Tag Archives: backpacking

Learning To Love The Rain In Slovenia

There’s a reason Slovenia is so green.

slovenia3

 

The land glistens and twinkles with freshly fallen rain drops.

Vintgar gorge

Vintgar gorge

Emerald green rivers tumble down through lush tree-lined gorges.

slovenia

 

Waterfalls appear to emerge from nowhere, like fountains, gushing out of the hillside.

waterfall slovenia

 

It was hard to tell the thick mist of spray at the base of one waterfall from the nearly constant heavy rain we’d become so used to.

The lovely staff at the hostel where we were staying kindly lent me a giant rainbow umbrella.  The bright spectrum of colours surrounded and sheltered me, filling my mind with happy thoughts, so that only the beauty filtered through.

giant rainbow umbrella, slovenia

 

Shrouded in cloud and mist, the scenery of the country was somewhat elusive.  But when the clouds parted, the magical views were all the more special.

Bovec, Slovenia

Bovec, Slovenia

Fairytale Lake Bled took on an eerie grey hue to match the sky, adding to its mysterious appeal.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

Any traces of resistance to the weather we’d been experiencing were well and truly washed away for me when we reached the vast Soca river.

Soca river

Soca river

Unstoppable, peaceful and so powerful.  I cried out with joy as I stood on the river bank, breathing it in, letting it carry my troubles swiftly away with its dynamic yet oh so soothing flow.

soca river slovenia

 

Far from the clear turquoise water we’d seen in pictures, the sediment churned up from the heavy rainfall gave the river a very pale opaque appearance.  I found this striking colour to be just as beautiful as the amazing emerald green of the Radovna river in the Vintgar gorge.

Vintgar gorge, Slovenia

Vintgar gorge, Slovenia

Winding our way down through the ethereal gorge, we became more and more enchanted with every step.

slovenia - vintgar5

 

As we rounded each corner, a new spellbinding view opened up before us, enticing us further and further along the path.

vintgar gorge slovenia

 

The hypnotic sounds, colours and shimmer of the water soothed and energized me.  The gorge seemed to contain the swirling magic of the river, allowing us to soak up more and more of it as we followed its course.

slovenia vintgar gorge2

 

After so thoroughly appreciating all of its consequences, how could I ever complain about the incessant rain again in this beautiful country again?!

lake bled heart

 

Have you been to Slovenia?  Did it rain the entire time when you were there, or were we just lucky/unlucky?!  I would also love to hear about any times you have found the beauty in something that you’ve previously disliked.  Leave me a comment 🙂

 

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram

Angkor’s Treasure

When I think of the temples of Angkor, I don’t think of Angkor Wat standing majestically against the stormy dark sky, although it was an impressive sight to behold.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

I remember the moments of peace and quiet, away from the crowds, gazing up at the weird and wonderful carved stone faces of Bayon…

Temple of Bayon

Temple of Bayon

… and exploring dark mysterious chambers with my best friend and travel buddy.

 

I remember climbing impossibly steep stone steps…

Temples of Angkor

 

… and even more precarious descents, covering every inch of the ancient ruins.

Temples of Angkor

 

The astonishing Ta Prohm reminded me that even these mighty monuments bowed to the great force of nature, as the forest slowly reclaimed its territory.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Catching glimpses of Angkor Wat between the trees…

Angkor Wat

 

… and from the air in a tethered ballon…

Angkor Wat from the air

 

… left me with much more than the image of the giant religious monument in my mind.  The powerful symbol of Angkor Wat simply acts as a reminder of our epic adventure exploring this sprawling treasure trove of ruins in the jungle.

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram

Citizens Of The World

I am inspired by visions of beauty all over the world,  from striking real life Indian goddesses amidst stunning temples,

Vittala temple complex, Hampi, India

to prayer flags lining paths through remote villages in Nepal.

On the way to the start of the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal.

On the way to the start of the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal.

I am inspired by the love of life and welcoming attitude of people everywhere I go, from the kindness of countless strangers across the globe, who have cooked me delicious meals, performed impromptu traditional dances, and shared the joy of singing and playing music together…

Men dancing in Amed, Bali.

Men dancing in Amed, Bali.

