Categorie archief: How to be an adventurer?

How to plan the Great Glen Canoe trail?

Paddling the Scottish lochs on your own merits? Wildcamping and cooking your own

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Fort William – Inverness

dinner along the way? It sounds like the ultimate Scottish adventure. And in a way, it kinda is!

The Great Glen Canoe Trail connects Fort William with Inverness up North with the aid of the Caledonian canal which connects lochs like Loch Oich, Loch Lochy and Loch Ness in one straight line. A route that allows 95 kilometers of paddling adventure! But how do you plan a canoe or kayak trip of this distance?

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Paddling a loaded canoe

Do I need a guide?

Depends on your sense of adventure. The Great Glen Canoe Trail is no easy paddling route for kayak and canoes, but never reaches the level where you need white water experience.  The degreee of difficulty is mainly determined by the open water of the lochs and the weather that has a great influence on it. Anyone wise enough to stay at shore when the weather is bad and has the patience to wait for better conditions to come, doesn’t need a guide per se. Even if you don’t have paddle experience beforehand. The first ten kilometers are spent on the Caledonian Canal, so you’ll have plenty of practice on your way. With this e-guide you can plan the full adventure on your own.

The best time for this canoe journey is during the summer months when the weather conditions are on their best (on a Scottish level that is). During bad conditions, it’s not uncommon to encounter waves up to three meters on the lochs. Remember, in these conditions it’s better to stay at shore and wait for better weather.

If you were considering to paddle the route in opposite direction, please reconsider. The wind most often is heading from the southwest, so the original route towards Inverness is ideal to have wind behind you. And believe me, wind direction is a key factor in having a great time during your journey.

Ok, I’m convinced! Where do I start planning? 

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Trailblazer rest

A canoe or kayak, paddles, life jackets, barrels… You will need a lot of gear to start your journey.  Your best option is to rent this in Banavie or Corpach, two villages near Fort William. They can offer you a transfer to Neptune’s Staircase, the location where most paddlers embark on their journey. However, there are a few things you shouldn’t forget before launching your vessel: register for a canoe license (free) at http://www.greatglencanoetrail.info and if you require access to facilities such as toilet or shower along the way, you can pay 10 pond for a key.

About the duration of your journey. This is entirely up to you. Fast paddlers may succeed in a 3 day attempt, while less experienced paddlers will need five days for the whole distance. Personally, I recommend doing the route in five days. Even though it’s perfectly doable to complete the trail in four days, you never know which weather to expect and how long you will have to look from shore at huge waves that would capsize your canoe.

I have my gear, but what to expect during this adventure? 

An unique experience. But besides that… tired arms caused by the daily efforts you will need to provide. Starting from Banavie, your first stretch will be a 10 kilometer paddle on the Caledonian Canal, meaning calm water. Ideal for adapting to your canoe and to warm up. During your trip to Inverness, you will encounter a number of locks. These, you can not pass on the water but you’ll have to do a portage. This means a number of actions to fulfill: mooring at the pontoon, unloading your canoe, getting your canoe out of the water and attach it to the trolley, walking a distance with your canoe and gear (possibly more than once before you have moved everything), getting your canoe in the water, loading your canoe and continue your journey. All by all a serious effort and not an easy task for most paddlers.

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Portage to avoid locks

Loading your canoe is best done the same way everytime you do it. Make sure to have a solid system to make sure the balance is right. You may not have thought about it yet, but it’s most likely you will take a huge backpack with your belongings, a spare paddle, a trolley for the portages, and two barrels containing food and gear with you. Make sure everything is attached to your canoe. This way you avoid everything floating off when you capsize.

Study your map carefully every day before you start your stage and take the weather forecast into account. On the lochs you will have to choose a side and stick to it for the whole length. It is not advisable to cross the lochs halfway. So choose a side that is of advantage to you.

The Scottish lochs

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Paddling ‘open water’

There is no doubt you chose the Great Glen Canoe trail because you wanted to paddle over the Scottish lochs. Don’t underestimate these as they are rated as open water because of their size. In different words, paddling is way harder because of the current and waves. You can compare with the sea. So always stay close to shore and never change sides halfway. Capsizing with you canoe on Loch Ness is not only because of the water temperatures not advisable.

Where do I sleep?

This adventure requires a tent. You can camp everywhere on the shores of the lochs, but is strongly suggested to use the provided trailblazer rests. These are spots alongside the trail where you have facilities and a fire pit to warm up every evening near a campfire. But don’t forget not to leave a trace.

