We travelled through the beautiful mountain scenery from Garmisch and then along Lake Constance on the eastern side and then detoured to Salem to see where our old friend Margaret von Perger lived and taught in the school there. We continued on past the end of the Lake and around to the Gaienhofen Horn on the Untersee which is a part of the Rhein that flows into Lake Constance from the north west.
We met up with Maurice’s cousin Margarete and her husband Philipp who shares my birthday at the “Hirschen Horn” a beautiful hotel on the banks of the Untersee where we had terrific breakfasts and dinners and wonderful service. We had a lovely three days walking around the area and spent one day travelling from Gaienhofen on the ferry down the Rhein to Scaffhausen and then caught a bus and a train back via “Stein am Rhein” in a pocket of Switzerland on the north side of the Untersee. The weather was hot and humid, such a contrast to the last few years in Germany and last year in Switzerland but there was a nice breeze blowing when the ferry was travelling down and across the river to both banks to pick up more passengers. There were terrific storms with torrential rain on two nights which did clear the air the next day. The province around Lake Constance gave us through the hotel free transport passes for the days we were there and it was preferable to driving around ourselves and we could all enjoy the scenery. On the 10th July Maurice and I took all day to travel the backroads up to Schwetzingen. It was holiday season in Germany and there were many traffic hold ups, some for hours so we were glad to take the secondary roads which were not at all congested.

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We had been through the Brenner Pass a couple of times – once on the Autostrada and once on the secondary road so we decided to take another route up through the mountains and through South Tirol which was our favourite mountain and valley scenery. We felt as though we were on top of the world at the top of ‘Rombo Pass’or as the Austrians call it “Timmelsjoch-Hochalpenstrasse” where it had cooled to 9degrees – a bit chilly for us but the sun was out intermittently so the van was nice and warm. Maurice liked driving up and down the mountains
with scores of switchbacks except when an Italian driver (the Italians all drive on or over the white line) clipped our side mirror with a huge bang. Very luckily for us we had purchased mirror guards after we bought the van (new mirrors would have been 700pounds)so the bang just disloged the bottom mirror which we could push back in. I think the other car may have had a bit more damage but as there was nowhere to turn around we would never know.

When we arrived at “Camping Erlebnis Zugspitze” we had an uninterupted view of both the Zugspitze and Alpspitze although the top was covered in a bit of cloud. We were very blessed the next four days with perfect weather – 30ish degrees with blue skies. It was cool at night which made for good sleeping weather. A change from Italy where we had the air conditioner going at night.
The campsite was about ten minutes out of town in Grainau but we were given a bus pass to use while we were there which was very handy as we went into town every day and walked through the town and up into the mountains for some lovely walks. The sales were on in town so we took advantage of them. A great little roadside cafe called “Pano” served great coffee and drinks so we stopped there every day.

There were many hikers in town and more seemed to favour the mountains on the Garmisch side of town. Partenkirchen town has been preserved with it’s beautiful painted buildings whereas the former has been modernized to a large extent. I took a photo of Juwelier Stoekel in Garmisch. My mother’s first boyfriend about 80 years ago was the owner’s grandfather and it felt moving to sit across the road in a bakery which dated from 1930 and imagine the place such a long time ago. We even found the house where my mother had a flat on the first floor when she lived there from 1943 to 1948 after moving from Berlin.

It was hard to leave Garmisch on a picture postcard day but we were due near Lake Konstanz to meet up with Maurice’s cousin Margarete and her husband Philipp on the 7th July for a luxury weekend to celebrate my and Philipp’s birthdays. We had driven up the Swiss south side
of Lake Konstanz the previous year so this year we decided to take the secondary roads on the north side to Gaienhofen Horn on the Untersee where we were to stay.

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We changed our plans a little to be back for Aida in Verona on Friday so on Wednesday we left early and stopped to see Juliet’s tomb and to see the amazing frescos in the museum there. We then drove via Bergamo and had a look around the old town for a few hours before heading for Milan. The weather changed dramatically from 32degrees in Verona to 22degrees in Bergamo. We took the steep funicular up to the old town which was very atmospheric with beautiful architecture and lovely shops and restaurants. It took an hour in pouring rain to reach Camping Milano so we stayed put in the van for the rest of the afternoon and evening as the rain continued. At least it wasn’t cold.

We set off early from our good campsite to get the bus and then metro which arrived at the ‘Duomo’ right in the middle of town. The cathedral was very imposing and there were many tourists waiting in long lines to get in. We chose the visitor’s entrance or those wanting to pray where there was no queue so we went in and lit a couple of candles and were able to see the cathedral. Most cathedrals that require tickets allow you in if you are going to pray. The piazza is enormous and adjacent to the cathedral is the Galleria with all very high end shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The structure itself is magnificent. We wandered down the Via Dante to the
Piazza Castello with it’s large tower and high walls and through to the beautiful enormous gardens behind the castello. The day was warm and we had no rain in the morning.

We stopped for a light lunch at the buzzing ‘Bar Mauro’ and then walked to the church of “Santa Maria delle Grazie” where Leonardo’s painting “The last Supper” is housed. We unfortunately did not know that tickets to see the painting had to be bought in advance so we left and did some retail therapy instead and walked around the interesting streets. We were luckily in a boutique when it started to hail and then rain very hard until there was a river running down the street so we waited out the storm until it was only
spitting with rain and made our way back to the Piazza del Duomo. I had spotted the “Aperol Terrazza” earlier in the day so we installed ourselves there overlooking the Duomo for me to enjoy a couple of Aperol Spritz’s euros 13 for the first one and euros 9 for the second one. Maurice had a couple of mocktails and enjoyed them. The storm and torrential rain was unusual for the time of year and we managed to get back to Camping Milano with only a sprinking of rain as we were walking back from the bus stop.
The transport system in Milan was excellent with buses every 10-15minutes and metro every few minutes.

There was heavy local police, carabinieri and military presence all over the centre of the city at the major tourists spots.

