Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Journey Around The World

The Glacier Express 
Not long ago, I came up with the crazy idea of traveling all the way around the earth. And before long, I set out to do just that. I set out to circumnavigate the globe. As I currently sit here on a beach in South Florida, the last six months began to play like an old film in my mind. Flashes of all the things I've seen and all the things I've done came spilling out of my memories like water falling from great heights, cascading down into a pool of crystal water. In a span of half a year I have: Gazed upon the Grand Canyon covered lightly in snow.
I have hiked the rugged trails of Zion National Park and played the slots in Vegas. I've traversed 60 km through the temperate rain forests of NZ, and saw the moonrise and the sunset along it's golden beaches. I've cruised along Milford Sound, been engulfed in the gray mist of Key Summit, and gazed upon the blue ice of a
Key Summit NZ
mountain glacier. I've spent St Patrick's day with the Irish in Queenstown, I've drank kava with the Fijians, lazed along the turquoise sea of their beautiful islands, and dove free beneath the sparkling surface of the Pacific. I've seen the Sydney Opera House, walked the Harbour Bridge, and cuddled a koala. I've hiked through the largest eucalyptus forest on earth and watched the surfers at Bondi; the most famous beach in all of Australia. I've seen Aboriginal villages, seen miles of crocodile filled shorelines, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and walked under the canopy of the Daintree; the oldest rainforest in the world.
Great Barrier Reef
I've spent the night on the floor in the Singapore airport, sailed the Greek isles and stood in awe of the Acropolis. I've floated the breadth of the Adriatic Sea, spent hours walking in awe thru the ancient streets of Pompeii, and stood high on the mighty Mt. Vesuvius.
Camping the Swiss Alps
I've seen the streets of Amsterdam and the rolling hills of Sweden. I've gazed upon distant planets hanging silently over the crystal waters of Lake Vanern, I've spent starry nights camping in the fjordlands of Norway and rode thru the magnificent Flam Valley on a bike yelling 'wheeeeeeee' all the way. I've waved at Kings, saw colorful parades, and slept on the streets of Bergen. I was the first person to board Norway's first ever electric cruiseship; the wave of the future. I've seen my favorite performer with 80,000 other crazy fans, and ridden on the slowest express train in the world. I've gazed upon the mighty Matterhorn, camped under Jungfrau and Eiger; the towering peaks of the Swiss Alps. I've sat for hours watching them never move, but change with every rolling cloud that washed over them. I've stood in those same moutains, 12,000 feet above sea level, and strolled thru caves carved from their exsitence; caves made from solid, seemingly impenetrable blue ice. I've tented my way across Scandinavia, crisscrossed Europe through Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Greece and beyond. I've walked the streets of Bavarian
Hiking Ireland and pints
with my good friends
from Dingle
 villages where fairy tales, castles, knights and wizards sat ever present, swirling in my mind. I have hiked the sweeping sand dunes of the NW coast of Ireland, visited its surfing capitol Bundoran, and climbed from the sea to a summit in a day. I've stood wind blown, high above soaring mountain passes and swam in freezing oceans. There's been rain filled days of slumber, and music in pubs and beers galore. I've walked the green
 hills, forest, and bogs from the Irish Sea to the vast Atlantic Ocean. I've meandered along the Emeralds Isle's meadows, rocky shores, beach lines, and of course I've visited a quaint Irish seaside village or two. I've spent hours happily walking the sweeping hills and dales of England. I've watched rain storms glide over waterfalls, walked laughing in the rain, gazed on rainbows, rode gondolas, saw butterflies
Lake District, Uk
 flutter, and seen birds awash with the colors of the spectrum of the world. I've seen a plethora of sunsets and sunrises, walked black, white, and red sand beaches, eaten pizza and prawns as big as my head, fell in love with mountains and valleys, and visited cities that charmed and dismayed me. I've gazed upon raging rivers, soaring waterfall and babbling brooks, and I have stood alone and listened to the buzz of millions of bees; the music of the earth. I've traveled over 25,000 miles spanning four continents, walked over 800 miles and flown further than I've ever flown before.

