Breezing down Batur

Normally we shop around for tours, but this time we decided to go with our hotel's recommendation for a downhill-cycling tour from Mount Batur.  Without knowing the details, we showed up at 8am and were taken by minivan to a mix of stops along the way to Mount Batur. Our first quick stop was at Tegallalang rice terraces, where we snapped a few pictures and hopped back in the van. 

We then stopped at a local plantation where we saw various coffee, tea, and spice plants, and learned about how Kopi Luwak is "made".  We also got to sample a whole bunch of different teas and coffees that they produce.  They were all delicious but our 2 favourites were the ginger tea and mangosteen tea. 

On our way back to the van, we also saw a Mimosa Pudica - a fern that closes when you lightly touch it!

We then drove up to a restaurant on the Mount Batur caldera, where we had breakfast while enjoying the view. 

After breakfast, we picked out our biking equipment and went on a 26km ride back down toward Ubud.  The ride was mostly downhill on paved village roads, so we barely needed to pedal (other than 3 very steep hills).

Along the way down, we also stopped at a few key area of interest where our guide gave us some information about Balinese life and culture.  A couple of interesting facts that we learned:
- Balinese normally have 4 children and they are always named the same based on birth order, regardless of if they are male or female.  The first born is named Wayan, 2nd born is Putu, 3rd is Made, and 4th is Ketut.  Since everyone is named the same, people often go by nicknames or their second names to help distringuish between each other.
- Located at the North side, Balinese villages always have a main temple and public area + school, where major ceremonies, events, and meetings are held for the village.  The more senior / important the family, the more North (closer to the village temple) they live. 
- Each family home within the village has a family temple, located on the East side of the property, and multiple buildings where the family sleeps.  Blessings and offerings are performed at the family home and temple every morning, and the most senior family members sleep in the buildings that are Northernmost.
- Family homes are handed down to the children.  Typically, after marriage, sons remain at the family home and daughters can choose to either move to their husbands home or stay at their family home to care for the older generations (ie. in the case where the family only has daughters or maybe the sons live far away for work).
- In Bali, both men and women work in the rice fields (on other Indonesian islands, it is usually just the men who work the rice fields).

The trip ended at the Bali Breeze Tours' home of operations for a buffet lunch, before being driven back to our hotel. 

Foraging near Ubud

During one of our walks around town, we met Shaya (Patricia).  She was promoting her new business idea that had just launched - a course on foraging and cooking food in Ubud.  Jen was always interested in trying a foraging course somewhere, so we decided to book it.  A few days later, we took an early morning car to her place ~30 min North of Ubud.  

Our day started with a nice breakfast consisting of bread, local fruits, and some homemade kombucha and teas from local plants that all had really distinctive tastes and colours.

After breakfast, Wayan performed a local blessing for us and we went out on our foraging walk/hike.  Since the course was brand new, we were the only ones in the group so we had a lot of flexibility to customize the day to our liking.  Our guides, Wayan and Ram, gave us lots of options for difficulty, pace, and location of the foraging hike.  We wanted to take the longer journey through the forests of Bali, so our hike lasted around 3 hours through various rice fields, village roads, and jungles.  

Rice fields


Along the way, we learned about different types of rice, how it is grown/harvested, and how the different trees/herbs/plants are used locally for food, health, and various ailments.  We collected and tasted wild fruits (bananas with huge seeds, cacao pods, cashew fruits, wild strawberries, and snake fruit) and a bunch of veggies and herbs including hibiscus, elderflower, banana flower, pennywort, pakis (edible fiddlehead ferns), lemongrass, water spinach, daluman, and a bunch of other plants (that we forgot the names of). 

Eyedrops plant

Fruits of the cashew plant

Eating hibiscus flower

After returning to the house, we prepared the foraged plants for cooking.