Check out my gear list

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Great Glen Canoe Trail
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Detailled map of Day 1. Red dots mark the places where portage is required.

 

Purchase our Great Glen Canoe trail e-guide! 

Great Glen Canoe trail

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An ultimate guide for epic adventures

Five years ago, I went on my first adventure: climbing the Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. Nine months after that I stood on the summit of Mont Blanc and so far I’ve scaled more than ten mountains all over the world. Most recently, I paddled into some of the most remote fjords of Svalbard, encountered beluga whales and polar bears and sailed to the high North. Right now, I’m planning my next big adventure to learn how to scubadive in Belize.

You can do this stuff, too. I’m not a super athlete. I’ve never been that good at sports. In the first 25 years of my life, I didn’t even spend that much time outdoors. I never went backpacking growing up. I didn’t learn to ski until two years ago. By no means am I an expert on these things, but I can do them now, independently. This is to say that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Choose a destination

The destination facilitates the adventure. Go wherever your heart desires. Explore places that inspire you. It doesn’t have to be far. But there is no doubt that doing a hike in Scotland is easier than go on a paddling expedition in Svalbard.

That being said, if you really want an adventure (out of your comfort zone), then you’ll probably have to leave the crowded places behind. Try getting out there. Like way, way out there. You don’t necessarily have to leave the country or go very far, but adventure is an entirely different experience if you go where there are no people.

In 2014, my girlfriend and I did a 200 kilometer hike through the Alps, from Chamonix to Zermatt. Though the first three stages were similar to the famous and well-hiked Tour de Mont Blanc trail, our experience got better when we didn’t see people for days at a time. We saw mountain sceneries only rarely seen by other hikers.

The same can be said about my recent trip to Svalbard. While the area is definitely remote and takes some effort to reach, once you’re there, it’s not too difficult to venture out on your own and get the experience of being totally alone in one of the world’s most incredible environments. What makes that place particularly unique? 60 percent of the surface being glaciers that spill directly into the sea, impressive peaks all around and lots of wildlife. Everywhere you look, whales are breaching, taking in new air to breathe. Polar foxes and Svalbard reindeer will visit your camp every night, and you might even catch a glimp of the mighty polar bear. There are no roads outside the villages, so to move around the fjords, you must take a boat or do like I did and paddle. The experience is larger than life. As a result, it makes you feel incredibly small.

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Choose an activity

In many ways, your activity will depend on your location. Scubadiving in Svalbard or Greenland might not be the best of ideas, but most of the times, your interest in a particular destination will go along with the activities you can do.

Any mountain range in the world will provide nearly endless opportunities for adventure, whether it’s climbing snowy slopes or steep ice and rock, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, or even paragliding. Rivers running through remote regions are best to be crossed by paddling. Or do you love rainforests and tropical waters, then why not scuba dive and see the underwater world?

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Do your research

Let’s say you have chosen your destination and activity. Now it’s time to start doing research to make sure your adventure stays safe.

When to go?

When is the best time to go on this adventure? Maybe you want to go a bit earlier or a bit later to avoid the crowds? But will the weather be stable enough?

Plan your route

Planning your route is a must if you want to explore a remote region. Buy some maps or look for an online map to figure out exactly where you want to go. There are some programs and apps that can help you with this.

Getting there and getting back

Transportation can sometimes be one of the hardest logistical challenges you will face while preparing your trip. Can you use public transportation, will you need to rent a car or are none of the options available? If the journey there will be extend over multiple days, will you need to sleep in places along the way? Can you stay in an Airbnb, mountain cabin or will you use your tent?

Planning your adventure can be quite challenging. When we traveled to Finland in 2015 we thought we were well prepared only to find out that none of the information on the internet was correct. After this I’ve started writing adventure e-guides to help everyone planning their trip. These adventure e-guides will provide all the information you need to plan your next adventure.

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Sort your gear

Going on a day hike will require less gear than going on a multiple day expedition. Still, making a list of all the gear you need and not bring too much is quite tricky. On my first expedition on the Kilimanjaro, I brough way too much food, so even though we had porters available, I still had too carry a heavy backpack. Carrying too much is a mistake everyone makes and making the perfect gear list is a process you will learn while going on adventures.

To get started, create a list organised by category. Your first category should be the Big Three (shelter, sleeping and kitchen), clothing, activity-specific items, electronics and miscellaneous. You can add the brand, weight and quantity to every item.