           Its truly been the adventure of a lifetime and I'd do it all over again in a


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Italy; What's up with That?

Italy. Huh. I certainly didn't know what to expect before my visit to Italy. And I was certainly surprised. Negativity isn't really my thing, but honesty is. And to be perfectly honest, Italy was about as appealing as a root canal. Seriously Italy. The first thing that struck me, and stayed with me throughout my time there, was the unending amount of garbage everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Cigarette butts, trash, and graffiti was plastered over every street corner, every empty wall and in damn near every town. It's hard to see the character in something when one has to look at it through a wall of delapidated everything. I'm mean come on. Have a little pride. Now as I traveled north in to the chamgagne region it did improve somewhat. And I'll have to say I had some amazing experiences in Italy. I especially liked Cinque Terre for it's beauty ( minus the throng of tourists) Pompei was a once in a lifetime and deeply moving experience, and hiking mount Vesuvius gave me some mad bragging rights. So it wasn't all bad. Unfortunately all my memories will have to be salvaged through a still frame of garbage. So if your going to Italy for it's charm prepare yourself for what you'll actually find; take your visions and then surround it with the unappealing junk which lies beneath, in front, and  around every corner. My advice would be to rent a car and head way out in the country side. Maybe all the beauty I saw from afar really is out there somewhere. But I sure never found most of it. Arrivdechi. And good luck.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hiking Strandhill, County Sligo, Ireland

Traveling across Ireland is one of my all time favorite things to do. This is my 4th time visiting Ireland in 8 years. It was great to visit my favorite towns on this journey, but it was also really cool to explore some areas I've never been. After having done some research, and knowing I had spent little if any time in NW Ireland, and having a friend from up there in County Donegal, I decided to hop a train and head for a little town outside of Sligo called Strandhill. I just love to visit small towns and, to be honest, it doesn't get much smaller than Strandhill. A great little beach/surfing village, it boasts two pubs, a burger shop, an ice cream stand, lots of places to rent a board and some fantastic hikes.
Knocknarea; Maeve Trail; I started my hiking there with a climb from sea level  to the top (1100 feet of elevation) of a small mountain that sits behind the village known as Knocknarea. If you start at the beach you walk thru town for about 1.5 km before you start the hike thru a farmers field, up thru a pine forest, up over 500 wooden stairs, across the top of the mountain to the cairn at the top. The veiws are absolutely stunning! If you have a car you can also take the less traveled trail (Knocknarea; Rathcarrick) to the top on the back side of the mountain. This is more of a regular hiking trail without the steps. No matter which trail you take, try to head out on a clear day early in the morning if you want any solitude as this is a very popular hike. There's also two hikes from the board walk. One heads south the other north.
Culleenamore;  this takes you south and east through Shelley Valley which are the most incredible sand dunes. Then once you get through the dunes it takes you out along the inlet back around to the beach and back to town. The sand dunes are crisscrossed with trails that will give you a nice veiw of the sea and the bay to the east. There's are some rocks one has to cross along the beach on the way back to town but it's not to bad and super pretty. The wonderful things is; most of the tourist will walk a bit, either along the rocks or thru the dunes, but few make it to the bay to the east and even fewer make it to the inlet to the south. I recommend walking thru the dunes first, then once you reach the bay hang a right and walk around the point to the inlet then back to town along the beach. Check the tides and try to reach the sea at low tide as it'll make it easier as the beach will be exposed instead of clammering over the rocks you can walk the edge of the water. I just loved this walk once I broke away from the other folks out walking that day. So much beauty, so much solitude.
Killaspugbrone;  This walk, which takes you to the north along the Atlantic is also a really great hike. You'll go out along the ocean, out to a little point past the end of the airport runway to a old church and graveyard built right along the sea. You can then make your way back the way you came or continue on to the main road and back to town. If you're feeling extra froggy you could actually combine this walk with Knocknarea as you'll come out on the main road right at the entrance to the frontside trail to the summit. I loved all of these walks so much. There's is just something special about where the mountains meet the sea. There's something special about this little town with seemingly so little to offer. But, it's gift is giving one the ability to connect with the earth in all it's boundless wonders. Take some time, take in the fresh, sea air, and enjoy a breathtaking hike along the shores of the Atlantic in the far reaching Northwestern part of the Emerald isle. You certainly won't forget it if you do.
Atop Knocknarea

Friday, August 17, 2018

An Apping We Will Go

Apps. Tools of the travel trade. I have no idea how people travelled back in the day, but I would have been lost, literally, without my apps. This blog is going to enlighten and amaze you (ok that's a stretch) with the apps I use(d) to plan and then travel around the world.

