This year was the first where we were traveling full-time. And what a year it has been! The first six months we were almost constantly on the road, whereas the second part was more sedentary, not necessarily our choice. Our 2017 review certainly had a lot to cover!
Incredible experiences, cultural encounters, exciting adventures diving and trekking in Indonesia, kiteboarding in Sri Lanka, camel trekking in India, traditions of Papua New Guinea… See our year in photos!
January: Auvergne & Rajasthan
We spent the holiday season in France with our families, celebrating big 80th birthdays, and stuffing ourselves with cheese, pains au chocolat, and other yummy French food. To shake a few calories, we took our walks to the Rock of Monaco, and the old stones of the Orchival Church and Château de Murol in Auvergne. While there, we hiked a few trails around Clermont-Ferrand, including the Puy de Dôme in blizzard-cold weather! We got a chance to meet with old friends, some we know from our childhood, some we had not seen in years as the ocean and countries separated us, some from the US we met by pure chance in France.
Soon we resumed our world trip and headed to Rajasthan, India. Taj Mahal is as beautiful as it was when I first visited 20 years ago, though a little busier. Jaipur Amer Fort impressed us with their majestic architecture. From there, we went on a 5-day motorbike road trip which brought us in the – unsuccessful – search of tigers in Ranthambore National Park. Pushkar was a charming small town, strolling in the old streets where we came across Hindu wedding as well as a funeral. Walking in the early morning hours was also memorable to see Hindus bathing in the ghats.
February: Rajasthan to Kerala
Jaisalmer was the highlights of our Rajasthan trip. A fabulous old city, an impressive fort, and the Thar desert where we camped for two nights with our camels. The desert city was also the background of the Desert Festival, a 2-day event high in colors, music, and traditions.
We went to Pune to meet dear friends, with whom we visited Bhigwan Bird Sanctuary and a wilderness resort close to Goa. Continuing our way to South India, Kerala was our next destination. We rented a motorbike from Kochi to explore the state for five days. This motorbike road-trip brought us to the tea gardens of Munnar, and the Kerala backwaters of Kumarakom. Kerala is a fantastic state and is worth adding on any India trip.
March: Sri Lanka & Jordan
The plan was to kitesurf in Sri Lanka, but this was the end of the season and windless. The disappointment did not last as we got to explore the tiny but fascinating country. Dolphins cruise, Leopards in the Wilpattu National Park, sacred sites of Sigiriya, hiking Adam’s Peak – so much to do and see in Sri Lanka!
As a travel blogger, I went to attend the TBEX Conference in Israel, a great opportunity to meet other fellow travel bloggers, DMOs, and tour operators. This trip allowed me to finally explore Jerusalem, dip into the Dead Sea, and even travel to Jordan to admire Jerash, iconic Petra, and Wadi Rum.
April: Bali & Raja Ampat
The beginning of our Indonesia adventures! The first couple of weeks in Bali were “studious” as we had to fill our taxes. Indeed, the fun of traveling abroad doesn’t exclude us from paying our dues to home sweet home! We took a break from this by touring Bali for five days, including Ubud Monkey Temple, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Mt Batur, up to the Amed coast. This trip got us back into scuba-diving, scouting the marine life around the Liberty Shipwreck in Tulamben.
Indonesia is diving paradise, and we continued our renewed underwater love by going to Raja Ampat in Papua. Fantastic marine life, beautiful scenery, and somewhat challenging diving conditions. Currents were strong, but we got to see the incredible Wobbegong sharks, a species of sharks with unique features and look!
May: Papua & Papua New Guinea
We flew from Sorong to Jayapura for the next part of our Papua adventures. This time, we answered the call of the mountains and headed to the Baliem Valley for an 8-day trek. Cliffs, rushing rivers, wet logs, and sweeping views. Rough and tough, this trek pushed our physical and mental limits. But we loved every second of it as we stayed in local villages and learned about Papua culture and traditions. A trek of a lifetime!