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Solve problems before you go

When going on an adventure, problems will arise. Some of them you could solve even before they occur. This can be as simple as creating a kit to make field repairs on your gear (patches for sleeping pads, cleaning kits for your cooking stove, duct tape to fix everything else) or packing backups in case a critical item totally fails.

Be flexible

Having an adventure means you sometimes have to be flexible. When my girlfriend and I are on an adventure, we also like to say that it’s not an adventure if everyhting goes as planned. Some things you have no control over. Bad weather, lost luggage on your way over or gear breakdown can be a good reason to change your original plans. Don’t feel disappointed if your adventure isn’t going as it should have. Most times, these are the best stories to share afterwards. Our best stories are when we had to come up with a whole different last stage during La Haute Route in the Alps, had to improvise on food while in the wilderness of Finland or when we didn’t had a place to stay and ended up in the house of our mountain guide and his friends in the Italian Alps.

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Adventure is out there

How to get high? Some advice on high altitude mountaineering

Your passport doesn’t have to say Reinhold Messner to have ambitions in high altitude mountaineering. These expeditions are no crazy feats performed by modern supermen. No, I’m no superman myself, but just a regular guy who had the ambition of climbing. Here’s some advice before you go on your first high altitude mountaineering expedition.

Danger: Acute Mountain Sickness

Participating a high altitude mountaineering expedition means I’ll be risking getting disorientated, being hypothermic, lose a toe or two or even worse, right? Not necessarily. The real threat of spending lots of time in thin air is Acute Mountain Sickness.

Symptoms

The higher you get, the less oxygen there is in the air. The effects of this range from:

  • Making any effort feel twice as hard.
  • Bad headaches.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Interrupted sleep.

Right up to:

  • Loss of rational thought
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Fluid on the brains or lungs (known as cerebral and pulmonary oedemas respectively) which can result in death.

Your body can slowly adapt to the lack of oxygen but circumstances can limit the amount of time to do so and some people simply do not adapt well.

How to adapt to thin air? 

Some symptoms – like shortness of breath and a mild headache – are common but should pass. Here are a few tips on how to make sure these symptoms are not worsening.

  • Climb High, Sleep Low

A basic rule of thumb for climbing above 3,000-metres is to end each day no more than 300-metres higher than where you started and to take a day off for every 900m you ascend. It’s also best to climb a bit higher than the altitude you intend to stay. This accelerates the acclimatization process.

  • Train Hard

While suffering mountain sickness has nothing to do with your fitness level, training hard at sea level may train your heart and lungs train for altitude.

  • Go slow

No climber with a lack of fitness performs well on high altitude. Train hard at home and don’t be a macho when in the mountains. Mountaineering is not a race but it’s a marathon. Underexercise while climbing to avoid losing too much energy.

  • Drink a lot!

Drinking lots of water is one of the best ways to avoid mountain sickness. Cold water might not be your favorite thing when climbing, so drinking lots of tea is a good option. Avoid drinking alcohol since this is a diuretic.

In case it goes wrong

If symptoms are showing, you should be careful about proceeding your expedition. While having a headache might be caused by not being adjusted to thin air yet, you shouldn’t get higher up the mountain untill it has disappeared. If symptoms are persisting or worsening, you should descend immediately. In most cases, symptoms are disappearing when descending 300-600 meters.

In case of loss of rational thoughts and fluid on the brain and lungs, evacuation by descending the mountain should happen as fast as possible. Make sure you have an evacuation plan ready before this situation occurs.

Death Zone

The Death Zone basically is a term used for anything higher than 8000 meters. This is the zone where humans can’t survive for a long time because there is not enough air to breath. On top of Everest there is only 30% of the oxygen we normally breath at sea level. For this reason most people use oxygen bottles from this stage.

Camping at high altitude

Camping at high altitude is not like camping near a lake. The conditions high up on the mountain are quite tough and can be life-threatening if you are unexperienced.

  • Tent pegs are useless

If the ground is frozen solid, there is not much use of tent pegs, right? I don’t even carry them with me anymore when going on a mountain expedition. The alternative is to use rocks as a way to anchor your tent. Or use a snow anchor.

  • Get yourself a good sense of humor

Bad weather might get you tentbound for days or even weeks. Sitting in your small tent on a high altitude camp with your climbing partner on nearly four square meters is not quite comfortable. So be sure you’ve got yourself a good sense of humor to overcome the difficulties.

  • Wind

High winds are common, so when putting up your tent, be sure to choose a good spot. Make sure no wind can get under your tent, since this is how tents fly. If you’re camping on snow, you can build a wall.

