Labuan Bajo and How We still Value Money over Time

I have wanted to go to Flores since 2012. By that time, Flores was not a choice. I have just graduated from college, I did not have money, I did not have sufficient time, and I did not have friends who were willing to spent as much money to travel even if we were ‘capable’ to do that. In late 2015, like, by the end of my master’s studies, I contacted four friends: Dian, Diaz, Mus, and Pman, and asked whether they were interested in having a ‘reunion’ of our 2012 Lombok Trip, but this time, with Flores as our destination. All of them said yes, but guess what, I finally only went with one. Thanks you guys, thanks.

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Three years after graduation we are still not ‘as rich.’ We still value money over time, so when we found out that there’s quite a big difference between Jakarta-Lombok and Jakarta-Labuan Bajo (Flores) flights, we decided to land on Lombok and continue our way to Flores overland. This, though, means that we would also be having two ferry crossings along the way. The total time of the trip from Lombok International Airport (LOP) to Labuan Bajo was about one and a half day. This is how we got there:

LOP – (bus) – Mandalika Bus Terminal – (bus) – Kayangan Harbour – (ferry) – Pototano Harbour – (bus) – Bima – (mini bus) –  Sape – (Ferry) – Labuan Bajo

It is not that complicated, actually. You would only need to buy a bus ticket from LOP to Mandalika, afterwards from Mandalika just look for a provider which serves Mandalika-Labuan Bajo. The ticket will include the ferry crossings, but not the mini bus. We departed from Mandalika around 15.00 and started the first ferry crossing as the sun went down.

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Through our overland in Sumbawa, we mostly slept. We were awaken at Sumbawa Besar to have dinner, went back to the bus, have a 1-hour chit-chat and went back to sleep. We arrived at Bima the very next day around 04.00, and we waited for the mini bus which will only arrive when the sun is up, like around 06.00-07.00.

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As we had too much sleep and still 2-3 hours overtime, we talked to other people we met there. Literally anyone. From the locals to the foreigners who were on board all along with us. Two of them are French! I was so happy meeting them so I could still recall my French skills, which was not as bad as it is right now, I guess.

Funny thing happened when me and the French girl, let’s call her Christelle as I forgot her name, were looking for a toilet. I told her that we should follow the ‘Adzan’ sound as mosque’s toilets are generally clean. As we arrived to the mosque, we were stopped by an old man who asked us for money.

“Sorry, we don’t have any money,” Christelle said as she was about to cancel her will to go to the toilet.

“No, no. Can. Go,” the old man said and I responded him “Thanks,” in Bahasa. He was kind of shocked, realizing that ‘the other girl’ was not a foreigner.

After we finished, the old man offered his hand to Christelle as he introduced himself “John,” and she replied, “Christelle,” politely. Not long he asked for “Kiss,” which was actually no more than cheek-to-cheek kiss, or as we call it bisous in French. She was a bit confused at first, because even though it is quite common in France, we do not normally give bisous to strangers. But finally, she decided just to give it away. When he asked me I said no, and he just laughed. I told Diaz about this and his response was, “That lucky bastard!”

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The second crossing was a lot longer than the first one. It took about 6-7 hours. We met a lot of other people on board, we even exchanged contacts with a couple who were looking for travel mates. We promised to meet each other in Labuan Bajo after me and Diaz got back from Wae Rebo.

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Thus, after the long overland journey, we could finally say: hello, Flores!

PS: Hey! I am currently competing for a volunteering program in East Flores. I posted a video on Youtube, as one of the requirements, which you can see through this link. If I were chosen, I will be going to East Flores to document the Wonder Women a.k.a. “Ibu Inspirasi,” which is an initiative by Kopernik NGO based in Bali. I will absorb what I will witness during my time in Flores and  share it in, well, many forms. So, if you really like the video, please give a thumbs up in the Youtube link. Cheers!

Sneak Peak of Flores

October 2015, I had a 2-week trip through West Flores. It’s an island in the south-eastern part of Indonesia. I’ll guide you through don’t worry. You all know Bali, right? The island to the east is Lombok. Afterwards, it’s Sumbawa. Afterwards, through the chains of islands of Komodo National Park, then it’s Flores. Got it?