The most interesting thing we made was a local drink called "Es Daluman".  It involved making coconut milk from scratch, by grating fresh coconut flesh and squeezing it with fresh water, and adding a chlorophyll-rich grass-jelly made simply by squishing Daluman leaves with fresh water until it turns dark green.  We then stirred in some palm sugar syrup to taste.  It was so interesting to see how simple it was to make fresh grass-jelly and coconut milk, and it was really neat the way the Daluman slime set itself into such a strange/interestingly textured jelly.

We made several simple yet delicious dishes, and then it was time to all sit together to eat!  All of the dishes were really delicious - it was impossible to pick a favourite.  Full, satisfied, and tired, it was time to head home.  Overall, we had a really excellent and memorable experience - it was such a fun day!

Exploring Brisbane

We spent some time exploring the city of Brisbane itself.  We took the train and ferry into the downtown area and walked along the nice river pathway, from the Teneriffe suburb, through the botanical gardens, over to Southbank beach.

Here are some fun signs we saw along the way

We also drove up to the top of mount Coot-Tha to see a view of the city.  Apparently the mountain's name came from 'ku-ta' (honey), because the aboriginals used to come to this mountain to collect honey that was produced by the native stingless bees.   We didn't even know there was such a thing as "stingless" bees.

One morning we also drove over to Wellington Point , where you can walk along the sand bar all the way to King Island, during low tide.

Drinking Rainbows 🌈

While researching what there is to do in Brisbane, we stumbled upon a place called the Piggy Back Café, that serves rainbow lattes. Even though it was about a 40 minutes drive from Robyn's place, it was so unique that we just had to go and check it out.  

We decided to try a café latte, chai latte, shrimp tacos, and a halloumi burger - we were not disappointed.  Both the latte and the food were beautiful and really tasty.  The rainbow lattes were so pretty, that we didn't want to drink and ruin them - it took us about 10 minutes before we were willing to finally taste them - delicious!

We liked the experience so much that we decided to go a second time.  We were luckily able to meet up with Kye, who had just returned from his trip to Canada and happened to be staying near the cafe.

Australia Zoo Encounters

Robyn was kind enough to lend us her car during our stay, so we were able to drive to the Australia Zoo, about an hour North of Brisbane. This was the first time that Dom had to drive a manual car on the left side. All went well and we arrived at the zoo just in time for opening.

Dom thought that since he had already taken Jen to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, we wouldn't have to the Australia Zoo.. but he was mistaken!  Jen insisted he specifically visit the Australia Zoo.  Shortly after arriving and seeing the animals, he understood why.

A few days before our visit, we had tried to book a red panda encounter online, but everything was fully booked for weeks. Robyn recommended we check with Customer Service as soon as we arrive in case there were any cancellations or openings available, so that was our first order of business.  

Lucky for us, they had space for 3, for the Cheetah photo session. This wasn't even an option on the website, so it was a pleasant surprise and we booked it.  We ended up being the only 2 people at the encounter with Lawrence, the cheetah, so we got to pet and spend extra time with him (and Jen was able to ask the keepers a million questions).

Our second order of business (after booking the Cheetah session) was to buy some "Roo Food" to go feed the wallabies and kangaroos before all of the other visitors arrived there.  This was so much fun - you enter the huge enclosure with all the cute wallabies and grey kangaroos, crouch down to hold out some food, and let them approach you.  They even let you pet them and they are so cute and soft!!  Later we found a second enclosure with Red Kangaroos, so we had more feeding and petting time with them.   

We also got to pet koalas!  Again, you walk through their enclosure where you can see lots of koalas up close - there are no barriers, so you can walk right up to the trees that they are sleeping in.  There is also always one koala with a keeper, that is available for you to walk up to and pet, while the other ones are having a rest. 

Before coming to the zoo, we had asked Robyn if she had binoculars for us to borrow and she was confused why we wanted them, but gave them to us anyways.  During our visit we understood that unlike at the Calgary and Taronga Zoos where the animals are so far away, here, you don't need binoculars at all.  The enclosures are designed in a way that you have such a unique opportunity to get really close and personal with the animals here. 