  • Allow longer times for boiling water because of decreased air pressure

 

Do you have some more tips when going on a high altitude mountain expedition? Feel free to share them in the comments. 

 

How to see the Basking Shark?

 

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the ocean, after the whale shark. They have an average length of 6.7 – 8.8 meters. They have a torpedo-like body shape and  prefer to ‘bask’ in the upper layers of the water, which can give you quite a fright when all you see is the dorsal fin gliding through the sea.

They can be found in temperate seas the world over, including the Irish coastline

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Distribution map of Basking shark

 

When to see the basking shark in Ireland? 

It’s hard to say when the exact period is since there are always early and late sightings, but basically basking shark season in Ireland starts in April and runs through to early August. Peak of the season is mid May to mid June, giving fantastic opportunities to spot them.

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Ideal basking shark weather

Having calm weather after a period of sunny days in May or June are your best chances to spot the basking shark. When the seas are calm, it is easier to see the tell-tale dorsal fin breaking the water surface. Besides that, fine weather gives a boost to the phytoplankton production, which in turn increases the concentration of zooplankton at the water’s surface, attracting the sharks up to feed.

Where to see the basking sharks in Ireland?

Basking sharks live wherever there is an aggregation of the zooplankton they feed on and can occur anywhere around the Irish coastline during the spring and summer months. However, there are a few hotspots that will raise your chances. From the south coast of West Cork to the Western coastline in Kerry, the North West coast of Mayo, Sligo and Donegal (Malin Head).

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Basking shark in Ireland. Best hotspot: south of the Blasket Islands (Slea Head)

The best place in Ireland to see the basking shark however is near the Blaskets Islands on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula (Slea Head). Anywhere with a good view over a large expanse of water is suitable. Headlands, such as Slea Head, are ideal, as they give an expansive view of the open ocean. Basking sharks are often seen at the surface of the water, so bays and inlets with shallow water are an option as well. For this reason, the bay near Wine strand is a good spot as well.

How to see them? 

There are several options to see the basking shark. Since they venture very close to the shore and follow the aggregations of zooplankton it is possible to see them from the beach. Even better if you choose a watching site above sea level.

To improve your odds of spotting a basking shark, you can opt to join a eco-boat tour, starting in Dingle harbour. The most adventurous option however, is to get yourself a kayak and venture on the waters on your own.

Tips to spot the basking shark: 

Spotting a basking shark requires a lot of patience. Scan the water surface methodically  looking for tell-tale signs of shark activity — here are some things to look out for:

  • Flashes of sunlight: The black dorsal fin of the basking shark is very shiny when wet. On sunny days, this fin can work like a mirror.
  • Diving gannets: Diving gannets gather over shoals of fish they feed on. This type of fish often eat the same plankton that basking sharks are feeding on — so the birds are a good indirect indicator that there could be sharks around.
  • Tidal fronts: In places where warm water meets cooler water, a tidal front causes an oily slick of water off a headland or at the mouth of a bay. These fronts attract plankton, the basking shark often feeds on.

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Hoe boek je tickets voor de Transsiberian Express?

De Transsiberian Express is een treinreis van meer dan 9000 kilometer die wereldwijd faam geniet. Vanuit Moskou doorkruis je Rusland tot in Irkutsk en Vladivostok. Daarnaast zijn er ook twee internationale lijnen die leiden naar Peking (China) en Ulaanbataar (Mongolië).

Hoe boek je tickets?

Moskou – Vladivostok

Om tickets te boeken voor de Transsiberian Express die van Moskou naar Vladivostok reist, kun je makkelijk op voorhand tickets kopen. Als je wat meer vrijheid wil, kun je ter plaatse in Rusland naar het station gaan om een treinticket te kopen voor eender welke binnenlandse trein, dus ook de Transsiberian. Je hebt enkel je paspoort nodig. Dit is uiteraard de goedkoopste manier.

Om misverstanden en de taalbarrière te vermijden kun je echter beroep doen op een agentschap die alles voor je uitklaart en regelt. Dit is echt aan te raden als je geen Russisch spreekt.

Moskou – China of Mongolië

Wie treintickets wil kopen om van Rusland naar een Aziatisch land te reizen, kan dit enkel doen in Rusland zelf. Het alternatief is een reisagentschap contacteren die de tickets voor je bestelt.

Meer informatie over  de verschillende treinen, de vertrekdata en de prijzen vind je op deze website.