I did this trip with Diaz. Originally it was meant to be a ‘reunion’ with four of my friends: Dian, Pman, Mus, and Diaz. But eventually everyone except Diaz canceled we thought that if we did not do this trip we will never reach Flores. We won’t have time, et cetera, et cetera.

We had two main destinations: Wae Rebo village and Komodo cruise.

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We met a solo traveler in Wae Rebo named Dito. We exchanged contacts, became friends, and spent some time together through half of our trip.

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Speaking of Flores, I am currently auditioning for a volunteering program in East Flores. I am posting video in Youtube which you can see through this link.

If I were chosen, I will simply be going to East Flores to document the Wonder Women a.k.a. “Ibu Inspirasi,” which is an initiative by Kopernik NGO based in Bali. I will absorb what I will witness during my time in Flores and  share it in, well, many forms. For instance, I have this blog. I have Instagram and Facebook accounts. I have friends. I can do anything and it’s been a long, long time since I have not really use my right brain.

So guys, wish me luck! Oh, and of course, there will be posts about my Flores trip soon. If I were chosen, and there will be posts dedicated for this program. So, if you really like the video, please give a thumbs up in the Youtube link. Cheers!

Reconcile with the Past through Zagreb

I hesitated to go to Zagreb at first, because it was not the cheapest, nor the most convenient way to end my Summer 2014 Trip. What finally brought me to Zagreb was, a small paragraph in the Croatia Lonely Planet Book which stated that a new museum have just “arrived” in Zagreb. And the name of the museum is..

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I was intrigued by the name from the very first time. I did not know what I should expect from this museum, but thank God I went there. Oh, by the way, sorry for the foggy pictures. As I have told you in this post, it was raining hard in Plitvice. My camera, then, became a victim.

The museum was initiated as a project where a group of artists sent mails across the globe to collect memorabilia out of broken relationships. You, know, instead of letting them be thrown away for good. The response was amazing. They have received lots and lots of things with their own stories.

It is also very cheap. I only paid like, two euros or something? Once you entered, it started with the very cheesy ones. There was a book about a couple who eventually broke up, there were CDs/memorials that were given from one person to another during their relationships, and there was this jersey..

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A ‘player,’ get it?

Then it got a bit more intense. Like this wedding bouquet..

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Room by room, it got even more and more intense. Like this postcard from Armenia..

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There were also memorabilia about relationships that were torn down by wars, especially in the European region. And sometimes, the memorabilia are not only about themselves. Like this box of memories..

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There are also pieces from your loved ones.. in the most unpredictable way possible..

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I went out of the museum with a changed mind. A new perspective of how we can always, always reconcile with our past. No matter how hard it is. Writing this made me remember a post from a friend, which you can find here. She created such a sweet way to reconcile with her past. I might not have the competence to write this, but. The past will always be there. It is up to us, then, to choose. Are we going to continue on grieving, or to move on. Whatever it takes.

Singing Sea in Zadar

Still in my Summer 2014 Trip, after Dubrovnik and Split (Croatia), I continued my way to Zadar. I will not dedicate a post for Split because, that city ended up only being a stop-over for me. I had a quiet three days there: I rested and chilled out on the first day, visited Krka on the second day, and went to church on the third day. I canceled my Split-Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) return trip and heck I even did my laundry. So, no post for Split. Sorry.

So Zadar. What was it that I looked for in Zadar? Well you might have heard that Zadar has this great Sea Organ, designed by an architect called Nikola Basic. It is located by the bay and it is normal for people to hang around.

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This nature-based instrument consists of a set of 35 organ pipes that makes music as wave lap at the coastline. I took a video of it which you can see here.

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Another thing about this organ is, it is built facing to the west, so the tourists are able to witness the sunset while listening to the music, that is played by the nature. It was mystical.

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You can find posts about this instrument in lots and lots of sites, including here and here. Overall, I got my best sunset of my Croatian trip there, in Zadar.

