seas. Photo
  • Secretly keeping dessert mise as pets.
  • Listening to music while riding the waves at the bow of the boat. Photo
  • Being dropped of by camels in the desert and being left there for the night.
  • Sleeping under the starts for months.
  • Ending up in a remote village with stories about in breeding and child abuse and wanting to get away as quickly as possible.
  • Being woken up by monkeys throwing coconuts on your roof on a nightly base.
  • Having meals with the locals preferably without utensils.
  • Laying in a hammock on a beautiful beach as a paying job.
  • Counting satellites and shooting stars in the middle of the red sea.
  • Motorbike accidents happening faster than the wounds could heal.
  • Naked nightly swims in the ocean.
  • Jumping of a large boats roof while afraid of heights. Photo
  • Making a big bonfire with palm leaves on a deserted beach instead of a X mas tree on X mas eve. Photo
  • Diving with playful schooling hammerheads for 45 mins.
  • Seeing dolphins around you as far as the eye can see. Start crying – Try to hide it – And realise almost all your guests are sobbing because its the most beautiful thing ever.
  • Getting eaten by sandflies
  • Howling at thunderstorms in the middle of the ocean.
  • Having this picture taken. Photo
  • Sleeping in between hundreds of flying cockroaches because you have been robbed and its that or the street.
  • Swimming in waterfalls. Photo
  • Watching the most beautiful sunsets day after day after day. Photo
  • Being able to say that your home sank and mourn it like it was a person.
  • Making friends for life!

#8 CANNGU and south Bali —* Lombok – Gili – Bali *

All good things come to an end. 

After fleeing from Ubud in search of the sun, we drove down to Canngu which stands for the villa filled area north of the main resorts. We knew upfront that this would be the part of the trip where we would leave tradition behind and once I got my head around that it was actually a nice change. We stayed around the famous echo beach where we had working internet and a big clean pool right outside of our spacious room at R&R Bed and Breakfast. We had a week left so we tried to make the most of it.  We tried to relax and prepared for the hard work that was to come when going back to Dubai. But because sitting by the pool every day isn’t really our cup of tea, we explored the surfing beaches by bike, Mark took on some waves in Batu Bolong (Old Mans) and found out maybe it isn’t the greatest place to learn but he looked cool anyway. We also rented a car for the day to head south. Down south we visited Kuta, I know I said we never would but we wanted to have a look if it was really that bad to stay there. It is the best place to learn how to surf but we wanted to know if we could survive staying there. To our surprise the north of Kuta really wasn’t that bad at all. So we decided that next time we would stay here a few days to take a proper surfing course. For some things especially when you have kids organised beach resorts isn’t all that bad as it turns out. After Kuta we drove down to Nusa Dua where you have you have the greger beach with its white sand and turquoise water. We drove on to Uluwatu temple on the south Cliffs ,where we said hi and goodbye to the monkeys one last time.

The Canngu area mainly caters for surfers and expats resulting in lots of great and hip places to eat. It’s one of these places everyone seems to go to these days as it was recommended by almost everyone that was ever in Bali. There is a downside to the area though and that is that is is pretty famous for break ins and it sort of shows as all the villas compete with the height of walls built around them.

Canngu had a little bit of a personal highlight for me on the agenda as well. . But I guess this needs a little bit of explanation. In 2005 I met one of my best friends ever in Thailand, we ran a small dive centre together on a idyllic beach,  lived in the dessert and on a boat diving one of the most beautiful places on earth on a daily base. Most of my funniest travel stories and memories were with this person but we managed to fuck this friendship up by becoming a couple and having one of the most dramatic break ups in history. This resulted in not seeing each other since Egypt 2007. Due to some big changes in his life we managed to get in touch again at the end of 2015 and we have been the best long distance friends ever since. He lives in Australia now and I live in Dubai and Belgium so the chance to ever see each other in real life again was slim. But the gods were with us and somehow we ended up only 10 km away from each other for a day. So we had to meet up and with a little push from my loving husband we did. Almost 10 years have gone by but for a few hours at old mans it felt like I was 25 again and no time had passed! It just shows that true friendship is stronger than time, distance and even drama. We got a second chance in friendship and I will cherish it Im happy my best friend is in my life again. I also believe in world peace again btw 😉

Goodbye Lombok – Gili – Bali, thanks for the memories.