Across the Lombardy plains were widespread wheat, corn and rice fields. We took the secondary roads which made for a much more relaxed drive back from Milan.

We left Milan on the last day of June back to Verona to get to our campsite again and have a rest before going to the Arena for the performance of Aida which did not start until 9pm. We arrived at Marta’s spa to pick up the tickets (we had met her in India 2years before)she had for us at a discounted euros 20 each and then went back to our favourite ‘San Nicolo” bar for aperitifs and arrived an hour early to the Arena which was already filling up. The performance with four intervals continued until 1am and we were lucky to have been told to go across the park to the taxi rank where we managed to get one in 15minutes. It was quite cold by then and we were back in our van by 1.30am.
Aida was an amazing spectacle in such a wonderful setting. It was a modern adaptation with comic aspects as well and was an incredible feat in choreography and technical aspects. The orchestra and singers were wonderful and we were very glad that we changed our plans so that we could attend the performance.

After a necessary sleep in we headed on a clear blue sky day for Pieve di Ledro’s Camping Azzurro where we had stayed last year.
The secondary road wove through the mountains and large areas of vineyards and over the north side of Lake Garda to lake Pieve just to the west of Lake Garda. After the hot and humid weather in Verona the previous week, the mountains offered a much cooler 24 degrees and some spits of rain. We arrived in Ledro to a large contingency of cyclists who were competing in a triathlon the next day. A very loud party only started at 9.30pm which is one of the only drawbacks of travelling in Europe in Summer with all the events and school holidays and activities for children. The loud music ended at 11pm which was fine and that was the only disturbance we had so far this year. As we drove through the mountains the views were spectacular to the lakes below. Up into the Dolomites and on the way to Bolzano the fruit growing area was enough I think to feed all of Europe. We passed enormous sheds and thousands of packing cases in several areas as well as hectares of grapevines, a lot of which were trailed horizontally instead of vertically.

As we got closer to Bolzano most signs were in Italian and English and the storekeepers in Bolzano definately favoured speaking in German although we were still in Italy. It was 28 degrees when we arrived at our campsite for the night. We got an early start to park in town and have a short look around Bolzano which had beautifully decorated houses and buildings.

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We found a good camping supply shop just south of Florence and purchased a few items before driving the hour on to Lucca and our Camping
“La Valle” 4 kilometres from the centre of Lucca. It was a relatively new and very well laid out campsite complete with excellent facilities and a pool.
It was about a 25minute walk to the tiny station of Ripafratta and then only 7minutes by train into Lucca.
Lucca reminded us of the small village of Pingyao in China which is also a small walled city. We walked around the wall in Lucca in about an hour to get our bearings. Some of the wall dates back to the 9th century. Most of the wide walkway was lined with avenues of trees where people were walking or cycling. On our friend’s Vicky and Mark’s recommendation who have visited Lucca many times we had good aperitifs at “Santa Zita”,a delicous meal at “Da Pasquale” where we were given amuse bouche and unlimited bread and mineral water and delicious chocolates before we left. The locals were suffering being hotter than normal so early in the season but we were enjoying the heat.

After a couple of days we headed north to Rapallo along the Autostrada in the end after our Tom Tom tried to take us down some country roads which were 2metres wide and 2.30metres high (not for Van Mauriceson).
The seaside town of Rapallo has some interesting old buildings and is full of harbourside cafes and restaurants and is a starting point for boat trips up to Portofino, Cinque Terre and various other places along the Ligurian Riviera.
I asked a local to recommend a good fish restaurant and he kindly walked ten minutes with us showing us three of his favourite ones. The Italians are passionate about their food and it is a big part of their general converstation (whether they are men or women).
We had bought tickets on the ferry the previous day to take us to Portofino ( a place I had wanted to visit since seeing it in a brochure when I worked on the tours desk at Qantas in the 80’s). It a very reasonable fare euros 13 each return for the 1/2 hour trip each way. It was unfortunately a dull, cloudy day but at least there was no rain.

Portofino is a very picturesque small town built around a bay where a couple of very luxurious launches were moored. We climbed up to the church where we got a good view of the town from above. I had a cappuccino euros 7 which confirmed Portofino as a high category tourist destination! We decided after a couple of hours to return to Rapallo and have lunch at the recommended restaurant ‘Eden’. We thought that it would be hard pressed to surpass the delicious prawn tempura and spaghetti marinara that we had had at Orbetello but we were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed every morsel of our meals with a large amount of the freshest seafood and delicious basket of a variety of breads and it’s national award wining ‘Agazan’ Ligurian olive oil made from the ‘Taggiasca’ olive.

One sad aspect of so many places in Europe are the abandoned houses in villages and abandoned farmhouses and their land. In places like Roccamandolfi as the old people die their houses remain vacant because in most cases their offspring have moved into a city or off the mountain and down to a more level area without so many steps and with vehicular access.

Our next stop was to be Verona and we took the Autostrada so that we could stop in the city of Cremona famous for it’s ‘Torrone’ or nougat and it’s beautiful architecture. Cremona’s other claims to fame are it’s violin makers (still 140 in the city) and the ‘Tramezzino’ or soft white bread (no crust) sandwiches with various fillings. We sampled a couple tasty ones for lunch.
The hot and humid weather continued as we made our way to Verona and the amazing camping site of ‘Castel San Pietro’ built amid the old walls of the castle which was destroyed by the French centuries ago. The terrace of the campsite overlooked the city of Verona with the river ‘Adige’ winding around the old part of the city.

The ‘new’ Castel San Pietro which was only 100metres from the campsite had even better views of the city and 200 steps connected it to the road below and then a short walk over the bridge to the old town. We managed to ascend these steps a couple of times and then opted for the funicular which had only be reopened a month before, after having been in disuse since the 1940’s.
After wandering around the city it was a welcome respite from the steps. On Sunday the church bells started early and the city was overrun with tourists – foreign and local but on weekdays we could wander the streets admiring the beautiful architecture and piazzas without throngs of people especially in the early morning or later in the afternoon.

