In the summer after college had finished, I as most students do, had far too much spare time. I found myself spending hours on google maps, looking at all the incredible places in the world. I found patterns which are so alien to anything we see in the UK, that they inspire a new way of thinking about travel (take a look at the area around the Kara Sea). One which addresses modern age technology, and seeks to use it as a inspirational tool . This lead me onto another set of adventures, the Google Map Adventures, In which I would look for a natural point where a journey was at the B part of A to B, and go there.
For this trip, I looked at the southern tip of Italy, Reggio di Calabria. I left it at the back of my mind while I travelled around some of the rest of the world (much of which is documented earlier in LongTimeSpent). But last summer, this idea came into fruition. Laura, whom I met at University, had a family home in Malta, and so I decided to extend the trip onto Sicily and then across the Mediterranean to little island of Malta.
So in the olympic summer of 2012, one of my best friends, Louis, and I went on a cycling trip. Naturally I took my camera along for the ride, and Louis, brought a guitar… which he strapped on the back of his bicycle. We aimed to only spend money on food, and drink, and vowed NEVER to push our bikes. (this resulted me walking probably less than a kilometre that month, most of which was around supermarkets.)
Initially we aimed to cover 100 miles per day (the London to Brighton bike ride is 56 miles) but we probably averaged 90 miles, and only reached 100 a few.
Our route would take us through France, Germany , Switzerland, Liechtenstein (if we’re counting), back into Switzerland, Italy (the Vatican City…again if we’re counting), Sicily, and then Malta
I’ve posted a few of the photos below, and will write a little description below each. This is a pretty long post, with lots of photos, so please bear with it and let them load, I hope it’ll be worth the wait.
We passed through so many idyllic french villages, which you don’t get to see when travelling any other way, and its a real pleasure. “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”
a bit of a skip in the Journey here, this is the bridge in Zurich, Switzerland. In northern France, around the Alsasce region however, there were some beautiful golden evenings sunshine which I will never forget. The way the sunlight reflected off the corn was surreally enchanting.
The stunning Lake Walensee, we followed a line of lakes down from Zurich while approaching the Alps, these proved a good spot for taking much needed washes, and the icy water would sooth our muscles
A well earned sunset
This was our camp spot, free of course, and incredibly peaceful.
Liechtenstein, a pointless goal in the trip, and a kind of mental halfway point, even though it was less than a third of the way!
Just about to start our highest climb of the trip, and it was clearly going to be a ….
Another free camping spot, halfway up the Alps. We hadn’t carried any food with up except 5 biscuits, and Louis had ‘accidentally’ eaten 3, leaving me with a mountain to cycle up and only 2 biscuits for fuel. But it rained and the wind blew like a hurricane that night, repeatedly pulling the pegs out of our tent and blowing our things away, which Louis fetched, and so redeemed himself.
At the top of the Julier Pass (about 50km from bottom to top, and reaching 12%), feeling very smug as the only cyclists amongst a bunch of lazy motorcycle tourists… Until a man pulling his kid in a cart behind his bicycle reached the top.
If you’re lucky enough to have ever felt that feeling where you know everything is going to be easy, and ‘downhill from here’. That is the precise feeling I had when I began rolling down this road. literally hours of freewheeling followed.
some nice Swiss scenes
and finally at Lake Como, just in time to watch the sun go down, and pull open a bottle of red. The next day took us through some of Nothern Italy’s flatland which was dull, but we powered through it and achieved our longest distance day.
And over the Apennine mountains which run the length of Italy, these actually seemed harder to ride over than the Alps, there was a heatwave with temperatures over 41 celsius, thats 105 fahrenheit. But the pleasures of a sunny Tuscany would soon follow.
One of the best camp spots of the trip, just off a sheltered holiday community beach south of Naples. After a party, at which we hadn’t yet worked out that everyone knew everyone (apart from us) we became quite notorious.
Mozzarella and Salami Shop
Stopping for a rest on the Amalfi coast, which has to be one of the most pleasurable, and toughest coasts to cycle.
Louis finally managed to get the Guitar out. While cooking up dinner (half a kilo of pasta and tomato sauce…again!) on the promenade we managed to confuse an Italian policewoman to turn a blind eye to us cooking there. A compromise of moving our pans slightly to the left was drawn up, and she left.
Torrential rain is never welcome when you have very little places to keep dry.