Google; I realize this is not an app however it is the A number one tool when planning a trip and a must for finding the perfect app for your purposes.

Rome2Rio: my go to app to figure out how to get from point A to point B in one fell swoop. I LOVE this app. To use it just put in from where to where and it will spit out every option available. Plane, train, bus, ferry, donkey or the combination of all of the above to take you to that dream location. Example; let's say I want to go from Athens to Pompeii. Once I input that information it will spit out several options. Plane; x amount of hours and an approximate cost. Car; x amount of hours, route, and approximate cost. Train, bus, ferry. Which is what I did. It'll tell you bus B to train station A then train Z to Ferry port D. It will include times plus bus and train numbers when available. Now that you have all the viable information you can chose a mode of transportation and starting looking into which bus system, ferry and rail companies you'll be utilizing and from that info you'll put your travel itinerary together for that leg of your journey; piecing together connection times between the differing modes. Or of course you can just catch a plane or drive but of course I never do anything the easy way.

Hopper; I guess it's unnecessary to say after each app listed "man I love this app!" So I guess I won't but, man I love this app! Plane travel made easy peasy. Again, enter departure, destination, and date and it will give you a month type calander which has a color coded schematic where in you can see and then chose the less expensive flying dates that work for you. It gives you a comprehensive list of airlines with prices from lowest to highest and includes flight times etc. It also gives you predictions as to what the prices might do on that flight in the future. And, my favorite feature, once you input the flight info you can ask Hopper to "watch this flight " It will now watch the flight for price increases and decreases and notify you of any changes. Including letting you know to buy now!  Now, you can, for 5 bucks, book right thru Hopper and it will give you a confirmation number for their site as well as one from the airline. If you're doing a lot of bookings, as I did while circumnavigating the globe, then booking thru Hopper gives you a place to keep all your flight info in one concise place that's easily accessible.
HostelWorld and I use both of these apps in unison with one another to find the cheapest available accommodations. And yes does include hostels. Just put in the filter "priced lowest to highest" and it will list hostels first. The most important aspect of these apps is the reviews and location maps. Make sure you utilize these features. Definitely make sure you ALWAYS check the location of your accommodations with where you want to be and things you want to see and do. I didn't happen to book a place called Dingle Gate but, I could easily have and then missed the fact that the name indicated it was in or on the edge of town. In reality it was actually 20 miles outside of Dingle. Imagine your dismay when your traveling on foot and your accommodations are in the middle of literally nowhere. Now, once you find a place you like you can book thru either site. I lean towards as I use it so much so I often get extra benefits. However, you can also use these apps to find accommodations and then book directly with the establishment. Often you can get better deals this way. Or you can find rooms that aren't listed on the site. If shows a certain type of room is not available on their site then email the establishment and deal directly with them; 9 times out of 10 they have what you need and often on the cheap. Now on to the all important reviews. Cross referencing reviews brings into play another app I use on the regular:
TripAdvisor; TripAdvisor has many different uses and you can research and get opinions about everything under the sun on this app. But I use it almost exclusively to cross reference reviews for my accommodations. I cannot stress enough to you, my fellow traveler, research and then triple check the reviews that come along with hostel, hotel, or B&B'. Different things are important to different people. So pick and choose the places that highlight the things most important to you.
Eurail App; This a must, must, must for Eurail pass holders and to be honest for non passable holders who will be travelingwith the rail system in Europe. This is one of the most comprehensive travel apps in existence. So simple to use and incredibly accurate. I'll be doing a Eurail travel blog at some point but just a quick word of advice; pay attention to the concise list of travel times and change overs and connection times. Also, if your going to non-major destination town be sure to know where the trains final destination is as a comprehensive list of all the towns along the route will not be on the board at the station. You must know the final destination of the line your destination is on.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Flam; The Enchanted Valley