We will meet again soon! Emirates has direct flights starting from june.. jeeeeeeeej!!!!!

#7 UBUD ——- Lombok – Gili – Bali

Ubud

The drive from Pedang Bai to Ubud gave me a glimpse of what was to come. And yes everyone is right.. Bali is very beautiful. The main difference between Bali and any other lush tropical paradise is the temples and the grand entrances of the houses. There is no other place like it!!!

By the time we arrived at our hotel it was already dark but even in the dark we were very impressed. Our own specious jungle treehouse, complete with four post bed and bathtub looking over the jungle, was going to be our home for the next few days.

Waking up with a jungle view through the massive windows of a giant hut just  has to make you smile. And if that didn’t then the tiny monkey you spot from your bed would. The few days we had in Ubud sadly enough were rainy but we tried to make the best of it.

First on the list was to explore Ubud itself. Mark had been there about 7 years earlier and as expected couldn’t recognise much as the place had a boom of tourism since eat-pray-love came out in 2010. Even more crowded Ubud centre still has his charm especially if you get off the main road. After getting disoriented in the Market we went to rent a motorbike to help us with the rest of the exploring. In-between the rain we explored the village around our hotel that was set just a few miles outside of Ubud. Breathtaking sceneries to say the least. The green is greener and lusher then anywhere else. The roads are windy and tiny and everything you see is pretty beyond believe. I’m not into finding yourself and all the other floaty things that happen in Ubud. But if there was a place to find yourself I understand why people would try to do it in this place.

On day 2 we set off early by motorbike to visit Gunung Kawi. We were hoping to get there before the package tourists would arrive hence leaving early morning. It turned out to be a little bit further then we and my bum had hoped,  but by the time we finally got there we were still ahead of the large troops. Upon arrival you first have to descent down hundreds of stairs and  Milla did a fabulous job on climbing down. On either side of the stairs you have view over the rice terraces surrounding the temple. After we had finished looking around the temples we were up for a stroll in one of the rice paddies.  Inevitably we all took turns in sliding down the muddy walkways and getting stuck while pulling out the toe bit from our flip flips. Resulting in trying to balance hopping on one foot while trying to avoid sliding down a floor. Somehow I did picture it more romantic in my head. On our way back my walk through Idyllic rice paddies fields  experience took a turn for the worse. I will now never look upon them se same and I’m afraid the perfect picture is ruined forever. Close to the entrance of the rice field there was a pile of runny human poo and toilet paper that we only missed by a few cm. Every person I saw from then on for me was the creator of that pile and in my mind I thanked each one for making sure my careless rice field strolls have only lived a very short history.

I still tried to tell myself that this is nature and you have to take this with it if you want purity and real travel. But at the end there is no way I could learn to like human feces.

Time to take my feces phobia out on the stairs back up. Milla made it to the top on her own while we sang the Diego tune but instead of Diego it was Milla of course. Hup Milla go Milla.. Hup Milla go Milla.. Lalalalalalalala.

Just as we got to the top of the million steps (maybe I’m over exaggerating) floodgates were opened again and we were stuck in a café for a while but that wasn’t a bad thing. The café on top of the hill has the most awesome views over the hills and the rice fields with the volcano in the background. Especially after the rained the view was stunning. The landscape was letting off steam and the colours were amazing. I could have stood there and watched this forever. Instead of standing there we got on the bike to another temple and on the way there it seemed like every new view was trying to top the one before. Breathtaking!!! So my lesson here is the rain sucks big time but it makes things even more pretty when it stops. So be patient when it rains and go out as soon as it stops you won’t regret it.