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Hoe plan je de West Highland Way?

Tijdens onze informatiesessies op de Fiets- en Wandelbeurs in Gent kregen we talloze vragen over het wandelen van de West Highland Way. Net daarom willen we nog even onze tips meedelen.

Wie de West Highland Way zelfstandig wil plannen kan onze praktische e-guide downloaden. Met deze gids krijg je een antwoord op al je vragen.

Is de West Highland Way iets voor mij? 

Zowel de afstand (155 kilometer), het eenvoudige terrein als de verschillende mogelijkheden om de tocht af te leggen zorgen ervoor dat de West Highland Way een trektocht is die iedereen kan bekoren. Of je nu een ervaren wandelaar bent of het de allereerste keer is dat je een meerdaagse tocht wil afleggen.

Hoe lang doe je over de West Highland Way? 

Dat hangt in feite af van hoe lang je het zelf wil. Sommigen kiezen ervoor om de tocht af te leggen in vijf dagen, andere in negen. De gemiddelde wandelaar doet er zo’n zeven dagen over. Hiermee houden we dan zelfs al rekening met reizigers die nog geen ervaring hebben met het wandelen van trektochten. De West Highland Way is immers een ideale introductie in de wandelwereld. 

Waar kun je overnachten? 

Voor wie het wat comfortabeler mag, is er tijdens deze Schotse trektocht de mogelijkheid om voortdurend in B&B of hostels te verblijven. Schotland is echter ook een van de weinige landen waar je mag wildkamperen, dus ook wie eerder op zoek is naar de wilderniservaring kan met zijn tent de tocht afleggen.

Welke periode is het best voor de West Highland Way?

Verrassend genoeg raden we de zomermaanden juli en augustus af. Waarom? De voornaamste reden zijn de midges, een vervelende muggensoort die je wandelvakantie kan ver****en. Onderschat deze muggen niet. Ze zijn niet vergelijkbaar met de soort die we hier kennen. Een andere reden kan zijn omdat de zomermaanden vaak iets natter zijn. Hoewel regen bijna onvermijdbaar is wanneer je naar Schotland trekt, kun je uiteraard altijd de kansen in je voordeel vergroten.

Wie meer info wil omtrent het plannen van de West Highland Way kan ons altijd contacteren of onze praktische e-guide downloaden

Van plan om de beklimming van de Ben Nevis of de Great Glen Canoe toe te voegen aan je reis door Schotland? Onze andere e-guides vind je hier

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Ghosthunt: not just for Halloween

Haunted Rooms

Last year we participated in a real ghost hunt vigil and stayed at Britain’s most haunted castle to finally have an answer to the same old question: ‘Are ghosts for real?’ Unfortunately, it left us behind with only more doubts. Are these vigils a scam? We don’t believe so. With Halloween only a few days away, it’s time for a reflection.

We joined a professional group of ghost hunters in Liverpool to check out the Newsham Park Hospital, an abandoned asylum that formerly was used as an orphanage. With room for 400 orphans and later 400 patients, inside it is a truly decayed scene with the assembly hall, a chilling mortuary, a warren of corridors (the notorious ‘naughty boys corridor’ where children were punished), dormitories, nine psychiatric wards, winding staircases with anti-suicide grills and treatment rooms. Rusting broken beds and wheelchairs still lie scattered around. Spending a night keeping vigil turned our sceptic look at things into doubts as we did witness some strange behaviour in the building. Moving items, succesful table tipping sessions, … Do we believe in ghosts now? No, not yet, but we won’t be claiming it’s all fake either. Joining a professional ghost hunt or vigil is not a scam in our opinion. It’s a way for them to raise enough money to ‘rent’ an evening in a big haunted location they want to investigate. Something they could not do if it wasn’t for the many enthusiastics who want to experience a ghost encounter.

Ghost hunting. Not just on Halloween.

You would think these organized ghost hunts are just a creepy way of spending Halloween but no. Ghost hunts are a real phenomenon in the UK and there are dozens of haunted locations all over the country. Ghost hunters really do believe in paranormal activity (or they are really good actors!). Ok, sometimes they are overexited when some activity is perfectly explainable by a wind gust or airborne dust. But still…

We did check if these ghost appearances were fake by spending a night in Britains most haunted castle: Chillingham Castle. We booked a room which was claimed to be haunted and checked for ourselves. Again strange noises at night (while the castle was abandoned) and a bizarre phone call (while there was no reception) made our experience not much more than a story without explanation. We promised that day that we would come back again for another ghost hunt.

