Tagarchief: travel

Kalaw to Inle Lake trekking

‘Hi, I’m Phyo and I’ll be your guide for the next three days.’ Een kleine jonge man met een bol gezicht en een rieten hoed op zijn hoofd komt naast me staan. Zijn brede glimlach typeert zijn gezicht. Net als bij de meeste Birmezen trouwens. Het levert hem meteen punten op bij zijn groep als hij al de eerste grapjes begint boven te halen. ‘What’s that on your shirt?’, wijst hij naar mijn t-shirt waarna hij zijn vinger omhoog tegen mijn neus duwt zodra ik naar beneden kijk. De toon is gezet en ook ik heb het gevoel er een goede vriend aan over te houden.

Het typeert de vriendelijkheid en gastvrijheid van de Burmese bevolking. Diezelfde gastvrijheid zullen we de komende drie dagen mogen meemaken tijdens onze driedaagse trektocht van Kalaw naar Inle Lake als we langs verschillende dorpen passeren waar traditionele stammen nog steeds hun tradities in ere houden. Iedereen die naar Kalaw reist, heeft maar een doel: een trektocht maken richting Inle Lake. Wie hier ook maar even in de drukke straten ronddwaalt kan er dan ook niet naast kijken. Overal worden tochten aangeboden door trekkingsorganisaties. Linsay en ikzelf kozen ervoor om met een kleine groep de tocht af te leggen, uit vrees dat het anders te druk zou worden. We zouden al snel leren dat dit nog steeds veel drukker is, dan wat we vaak gewoon zijn als we reizen. De eerste twee dagen zijn er nog verschillende routes maar op dag drie wandelen alle organisaties op dezelfde paden de laatste kilometers naar het meer.

Geen tent, geen slaapzak en geen kookgerei. We hadden deze keer dan ook genoeg met een kleine rugzak om de komende drie dagen te overbruggen. ‘Dit zijn de enige schoenen die ik mee heb op reis.’, zei een Duitse jonge backpacker terwijl hij wees naar zijn kraaknette schoenen. ‘Ik wil dat ze de trektocht overleven.’ Het geniepige lachje die op het gezicht van Phyo verscheen verraadde dat de kans op propere schoenen wel erg klein was. ‘Follow me.’, zei hij vol enthousiasme terwijl hij met zijn armen zwaaide.

Slapen boven de waterbuffels

Eens uit de drukke straten van Kalaw bevinden we ons               al erg snel tussen de rijstvelden. Modderige paden (een goed begin voor onze Duitse backpacker) leiden tot aan de rand van een rijstveld waar een lokale boer bezig is met zijn gewassen. Het zou geen ongewoon zicht zijn de komende dagen. De kronkelige paden leiden ons de eerste uren door een dicht bos en na zo’n 21 kilometer stappen komen we aan bij onze eerste slaapplaats voor de avond. Een rieten huis bestaande uit twee verdiepingen waarbij we zelf boven de waterbuffels slapen. ‘Waar slaapt de familie die hier woont dan?’, vraag ik Phyo. ‘Die slapen nu gewoon elders omdat jullie er zijn.’, antwoordt hij. De vele toeristen die deze trekking doen, zijn een belangrijke bron van inkomsten voor de lokale bevolking langs de trail. Ondanks het feit dat we eigenlijk peanuts (omgerekend 45$) betalen voor drie dagen inclusief gids, eten en overnachtingen.

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Careful, slippery!

In totaal leggen we zo’n 61 kilometer af in drie dagen, een afstand die goed te doen is voor ervaren trekkers, al denken onze groepsgenoten daar anders over. Ondanks de vele pauzes die we nemen, waar we telkens thee en koekjes krijgen voorgeschoteld, is een klaagzang bij sommigen een echte must. Het gebrek aan deftige wandelschoenen en het regenweer die we rond de middag van de twee de dag krijgen te verduren, doet daar geen goed aan. Integendeel, heel wat slippartijen zorgen voor een wel erg modderige outfit, maar als we onze Duitse hiker met zijn sandalen dertig centimeter in de chocoladestroom zien verdwijnen, kunnen we een lach toch niet onderdrukken. ‘Careful, slippery!, waarschuwt Phyo voor de zoveelste keer met een lachje, waarbij hij amper kan verbergen dat hij geniet van de onhandige manoeuvres van onze groep. Hoe vaak enkele jonge reizigers ook mogen vloeken als ze voor de zoveelste keer een verkeerde stap zetten, uitglijden of zelfs een spinnenweb in hun gezicht krijgen, even vaak genieten ze van de prachtige groene heuvels van het berglandschap.