With nowhere to pitch up for the night, and it being in complete darkness, we found a lime grove to set up in. Mud would be an understatement. If ‘Stuck-in-the-Mud’ was to be played in real mud, rather than a school playground, this is the mud they would use. We spent 2 hours in the morning cleaning it off everything.
Avola Antica mountain goat.
Noto, the whole town was buildings like this, nothing modern, and it was incredible.
In the sea on the last day before catching the ferry to Malta! We had about 10km to cycle, very little indeed. So we ended up falling asleep on the beach. We had both burnt in some very distinct tan lines, and so I fell asleep naked in an effort to even them up… much to the dismay of an Italian family.
Relaxing on the yacht. A photo which always makes me feel fat now.
Louis and I took the dinghy out, and it ran out of petrol, so we had to paddle the whole way back… possibly the only upper body exercise we got that month…
I hope you enjoy the photos, and thanks for getting all the way to the bottom! If you have any questions please do ask!
It has been too long since my last visit here, it’s ben almost a year since my last post, and at first, as the months drew out I felt almost guilty over my lack of long-term commitment to it. I can blame it on my studies, or lack of digital camera (grumble), but to tell the truth, I just haven’t been getting myself out there. It’s been a long winter in London, and I haven’t been exploring as much as I should.
So here are a few photos of Brighton, well Hove actually… One in the summer, and one from the winter.
I hope everyone has endured, and is now looking forward to the summer we are about to receive.
Summer has started, I’m finally out of England once more, and you might notice that’s a film camera slung over my shoulder, so there will be more photos coming… as soon as they’re developed.
I’m spending a few weeks on the Cote d’Azur, and then I’m off on a grand cycling tour I may have mentioned previously. Keep posted for photos, and have a great summer.
Central Market, Phnom Penh. You can buy almost anything (fake) here. Also apologies for the lack of posts in the past few weeks. I’ve had university exams to [pretend to] study for, and I’ve bought myself a film camera and haven’t developed the film yet. Keep looking, the summer is now here, and its going to be a good one!
I dug up some more photos from Tian Shan, The first shows the clouds coming in the evening before we left the mountains and retreated back to the city. The second is of the man who invited us into his yurt to keep dry out of the rain.
With the billion or so people in China, I needed to get away and have some peace and quiet, and what better way to do so than with a camping trip. A 4,600 kilometre, 2 and a half day, train ride from Shenzhen took Shane and I to the north-western Chinese city of Urumqi. This was pretty much the end of the line, a city where the communist hammer and sickle is displayed proudly, and the buildings are grey concrete blocks. Surprisingly KFC had still made its way here, but at least they had given it the address of 666.
We persuaded a hotel to let us leave all our belongings in a box in their storage room, stupidly I had sent all my camping gear home a couple of days previously, so this would be a rough and ready trip. I bought a length of rope from a local DIY store, and “borrowed” a bed sheet from the hotel which I could fashion into a hammock. We filled our back packs with tins of food, and some sausages from the supermarket in town, and caught a bus as close to Tian Shan (Heaven Mountains) as we could get. Immediately after getting of the bus a man offered to drive us further into the mountains, by this point we had learnt that westerners seemed to be some kind of prize in China, as everyone wanted to do everything for us. Chinese people are bloody brilliant.
There turned out to be the Xinjiang Camping Competition happening that weekend, and we got waved through all security like VIPs without paying any fees to enter the mountains, another stroke of luck for two almost broke travellers. The competitors had to camp at the bottom of the mountains guarded by what seemed like an army of police (I think it may have been the army) complete with riot vans. Shane and I hiked our gear to the top of the mountain before returning for the evening festivities we had been invited to. We had become hardened drinkers by this point, so the news of a beer drinking competition excited us no end. But first some of our new Chinese friends were insisting to get us wasted on rice-wine over dinner. Shane won the the first round of the competition, earning him the title píjiǔ wang (啤酒王 – Beer King). We both advanced to the final, where I managed to quaff three 600ml bottles in just over 2 minutes, winning a crate of beer which I promptly gave away due to feeling I was about to pop and not wanting more beer. The locals stood no chance!