If you’re interested in having your own vigil, here are a few things you need to know:

  • Location, location, location

Ghosts can be found in pretty much every location. Allthough abandoned buildings with some history often do the trick to encounter some spirits.  From lost souls to murder victims, playful spirits to angry ones. Don’t trespass but get permission for keeping vigil.

  • Don’t go alone

Bring some friends with you. They are not only an extra pair of eyes and ears but are a safer option since you’re exploring an old, secluded building that could be structurally unsafe. You never know if you need some help. You may also want to share the experience with a team and have other people there to verify any sightings. You should also tell other people where you are going, and if possible, take a mobile phone.

  • Be prepared

Once you have decided on the location, it is wise to explore first in daytime. Make a map of the hazardous places and pinpoint the spot(s) you want to investigate. Also do your research on the location. Find out as much as possible about the ghost(s) you may encounter. When do they appear? Where have they been spotted? Are they vocal?

  • Talk to the spirits like they are living people

Don’t forget these ghosts were people once too and you are on their property now. Introduce yourself and ask permission to take pictures and be on their property.  Invite them to be in your photos.  If they respond in any way to requests, thank them.  When you leave, thank them for having you.

  • Follow your instincts when taking photos

If you feel you need to take a picture in a certain direction, take it.  Take pictures behind you over your shoulder.  Take as many photos as you can. The more pictures you take the better chance you will have catching something strange.

  • Have proper equipment with you

If you experience paranormal activity, you’re going to want proof and that means having the right equipment for the job. A digital camera and voice recorder is standard stuff. Make sure the batteries are charged and you have spare ones with you. Pen and paper are also interesting for taking notes on anything abnormal such as changes in temperature, flickering lights and unexplained noises.

Another piece of equipment, widely used by professional ghost hunters, is an EMF metre. Spirits can be detected by interrupting or creating their own electromagnetic fields and EMF metres can detect extremely weak static, electric and magnetic fields. Most ghosthunters also take a thermometer, laser grid, motion detectors and ghost box with them for capturing anything paranormal.

  • Ask a lot of questions

It’s advisable to ask a lot of questions as if you know the ghosts are there. ‘What is your name?’, is better than, ‘Is there anyone there?’.

You want to spend your next Halloween not watching Paranormal Activity or Poltergeist? Why not keep vigil in one of Britains most haunted places? You can book one of the events on hauntedrooms.co.uk. They offer ghost hunts all year round.

Tips for interrailing in Europe

US citizens, Asians or even South American travelers tend to travel through Europe in one big trip. To do this, interrailing might be one of the best ways to discover the more than 30 countries, hundreds of cities and even more villages. Here are some tips for travelers seeking the ultimate European adventure. 

Maybe you are planning on traveling through Europe on a budget this summer. In that case, chances are big that you’re exploring the continent by railway. You can combine the sunny French Mediterranean coast with culturally rich cities in Eastern Europe or remote wilderness places in Scandinavia. Or what about alpine villages in the Swiss Alps?

DON’T TAKE TOO MUCH LUGGAGE WITH YOU

When traveling with railways it’s better to keep your luggage to a minimum. In fact a simple backpack should do the trick. It’s easiest to carry while traveling across a continent. Just take some clothes, money, your passport  and a tootbrush with you and that’s all you need.

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Paris, easy to reach by railway
CONSIDER YOUR BUDGET DRASTICALLY

Europe is expensive. In fact, it might be one of the most expensive continents in the world. Eventhough there is a difference between traveling in Eastern Europe (cheap) and Northern Europe (expensive). But still.. pretty expensive. The main part of your budget will go to food, transport and accommodation. A tip to find cheap accommodation is using Airbnb. You can find rooms at decent prices AND you’re staying with local folks.

Register via the link above and earn 30$ travel credit.

LEARN A FEW BASIC WORDS OF EVERY LANGUAGE

Europe has a lot of countries and unlike continents such as North America and South America, there are a lot of different languages. It might be wise to learn some of the basic words of every one of them. Just to make sure you’re able to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Thank you’ in their native language.

TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE

When planning a route the website will most often show you the quickest way to get from point A to point B. But sometimes there’s another route that might take a bit longer, but the view out of the window makes it well worth the extra travel time. Europe has a lot of scenic train journeys to choose from. The Flåm Railway between Oslo and Bergen, the West Highland Line, Fort William to Mallaig or Bernina Express between Chur and Tirano. You can read more in our post about ‘Scenic railway journeys in Europe‘.