Changing Season and Fate in Krka

When you hear the word “Croatia” and “National Park,” one other word that you will hear is probably “Plitvice.” Well if you asked, I did go to Plitvice during my Croatian trip, but it was raining. Non stop. It was still beautiful, but I did not capture any good pictures of Plitvice. Yes, I know, too bad.

But! I did visit another National Park called “Krka.” It is not as well-known as Plitvice, but something Krka can offer that Plitvice can’t is, we are allowed to swim near the waterfall! As I have told you in this post, the big theme of my Croatian trip is “swimming.” Of course, Krka was included in my itinerary.

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Krka is reachable by bus either from Split or Zadar. Me I went from Split. After arriving to the registration point, we will be taken by a boat to the National Park. Actually, there are two registration points. The one which includes boats and the one which includes a little hike. I decided to take a boat first and take the hiking track to go home. Bad decision, I tell you. Bad decision.

First thing I saw when I get out of the boat: “NO SWIMMING” sign. Sigh. Apparently the swimming season was over. Rainy-fall season was coming so the water level was really high. Swimming was then prohibited. This, is the place, where I should have been swimming..

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But on the other side, changing season gave us colors! If I was there during the ‘real’ summer, I would have only seen green, green leafs. That’s it. Thank God I had this..

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And this..

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Now can we please, talk about the water. Can-we-pleaaase talk about the water. It was as clear as pearl. And best thing was, there were not many tourists!

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And of course, along the track, I found picturesque spots. Which is always better without any people in it.

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By the end of the track, there were souvenir shops. One thing that attracted me the most were these handmade necklaces. Can you just see how cute they are?

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These are Glagolitic Alphabets. The oldest known Slavic Alphabet. You can read all about it here. I wanted to buy them as a souvenir, too bad I did not bring much cash. And thank God that I did save that ‘not much’ cash, because…..

I was, well, lost. Going home through the hiking track was apparently a bad, bad decision, especially it was Saturday when buses are not as often. Shortly I walked, like…….. 15 km or more. Through the highway. To reach Sibenik. A town where I can take a bus back to Split. I even tried to ‘cut’ paths through ‘human tracks’ that I found along the way…….. which led me nowhere but a forests. Away from the sound of any vehicles. As the sun began to set.

If it is not ‘fate’ we are talking about I might not still be here today.

Never again in my entire life will I do that. Never.

Swimming in Dubrovnik and Mljet

Dubrovnik. One of the most heard-of town in the world since Game of Thrones. I am not saying that Dubrovnik is overrated. It is beautiful, believe me. The citadel is absolutely gorgeous, both day and night. But my summer vacation, which was started on 31 August 2014, was actually based one thing: I wanted to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. I didn’t care where, I didn’t care how, I just wanted to swim in that hot, hot summer days.

So Croatia was my destination. It was kind of accidental. I had a Croatian colleague during my summer internship in the Netherlands, he took a 3-week off during my days there to go home, and when he returned we talked about his trip. Then I browsed about Croatia, even bought the Croatia Lonely Planet Book, and found out that there are lots and lots of things I can do in Croatia. One of them is, of course, to swim.

I took a flight to Dubrovnik and God-it-was-so-hot. From the city center, I walked directly to the hostel that I have previously booked. On my way to the hostel, I found this.

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People swimming! Swimming! It did not take long for me to check in, have a little chat with my roommate, changed to swimsuit, and went back to that very spot. It was not that easy to reach the spot, apparently. It was at the bottom of a cliff with no exact path. And when I finally reached the place……… I was the only one with color.

OK, is this some secret swimming point, or what?

I did not care. It was so hot and I needed to cool off. I jumped to the water only to find out that, the water was not that salty! And you do not need to ask about the current nor the waves. It was so calm. No wonder a lot of people called the Mediterranean Sea as the “European Swimming Pool.” I did not get how much time I actually spent only to swim here and there.

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My other swimming destination was this island called Mljet. According to some sources, this is one of the most underrated tourist destination in Croatia, so I just went to check it out. This island offers something called “Salt Lake Swimming.” Well, geographically, from a bird-eye view, you will see that the “Lakes” are not actually “Lakes.” They are seawater trapped in Mljet’s morphology. It is kind of hard to find beautiful pictures of Mljet – that is why, I guess, it is so underrated – but you can take a look at this island from up above here and here so you will see what I mean.