We visited the popular ‘Juliet’s balcony’ from below and the ‘Museum of the radio’ which was extremely interesting as well as Juliet’s tomb and a wonderful museum of Cavalcaselle’s frescos in the same complex. We had a coffee with Marta who we had met in India about 18months ago at the Ayurvedic centre. She part owned a very nice spa so Maurice had a hair cut and I had a spa treatment. She also had a couple of tickets for ‘Aida’ in the Arena of Verona which she couldn’t use so we bought them from her. We were given the tip to take a cushion as the marble heats up during the day and the steps are extremely hard.

We enjoyed a meal at the ‘Osteria dei Signori”. I had the spaghetti with shaved truffle which was delicious. Truffles seem to be used far more in the north. Specialites of Verona were Donkey and Horse meat dishes which we definately were not going to try.
We bought a lot of very tasty Summer fruits – peaches, nectarines and melons from markets in various towns.

I managed to have a few of my favourite Aperol Spritz’s and at ‘San Nicolo’ winebar they were very reasonable and the nice waitress opened another couple of red wines and gave me generous portions to taste. On the bar was more or less a meal with abundant nibbles to accompany the aperitifs. We wouldn’t get any of that in Australia.
Verona was one of our favourite Italian cities so far.

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We had a chance meeting at Rome airport on our arrival with our Roccamandolfian Raffaele and Antonietta who had flown in from Sydney (we had flown in from Doha).
A few nice warm days in Rome visiting family and having nice walks in the ‘Parco della Caffarella’was just what we wanted.
We visited the ‘Fosse Ardeantine’ the graves of 300 people killed in a reprisal during the war. We had read an interesting book the ‘Scarlet and the Black’ about the German colonel and the Vatican priest Hugh O’Flaherty.

We got back by train to Isernia and then by bus to Roccamandolfi on the 20th May. It was much cooler there and we had the fire going most nights. We packed up several boxes with things we had stored at the house for the last 5 1/2 years and deposited them in the garage which had previously housed our van during winter. We made a detailed list of everything in each box which was a pain staking job.
They will be dispatched to a container in Milan and then on to Genoa for the 46day trip to Perth later in the year.

We spent a lovely last time in Joe’s house and met with Antonietta and Raffaele to enjoy several meals together and to gather leafy mountain greens at the top of “Campitello Matese”. We had a nice meal together with Joe’s cousin Maria and Ada another friend.
When we had serviced the van and had everything sorted and ready for shipping we set off for Sezze and a round of visits with all my cousins. We had a couple of relaxing days by the sea and hosted a party for about 60 of my 70 relations there.

It was sad leaving both Roccamandolfi, Sezze and Mary in Tuscany as we were not going to be back there for a few years.

On our way up the coast two weeks later my cousin Alessio welcomed us to the wonderful seafood restaurant “La Rosa dei Venti” at Orbetello where he is the Maitre’D. Being right near the coast the seafood was very fresh and delicious. We then made our way up to between Panzano and Greve in Chianti, half way between Siena and Florence to visit our 93 year old friend Mary who had a lovely replacement Ukrainian carer named Oliena and an Australian friend Sue from Melbourne who was also visiting her.

We enjoyed meals and scrabble games together and on Mary’s recommendation we all went to the tiny quaint village of Volpaia for a memorable lunch under the trees and overlooking the Tuscan hills. We also had two amazing English women to lunch. One 80 and the other 84 who had driven over from England. They entertained us with their travel stories as they had been to nearly every part of the globe (save China) and had driven all over Australia last year. They remimded us of the “two fat ladies” (although only one was large) who were popular with their cooking show years ago.

Mary lives in the middle of forest, vineyards and olive groves and we saw wild boar and deer close to the van but luckily no snakes.
At night we could look out of the window of the van and see lights in the distance down the beautiful valley and even a few fire flies blinking by. We were very sad to leave Mary after four nights and hope that we can meet her there again one day.

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We flew on the 24th April to Bangalore from a pleasant 2night stopover in Kuala Lumpur. We now stay at the Sama Sama hotel a super hotel at the airport with golf type buggies to get you from inside the terminal to the hotel in 2minutes.

The airport express from KLIA to KL Sentral train station is a great service taking 1/2 hour and costing $25 return. If you prepay at the airport and pay with Mastercard you get 20% off the ticket price. We went into the city for the day.
The metro goes right into the mall now next to the Petronas towers and the free pink bus outside takes you straight to Bukit Bintang the main shopping/restaurant area in 15minutes. The transport system has improved over the last couple of years and the city looks more like Singapore all the time with good infrastructure and innovative sky scrapers.

The ‘Simple Life’ vegetarian restaurant next door in the mall near the very upmarket Isetan complex serves delicious food and is only a short walk along a long line of modern restaurants to the ‘Pavillion Mall’ where there is now another undercover area full of food choices and the best Italian icecream.
The ‘Johnny Rocket’ staff as well as staff in some hotels have taken to doing a choreographed 5 minute dance routine every so often which is fun to watch and the staff seem to also enjoy the performances. We took the monorail back to KL Sentral and the train back on the KLIA express to the airport.

We luckily got to the airport early as the check in staff wouldn’t take our confirmation of an e-visa for India shown on Maurice’s phone (even though they accepted people checking in for the flight showing their e-ticket on their phones) so it was a performance of going to the newsagent and the nice man there let me use his computer to print out the confirmations so that we could show the check in staff the piece of paper!
We then had little time to get through the long immigration queue so a quick chat with a security guy got us into the diplomatic passport checking booth where no one was waiting. We just boarded the flight in time and landed in Bangalore four hours later.