The other temple we visited was called Puri Gunung Kawi Sebato. Almost the same name but completely different thing entirely. This one was situated around the water coming from the holy springs. The water was caught in a main secret pool and from there on it divided into different pools. On each side of the temple there were public areas. One people used to come and do their dishes or fill cans with drinking water and the other side was used for bathing. The Large pool was divided into two sections. One for woman and one for men. Milla and I went into the one for woman of course and to my surprise bathing actually meant bathing and not swimming. My husband took a picture over the wall before actually realising what was there. And after everyone left I took a few pictures of Milla to remember the crystal clear water. On our way home we passed hundreds and hundreds of traditional and art shops, a container wouldn’t be big enough to fill with everything we want.

The next few days it rained and rained and sadly enough didn’t stop anymore. So with pain in our heart we decided to leave in search of sunshine. Ubud and I however are far from done. I hope to continue exploring in and around Ubud soon.

#6 GILI T —- * LOMBOK – GILI – BALI*

All About Bluedolph aka Sven

Our last days in Gili T.. Took a bit of a weird turn as Milla fell in love with a plastic reindeer called bluedolf. She quickly renamed him to Sven (Frozen reindeer). Sven had been travelling with a couple to over 5 different countries. They were given Sven as a present and were dragging him with them for a while now and in a very weird way had become part of the family by doing so. The time that they had left in Gili T Sven would be temporarily relocated as Sven soon ended up in our bed.

On St Georges day (first time i even heard about such a day) the English tried to be English and had beach games and English food. We missed the food and games part because I was having my first Lobster ever at Scallywags. When we came back the goodies weren’t finished yet and we joined the crowd at Chappies (the bar in front of Manta) The betting was on… how many ‘ would it take to sink Bluedolf Aka Sven?  Some of us should at least have an idea because of our diving physics but anything went and there where bets between 5 and 80 kilos or so. Milla wasn’t all to keen on what was happening but she soon joined in for the fun as long as I promised I would rescue Sven if something went wrong. It took 3 people making it happen and after a bit of fighting back Sven Sank with 36 kilos. Soon after the excitement we took Sven to bed to get his well deserved rest and  the others partied on. It is after all a diving/party islandDSCF1590Indomanta2015©AnnekePeeters

Except for dealing with Sven we didn’t do so much in Gili T. We let of steam and after a few days we were relaxed and fine with doing everything at a slower pace. Letting go always is a bit of a struggle for us but Gili T forced us into Zenn mode and we thank Gili T for it. We did refresh our diving skills in the pool and Mark finally went diving while Milla and I got seasick on the boat like a proper hardcore dive instructor. Diving together did get postponed again. But at least one of us got wet so there is improvement.

I had been told over and over again by Nick (my ex boyfriend) what a great community of wonderful people Gili T had. Even though it was a weird way for us to meet them. It turned out that he was more than right. When the time came to leave we where far from ready, goodbyes where of a sad kind and we promised to return soon. The typical saying that some places use as a sales pitch came to mind several times. Come as strangers, leave as friends…… was certainly truth here!!!