… to the lovingly cultivated celebration of nature that is my parents garden.

roses in garden

 

I am reassured to find that wherever I travel in the world, despite the cultural differences, people all have the same underlying appreciation for, and desire to celebrate and honour, this precious life.  From elaborate man made religious buildings with a hint of nature…

Ubud, Bali

Ubud, Bali

to the more subtle yet absolutely awe inspiring Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia, dwarfed by the dramatic landscape that surrounds it.

Gergeti Trinity Church, Kazbegi, Georgia

Gergeti Trinity Church, Kazbegi, Georgia

I take pieces of these people, places and things with me and weave them into the wonderland of my imagination.  I hope that the things I create will inspire joy in those around me, just like the things that inspire me touch my own heart.

Necklaces from my Etsy shop.

Necklaces from my Etsy shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram

From Heavenly Heights To Troglodyte Life in Cappadocia, Turkey

Suspended high in the air over the ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations and magnificent valleys of Cappadocia, everything was still.  The soft light of sunrise sprinkled its magic across the land, and we stood in the basket of the hot air balloon, packed in like sardines, in silent awe.  It was my first hot air balloon ride, and although I’d been paragliding before, and taken more flights than I care to remember, the splendour of rising up into the sky in this way was truly unique.

Cappadocia, Turkey

 

It was every bit as glorious as I’d imagined it would be, with an added element of fear that I’d not expected.  Our pilot skillfully guided the balloon perilously close to the weird and wonderful rocky peaks, skimming the basket past them with what felt like just millimeters to spare.  The landing site was interesting too, a tiny flat grassy area surrounded by sloping terrain and rocks.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when we touched down safely.

The relief was short lived though, as we began to float up into the air again without our pilot who had already hopped over the side of the basket!  I was ready to jump out, but quickly realized we were securely tethered and breathed a second sigh of relief.  Once we’d actually landed I stamped my feet on the earth a few times just to make sure!

Rose Valley

Rose Valley

With my new found appreciation for the ground beneath my feet, I enjoyed a long trek through the valley, keen to explore the territory in greater detail.  I set off with plenty of water, legs full of energy and a heart full of excitement.  I wanted to find the most impressive collection of fairy chimneys, but instead of checking a guide book I confidently marched off down a track which seemed to go in the right general direction.

I ended up, several hours later, exhausted, lost and very hot.  I’d run out of water and had shoes full of thorns, but I felt so happy!  I had no idea how I was going to find my way back, but I knew that I would.  My calmness amazed me.  I put it down to the silence of the valley and the steadiness of the pale golden rocks that seemed to watch over me.

The next day I stumbled upon the particular collection of fairy chimneys I’d been searching for, having absolutely no idea how I’d managed to miss them!

Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia

 

Despite there being quite a few other people wandering around, taking photos and soaking up the scenery, it felt eerily quiet.  There were plenty of times when I found myself completely alone amidst the staggering rock formations.  It was like being in a Bond movie, but instead of an enemy stepping out from behind a pillar to shoot me with a gun, it was a tourist with a camera!

I’d come from the sprawling mega-city of Istanbul to the sleepy town of Goreme in Cappadocia, and it had taken me a little while to adjust to the change of pace.  I thought back to the day I’d arrived there and had hiked up out of town to a viewpoint to watch the sunset with some fellow travellers who’d been on the road for a really long time.

Goreme, Cappadocia

 

My companions were so relaxed and content, quietly absorbing the last few rays of warm light as the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon.  I smiled to myself at the memory, realizing I was now in that same mode, inevitably harmonized by my immersion in this wonderful landscape.

Goreme, Cappadocia

 

Even in the town it was impossible to feel disconnected from the land, as many of the buildings are carved into the rock.   The guest house I stayed in was a ‘cave’ house.  It was more basic than some of the ‘cave hotels’ you might see pictures of, but you still got the full troglodyte experience!  I got a great night’s sleep there every night due to the silence and dark offered by my cave room, and it even had a pool to lounge by, for when I eventually emerged into the light.

I don’t think I could take to the cave life on a permanent basis, although it does have a certain appeal…

Cave house, Goreme

 

… But my time in the fairyland of Cappadocia certainly left me recharged, relaxed and ready for my next Turkish adventure!