Our second fright was when Maurice looked at the wrong bus ticket on his phone and told me that we had missed our bus. We went to the bus counter and the officer pointed out that the ticket was for our last trip. After a short panic he found us on the list and we boarded the 11am, 4 hour trip on the Volvo flybus to Mysore.
We had a good meal at the quirky ‘Gupha’ cave restaurant in the ‘Pai Vista’ hotel and then were picked up for our 3 hour trip to our new Ayurvedic centre in Wayanad down the road from the ‘Karapuzha Dam’. The centre built and run by Dr Tony had treated Maurice before and he had good results in the 2 weeks there.
The whole area had had no rain for months but we had about ten days of unusually early torrential rain with dramatic thunder and lightning.

The good work the healer had done in Bali on our backs was rather undone by the long journey to the Ayurvedic centre so at least we were in the right place and Dr Tony and the good therapists worked their wonders on our backs. We received good massages and food prepared by Jaicy, Dr Tony’s wife and Jay Kumar, a lovely yoga teacher we had met previously gave us personalized yoga sessions. We had daily walks around the dam and saw a few tribal people who live in the area and who could have easily been mistaken for Australian aborigines. The locals were very friendly and we saw first hand the latex sheets made from the rubber plantations in the area which were formed using big old wringer like machinery.

A nice tradition of Dr Tony’s at the end of a stay is to have a tree planted in your name. We went to where his father has some land and Maurice and I
planted a small Jackfruit tree.
We left Muttil South on the 9th May for trip back to Mysore, flybus to Bangalore airport and the flight to Mumbai to see our friends Nidhi, Ashraf and family there for a few days.

Mumbai
Mumbai international airport is a very user friendly one with conveniently placed prepaid taxi counters which made transport to the city very easy.
We just happened to be in Mumbai again for the six week ‘Alphonso’ mango season and Nidhi had bought some for us to have which we enjoyed immensely.
Nidhi’s driver Shankar took us to an amazing baggage repair basement shop where the craftsmen there replaced wheels on my hand luggage and they do amazing repairs. Shankar dropped us at at the large Infinity 2 mall so that we could replace my sneakers. I left the old ones with little tread in Kerala after slipping on a smooth rock the previous day and giving myself a nice big bruise on my leg.

Nidhi’s mother in law is a great cook and she prepared my favourite masala dosas for breakfast one day. We opted for a north Indian restaurant one night after having had the very different south India food for two weeks. Mumbai is a city with an amazing number of high rise apartments under construction all over the city. Andheri West where Nidhi and Ashraf live on the 11th floor of a large commplex is a surprisingly quiet area with a lot of birdlife.

The locals were suffering in the 36 degree humid weather and it promised to be hotter in Delhi when we flew there three days later with cut price airline Indigo which proved to be one of the best flights we had been on in our five years of travel. They have the best on time record and all the staff from check in to cabin and flight crew could not have been more pleasant or helpful. It was a short bus ride from the terminal but their ramps to the plane are so much better and easier to navigate with luggage rather than the staircases that most airlines use.

Delhi
Jyoti’s driver Ravinder picked us up from Delhi airport for the trip to her apartment in Gurgaon, an large area of innovative company buildings and gated communities.

We stayed for 2nights with Jyoti our friend and owner of the Gratitude and Mantra properties in Pondicherry who lives in Delhi. She took us to her organic farm in Rajasthan which is a beautiful property developed from a barren area years ago into a lush and green oasis. It is also run as an airbnb property where guests can learn about bio and organic farming as well as relax by the pool and lotus pond. There are chickens and geese, squirrels, many bird types and colourful lizards on the property which is run by six staff. The cook prepared us a tasty organic vegetarian meal and the dry 40 plus temperature did not bother us. Maurice and I took the metro the following day into the city about an hour away and we wandered about, bought a couple of items and had a north Indian lunch at ‘Zafran’ restaurant. I also had a coffee at ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ which we know from Pondicherry and who train and employ young deaf people as baristas. It was decidedly hotter in the city with all the concrete buildings and bitumen roads but the metro was very well ventilated and cooler.
Our return to Gurgaon was not as we expected as our train broke down at ‘Green Park’ station and we had to find a way to get back to Jyoti’s apartment an hour away.
We were a bit concerned as the train was packed and everyone was trying to get taxis and auto rickshaws. We were lucky enough to find two lovely guys who called us an ‘Ola’ taxi and who waited with us until it arrived. We got to the airport in plenty of time for our 3 1/2 hour flight to Doha on Jet Airways.

Doha
We had only transited Doha previously so decided to spend a couple of nights in the city. We chose the ‘Arumaila hotel’ part of the’Souk Waqif’ group of nine hotels all located in the old quarter of ‘Souk Waqif’. On check in they kindly upgraded us to a room with a balcony which overlooked the souk. The hotel cat slept by the front door most of the time and took the guest movement in his stride. Golf type buggies moved guests to some of the other properties to have breakfast or to have the use of a pool. The staff were the most polite, friendly and efficient we had encountered anywhere and there was Arabic coffee and dates on hand in the foyer. Their new property Najd had an African flavour and a lovely fragrance greeted you as you walked through the hotel. The Souk area, Dhow harbour and Museum of Islamic art was opposite the modern city centre with it’s skyscrapers. Within a short walking distance was the ‘Falcon Souk’ where Falcons costing thousands of Riyals sat on posts in a sandy pit in the shops selling the birds and everything associated with Falconry. In the same area was the Falcon hospital which was specifically for treatment of the raptors. Around the corner was the Camel Paddock where camels were kept for tourists to admire.
A little further along were the horse stables and paddock, an elaborate set up for the horses some of which were used for racing. Rajasthani men took care of the animals. The hotel, restaurant and souk workers were a mixture of Arabs from various countries such as Tunisia and Egypt and there were also many other nationalities in the service industry there.
The Qataris in the main did not work and those that do usually own large businesses. I went looking for a Qatari souvenir but all the products on sale came in the main from either Turkey, Iran or Syria. I asked one Arab shop assistant if anything was made in Qatar. He said ‘Oil and Gas’. I ended up buying some carved glass Arabic coffee cups made in Turkey but used by the Qataris.
Like mad dogs and Englishmen we went out in the midday sun in the 40 odd degrees to walk around the Dhow harbour and then to the Museum of Islamic art which had a wonderful temporary
exhibition of ‘Imperial Threads’ displaying beautiful carpets and carvings from Iran, Turkey and India. The only other people outside were the poor foreign workers who were doing mass plantings along the Corniche. We made our way back to the hotel and later when it was cooler one of the staff gave us a free walking tour of the souk and surrounding area. The souk was quite extensive with pets, clothing, souvenirs, food and an area for elaborate gold jewellery.
The transportation of goods in the souk was done by older men with wheelbarrows rather than using donkeys or mules. The souk at night was very atmospheric with fairy lights and it was pleasant sitting outside with no mosquitoes. The souk stayed open until 10pm even though there were few tourists. The shop keepers were very pleasant and it was nice browsing without any pressure to buy.