At the koala nursery, you can see mamma koalas with their super cute babies. This enclosure had walls to keep visitors from getting too close, but you can still get a really good view of the babies. We went multiple times and on one occasion, the babies were awake and moving around to eat.

Our last close encounter was with the lemurs. Here you cross over to Bindi's Island where the lemurs run around freely walk amongst the visitors and even through the playground for kids.  The island is quite big so at first we didn't see anything and thought we were in the wrong place, but eventually a bunch of lemurs decided to jump down from the trees to come check us out.

After that, we roamed the zoo randomly but made sure to stop and catch the tiger and crocodile shows.

Every animal enclosure has "rest areas" where the animals can rest and hide away from visitors, if they aren't feeling very social.  We got really lucky with our visit because almost all of the animals were outside and active.  We got some great views of: 

red pandas



rhinos, meerkats, and giraffes


cassowaries, dingos, tasmanian devils, sea otters, water dragons, and more!

We finally had to leave the zoo because it was closing.. we were one of the last cars in the parking lot.  

We both had an absolute blast!  The great thing with the Australia Zoo is that they mainly only have rescued animals, so there's less variety but the enclosures are very well designed.  Most of their proceeds go toward helping the injured animals brought to their animal hospital, taking really good care of the animal in the zoo, and educating humans to help keep wild animals healthy and safe in their natural environments. 

Visiting Friends in Brisbane

We decided to fly up to Brisbane to visit our Auzzy friends for a couple of weeks.  

We stayed with Robyn and Feesh at the Tropical Resort.  We spent most of the time going for walks around their neighbourhood, lounging by the pool, doing some research to plan the next parts of our trip, and meeting up with friends at the weekend get-togethers that Robyn had planned.  We didn't realise that it had been 8 years since we were last here, so it was really awesome to see everyone again!

We also made some new friends, named Mike and Marg, who came to visit us each morning.  They are Australian Magpies, but their singing is so much more beautiful than the magpies we have back home.  Check out the video of Mike serenading Dom:

One night we decided to teach Robyn and Fish how to roll Sushi.  We weren't able to find any sushi mats at the local shops so we had to make our own using bamboo skewers and duct tape.  It worked out surprisingly well and they were both expert sushi chefs by the end :) 

We lucked out as there happened to be a lunar eclipse while we were in Brisbane and the skies were somewhat clear.  It was partly cloudy, but there were enough clear gaps to see the eclipse progress.  We attempted to take pictures with our iPhones but it didn't work so well.  Tanya and Csaba live a bit South of Brisbane and they have a telescope, so they were able to take these awesome pictures:

Tanya and Csaba were also kind enough to host us for an evening at their new home in Burleigh.  We stroll the beach, checked out the town, and of course, Jen got lots of much needed puppy play time with Iggy and Crosby!

Lots of love and thanks to Robyn and Fish for letting us crash at their place yet again.  It was so awesome to catch up and spend time with everyone after 8 years.  Hopefully it won't be such a long time until we see them all again :)

Hiking the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are located around 100km West of Sydney, 2 hours (~$15cad/person, return) by train. They are named that way because of the blue haze that is formed from eucalyptus oil in the air. 

We arrived at Leura station at around 11:00am, grabbed a coffee, and walked 25 minutes to the trail.  Just before reaching our destination, we were greeted by what we thought were some local "pigeons", but turned out to be really noisy cockatoos.  We were amazed to see how common these birds are around the Sydney area. 

We first headed West along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to see Katoomba Falls and some viewpoints along Scenic World's Scenic Skyway.

Then we backtracked and walked further Eastbound, stopping at the Three Sister viewpoint for some lunch.

After lunch we continued East along the trail to catch the train back from Katoomba Station.  

