A Travellerspoint blog


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I knew I was starting to lose it when I realised I had packed nails into one of the cardboard boxes that had already been carefully stacked inside the shipping crate. So, with no other way to nail the crate shut, out came the boxes. Bloody hell, if I had known that it was going to be so much hassle and cost to ship personal goods back into Australia I would have given this away long before we started. In total, it is going to cost us about $1600 to ship 1.4m3 of goods from Antwerp to Melbourne. Half of these costs are the shipping, the rest is the customs/quarantine and port costs in Melbourne. I reckon these costs are about triple what we paid 12 years ago to ship twice as much gear...

Lut has finished work and is tidying up her paperwork. The boys are just hanging out, though they did go to the scuba diving course again last night. The next few days will see me ferrying furniture and goods back to the family and friends who have so kindly lent them to us.

I am looking forward to getting out of the apartment and on the road and have bought a Kerouack, "the Dharma Bums", to fill in the spaces.

Posted by Estebaan 21:57 Archived in Belgium Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Packing, Pancakes and Fire Exhibitions

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"Daaad, that doesn't smell good!" Max tried to broach tactfully as I was cooking the pancakes this morning. I ignored him, after all what would he know! We are emptying the kitchen cupboards and the pancake mix needed to be used. It wasn't until Lute yelled from upstairs "Steeeve, your not cooking them in butter are you?", that I realised that something may have been amiss. Arrgh...another sign that I am not to be the next naked chef.

Anyway, the pallet box is half full and the apartment is almost empty. Our haversacks are sitting in a corner of the spare room and they are almost complete. I have bought a good map of Czech Republic/Slovakia and Croatia and ordered the Lonely Planet Nepalese phrasebook. All of our important travel documents have been scanned and I have put copies of them onto skydrive, which is a free 5GB data storage facility that is offered by MSN (damn it!) and linked with my hotmail accounts. We have decided we wont travel with a mobile phone. The convenience was tempting but the global SIM cards on offer don't work in half the countries we are planning on visiting and I had the feeling that it would compromise the escapist feeling of the trip.

Last night Lute and I rode our bikes to the Museum in the Middleheim park in Antwerp and saw an exhibition by a Belgian artist called Leo Copers. In this exhibition he had quite a few works that used fire as a primary medium and I was very impressed by some of these. What was really good about some of the works was that you could get really close to them, something that the Australian safety Nazis would never allow. My favourite work used a small square pond that had LPG bubbling up from under water which then randomly ignited from a pilot flame near the surface. If you are into sculpture and installation art in a beautiful outdoor setting then the museum is for you. Check it out at http://www.middelheimmuseum.be/

Family training has fallen over. I must get them out tonight.

8 days to Go!

Posted by Estebaan 01:42 Archived in Belgium Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

A last Hoorah for Lut, Steve Max & Vic at the Witzli Poetzli

semi-overcast 15 °C
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Well its now one year since we landed in Antwerp and true to our original plan we will be heading off for the big 5 month journey back to Australia in 10 days. This blog entry is another invitation to all you Belgians and other odd European connections to have a drink and one last hoorah with us.

Witzli Poetsli (Right next to the northern side of Antwerp's Cathedral)
WHEN: Friday 22 August
TIME: 8pm

Come on and sit with us under the trees on the cobblestones next to the cathedral and be a Duvel with us one more time! The Witzli Poetzli has arguably one of the best settings of all the cafes around Antwerp, if it doesn't rain! If it rains and we relocate somewhere else, we will leave a message at the bar.

Posted by Estebaan 00:48 Archived in Belgium Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

A final doobie In Orval

semi-overcast 17 °C
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We stood in the forest and listened to the silence...then we blew a big doobie and it got even quieter. Jan, Ward and Rafaella squatted around me and I am sure they all felt something similar. There was a rich finality to the moment, one rooted in travels and events that had occurred 13years ago when I was living on the Moby Dick in Antwerp. Somehow time has cemented these friendships whilst so many others have weathered and washed away. Sometimes I wish I understood better what it takes to hold onto friendships, for my past seems to be littered with so many valued losses - but then again, perhaps this process is inevitable and to try and retain what should be released can only limit growth.

Jan had driven us all from Brussels to the Abbey in Orval, where they make a renowned beer of the same name. It was a joyful escape from the city and our travel preparations. The Abbey sits at the base of a valley right near the French/Belgium border and is surrounded by forest..after a quick poke around we wandered along an 8.5km route through the forest which was well worthwhile.


Prior to the trip I dropped in our passports at the Syrian embassy in Brussels where the ever so efficient clerk noticed that my identity permit had expired. I explained the situation, but the clerks command of Dutch was non-existant and her English was basic. The situation resolved when I proffered my alternative, a British Passport. She then explained that Brits (apparently not so popular in Syria) need to pay 85Euro instead of 25Euro, then after a brief period of contemplation quietly took my Australian passport and said if I paid 112 Euro I could pick up all the visas next week. Sweet!

I Measured all our weights tonight, which might provide an interesting comparison as the trip progresses:

Steve: 68kg
Lute: 51kg
Victor: 39kg
Max: 38kg

Training has withered somewhat due to family protests. I hope to get everybody out tomorrow night.

12 days to blastoff

Posted by Estebaan 14:09 Archived in Belgium Tagged family_travel Comments (0)


overcast 17 °C
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"Dad, I dont want to stay here and do cooking", said Victor yesterday morning as we stood inside Antwerps central youth centre and deliberated over the surprise timetable change. It didn't take long to make a decision, "sorry mate, you guys are not staying at home today!". The resulting long faces caused a twinge of guilt and uncertainty but as I suspected they met some nice kids had a great time. Of note over the last two days:

[*] My gear freaking tendency was exposed by an experienced salesrep at K2, arguably Antwerps best camping store http://k2.firstserved.net/Home/tabid/251/Default.aspx . Due to the lack of a day pack in our present baggage list I had been deliberating if I should replace my 20 yr old Berghaus backpack with a travelpack with inbuilt daypack. The girl on staff talked herself out of a good sale and convinced me that hanging a small daypack from the front would be a better solution. I really get a positive lift by such integrity and must ensure I mention her excellent service to her boss.

[*] I relented on the evening exercise last night to allow Lute, Isa and myself a visual indulgence by seeing "Transylvannia" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transylvania_%28film%29 at the free open air cinema that runs in summer at the old wharf sheds on the Schelde River. It was a good flick and our second Tony Gatlif film which once again confronted and drew me into the raw world of the Gypsies in Eastern Europe. As my good buddies will know, there is something in the music and the lifestyle that that touches my soul.

[*] I picked up a custom made pallet box that will be strong enough to ship back the 500kg of blacksmithing equipment I have gathered and our other gear.

[*] Sold enough AECOM shares to keep us on the road for a while. It was difficult to go through the process of selling when the market is so low but it had to be done and I have still made a decent profit.

[*] The night hikes through the city with the additional daypack strapped to my front made me realise the downside of having flab instead of stomach muscles; I am not strong enough to hold myself straight and be aware of my surroundings. Not Good! I have therefore started building up my core body strength with some morning yoga routines.

16 days until Blastoff...............

Posted by Estebaan 23:57 Archived in Belgium Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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