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It is not hard to reach Mljet. You simply walk or take a bus to the harbor and find ferry providers that has return trips to Mljet. They are normally small ferries, for, like, 100-200 people? Of course it is not something like this..

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Once you reach Mljet, you need to pay an entrance fee and they will take you to a starting point to explore Mljet. Oh, if you were a student, please bring your student card. Especially if you were under 26. You will have student discount almost everywhere in Croatia.

There are two lakes in Mljet, small one and big one. I headed to the big one and there was no one there. Almost no one.

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So there I was, swimming, and swimming, and.. swimming!

A Door to Kotor

During my Croatian trip in Summer 2014, I had a chance to visit other countries as well. Initially I wanted to visit Kotor (Montenegro), Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Apparently I enjoyed my time in Split too much so I did not make the Croatia-Bosnia crossing, and Ljubljana was raining when I was there. But I thank God over and over again that I still had the will to visit Kotor because so far, it is my favourite, favourite destination.

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Kotor is reachable by bus from Dubrovnik. I would say that Dubrovnik is the best door to Kotor as it will only take around 3-4 hours to get there. The seaside view along the is also absolutely stunning. If you have European Residence Card (temporary ones also work) or a Schengen Visa, there should be no problem in the border.

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The old town of Kotor is citadel. Meaning, the town is fortified. You know, there were times when battles were part of everyday life in Europe. One of the best way to attack a region is, apparently, through the sea. It has a nice laid-back vibe. You can hear traditional music played in some cafes around you and people strolled without any rush. In the middle of the way, I found a hiking track to the top of the fortress.

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I simply paid the three euros entrance fee and started hiking. As I walked and walked, the gray sky started to open up. On one side, it is good for my camera and of course, it brought hope for me as in I would not be spending my time in Kotor only sitting somewhere to protect myself from the rain. On the other hand, it made my hike a lot harder. I needed to catch my breath once in a while. But when I reached the view points.. It was worth it.

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Kotor is absolutely impressive. The fortified city, the church in the middle of the hike, the harbour, the mountains, the open sea. It is just perfect.

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And this is what you get from the other side..

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Thanks to this hike, my Dr. Marten’s Boots had their first scar. I guess they are more familiar with soil than with stones.

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But overall, I fell in love with Kotor!

Dancing Soldiers in Korcula

From very late August to mid-September 2014 I travelled around Croatia. Not only to one of its cities, but to almost half of it. You will find other posts about Croatia later. Now I would like to let you know about a cultural performance called the “Moreska Sword Dance.”

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It is said that sword dances are originated from Spain. There were times when a city state in Croatia, Dubrovnik, had close ties with Spain. But now, the sword dance is only practised in the town of Korcula. This is because they use real weapons in the dance, so they must be really careful not to hurt each other, moreover themselves. I guess not many people would risk their life for a dance.

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The story is based on the battle on the Moors. Basically it’s the same old love story between the good and the bad. For what? For a girl. A maiden.

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The dance started gradually. From moderate dances to powerful fights that even made the swords spark fires every time they are pitted against. They formed a circle with the black soldiers (the bad guys) in the middle of the white soldiers (the good guys, dressed mostly in red). There are times when they intentionally pause, or as I would say, strike a pose. But of course, there are also times when they move so intensely my own eyes couldn’t even follow them correctly.

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And, of course, the good guys won.

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Once, to be a part of Moreska was a matter of honor. The weapons and costumes were passed to sons by fathers. Though Korcula was obliterated during World War II, the dance survived as their valuable cultural treasure. You can find out more about this dance here.

And now, the white king may kiss the bride..

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I mean, the maiden!

Flying Kites in Dieppe

On 12-13 September 2014, just after my trip to Croatia, I was assigned by the Embassy of Indonesia in Paris to conduct a musical perfomance in Dieppe, a beachside city to the north of Paris. I will write about how I became an “Impromptu Ambassador” to one of Indonesia’s traditional instrument called “Angklung” another time. That time, it was not a usual cultural performance as I have normally had conducted, but it was going to be an entertainment for an event called “Dieppe International Kite Festival” or “Dieppe festival international de cerf-volant.”