On this section, we encountered a few areas where the trail was closed due to damage from the heavy rains and floods over the past few years. We had to detour off of the path and back on the road a few times along the way, but still had some great views. 

We took the train back at 16:00, stopped for some yummy Thai food for dinner, and then took it easy for the rest of the night.

Sydney Taronga Zoo

We went to the Taronga Zoo which is located across the Sydney harbour. 

To get there, you have to ferry across to the island (~$13aud/person, return).  To get around Sydney, we had originally purchased Opal Cards with a minimum $20aud balance, but later discovered that you can easily tap on/off with normal credit cards and still get the same discounts/benefits of using the Opal Card.  Fortunately this ferry ride helped use up most of our remaining balance so we switched over to using credit cards after t

The Taronga Zoo starts at the top of a hill where you get a beautiful view of Sydney.

 The Zoo's main path then winds down the hill toward the exit at the bottom, with lots of different animals to see along the way. 

We caught the seal show

and learned that lemurs leap and meerkats stay busy, by scanning QR codes 😂

We got to see Quokkas, but they weren't as happy and smiley looking as the ones doing selfies on Rottnest Island.

Our most memorable experience was when we visited the tigers. We found out that one of the tigers was agitated and he started growling as we approached his enclosure area. We were asked to let him be, so we visited the tigers in the other enclosure. A few minutes later, some other tourists passed in front of the agitated tiger so he charged and roared at them. Even though we weren't there, the sound was so loud, it made us jump and really gave us the shivers! 

Bondi Beach Walk

Bondi beach is one of the most iconic and popular beaches in Australia.  Lucky for us, it is also very close and accessible from Sydney using the local train and bus (for about $7aud/person, return).  We found out that there was a nice 6km coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Congee Beach, so we decided to hop on the the train from Kings Cross to Bondi Junction, to check it out.

Since it was a weekend, we thought there might be more people on the beach than usual, but we really underestimated how busy the  bus from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach would be.  To skip the giant line-up, decided to take a different bus that dropped us off at Tamarama Beach instead, since it was a fairly short walk away. 

We walked up the coastal trail to first do some people watching at Bondi beach, and then backtracked to Tamarama again before continuing down to Coogee Beach.  It was a perfect sunny day, but we were shocked at how packed and crowded the coastal beach walk was! 

We eventually figured out that it was because there was a free international art exhibition that weekend, called Sculpture By The Sea.  

So, our "short" daytrip took a lot longer than we were expecting, but we lucked out overall because we really enjoyed seeing all of the art pieces along the way - they made the coastal walk so much more interesting!


After 29 days, we finally arrived in Sydney, Australia.  While having our last buffet breakfast, we enjoyed a 5-star view of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House, before lining up to disembark the boat.

In Sydney, we spent 2 days exploring the city proper and 3 days doing day trips around. 

Sydney is a beautiful city with so many things to see while walking around: The Opera House and Darling Harbour, China Town, The Royal Botanical Garden and all the roads and neighbourhoods in between.

We were really impressed with Sydney and no matter where we walked, we found so many cute streets, restaurants, cafes, and shops that were interesting to check out and window shop.

One funny thing that happened was that when we were in Calgary booking our hotel for Sydney, we forgot about the date differences between Australia and Canada so we accidentally booked our stay at East Sydney Hotel for 1 day too early!  

The hotel wasn't able to shift our stay by 1 day because they were full on the last day so we ended up booking 2 additional nights at Maze Backpackers.  This worked out nicely because when we checked out, the hostel receptionist gave us a great tip:

"If you have a lot of time before your flight, you can take the train from Sydney Central Station to Mascot Station - the station just before the airport.  From there, it’s just a 1.5km walk to the airport domestic terminal, and the fare only costs $2.65 instead of $18 because you don’t have to pay the airport surcharge”

So that’s what we did.. sidewalks, crosswalks, and flat all the way!  Getting really great travel tips, is one of the awesome benefits that we've noticed about staying at hostels instead of hotels!