The airport was only a 15minute ride from the old part of town where again staff were very pleasant. We flew the hour to Dubai with Emirates and then had a long trek (about 1/2 hour) to reach our gate for the flight to Rome on the 16th May. At the arrivals hall in Rome we had another chance encounter with friends who had flown from Sydney to Rome. We had been looking at the baggage belt for our bags for a long time when I decided to go and find an Emirates representative. As I turned and made my way through the masses of people our friends appeared walking towards the exit. Karma!

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It was great to be back on the 2nd March in such a familiar place. Bali has changed so much in the 33years since I have been coming here. The streets are no longer quiet in areas like Sanur,Kuta, Legian or Ubud and a lot of the quaint small warung and restaurants like Swastika and Telaga Naga have been replaced by large modern restaurants
and the boutiques in Seminyak and Canggu rival Australia for prices.

Candi Dasa where we always stay for a short while is like coming home with the same friendly staff who know our names and give us good service. Our friends Kay and Len came up for lunch and it was lovely seeing friends from home. Robert and Gay from Sydney joined us there also and came with us to Gili Air for a few days.
A main road runs through Candi Dasa but our small hotel which runs down through a lovely garden and to the restaurant and pool area over the water is a tranquil haven. The customary trip to the ‘white beach’ is always a highlight travelling by local boat the 20minutes along the coast where our boatman waits and then returns us to the hotel for AUD50 for the four of us.
Our friends Robert and Gay joined us there for a few days before we all headed off for the trip from Padang Bai harbour to Gili Air the second largest of three small islands off the coast of Lombok. We were told that the trip would take an hour and a half but a delay in leaving and having to stop at Lombok as well as Gili Trawangan saw the trip take nearly three hours.

The beauty of Gili Air is the lack of any noisy motorised vehicle and it’s crystal clear water. There are a few electric bikes on the island apart from the ‘Cidomo’or small horse and carts delivering tourists to their hotels and bungalows and building materials and provisions from the boats that arrive every day. The small Timor ponies are very sturdy and all look well fed in contrast to those in many countries where the horses look emaciated.

While we were there for the two weeks we saw many military and army personnel move onto the island to supervise the demolition of illegal buildings for which stall holders had no permits.The government is also now enforcing a law which will see any building on the beach side of the road demolished (again apart from those who apparently have paid enormous bribes). We spoke to Suzi the Indonesian owner of our Bungalows who was visited recently by the officials who told her that they would now begin this procedure in April 2017. She was suitably shocked and told them that she had 70 staff who would be out of a job and that she would comply with the new regulations but to give her a chance to let the staff find other employment elsewhere on the island or on the mainland.
Unfortunately they had before this law came into being just upgraded the wooden building on the beach side housing their bar and restaurant. She has luckily more land inland on which to put another restaurant but that would take time. Our bungalow and others were luckily on the other side of the road and therefore allowed to stay put.

The water around the island is crystal clear although there was a lot of coral on the other side of the island, much broken and washed up on the beach. We walked around the island which only took a couple of hours. It was hot and humid for most of our two weeks there but we had a small amount of rain one night and a strong wind one day.

The cats on the island all look healthy with the amount of fish that every restaurant serve every night. A strange sight were the terracotta – concrete actually – warriors found dotted along the seashore. On our walk around the island we also found a brand new 200room hotel with a hundred metre pool. I should imagine it would appeal to
the enormous number of Chinese tourists who have already surpassed any other nationality on Bali and who will undoubtedly find their way to the islands.

Apart from two weeks of relaxation, swimming, walking and doing yoga we decided to go over to Gili Trawangan two islands away for the afternoon and have a pizza at ‘Pizza Regina’ my favourite pizza place outside of Italy. We chartered a small boat and Fikri the very pleasant man who built and ran his boat took us first to a spot
where we could see turtles in his partially glass bottom boat and occasionally we could see the turtles pop their heads out of the water for air. They swim so gracefully.

Gili Trawangan had changed dramatically as the government had torn down all the buildings on the foreshore already and it was still in the process of being cleaned up.
Some of the structures did not obstruct the view of the ocean however they were all demolished and it all looked very messy.

We made it for the 5pm opening to ‘Pizza Regina’ We had sampled the pizza two years before and decided we had to go back and it was just as good as before.

The night before we left Gili Air we went to our favourite restaurant ‘Rubys’ walking there through the rain. I unfortunately slipped in the mud and did not hurt myself but was covered in mud down one side. When we got to the restaurant I had to hose my feet off and try and wipe some mud off my clothes. With luck the little
outdoor restaurant was not well lit. We awoke the next morning to the doors shaking from an earthquake off Bali. There was luckily no damage.
We left on the ‘fast’ boat the next morning which broke down just after we left Lombok about twenty minutes after we left Gili Air. We forced the captain after much discussion to return to Lombok where we waited for another boat to take us back to Bali where we arrived about 2hours late.