There is something magical about this place. You see, it's not just one enchanted moment or one mystical sunset or one spellbinding babbling brook. It's as if mother nature took a wand and sprinkled this valley with magical dust. It's in the way the crystal clear water runs unending over grey rocks and boulders that are as old as time. It's in  the  sound of the liquid as it babbles then roars as it makes it's way out into the fjord which seems to sit ever patient waiting for it to arrive. It's in the way the sun mixes with the wind and drifts through the fresh green leaves of the trees making them
dance, glimmer and gleam; first twinkling yellow then shimmering back to forest green. It's in the way the sprinkling of yellow daffodils, which permeate the valley floor, fade; losing themselves in the far reaching meadows. It's in the sound of the steel wheels on iron rails as the Flambana Express chugs down the tracks and into town. It's in the way the sheer cliffs reverberate the long shrill sound of the mighty trains whistle; at first echoing then slowly
disappearing into the Fjord. It's in the distant roar of the water falling from high above as the melting snow cascades down the mountainside. It's in the way the water on the cliffs shimmer in the afternoon sunshine; like tears of joy on it's face because it knows how beautiful it is. It's in the smell of spring; fresh cut grass, apple blossoms, and jasmine on fence posts which hangs in the breeze so thick you can taste it in the clean, cool mountain air. It's in the way dawn sneaks into your consciousness and you awake to the trilling of the song birds; the music of the forest. Or maybe, just maybe, it's in the fact that mother nature is at her best when she looks upon this valley with her golden sunsets as if looking into her lovers eyes and knowing this is a love lasts forever.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Key Summit

As always in the early days of planning any trip, as well as my trip to New Zealand, I had some rather hefty ideas. Originally I set out to hike three of the nine great walks that NZ had to offer. Again, as in the past, say back in Ireland when I also thought I could hike like 500 miles, I'd plannned and bitten off more than I could chew. On this adventure, in the end, I hiked only one of the trails and sufficed to do day hikes there after. Key Summit was the healing salve for the wound created by having to give in to inclement weather and poor logistical planning which in the end, caused me to give up hiking those particular trails.
Have you ever read of Mice and Men? Well that was kind of how my trip up Key Summit went, but with a hail Mary pass to win the Super Bowl at the end, along with me screaming from the top of the mountain, "I'm going to Disneyland!" The of Mice and Men reference is, "the best laid plans of Mice and men..." which basically just means; the universe has a funny way of mucking up your well laid and well intentioned ideas. My idea was to pick a brillantly, clear day and head up to the summit early in the morning before every person on the planet ended up there as well. And so, away I went all chipper and positive. Go me! Until of course I got out into the mountains and realized; mountain weather is just a tad unpredictable, no matter what the weatherman says.
No matter. I had decided I'm going up that bloody mountian: fog, low clouds, rain or what have you be damned. So there I am hiking poles in hand, weaving my way up through the forest with fog as thick as, well, pea soup. Up the winding path, looking expectantly around each bend as if the blanket of fog would magically disappear, only to discover more fog, more clouds, and absolutely no view. In this I must say I am not easily deterred. After about an hour, I finally cleared the treeline wherein the the view was...nonexistent. However, not all was lost (no pun intended). I may not of had a stellar veiw of the countryside or whatever else was out there that I couldn't see, but now instead of the fog bank being just a nuisance, it turned into an entitey all its own. It became a
living, breathing thing. I stood in awe of it. In awe of the way it swooped down across the mountain bog. Without the trees to impede its flow, it brushed past my face, leaving droplets of water in its wake. It smelled of the earth and the sky. You could see the mist heave and sigh as the wind carried it across the plane. I was mesmerized. The clouds drifted across my skin, my eyelashes, my smile; my entire being was engulfed in mother nature herself. I closed my eyes and stood, happy to be in that moment, in that place, on that mountain. When my eyes opened, I gave one last glance at the passing mist, pulled myself away, and headed for the summit. As I made my final approach I had decided. If I had to stay on the top of that damn mountain all day to see SOMETHING I would.
I didn't have to wait long. When it happened, it was as if the wind had finally had enough and came racing down the mountainside like an eagle after its prey. It lifted the clouds in one fell swoop. One singular moment in time I was engulfed in the grey, the next I was staring at vast, gigantic mountains that were so close it seemed as if I could reach out and touch
them with my finger tips. Soaring mountain peaks cover in the last snow of the season. Grey, towering rocks jutting out of the surrounding bog. Blue skys and white puffy clouds soared over head. Birds flew higher than the peaks themselves. The sun sparkled, laughed and kissed my cheeks with its warmth. I was enamored. I stood tall, hands on hips, feeling as if the world belonged to only me. I was alone, but not. The company I kept was mother earth and as always she shared with me her energy, her love, her aura. And I was happy.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Water; The Thirsty Traveler