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Het leven langs de spoorlijn

Treinsporen

Gelukkig kunnen we voor het laatste stuk de glibberige trail even inruilen voor de spoorweg. Deze lijn van Thazi naar Nyaung Shwe nabij Inle Lake werd indertijd aangelegd door de Britten en wordt tot op vandaag gebruikt door een wel erg langzame trein die we enkele dagen later zouden terugnemen richting Thazi. Net door het trage tempo van de trein heeft de lokale bevolking er geen problemen mee om dicht bij de spoorweg te wonen. De treinreizigers zijn immers hun doelgroep voor het verkopen van hun etenswaren. Eens bij onze slaapplaats aangekomen, vinden we opnieuw een authentieke slaapplaats terug. Een houten vloer waar een bamboemat op ligt en een wel erg dunne matras.

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Inle Lake

Een koude douche (lees: ton met water) in het dorp heeft ons deugd gedaan en gelukkig blijven we de laatste dag gespaard van meer regenweer. Niet veel later betalen we 10 dollar admission fee voor het Inle Lake gebied. Al gauw wandelen via een dirt road tussen het struikachtige gewas met in de achtergrond onze bestemming: Inle Lake. De voorbije drie dagen hebben we het authentieke leven in Myanmar kunnen ervaren (met alle ongemakken van dien), maar daar komt hier een eind aan. Inle Lake is wellicht het meest toeristische gebied van Myanmar, vooral vanwege de tot de verbeelding sprekende Inthavissers.

Zonder twijfel zorgde onze gids Phyo er op zijn eentje voor dat de Kalaw naar Inle Lake trekking het hoogtepunt van onze reis werd. Wil je dezelfde trektocht doen met hem als gids (aanrader!), dan kun je dit boeken via zijn website.

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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

Op zoek naar het Ierse geluk

Het land van de groene heuvels, steile kliffen, eeuwenoude kasteelruïnes en de mythische leprechauns. Je raadt meteen welk land we kozen als allereerste reisbestemming van dit jaar. Nee, we gingen niet op zoek naar de pot goud op het einde van de regenboog maar wel naar indrukwekkende landschappen en een stevige portie avontuur uiteraard.

Met onze VW minibus de ferry op

Alsof het landschap in Ierland nog niet groen genoeg is, reisden we vanuit Cherbourg met onze olijfgroen gekleurde Volkswagen T2 dormobile uit 1974. Ierland zou de komende twee weken vooral een eerste trial worden voor onze oldtimer bus.

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Eens aangekomen in Rosslare trokken we naar Lough Hyne, een klein meer in het zuidwesten van de provincie Cork. Het meer is uniek omdat het via Barloge Creek door een klein kanaal dat bekend staat als The Rapids, verbonden wordt met de Atlantische oceaan. Het getij zorgt ervoor dat je tweemaal per dag vanaf Lough Hyne de Atlantische oceaan kunt bereiken. Het was dus wachten tot de volgende ochtend vooraleer we onze kajak in het water dropten en begonnen te peddelen. Het fantastische weer zorgde ervoor dat we een eerste indrukwekkend zicht op de kliffen van de Ierse kust kregen.

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Kajakken langs de Ierse kust
Wild Atlantic Way

Een kajaktochtje op de Atlantische oceaan en een verkenning in een zeegrot later stonden we terug op de oevers van Lough Hyne. De komende dagen zouden we al rondrijdend met onze VW bus doorbrengen op Beara Peninsula, Killarney en de Ring of Kerry, allen onderdeel van de Wild Atlantic Way, een 2500 kilometer lange kustroute die tot de mooiste ter wereld behoort. En met het goede weer dat voorspeld wordt, zou het die naam zeker eer aan doen. Maar ons hoogtepunt op het schiereiland Iveragh zou letterlijk en figuurlijk de beklimming van Carrauntoohill worden. Vreemd genoeg was het zoeken naar het beginpunt moeilijker dan de beklimming zelf (al had onze teleurstellende gps daar veel mee te maken).