We spent the next month in Ubud at ‘Villa Jepun’ and had two lots of friends visit us there. We had a lot of torrential monsoonal rain which didn’t follow the usual afternoon pattern. It rained some mornings and sometimes overnight but we could at least have long walks and get to yoga when it wasn’t raining.
The day after we arrived there we had to take our passports and pay our AUD70 to apply for an extension to our AUD50 for a month’s visa. After a week we had to go to the immigration office in Denpasar and wait with hundreds of other hopefuls and have our photographs taken and every finger and thumb fingerprinted. After another
week we picked up our passports with our stamped extensions. It is a strange system now that with Australian passports we could enter Bali without a visa for one month but if you want to stay for another month you must pay for your first month’s visa. Only tourists wanting to stay one month or less do not have to pay for a visa on
arrival.

We had not been in Bali for two years and there was still more construction everywhere with disappearing rice fields giving way to more villas, cafes and restaurants.
There is also an influx of Chinese tourists who come up to Ubud by the bus load. They troupe down the street mostly evening wear during the day carrying umbrellas so as not to get a tan and the men wear Polynesian looking straw hats that are obviously supplied by their tour operator. There are now Chinese newspapers and magazines available and Mandarin speaking Indonesian guides. The Chinese are all spacially unaware so you have to be prepared to move around them or make them move as they take up all of the footpath.

I managed to contact the former Qantas manager Gustu whom I hadn’t seen for about four years and he and his wife Sri came and had dinner with us in Ubud. It was nice to catch up with him as I have known him for over 30years. The Qantas office used to be in the Bali Beach hotel and although the hotel is still there, Qantas closed
it’s office in Bali. Gustu now manages villas in Seminyak for a friend of his.

This year we happened to be in Ubud for three of the important Balinese religious days of Nyepi, Galungan and Kuningan. Nyepi is a day of silence where everyone must stay inside their hotel or house from sunrise for 24hours. No planes are allowed to arrive or depart for 24hours and at night all lights must be off or dimmed and
no noise should be heard. Our friends decided to come over to our villa for the day and they crept over and back luckily without being seen. We were off the road so it was relatively easy. If they had been seen by the religious police they would have been in trouble. It was pleasant not hearing the sound of noisy motorbikes
all day.

In our villa which has a DVD player we catch up on all the movies we haven’t seen in the last couple of years. We bought a dozen and all but one played well which was great given they are only $1 each. Memorable ones were ‘A United Kingdom’ ‘The Accountant’ and ‘Bridget Jones baby’ with it’s good English humour.

We both put our backs out on separate occasions which was unfortunate as we couldn’t go to all the yoga classes we had bought and instead went to a natural healer who fixed both of us over three sessions.

The number of Chinese tourists now visiting Bali was very evident at the airport where there were lengthy queues for immigration with the majority there Chinese.

Strangely although the internet states the departure tax is now 200,000 rupiah or AUD20, none was collected on departure. We flew Malaysian to Kuala Lumpur on the 22nd April for a couple of nights.

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We had a nice three days in Chennai over New Year visiting the beautiful Amethyst restored building on Whites road which is now a restaurant, expensive clothing and book store and a florist shop. We spent New Year’s eve at the Raintree hotel close to our hotel where we had delicious Indian food on the roof terrace on a nice balmy night. We visited our Chennai friends and had a nice dinner with them on New Year’s Day and then took the taxi to Pondicherry on the 2nd January for two month stint there managing the Mantra guesthouse. The first two weeks were peaceful before the French family from hell arrived with their two noisy children and totally obnoxious attitude.
Unfortunately due to an error (not on our part) they made our life a misery for the next three weeks trying their best to get us to leave. The husband would make the most awful noise on his clarinet only when his wife and two children were not there. We looked at renting another apartment but could not find a suitable one so after poor Maurice was verbally and physically threatened by the husband for asking him politely to try and keep the noise level down due to other guests being in the building we asked to move anywhere and after a few days we could move to a small room at their sister property ‘Gratitude’ for the remainder of our stay which allowed us some peace in the evenings and I was able to help out there before we cycled over to Mantra for 8.30am every morning. The family were away for most of the weekdays so that made it bearable during the day. We never want to have that kind of experience again with such ignorant and nasty people. We at least had a lovely couple (Chris and Gordana) move in to the guesthouse and also Aarti who was in one of the self catering apartments upstairs.
We were able to attend a couple of Indian movies at the auditorium of the Alliance Francaise.
It was much cooler in Pondicherry this year with some high winds and a few days of rain. I was getting over my extended flu so did not even use the lovely pool.
There were a couple of new restaurants in the French quarter and on the Tamil side which we tried out with some friends.
Maurice had more Ayurvedic treatment and felt much better after that. My flu persisted for the whole stay with a nasty cough and my right hand was also giving me trouble. All in all not a good few months this time in India. Better luck next time.
The owner of the properties broke her ankle and was confined to Delhi and her partner who was to return to Pondicherry stayed to look after her.
We were very much looking forward to our R and R in Indonesia where we were going to meet up with several friends over a two month period before making our way back to India for a couple of weeks and then back to Italy and Europe for our final time with the van in Europe. We had a nice night in Chennai, then at the Sama Sama hotel at the airport in KL and then a flight to Bali on the 2nd March.

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The Flybus from Bangalore took four hours and we were picked up in Mysore at the bus station. The parking area was underground and we were amazed at the number of motorbikes in the parking area. We couldn’t imagine how anyone could find their bike ever again.

We decided to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary early and in style so we stayed for three nights in the Dupleix suite at the Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel, a beautiful turn of the century palace built exclusively for the then Viceroy of India. In 1974 it was turned into a hotel. We had an enormous lounge dining area and a large bedroom, balcony and bathroom upstairs. It was a pity we didn’t have anyone to come for a party. It was slightly on the outskirts of Mysore so very quiet except for the lavish wedding which took place for a day and a half while we were there. It was an incredible affair with the whole place transformed with a large platform in front of the hotel adorned with thousands of flowers and the gardens were taken over with fairy lights,large tents serving food cooked in another large tent and seating for about 500 people in front of the platform and at tables and chairs dotted throughout the garden. The saturday night reception took place outside. Inside the hotel there were more floral displays along the staircase and at the entrance to the hotel. About 7pm the guests started to arrive and they lined up to meet the couple who stood in front of the cameras and as each group were greeted they had their photo taken with the bride and groom before adjourning to the gardens to have their meal. We watched some of the proceedings but went to the beautiful dining room for a quiet dinner.