Thank you for reading.  I would love to hear about your experiences of Cappadocia, or any other fantastic natural wonders of this world.  Or just leave me a comment to say hello, it’s wonderful to meet fellow travel/nature lovers.

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram

Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Nepal

There’s something about doing a long trek in the mountains, away from modern civilization, doing nothing but walking, eating and sleeping for days on end that relaxes you in a way that nothing else can.  A ‘shower’, consisting of a bucket of hot water in an outdoor cubicle, as the evening draws in and the air rapidly cools feels like a wonderful treat after a day of hard physical exercise.  The mornings so tranquil, the views so consistently spectacular.

The Himalaya are both formidable and beautiful.  To climb to the height we did and then gaze up at the mountains that reached high into the heavens was staggering.  We walked for days and days up steep rocky paths, through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and through the loveliest mountain villages, full of some of the most beautiful people in the world.  When we finally reached the outermost point of our trek and looked up at the mighty Himalayan peaks, it was a truly humbling experience.

 

We decided on the Annapurna base camp trek because it was long enough to get us right up amongst some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in Nepal, but not as long as the entire Annapurna circuit which takes around 3 weeks to complete.

 

We observed the contrast between the lush green valleys and forests with idyllic streams and rickety bridges, and the huge rugged snow capped mountains above us, as we undulated and wound our way through the varied landscape.  We sometimes sang Nepalese songs with our guide to amuse ourselves as we walked, other times we were quiet and alone with our thoughts.

 

A natural rhythm brought peace and harmony to our days.  We woke early to watch the sunrise, then set off for several hours of steady climbing to our first stop for a welcome rest.  We would usually arrive at around sunset at our accommodation for the night, which were lodges with very basic facilities.  We exchanged travel tales with our companions, ate mainly rice and dal, played cards and got very early nights in preparation for the early morning starts.

For me the best part was forgetting where I was.  Wrapped up in many layers and a winter sleeping bag for the chilly nights, it would be difficult to drag myself out of bed when it was barely light outside.  I had this feeling every morning, and without fail, every morning, I would be overcome with happiness when I stepped out of the door.  To be greeted by the fresh mountain air and the sun rising from behind the magnificent peaks was the perfect way to start the day.  Not a trace of sleepiness remained.

 

The October skies were clear, so the cool mornings became blazingly hot days, the sun beating down on us as we walked.  We cooled ourselves down by dipping our feet and hands in the icy streams that flowed down from the mountains.

 

By the time we started our descent back towards civilization we were ready to continue with our journey.  After 10 long days of non stop trekking our feet needed rest, our stomachs craved the variety of the delights available in the restaurants in Pokhara, and we longed for contact with the rest of the world again.  We would recharge with some much appreciated home comforts, before setting off for more Nepali adventures.

There was no end to the active outdoor delights available in this beautiful country, and next on our agenda we would be taking advantage of the modern high adrenaline side of the adventure scene… in the form of a 160 metre bungee jump!  Sublime in a completely different way from the tranquil stillness of our immersion in this magical mountainscape.

 

 

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram

The Amazon Left Me Wanting More

The main reason I had wanted to travel to South America was the Amazon rainforest.  It had captivated my imagination since I was a child.  To me it was the ultimate destination for an explorer, and it has been in my heart for as long as I can remember.

We travelled by land for hundreds of miles to the city of Manaus in Brazil, the main departure point for visiting the jungle.  As I drifted in and out of sleep on that epic bus journey I became very aware that the air was changing.  As we descended gradually into the Amazon basin I could feel the increase in pressure and humidity, along with a less tangible sense of the mystery of this giant forest.  The anticipation gradually built over the coming days as we arrived in Manaus, booked our tour, and began our journey slowly by boat up the river.

Amazon

 

Despite my dream to visit the Amazon I knew very little about it.  I had images in my mind based on various nature documentaries and things I’d heard, none of which really matched up with my experience.  The upside of this was that there was so much that was absolutely amazing and completely unexpected about my trip into the rainforest.

We swam with pink river dolphins, which were more aggressive than you might imagine such a graceful creature to be.  They have sharp little teeth and weren’t shy about using them.  I politely waded waste deep in the murky water with the strange beautiful creatures, not wanting to appear ungrateful for such a special experience, while they head butted me and tried to bite my legs!  It’s a delightful memory though, and I think I prefer it over a more laid back dolphin encounter!