While on the island of New Guinea, we decided to add Papua New Guinea to our trip. And what an experience it was! PNG is the definition of adventure travel and is a challenging country. But the traditions of East Sepik River, the welcome from the people, made it for a memorable trip. I left with tears in my eyes, and can’t wait to see friends we made.
June: Borneo Jungle & Flores
Back to Indonesia! After all, the country has 18,000 islands – it’s going to take us a minute to explore!
This time, we headed to Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. With shrinking habitat around the world, Orangutans were high in our mind, and we were lucky to observe them in their natural environment in the Kutai National Park. Babies jumping and dancing, females playing with them. Priceless. We extended our stay with a trip along the Mahakam River to learn about the Dayak traditions.
The end of the month saw us returning to Bali where we met Bruno’s parents. After an excellent Balinese cooking class, we took them to the shores of Flores. We drove from Maumere to Labuan Bajo, watched the sunrise over Mt Kelimutu, visited the Bena villages of Bena, Gurusina, and Tololela, and stayed with the Wae Rebo. We ended our Flores trip with a couple of days in Komodo National Park, looking for its infamous Komodo dragons, and diving among some of the best marine life.
July: Komodo & Sri Lanka
We finally left Indonesia and made quick visits to Singapore to get Bruno’s laptop fixed at the Apple Store, and to Hong Kong to pick-up our kite gear. We then returned to Sri Lanka for the summer to kiteboard. There, we rented a house and put some roots for these sunny months. We made new friends and had old friend visit as kitesurfing buddies. I faced my fears of the small board and long lines and got in the water again. And yes, I am now proud to call myself a kitesurfer as well!
August: Sri Lanka
We explored the different kiteboarding spots around Kalpitiya, kited the flat turquoise waters by sandy islands. One of the highlights was staying overnight under the stars on Vella Island, one of the best spots in the area.
September: Sri Lanka
We rented a tuk-tuk and traveled to the North of the island, to discover new kitesurfing spots around Mannar and Jaffna. But too much fun led Bruno to hurt himself – a partial ligament tear in the elbow (aka “Golfer’s Elbow!), and a painful knee. September was getting towards the end of the kitesurfing season, but not the end of the fun. We were kindly invited to attend the wedding of one of our new friends, honored for the opportunity to be part of the celebration.
October: Sri Lanka & Singapore
A whirlwind month if any. The elbow and knee still painful, Bruno went to Colombo to see a specialist doctor for treatment. We left soon after for Singapore for yet another Apple Store visit (my laptop this time), but the trip took an unexpected turn as Bruno fell ill with high fevers.
As the temperatures would not subside, we paid a visit to the hospital. A blood test diagnosed Dengue Fever, which we think he contracted while in Colombo where the disease is epidemic. As his platelets kept dropping, he was hospitalized for three days due to the risk of internal hemorrhage. Luckily, all is well now, but we have to watch for any further Dengue Fever, as secondary infections are usually more severe, and could be critical. October was a painful month, literally.
November: Kuala Lumpur & Kunming
As we got cleared by the hospital after a final blood test, we went to Kuala Lumpur for a few days before heading to China. Indeed, the elbow and knee were still concerns, and we decided to put our travel on hold for a while. No way we could transport our heavy backpacks through mountains, buses and dirt roads. As Bruno wanted to keep on learning Chinese, it was an easy decision.
So Yunnan here we were! A couple of days in Kunming checking the local temples and the famous Stone Forest in Shilin, we made our way to Dali in the mountains.
Dali is split between the cute old town and the new modern city. As we are usually no fan of the tall buildings, we put our backpacks down with the ancient walls. Writing for the blog. Learning Chinese. Walking the cobblestone streets. Shopping at the local market for goat cheese and cured ham. Eating yummy Chinese food. More importantly, resting and cuddling these strained joints and muscles back in shape.
From Dali (云南大理！), in the Yunnan Province of China,
Bruno and I are wishing you…
May the wind be strong.
May the water be clear.
May the trail be scenic.
See you all in 2018 for new adventures!