Night had come, and in a drunken state we retreated back up the mountain to find our camp site, which was hidden in the trees. With only our phones for light this proved to be quite a challenge. I was ready to give up and sleep on a rock on the top of the mountain, but Shane being well versed in finding his way through trees was determined not to give up and eventually found us back to our camp. I fell asleep in my makeshift hammock straight away, and woke up shivering, after what has to be the coldest night I’ve ever experienced. We swiftly collected some dry moss and twigs together and built a fire to warm our frozen skin.
Each day we walked across the ridge of the mountain further away and set up camp further afield. Incredible peaks went on for as far as the eye could see. The air was distinctly un-Chinese in it’s lack of smog. Eagles flew overhead. In the knowledge that I would be heading home in ten days, this felt like a perfect way to draw my travels to an end.
Determined not to freeze to death, and armed with a Pocket Swiss-Army knife, we set up our second camp and proceed to cut down a dead tree with the tiny saw blade. This took hours and hours and hours. But eventually we had a fire which successfully lasted through the night. We speared a couple of sausages on sticks, roasted them over the fire, sang about our worldly conquests and hummed away on a harmonica. This is the life.
After five days, the weather turned worse, torrential rain poured down, our food had run out, and my hammock had ripped so badly I was practically sleeping on the soggy ground, so we decided to head back to Urumqi. Soaked to our bones we set off back to the bottom of the mountains when some local Uyghur people ran out calling us into their yurt. they stripped us down and dried our clothes over a cow pat fuelled stove while we waited for the rain to subside. They fed us some offish kind Naan bread (which apparently originated there) and what must have been yak butter. Delicious….
Two chinese guys happened to be also in the yurt, and they happened to be going back to Urumqi. Much to our surprise they had managed to order a taxi to drive up the mountains to come and collect them. I thought this must be from the road at the very bottom of the mountains, but no, the taxi had driven up the mountain in the rain and came right to the door of the yurt. All in all this is going to be a pretty hard camping trip to beat, and it proved to be a successful remedy to the hustle and bustle of city living.
I returned to Brighton for a couple of days over my Easter break, after a heavy night out with some of my friends we awoke to a day which was surreally calm, we were all feeling a little worse for wear and the weather suited the mood perfectly. We walked along the seafront to town to get some breakfast at a pace which would make the most elderly of tortoises look like Usain Bolt. Even the sea couldn’t muster the energy to form a wave. There was no wind, yet a single yacht sat on the horizon.
My Mum called me up when I was in Southern India to tell me about this town called Hampi which I had to go to. Usually I’m too quick to disregard advice from her, but on this chance I thought I’d take it. After about 5 hours on the train I was there, tuk tuk drivers of course jumping at my feet.
Hampi was surrounded by the ruins of a once incredible civilisation, and giant boulders, which looked like giant versions of an ancient seabed. We rented out some little motorbikes and explored.
Arriving on the North coast of France at Calais the sun glared down and gave the peaks of the waves a beautiful definition, the light was almost blinding but brought a welcome heat from the chilly sea breeze. It felt good to be abroad again.
I had bought a little nifty fifty, f/1.8 lens from a camera shop near Central Market, Phnom Penh. One night on the lake chilling out with some friends, I took a few snaps of a bird on a pole, they don’t show the technical quality of the new lens I had bought, but I quite like this photo series.
Just a quick and easy post today, I’ve got so much University work to get on with, and this Financial Mathematics is driving me nuts! A little retail therapy this morning sent the week off to a good start though, i’ll soon be the proud owner of a sweet Manfrotto tripod, and some new (super-expensive) batteries for my flash came just now too. You know you’re a camera geek when getting new batteries becomes exciting.
This post is dedicated to DouDou at http://doudoubirds.wordpress.com/ for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award, i’d also like to thank http://ayearwithhorses.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/touched/ for nominating me a while back.
I had caught the bus from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to the Capital, Phnom Penh. One of my shoes had broken, so now I was walking around barefoot, with size 12 feet (UK) it had been particularly difficult to find anything new, however I’m quite sure that the barefoot look made haggling for a lower price a little easier. Two girls I had met in Siem Reap recommended a guesthouse I could stay in when I arrived in Phnom Penh.