Let's take it back to the basics. Water. This, other than money of course, is to me the most important thing while out traveling. Getting dehydrated can be a major issue whether traveling by plane, bus, train or donkey. So let's talk water shall we? How much and why that much!? Well that depends on how long any particular leg of your journey is. But, let me be clear here; buying water for the budget traveler is taboo. It's expensive, so better to weigh yourself down and lighten the load as you go by drinking it than use your hard earned money buying it. Be sure to hydrate the evening before a long trip as well. So, I carry at all times, no matter where I'm going or for how long (minus a trip to the store or pub etc) at the minimum, 2 litres (approx 1/2 gallon or 64 oz). If I leave to take hike for
several hours or go to catch a train for a several hour ride, that is what I bring. I carry a 1.5 liter bottle in my day pack and a .50 liter bottle in a pocket on the side of my day pack. Using the bigger bottle to refill the smaller one and the smaller one for the convenience of being able to reach it at all times.
Throw away bottle vs reusable

I actually have both. Because my reusable does not fit in the side pocket of my day pack but also doesn't carry enough to be a good back up, I use it for what I call overflow or excess water for longer journeys. While I've been out circumnavigating the globe, I've had some long trips in excess of 20 hrs. In those cases I need to carry more water. My reusable bottle I keep in my Rucksack empty when I don't
need it. It doesn't take up much room and is extremely light when empty. It has been a real life saver on those long legs.Throw away bottles; I buy, at the beginning of my trip, two heavy duty, strong throw away bottles of water. As I said earlier; a big one, say two quarts and a small one of say 16 oz. I've been traveling now for 4 months and still have the same bottles I bought back in New Zealand. They have served me well. Like I said, be sure to buy ones that are made well and are nice and sturdy so they will last you the entire journey. In the event something does come up where you lose them or have to throw them away, then so be it; they can be easily replaced.
Water and Air Travel
You can carry your EMPTY bottles through security. If you've forgotten to do so, just empty them at security and keep them. Then fill them up once you pass security. If you have to go through a secondary security and have already filled your bottles and they want to take them from you, be sure to tell them you want to keep the bottles. Then once you get to your gate they should have a place to refill them...again. This happened to me at the airport in Singapore. I had a secondary security check, forgot to ask for all my bottles back and had an 11 hour flight in front of me. I only had one bottle (my reusable one) for the whole flight. I was flying a no frills airline that did not provide free water. Needless to say, taboo or not, I dropped some cash for water that day. It was that or die of thirst and I wasn't done adventuring just yet.
Is it potable?
I never risk it. Just ask. Every place I've been has always had signs posted for non drinkable water. But it never hurts to ask. And as far as if you're out hiking; again, I rarely risk drinking directly from a river or stream without treating the water first. I just carry small tablets for purification purposes. Better safe than sorry. No telling when some dead animal might be up stream ya know?
So there you have! The why's and why fors of water and travel. Now drink up and have a grand adventure!