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With our VW minibus along the Wild Atlantic Way
De reuzenhaaien van Dingle

Wat voor weer wordt het? Een vraag die je iedere dag moet stellen wanneer je door het regenachtige Ierland reist en waar volgens een Ier die we ontmoetten op Dingle maar één antwoord op is: “s’Ochtends je gordijnen open trekken en kijken.” Het weer op Ierland is zo wisselvallig dat het amper in te schatten is. Helaas zagen we eens op Dingle de keerzijde van ons klavertje vier. Net nu we dichter bij onze twee grootste avonturen kwamen: kajakken voor de Cliffs of Moher en kajakken op het uiterste punt van Dingle, Slea Head nabij de Blaskets Islands. Hier zijn de basking sharks ofwel de reuzenhaaien (tweede grootste haaiensoort ter wereld) vaak te spotten. (Read our post on how to see the Basking sharks?) Kajakken terwijl de wijd opengesperde mond van de reuzenhaai aan het wateroppervlak komt was dan ook hetgeen we het meest naar uit keken. De vele wind maakte het echter onmogelijk om op zee te kajakken. Een laatste verwoede poging nabij Wine strand om de haaien te zien ten spijt, bleven we teleurgesteld achter.

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On the summit of Carrauntoohill
Cliffs of Moher

Niet alleen kregen we geen haaien te zien, maar ook ons kajakavontuur nabij de Cliffs of Moher kwam in gedrang. Kajakken met golven die tot drie meter boven je kajak uittorenen is niet meteen de veiligste activiteit als je in de oceaan voor de beroemde Cliffs of Moher peddelt. Met twee dagen in Doolin besloten we de eerste dag te gebruiken voor het wandelen van het coastal path. Een indrukwekkende trail die soms wel erg dicht bij de rand van de 200 meter hoge kliffen verloopt en die ons het mindere weer van de voorbije dagen even deed vergeten. Helaas was de wind de volgende ochtend nog steeds niet geminderd en besloten we maar ons kajakavontuur langs de Cliffs of Moher definitief op te bergen. Of tenminste tot een volgend bezoek aan Ierland.

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Selfie attempt #7 at the Cliffs of Moher

 

New Zealand: an adventurous destination for thrillseekers

New Zealand is synonym for unspoilt nature that ranges from big waves to snow-capped mountains. A great setting to hike or surf, but the Kiwi’s have better plans. They are some of the most friendly and easy-going people that are willing to give you an extra confidence boost to make that leap of faith. Here are five adrenaline pumping adventures for thrillseekers.

Skydiving

If you think rugby is the national sport in New Zealand, think again. In a country where you can go skydiving even before breakfast, there is little doubt about how much Kiwis love thrilling adventures. Plummeting to the earth after having jumped out of an airplane is insane and can only be justified if you do it with a nice backdrop. Fortunately, New Zealand has plenty of those.

Bungy jumping

Another adventure that gets you falling to the ground (and up again, and down again, you get the point) is bungy. In Queenstown you’ll find the Kawarau Bridge, the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jump. If bungy jumping is on your list, make sure to do it here.

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Bungy jumping (source: http://www.bungy.co.nz)

Ziplining

Are you also starting to believe that jumping off high places is an unofficial national sport in New Zealand? Well with this sport you’re not actually falling towards the ground but you are soaring through the air at high speed…after having jumped of a high place offcourse.

White water rafting

Since you are never that far from a fast-flowing river, conquering rapids during white water rafting is a major thing in New Zealand. They have rapids starting at a gentle grade I till the  highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world in Rotorua (7 meter). Let’s see if you make it without capsizing.

Zorbing

This one seems like fun. As long as you don’t think too much about it. Getting into a plastic ball and roll down a hill is a must try if you are in New Zealand. Just make sure you don’t fall off a cliff.

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Zorbing
Helihiking Fox Glacier

Your Christchurch hotel actually is a very good base if you’re planning on helihiking the Fox glacier. The glacier is situated in the Mount Cook national park, on the West Coast of South Island. The road from Christchurch to Mount Cook is a very scenic one. Allthough I’ll bet the views will get even better while your fly in by helicopter and hike Fox glacier.

Caving

If you suffer vertigo, than bungy and skydiving will not be your kind of activity but personally I think this one is even worse. If you weren’t claustrophobic to begin with, you’ll be it after you have been caving in New Zealand. They have some of the most challenging caving systems in the world. From the spectacular Waitomo Caves to the deepest sinkhole in Nelson. It feels like I’m stuck already.

Walking the edge at Auckland Sky Tower

Even if you are not in the outdoors you can have a thrilling adventure. Auckland is home to one of the most thrilling activities in New Zealand. Attach yourself to a rope (it’s not considered cheating) and walk on the edge of the observation area of the Auckland Sky tower. Be carefull, since it’s only a narrow ledge.

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Walk the edge (source: skywalk.co.nz)

Things to do in Bagan, Myanmar

Southeast Asia has many architectural wonders such as Angkor wat, Ta Prohm or the temples in Bali. But if there is one temple complex not to be missed, it’s Myanmar-based Bagan. With over 4400 temples, a trip to Myanmar without a stop in Bagan is unthinkable. Here are some of the best Bagan travel experiences.