The lake had been sold to the Koreans, and there plans had been made to build a new Central Business District for the country on the filled in remains. What had once been a beautiful, though man-made lake was now a desolate, mellow place. An atmosphere hung in the air, local men came in the daytime and chainsawed the last remaining palm trees down, and the women came round with old cement sacks to pick up the litter. I rented a motorbike for the two weeks I spent there, riding around the city every hour of the day, this city constantly surprised me. One night, around 3am, I went for a drive, after an hour of driving I had become completely lost. The streets were dark and silent. The traffic lights are turned off at night, making junctions quite a bit more thrilling. I came across a huge market in the middle of a residential area, in the dark of the night thousands of people were shopping for their groceries, people spoke in hushed voices, and no lights lit the piles of vegetable on the streets. I wished I had my camera, to photograph this surreal moment.
I found my way back to Lakeside, and watched the sunrise (as I had done for the previous five nights). The lights from a nearby government building lit the sky with a purple haze, a sight too good to sleep through.
This was the place I stayed for the longest on my travels, I had become mesmerised by the tension in the air, constantly something big felt like it was going to happen. Eventually I told myself I had to go to Vietnam, and continue on my journey.
On my first day in Thailand I forked out the same amount of money as I spent in two months in India, and all I got was a couple of Visas, and a Scuba Diving course. I had mixed apprehensions about the whole ordeal after my first few hours in Bangkok, most of which had been spent asleep in the back of a taxi cab, and later passed out on the bed of my seemingly luxurious hotel room after 85hrs (yes thats Eighty Five) in the lowest class of a train crossing India.
Koh Tao bounced in front of me as the ‘high-speed’ catamaran pulled into the dock. I had arrived on one of those Thai islands which are famed for their perfect white sand beaches, clear blue water, and excellently cheap diving qualifications. I had been promised a week in paradise.
While the diving was excellent, and the group course turned into private lessons seeing as nobody else had booked up, the looming full moon lay just a few days away, and travelling in a duo meant I had compromises to make. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to party, I started clubbing almost half a decade before I was of a legal age, but when the party is 10,000 morons on a beach, i’d rather be counted out.
I went nonetheless, it was everything I had expected and more (and worse). So I was glad to get back on Koh Tao and continue the Scuba course. I love the sea, I live a stones throw away from it in Brighton. So spending hours on a boat, and seeing what lies in the ocean was a dream.
Thailand is no doubt a busy country, even when entering from India the streets of Bangkok have a bustling life to them, The colours show a vivid tone to them against the more natural hues of India. Another culture shock hit me as the people I met changed from real, worldly travellers of India, to the party gap-yearers who thrived, or decayed, on the streets here.
Tuk Tuk drivers ran the streets, organising deals to take young tourists to bars and shops in the hope of earning a little commission. However it is really the tourist bureaus that run the place, attempting to sign the gap-yearers up to expensive and exciting ‘adventures’. I’ll admit taking a scuba diving course.
The noise was constant, the humidity was constant, and so was the stress. I wasn’t sure If Thailand was the place for me. Any journey here seemed to have been crossed a thousand times, there seemed to be no jungle left unexplored, and no tourist attraction possibility which hadn’t been exploited.
But then again, life is never dull in Thailand.
I will upload more photos in the coming days, including some shots from Koh Tao Island.
After four months of rushing around the world I found myself in the south of Laos, and I was in desperate need of a bit of relaxation. I had just met these two awesome guys from Liverpool, Jamie and Mike, and they were heading for the Four Thousand Islands, in the Mekong River, Laos. I was in Pakse, I had to meet somebody there, but the town had little going for it, and the guys thankfully persuaded me to go with them, a move which turned out to be probably one of the best I made on my travels. We arrived at the port to get to the Islands after a three hour ride in the back of a pick up truck, our bags being drenched with rain from the impending monsoon, and the three of us had made the mistake of bringing absolutely no money with us, well I think at the time I had the Laos equivalent of twenty something pence. After a few hours of speaking to confused locals, we managed to scrape enough cash together to afford the boat fare to the islands, where there was apparently some dodgy guy with a card machine who was willing to give us cash. We took the chance and went for it. Paradise awaited us on the other side. The weather cleared up the next day, perfect blue skies all day, and sunsets which left the most manly of men gasping for breath. I fell in love with this place, and it’s somewhere i’ve promised myself i’ll go back to. After a week Jamie and Mike had to move on, I stayed a few more days, my camera had decided to recover from serious salt water damage it had picked up in Noosa, Australia, and I wanted to take photos.
These photos don’t do the place justice, I almost feel bad posting them. This place is Paradise. All the photos were taken with a 18-55mm kit lens, damn I needed a wide angle and marco lens with me!