The very loud Indian band started up the next morning at 7am for the preparations for the wedding ceremony in the banqueting hall which was directly below us.
They started the proceedings about 9am and these went on for a few hours with the groom then ushered outside to a small temple set up with priests and onlookers and even a drone taking pictures while the bride was involved in a ceremony with one of the hindu priests. She then joined her husband on the altar inside and the final wedding rites took place. There were many photographers and a professional video company presiding over the entire ceremony. By mid afternoon we were surprised to hear that the couple had already left to have more celebrations at home in Bangalore which was a four hour drive away and a lot of the decorations were already coming down. By Monday morning the entire palace and gardens were back to normal and you wouldn’t have known anything had taken place. It was quite amazing to experience the wedding from the sidelines.

We lazed by the pool on the Sunday for a couple of hours and were the only guests there which was lovely. Back in our suite the reception called and asked us to close the balcony doors as there were monkeys around and they were afraid that one would come into the room.

Mysore Palace was only lit up on a Sunday night for 2hours so we took a rickshaw and walked around the carneval like atmosphere with thousands of locals to see the lights and listen to the brass band. We then went to dinner at ‘Gufha’ restaurant at the ‘Pai Vista’ hotel which we had been to once before and enjoyed immensely. It is like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Several rooms have been transformed into caves with African like statues and the seating is done in zebra motifs as are the plates. The little Indian waiters are dressed as hunters complete with pith helmets and bandana and look quite strange. The food there was excellent and very reasonable.

After another lazy day we booked a car for 4pm and drove out to the Brindavan Botanical gardens about an hour away. The gardens are divided by a dam where you could take a short boat ride to the other side or walk across the connecting bridge. The Royal Orchid hotel on one side was also a former palace. The musical fountains which were the highlight, started after sunset on the other side of the dam in the gardens and it was fun to watch them to Indian music with thousands of other Indians.
We were the only foreign tourists there. We unfortunately were stuck in a traffic jam on the bridge leading out of the gardens for an hour and we had left early but in true Indian style there was no one directing traffic with half of the bridge ripped up. We had a late dinner back at the hotel and a leisurely morning on Monday 29th November before being picked up at 12noon for the three hour ride up to our Ayurvedic retreat in the mountains at Udayagiri in Wayanad.

We were surprised to see the horse and carriage outside the hotel on the Monday morning as we thought it was brought in for the wedding but it belonged to the Lalitha Palace hotel and was from the turn of the century. For $2 each we decided to have a ride around the grounds never having been in a carriage before and surprisingly it was quite a comfortable ride as the carriage was well sprung.

We detoured to a ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ to have my last coffee for a month and they could not change my 2000ruppee note and nor could the hotel or restaurant nearby. Luckily a tour operator overheard me and changed my note for 100rupee notes. We went further along the road and managed to get 2000rupees (the maximum that you could get in one transaction) Most Indians and tourists were complaining because many businesses did not accept credit cards and most did also not have change for the 2000rupee note which was all that most of the ATM’s were issuing. They all had signs advising that you could only take out 2000rupees at a time but I found one ATM without a queue where I could insert my card several times to get some more cash. Indians in general were not happy with Prime Minister Modi’s demonetization which took place overnight by refusing to accept any 500 or 1000 rupee note. This was in his view a way to stop black money and many very rich people who had bags of the notes even burnt them to save prosecution. The ordinary people with little cash could go to a bank and exchange their money for 100rupee notes or coin but those with vast sums that didn’t equate to their earnings were up for prosecution. One politician was found with over 9,000,000rupees in bags in his car. We were glad that we were going to be in the Ayurvedic centre for a month and not have the problems of getting change. In the demonetisation move the 1000 and 500 rupee notes were no longer going to be used or issued. They had to be changed at a bank before the 30th December.
Only a new 500 rupee note was going to replace the old one and the 1000 rupee note was abolished.

We left for Udayagiri on the 29th November for one months’s treatment and we were looking forward to it. Maurice for the maintenance for his Rheumatoid Arthritis and me the usual weight management. The retreat has grown since we started going there five years ago and some changes are good but we both feel it was nicer with a smaller group of people. When we arrived there were fourteen people here, 3 from Alaska, 2 Germans, 2 French, 1 Slovakian, 2 Dutch, a guy from Mumbai, Sarah from England (who was my walking partner) and us. They were a pretty good bunch.

The staff had also grown but there were many familiar faces and they gave us a lovely surpise party for our 25th wedding anniversary on the 7th December, complete with an eggless black forest cake and we danced around a lovely fire. The manager even gave us a fun mug with our pictures and one of his family.
The biggest surprise was getting a lovely note and flowers from Craig, Maurice’s son and Yuko his lovely wife.
Our daily schedule was the same starting with yoga but earlier at 6am which was a bit of a struggle especially for the couple of days that it was raining and very dark. We had an hour’s treatment – usually pounding with medicated pouches or medicated powder rubs and some not so pleasant procedures to rid the body of toxins but it worked for us so we don’t complain.

I went for my daily walks down and up the mountain shedding 7kilos in the process about which I was very happy. The retreat’s cows were always out and about with their keepers and they were docile enough to be patted. They have such lovely faces. Some giant squirrels made a lot of noise flying from one tree to another and eating the wild figs. The monkeys were also around but scattered as soon as anyone approached. The locals were also about taking their goats to feed or collecting wood for the night. Life is very simple there for many people.