Ballooning

350 dollar is a lot of money for a balloon trip that will fly you over the archeological zone of Bagan. But if you want to tick it off your bucket list, you have no other option. Some travelers hope by booking a flight while they are there, they will find a cheaper rate. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. The 350 dollar price is a fixed amount offered by all three ballooning companies in Bagan (Balloons over Bagan, Oriental ballooning and Golden Eagle ballooning). If you have limited time in Bagan and you want to experience a balloon flight, it’s better to book in advance to make sure there are spots available. A balloon flight includes transfer from the hotel to launching site, early morning breakfast, flight (offcourse) and champagne celebration afterwards.

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E-biking or cycling

Not everyone coughs up the huge amount of money to make a balloon flight over the pagoda’s. No worries, there are still other ways of exploring Bagan. The best way (and the one every, literally every, tourist uses) to explore the temple complex is by renting a bicyle or e-bike. These are available at pretty much every hotel or corner of the street. In contrast to ballooning, renting a bike is really cheap. It will only cost you a few 1000 kyat (1$) for the day. I recommend renting an e-bike (which is still very cheap) since temperatures in Bagan can rise over 30 degrees easily and the the combination with the sandy roads can make it a really hard experience. E-bikes however are electric motorbikes that are easy to drive with and make your exploring journey more fun and enjoyable.

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Climb a pagoda and watch sunset/sunrise

Ballooning and cycling in Bagan are two top travel activities, but the most memorable experience you can witness is without doubt watching a sunset or sunrise while you are on top of a pagoda. One hour before sunset, when the temperatures have slightly dropped, travelers are racing to one of the nearest pagoda’s they can reach, climb the steep stairs and sit on the edge waiting for a nature spectacle of a lifetime. Don’t be mistaken, you will not be the only one there. Even better than sunset is going to the pagoda before sunrise. Not only is the view even better, the crowds (a little) smaller, but you have the chance to see the balloons flying over the temples of Bagan, making it one of the best photo opportunities.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Travel light with a backpack: what to take with you?

IT’S A COMMON PROBLEM NOVICE HIKERS OR BACKPACKERS FACE. A TOO HEAVY BACKPACK IS TURNING YOUR WALKING HOLIDAY IN A REAL DEATH MARCH. WHILE PACKING YOUR BACKPACK, EVERY GRAM COUNTS. IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO TAKE TOO MUCH WITH YOU AND BUY SOME LIGHT, HIGH QUALITY GEAR.

Tent (2.24kg)

When we go hiking in the mountains or in remote landscapes our first thing to pack is our the-north-face-assault-2-summit-seriestwo person North Face Summit Assault tent. This four season tent is one of the lightest on the market weighing only 2.24kg. It is often used in high altitude mountaineering.

Sleeping bag (1.092kg)

aciorThe Millet Dreamer is a perfect sleeping bag for hiking and trekking in alpine conditions. This mummy-shaped sleeping bag still is my first one since I bought it. I used it on mountains like Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua as well as during trekkings in the Alps. With a comfort temperature of 6 degrees Celsius you’re fine for any hike! Weight: 1,092kg

Sleeping pad (510g)

The self-inflating Therm-a-Rest Prolite sleeping pad is your mattress for any outdoor adventure. I started by buying a thin one but changed this recently to a  3cm thick one.  With a weight of only 510g (regular size), they are designed to be used by the ultralight backpacker.

MSR MicroRocket Stove (122g + 306g)

When you hike, you need a lot of food to provide your energy. TheMSR MicroRocket Stove onecolis ultralight (122g) to bring along and is everything you need to make yourself a warm meal in the evening. In little less than four minutes you can boil a liter of water. You can buy aMSR Alpinist 2 Pot (306g) made of aluminium to cook soups, pastas and much more.

Bowls, cups and cutlery (80g + 45g + 42g)

To eat your food you need offcourse, bowls, cups axset3and cutlery. From the first moment I purchased them I’m a big fan of the Sea to Summit X-Bowl Collapsible Bowl (80g) and Sea to Summit X-Cup Collapsible Cup (45g). They are easy to eat from, ultralight and easy to be stocked in your cooking pot together with your stove. They also have ultralight cutlery (42g).

Other necessary fun-to-have gadgets

Survival set including fire starter, waterproof bag, micro whistle, razor saw, compass, led light. (total weight: 85g)

An adventurous journey across Scotland

LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE TRAVEL? WILDCAMPING IN THE MOST IMPRESSIVE LOCATIONS, HIKING THROUGH FANTASTIC SCENERIES AND CONQUERING HIGH PEAKS. THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS ARE FAMOUS FOR ITS OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE.