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Shortly, this event can be easily identified by its name. It’s a kite festival. The mayor of Dieppe runs the festival every two years, where kite-flyers from around the globe are invited to come to their city, bring their kites, and fly them.

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In makes a lot of sense because, in this part of France, the wind blows like crazy. Not as crazy as a hurricane but it is more than enough to fly kites. Big kites. As big as a normal adult. Even bigger. Another interesting thing I found in this festival was, they made a complex of wind-driven construction/attraction/whatnot where the visitors can observe how cool winds can be. There were even the interactive ones!

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Beside conducting a show, I was also “accidentally” responsible to serve the visitors who were coming to Indonesia’s booth. I learned new stuff about Indonesian Kites – since I needed to explain them to the visitors – and I love how appreciating the visitors were. Well, take a look at this dragon’s head below..

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..it flies. Believe me. Every single visitor whom I told that this head could fly, along with its body – which is not shown in this photo, – kind of shocked. “It flies?” “No way!” “When will it fly again?” But of course, you need a good wind to fly this kind of thing. Especially, this “becak” kite..

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..it flies, too. “Becak” is actually a traditional Indonesian transportation mode, which is basically a a three-wheeled bike. You can still find becaks in Yogyakarta or other Indonesian touristy cities. Oh, and this one..

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..this, my fellow readers, is a kite. Made completely out of leafs and bamboos. They even created the threads from some kind of very thick leafs. It is called “Kaghati” kite. You can read more about it in this link, or you know, google it. Reputedly, it is stated as the first kite in the world. Quite cool isn’t it?

For the closing night, they held a night flying. Wait, what? Night flying? Yes. And it was also a competition. Each participating country was invited to nominate their best kite to be flown at night. With, of course, lighting on the kite. And this, is the “Barong” kite, the Indonesian Contender.

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And this beautiful, beautiful kite, won the competition! First prize! Woohoo!

Intercultural Lunch in Cap de la Chevre

In late June 2014, in which June is one of the best months in Brittany (or as the French call it “Bretagne”), I had a chance to hike around. It is not easy to hike in Brittany, not because of its difficulty, but more because of its inaccessibility. It is kind of hard to match the bus’ schedule to the hiking durations needed, so a car is kind of… obligatory. Lucky enough I found this group called “Brest Walk and Talk” in Facebook when I was randomly browsing about how to hike in Brittany because, I know that this region is incredibly beautiful in summer.

So I joined the group, led by Cathy, who is apparently an English teacher. Turns out, this group was created as a derivation from the “Brest International” group in which international students/expats in Brest meet every Wednesday or so in a bar, where they can talk to each other in English. So in every hike, there will be different participants from different parts of the world.

My first hike with this group was to Cap de la Chevre and Ile Vierge. I will post about Ile Vierge later. There were numerous participants in this hike as it was summer, so we also have summer interns among us. Me I was in a car with Cathy, a French who is the founder of this group, Olia, a Russian who speaks four languages reaally well (Russian, English, French, and Italian), and Vedant, an Ifremer summer intern from India.

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Along the way we introduced ourselves to each other, talked about the beginning of this group, about our hobbies, and checking out regularly if the other cars are still nearby. Oh, there were about 16 of us, with, like, 5 cars or something? So we were a big group that day. We were Indonesian, French, Russian, Indian, Algerian, Kyrgyz, Syrian, Tunisian, Lebanese, French-Spanish mix, and I lost count.  We arrived to the parking lot, hiked a bit, and voila !

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Mesmerizing, no?

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And this is what you get if you turn to the other side. The true colors of Brittany.

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We hiked a bit more, we ate our lunch, then some of us who was not yet sastisfied went down near the waters, and found this!

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And seriously, how beautiful is this triple layered cake?

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After being somehow satisfied, Cathy told us that we needed to move to the next destination. After arriving, with a car, to the next parking lot…. We kinda got lost.

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But it did not take long. We survived and we reached our very next destination: Ile Vierge!