The Day we left Gili T it was raining. Not the normal daily shower but the heavens had really opened their gates and it seemed like they weren’t going to close them anytime soon. By the time we got on the boat we were already soaked. The boat was a speedboat, a bus type as they call them here. I think it’s because the inside looks a bit like a bus? Now for this little girl this is a bit of a problem. No matter how many years I have spent out at sea, I still get seasick like a boss. As long as I sit outside and watch the waves I’m sort of fine. I’m sure you hear me coming.. yes outside and thunderstorms aren’t a great match, especially the roof isn’t a great plan because of the swell. So that left me a tiny bench on the back of the boat next to the 7 outboard engines. Milla fell asleep on my lap within the first half hour.  The wind, waves, thunder and lightning picked up fast and before we knew it we were getting soaking wet. I wasn’t feellng very safe as when we arrived on the boat we realised that we forgot Milla’s  life jacket in our bag that was now in storage. We asked for a life jacket from the boat. The answer we got was very unexpected. I wasn’t allowed a life Jacket for my 3 year old daughter because it would cause a panic with the rest of the guests. After trying to explain and even begging I still didn’t get a life jacket for Milla. They did allow Mark in to the luggage area and get our own. Not sure where the logic was in all of this but the fact that I wasn’t allowed a life jacket and the fact that he kept telling me forcefully that everything was fine made me believe the opposite. With every wave and thunder the conversation kept repeating itself in my head. I presume being worried beyond controle is sort of a mum thing,  but maybe not so handy for the type of mum who wants to be adventurous and cool.

Anyway after a while Mark took Milla inside and I stayed outside together with two people who seemed off their faces and kept howling at the wind. I honestly thought they were mad until I remembered that Ania and I used to howl at the wind back in the days when we lived on Frazer. After 3 soaking hours we arrived in Pedang Bai – Bali and I met for the first time and I could officially say that I was cold for the first time since we arrived in Indonesia.

#5 Gili T —- * LOMBOK – GILI – BALI*

Day 5 – 7

Taking in the sun and Rain and some diving at Gili T

After Lombok, Gili T was a bit of a shock at first. We needed to get used to people again. Especially the tourist kind. It took us a day or so to settle into the Island vibe and get into the pace of doing not much at all. My internet addiction is also getting help against my will as the internet on the Island is sometimes not there and other times very slow. Hence the main reason of me not doing any updates..

The main thing I can say is that its been hot and wet. Thankfully the second is not just because of rains. Thanks to my ex boyfriend we are staying at Manta Dive. The story behind it might be a little bit weird, but we were welcomed with open arms and are happy to be here. The dive centre and rooms are located right in the middle of Gili T where the boats arrive. It’s probably the busiest patch on the island during arrivals but it’s definitely not the loudest which is great if like us you need to go to bed early. The Island itself is all about diving in the day and fun at night with beautiful water and beaches as your playground. There are no motorised vehicles on the island. The main transport is by horse or by bike. You can walk around the island in about 4 hours to give you an idea how tiny it is.

On the first day Milla jumped into the pool with her snorkel and yes tiny fins thanks to the dive centre. Ever since then she has hardly left the pool. We did try snorkelling of the beach but without success as the surface was a bit rough for her. I do hope it will be quite at some point so she can actually see some fish. After all the main reason she keeps running around with the mask on her head is to see fish.

On the second day we got up early and jumped in the pool with our dive gear on. Time flies and Mark and I had not been diving for 5 years or so. A little refresher in the pool was in order. Neither of us had ever not dived for that long so no idea what that would do. It turned out that it was like riding a bike, the instructing part as well as the diving part. While we were in the pool doing skills Milla was snorkelling above us. I showed Mask replacement and Mark repeated it.. When I looked up Milla was also trying to clear her mask the way I showed it.. Cutest thing ever but it did mean I had to be underwater and on the surface at the same time as she kept repeating everything we did and the only words spoken where: I want to be a diver. This mum couldn’t be prouder of her little mermaid.

The only thing I find difficult here are the evenings. It reminds me of times when I was young and wild and free.. Or is that a song? No I can just see myself sitting here 10 years ago, because when I was on Koh Chang I lived this life once. It was a different place, but the same thing.. Diving in the day, a few beers in the evenings and lots of happy young people around all the time.  I love the life I have now but I can’t say it doesn’t do anything to be thrown back into it. But enough dwelling and like a good mum I will close down the computer and go to bed so my little princess and I can have a fun day while daddy go’s diving tomorrow. (and yes just daddy is going, I can’t leave her with strangers and enjoy myself) One day though I will dive again.. And it won’t be far off.. If we stay somewhere a bit longer. Next time.. next time..