DAY 1: GLASGOW

Our ultimate journey across Scotland begins in Glasgow. This city in southern Scotland is perfect to fly into. You can get accuainted with kilts, bagpipes and offcourse whisky immediately. But we’re here to start our first adventure: the West Highland Way.

DAY 2-8: THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY
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West Highland Way

Over 150 kilometers of hiking from Glasgow to Fort William, the city at the base of Ben Nevis. All of it through the Scottish Highlands. The West Highland Way is thé hike in Scotland and is doable in seven days. Do you prefer camping in the wild or a hostel? Buy our e-guide West Highland Way and you can plan your adventure on your own!

DAY 9: CLIMB BEN NEVIS

Alot of the Scottish people are challenging themselves to climb the Munros. A Munro is

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Ben Nevis

a mountain in the Highlands reaching higher than 3000 feet(914m). Conquering all of them during your holiday might be a bit over-ambitious since there are more than 300 of them. But you can start your quest with the most famous one: Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis is situated near Fort William, the the ending point of the West Highland Way and therefore a perfect addition for anyone who has some energy left. Reaching  1344m, it is the highest peak in Scotland and the UK. You can organize your climb on your own using our e-guide Three Peaks Challenge.

DAY 10-14: GREAT GLEN CANOE TRAIL
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Paddling on ‘open water’

We are still in Fort William and adventurers keen on exploring Scotland further can do this by its lochs. Starting at Banavie, near Fort William you can paddle with a canoe over the Caledonian canal. This canal connects lochs such as Loch Oich, Loch lochy and Loch Ness and ends hundred  kilometers further in Inverness. Paddling Loch Ness and wildcamping on its shores are some of the highlights of this adventure. With the aid of our e e-guide Great Glen Canoe trail  you will successfully reach Inverness.

DAY 15: INVERNESS-EDINBURGH

Now we have explored the northern parts of Scotland we can finish our adventure in its historic capital: Edinburgh. Starting in Inverness you can continue your journey by train towards your final destination. Tickets are best to be purchased in advance.

DAY 16: EDINBURGH

Edinburgh hosts a dark history. In daytime you can saunter through the Royal Mile or climb Arthur’s Seat. Booking a Dark Side evening tour then again is the perfect time to submerge yourself in the dark tales of Edinburgh.

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Scottish tour guide

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

Travel light with a backpack: what to take with you?

It’s a common problem novice hikers or backpackers face. A too heavy backpack is turning your walking holiday in a real death march. While packing your backpack, every gram counts. It is important not to take too much with you and buy some light, high quality gear.

Tent (2.24kg)

When we go hiking in the mountains or in remote landscapes our first thing to pack is our the-north-face-assault-2-summit-seriestwo person North Face Summit Assault tent. This four season tent is one of the lightest on the market weighing only 2.24kg. It is often used in high altitude mountaineering.

Sleeping bag (1.092kg)

aciorThe Millet Dreamer is a perfect sleeping bag for hiking and trekking in alpine conditions. This mummy-shaped sleeping bag still is my first one since I bought it. I used it on mountains like Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua as well as during trekkings in the Alps. With a comfort temperature of 6 degrees Celsius you’re fine for any hike! Weight: 1,092kg

Sleeping pad (510g)

The self-inflating Therm-a-Rest Prolite sleeping pad is your mattress for any outdoor adventure. I started by buying a thin one but changed this recently to a  3cm thick one.  With a weight of only 510g (regular size), they are designed to be used by the ultralight backpacker.

MSR MicroRocket Stove (122g + 306g)

When you hike, you need a lot of food to provide your energy. The MSR MicroRocket Stove onecolis ultralight (122g) to bring along and is everything you need to make yourself a warm meal in the evening. In little less than four minutes you can boil a liter of water. You can buy a MSR Alpinist 2 Pot (306g) made of aluminium to cook soups, pastas and much more.

Bowls, cups and cutlery (80g + 45g + 42g)

To eat your food you need offcourse, bowls, cups axset3and cutlery. From the first moment I purchased them I’m a big fan of the Sea to Summit X-Bowl Collapsible Bowl (80g) and Sea to Summit X-Cup Collapsible Cup (45g). They are easy to eat from, ultralight and easy to be stocked in your cooking pot together with your stove. They also have ultralight cutlery (42g).

Other necessary fun-to-have gadgets

Survival set including fire starter, waterproof bag, micro whistle, razor saw, compass, led light. (total weight: 85g)