PLAN YOUR ROUTE…but keep room for adventure
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Get a view at the Matterhorn while traveling with the train

It would be real adventurous to go on an interrail journey without planning anything. It would be expensive too. The internet is a great source to compare cheap accommodation, train fares in promotion, etc…

USE INTERRAIL PASSES

Another reason why you should plan your route at least a little bit in advance is to make use of interrail passes. These let you travel through Europe or some countries with one single (more beneficial) ticket. But it would be stupid to buy a pass for the whole of Europe if you’re only going to end up visiting a few countries.

If you’re a European resident, then go straight for the InterRail Pass – you can choose between a ‘Global Pass’, a single ticket valid in 30 different countries, or a ‘country pass’, allowing unlimited travel in your specified country. However, if you are a non-EU citizen, you’ll need to look out for a Eurail Pass.

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Jacobite scenic train journey, Scotland
DON’T TRY TO SEE TOO MUCH

The huge network of train lines and relatively small distances make it easy to whizz between cities and countries.If you’re in Milaan you could be in Venice, Geneva, Turin or Paris in a matter of hours. It’s tempting to see all these cities. Although it’s a rail trip, you do probably want to see more than the inside of a carriage!

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SMALLER PLACES

Paris, London, Barcelona, Geneva, Stockholm, Berlin… and so on. There are plenty of cities in Europe worth a visit. Cityhopping from one main city to another will make you miss alot of beautiful places. Think about places like Chamonix, Bruges or tiny Scottish villages alongside the West Highland Way.

Do you still have some tips for travelers who are planning an interrail trip through Europe? 

 

 

 

 

 

Solo Female Travel: Cuba

It’s not always easy finding a travel partner. None of your friends has been bitten by the travel bug and your online search ended without results. Putting your travel plans on hold or take the big step and travel the world solo? My mind was set. Cuba it is.

Out of Linsay’s travel journal

Staying at home or searching for a destination to travel solo. It was a dilemma that

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Cuba

haunted me for months while my boyfriend planned his trip to Argentina to climb the Aconcagua. I had no interest in a physically demanding holiday so I had little choice. Or I stayed at home for three weeks, waiting till he got back, or I would plan my own trip and make use of the occasion by traveling solo for the first time. My mind was set on Cuba, probably the most popular destination at the moment. Solo traveling was an experience I had never had before. ‘Is it safe?’, is a question I was asked many times before leaving. It was a question I didn’t have an answer to… yet.

Here are a few tips for female solo travelers in Cuba:

  • Stay in a casa particular. These casas give a taste of the real Cuban life and are a cheap alternative for the expensive hotels. A typical room in a casa has four beds, even when traveling solo. Sharing a room with people you meet while traveling could save you some more money.
  • Cuba has two different currencies. The national currency (MN) and the CUC (for tourists only). The CUC is about 24 times more expensive than the one Cubans use. It is advisable to have both. All products aiming at tourists will be priced in CUC. However, if you want to eat on a budget, find some restaurant where the menu is printed in their own currency and pay in MN.
  • Negotiate everything. In Cuba other rules apply. If you travel across Cuba and always pay what they ask you will end up telling your friends that Cuba isn’t that cheap as they say. Or.. you play by the rules of the country, negotiate about everything and last but not least… know that you set the price. When you receive a bill that is simply too much, shake your head and offer less. Guaranteed succes.
  • Cuba is a popular travel destination. Solo travelers wandering through the coloured streets of Havana will not be alone for too long. Not only are the Cubans extremely social people but you will meet fellow travelers to spend a day with quite soon. In my own experience, I only spend five(!) minutes alone in Havana before ending up with a German backpackster.
  • Never pay in advance. Like this you will avoid that the taxi driver drops you on a different location and doesn’t want to refund you. Or that you leave your casa earlier than planned but the owners already spent the money.
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    Casa Particular

    Transport yourself with collectivo’s. 

  • These American oldtimers can be considered as the true taxis, collecting people with a single destination. For this ride you negotiate the price in advance.

As a solo traveler in Cuba you are an easy victim to get trapped in the tricks of the Cubans who are after your money. Here are some anecotes to get how things work over here.