I had always admired one of the plantation owner’s house and garden from his driveway and happened to meet him outside one day. He invited two of us to come and see his garden. We went the next day and admired his amazing garden where he had every type of flower and fruit tree and luckily his property had a spring so he had plenty of water.

We decided to go to midnight mass, a very lengthy affair and all in Malayalam, the local language. Maurice was given a chair as were many of the oldies! but I sat cross legged, getting up and down from the rough coir matting floor. Most of the congregation brought presents which were then distributed to the children after the mass and the cakes that many brought were cut up and shared with cups of tea.

We will miss the staff especially the ones we have got close to like Martha, the only older cleaning ladies who brought us flowers from her garden every day. She was sobbing the day we left which was very touching but we assured her that we would see her again.
We left heavy hearted on the 29th December for the 3hour pleasant drive to Mysore, had a delicious vegetarian lunch at the quirky ‘Gufha’ restaurant and then caught the ‘Flybus’ to Bangalore for the night staying at the ‘Tranzotel’ before flying to Chennai the next day. Our flight was delayed due to thick fog for two hours.

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The Flybus from Bangalore took four hours and we were picked up in Mysore at the bus station. The parking area was underground and we were amazed at the number of motorbikes in the parking area. We couldn’t imagine how anyone could find their bike ever again.

We decided to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary early and in style so we stayed for three nights in the Dupleix suite at the Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel a beautiful turn of the century palace built exclusively for the then Viceroy of India. In 1974 it was turned into a hotel. We had an enormous lounge dining area and a large bedroom, balcony and bathroom upstairs. It was a pity we didn’t have anyone to come for a party. It was slightly on the outskirts of Mysore so very quite except for the lavish wedding which took place for a day and a half while we were there. It was an incredible affair with the whole place transformed with a large platform in front of the hotel adorned with thousands of flowers and the gardens were taken over with fairy lights,large tents serving food cooked in another large tent and seating for about 500 people in front of the platform and at tables and chairs dotted throughout the garden. The saturday night reception took place outside. Inside the hotel there were more floral displays along the staircase and at the entrance to the hotel. About 7pm the guests started to arrive and they lined up to meet the couple who stood in front of the cameras and as each group were greeted they had their photo taken with the bride and groom before adjourning to the gardens to have their meal. We watched some of the proceedings but went to the beautiful dining room for a quiet dinner.

The very loud Indian band started up the next morning at 7am for the preparations for the wedding ceremony in the banqueting hall which was directly below us.
They started the proceedings about 9am and these went on for a few hours with the groom then ushered outside to a small temple set up with priests and onlookers and even a drone taking pictures while the bride was involved in a ceremony with one of the hindu priests. She then joined her husband on the altar inside and the final wedding rites took place. There were many photographers and a professional video company presiding over the entire ceremony. By mid afternoon we were surprised to hear that the couple had already left to have more celebrations at home in Bangalore which was a four hour drive away and a lot of the decorations were coming down. By Monday morning the entire palace and gardens were back to normal and you wouldn’t have known anything had taken place. It was quite amazing to experience the wedding from the sidelines.

We lazed by the pool on the Sunday for a couple of hours and were the only guests there which was lovely. Back in our suite the reception called and asked us to close the balcony doors as there were monkeys around and they were afraid that one would come into the room.

Mysore Palace was only lit up on a Sunday night for 2hours so we took a rickshaw and walked around the carnival like atmosphere with thousands of locals to see the lights and listen to the brass band. We then went to dinner at ‘Gufha’ restaurant at the ‘Pai Vista’ hotel which we had been to once before and enjoyed immensely. It is like something out of Indiana Jones. Several rooms have been transformed into caves with African like statues and the seating is done in a zebra motif as are the plates. The little Indian waiters are dressed as hunters complete with pith helmets and bandana and look quite strange. The food there was excellent and very reasonable.

After another lazy day we booked a car for 4pm and drove out to the Brindavan Botanical gardens about an hour away. The gardens are divided by a dam where you could take a short boat ride to the other side or walk across the connecting bridge. The Royal Orchid hotel on one side was also a former palace. The musical fountains
which were the highlight started after sunset on the other side of the dam in the gardens and it was fun to watch them to Indian music with thousands of other Indians.
We were the only foreign tourists there. We unfortunately were stuck in a traffic jam on the bridge leading out of the gardens for an hour and we had left early but in true Indian style there was no one directing traffic with half of the bridge ripped up. We had a late dinner back at the hotel and a leisurely morning on Monday 29th November before being picked up at 12noon for the three hour ride up to our Ayurvedic retreat in the mountains at Udayagiri in Wayanad.

We were surprised to see the horse and carriage outside the hotel on the Monday morning as we thought it was brought in for the wedding but it belonged to the Lalitha Palace from the turn nof the century and so for $2 each we decided to have a ride around the grounds never having been in a carriage before and surprisingly it was quite a comfortable ride as the carriage was well sprung.

We detoured to a ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ to have my last coffee for a month and they could not change my 2000ruppee note and nor could the hotel or restaurant nearby. Luckily a tour operator overheard me and changed my note for 100rupee notes. We went further along the road and managed to get 2000rupees (the maximum that you could get in one transaction)Most Indians and tourists were complaining because many businesses did not accept credit cards and most did also not have change for the 2000rupee note which was all that most of the ATM’s were issuing. They all had signs advising that you could only take out 2000rupees at a time but I found one ATM without a queue where I could insert my card several times to get some more cash. Indians in general were not happy with Prime Minister Modi’s demonetization which took place overnight by refusing to accept any 500 or 1000 rupee note. This was in his view a way to stop black money and many very rich people who had bags of the notes even burnt them to save prosecution. The ordinary people with little cash could go to a bank and exchange their money for 100rupee notes of coin but those with vast sums that didn’t equate to their earnings were up for prosecution. One politician was
found with over 9,000,000rupees in bags in his car. We were glad that we were going to be in the Ayurvedic centre for a month and not have the problems of getting change.

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