Pink river dolphin

Pink river dolphin

The spiders we encountered were less delightful.  The tarantula our guide poked at with a stick until it emerged from its hole was everything you’d expect from a giant furry arachnid built for ambushing prey, but it was probably much more frightened of us than we were of it.  I have much worse spider memories from the jungle.

Cruising through the flooded forest on a tiny boat was a magical experience by day.  We left our big boat on the wide part of the river and ventured into the unknown, between the trees through ever narrowing passageways.  By night, however, going deep into the jungle by boat varied between being a thrilling experience and a downright terrifying one!  As the forest grew denser spiders from overhanging branches that had been disturbed by our boat landed on board.  My friend and I grabbed the torch from our guide and frantically checked each other for spiders repeatedly until the torture was over several hours later.

Baby python

Baby python

On other occasions we saw a sloth, pythons and piranhas, all of which were so surreal, like something out of a children’s picture book.  The large boat was our base from which we explored.  We had plenty of time to relax on board and soak up the sights and sounds of the forest.  Our guide told us there were alligators in the water but that it was safe to swim nearby, so without giving it a second thought we all jumped in and had a lovely refreshing dip in the opaque muddy water, trying not to imagine what was beneath the surface.

We thought he was joking when he called to us to get out of the water because there was a caiman close by.  We got out anyway, just in case!  We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it just a few meters away from the other side of our boat.

By far the most unexpected creatures in the Amazon were on board though.  A rather eccentric dutch girl, a fellow traveller, had acquired some new born kittens in Manaus.  They’d been abandoned and left in a cardboard box in the street.  She’d heard them screaming and couldn’t bear to leave them.  So the kittens got the jungle tour too.  They even camped with us the night we slept in hammocks in the forest.

These were some of the more memorable and unexpected highlights of the visit.  However, the rainforest I’d seen in films, books and documentaries eluded me.  All the time it felt like we were on the edge of something.  After days of journeying we only briefly touched upon the ancient primary forest.  For the most part we were in secondary forest with smaller younger trees.

Amazon

 

The Amazon with huge trees and a high leafy canopy containing an abundance of life that I had anticipated for so long was indeed real, but I only caught tantalizing glimpses of it.  It was time to turn around and head back down the river to Manaus.  It had been amazing, and I’d ticked off a lifelong goal, but we knew that there was so much more than the tiny part we’d had the privilege to explore.

The trouble is with travel, and I’m pretty sure ninety nine percent of people reading this would agree, the more places you see, the more places you feel like you need to return to.  Unfortunately I’ve got this burning desire to go absolutely everywhere, so it’s going to be a while before I get round to revisiting the many places that have left me desperately wanting to return.

Amazon sunset

Sunset on the Amazon river

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I went to Halong Bay in northern Vietnam back in 2006, before I became the more cynical seasoned traveller that I am today.  My experience was one of pure adventure and amazement, and my fresh young eyes perceived the majesty of the world we live in.

It was hot there. Really really hot.  My best friend and I were on an overnight cruise in the bay and we’d dropped anchor amongst the tall limestone karsts that jutted out of the water all around us.  Sleeping in our cabin seemed ludicrous given the temperature, so we stayed out on deck. I’m so glad we did, because it was the most memorable experience of the whole trip.  We were under the stars, sitting on sun loungers, gazing out across the water to one of the islands.  Only the outline was visible, but this made it all the more impressive.  Seeing the giant rocky structure rise from nowhere out of the sea was so mysterious by night. We felt like we were in a film set.  It was too beautiful to be real.

By day we kayaked around the islands.  We came across a tiny little sea cave so we went in to have a look.  We soon retreated when we realised there was someone living in there!  I think he was as surprised to see us as we were to see him!

I was fortunate in my awestruck state of wonder to be blissfully oblivious to the pollution and tourist overcrowding in Halong Bay, although reportedly these problems are much more obvious now.  I’m very grateful that I was able to experience the true timeless magnificence of this place of ancient legend and mystery.  These glimpses of natural paradises are still available to us amidst the mayhem of popular tourist spots if we’re open to the experience.

SHARE
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

FOLLOW
Facebooktwitterpinterestinstagram