Imagine walking through a forest where you notice a money tree. On the ground there are two notes of 50$. You pick them up and you shake the tree. Again, two notes fall off the tree. What do you do? Pick them up and leave? No. You keep shaking the tree till nothing falls off anymore. This is how Cubans look at tourists. Cubans know different kinds of tricks to make tourists pay for everything. (source: CubaConga)

 

ex. 1 To travel to Vinales I used the service of a collectivo. I negotiated the price and persuaded the driver to get me to my destination for 15 CUC. ‘Do me a favor.’, he asks me. ‘Don’t tell what you paid me to the next two girls who will get in. They do pay me 30 CUC’

 

ex. 2 You take a taxi to your casa. The driver is searching and searching but claims he does not know your casa or he doesn’t find it. But he does know another casa. A better one. It’s one of the many tricks applied in Cuba. When a Cuban recommends you something, be sure he gets paid a commission by what he recommends. Besides, your casa will be more expensive since his commission is paid by what you pay the casa. And the casa you had planned in advance? He probably did know it.

Cubans are macho. Do not fear that you will be dressed too sexy and like that will be provocative to them. Chances are big you cannot match the sexy dressing style of Cuban women. No doubt you will receive compliments while traveling solo as a woman during your trip. Often with no harm intended. If they are annoyant, just make it clear to them and if necessary, be angry.

Traveling in Cuba is learning to deal with Cubans. After having traveled for three weeks across the country I did not only boost my confidence, but met a lot of new friends and started loving the country. A country some much more than just cigares and oldtimers. An experience worth repeating. Allthough my boyfriend will think differently.

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Traveling solo in Cuba

How to capture your adventure with GoPro?

Any traveler wants to capture his adventure with a GoPro to keep his memories alive or to share his experiences. When mountaineering, cycling, diving or skydiving it might be clear that capturing your actions is somewhat more challenging than posing for a selfie.

I’ve been on adventures many times, always packing my GoPro as I go. Still I have to admit, taking footage of my adventures wasn’t always easy and I will try to share my experience by giving the best tips on creating top quality adventure videos.

1. Keep your lens clean

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Vespa in Rome

This might be a basic rule but nonetheless it’s the most common mistake travelers make when shooting their video. Snow, fingerprints or water drops are obstacles that might ruin your golden moment. When filming underwater one of the tricks is to lick the lens and wait for it to dry before using it.

2. Choose the best lighting

Photographers will agree. There are two ideal times to shoot: early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The sun is low in the sky and shadows are reduced creating more cinematic moments. Sunny days are best for making videos.

3. Have a story to tell

When you start your video project, don’t just shoot random footage. Know how your video will look like even before you start. Think about the beginning, middle and ending. About the story you will tell. This will save you a huge amount of time when editing and your video will be more professional and more powerful. Extra tip: plan for the unexpected. Unplanned moments are often the most valuable for your video.

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Paddling in Sweden

4. Get creative with shooting angles

Think of the best angle to use when capturing your adventure. Should you hold your camera high or low? To help you use the best angles, there are different kind of mounts you can buy.

5. Save Battery Life

Battery life often is the main disadvantage with every GoPro but it’s getting better with every release. Still, your camera batteries are very likely to run out when you’re on an adventure. A usb compatible solar panel can save you on those moments or you can bring some extra batteries. To save your battery it’s wise to turn off the wifi.

6. Be creative and invest in GoPro Mounts

GoPro has a lot of mounts and accessoiries that are useful to travelers willing to capture their adventure. It is wise to invest in some of these that could be meaningful to you.

Some of the extras are:

GoPro pole

This is one of the items I wouldn’t travel without. Especially when you’re traveling solo or if you want to jump into your own frame this is one must-have.

Chest Harness

The Chesty makes it easy to capture  video and photos while skiing, mountain biking, motocross, paddle sports or any activity where you want a more engaging, lower-than-the-helmet view of the action. You’ll capture more of your arms, knees, poles and skis while skiing—and more of your arms and handlebars while biking or riding your motorcycle.

Floating Hand Grip

The handler is a buoyant grip that is best used for underwater activities. It’s ideal for shooting selfies, POV or follow-cam while diving. When losing grip of it, your GoPro isn’t lost in Davy Jones’ Locker.

GoPro Head strap

The GoPro head strap is ideal for activities such as cycling, mountaineering or even skydiving. It is perfect for capturing videos in own perspective and will show show people what you see through your eyes.

3D Robotics Solo Drone

If you want top action adventure views shot from the air than this might your new favorite toy. The 3D Robotics Solo Drone is one of the very best drones giving you the possibility to fly and shoot videos with a video game-style controller.

ONECOL (1)GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition is one the very best action cameras on the market. You can buy these online for 449.99 (USD).