Wow, today was the most incredible day! For many reasons!
Firstly, before breakfast I had a little wander around the village. The early morning had brought on clear skies and revealed what we had missed out on yesterday when we arrived. It turns out we had been surrounded by more mountains the whole time! Knowing this yesterday would have made the hike up to Tengboche so much easier! I wandered around, enjoying the peace and quiet of the early morning and making friends with some of the village animals. After awhile I headed back inside to join everyone for breakfast.
Secondly, at breakfast I actually had a real coffee! They had an big, fancy coffee machine (god knows how it got here!) and were pouring out delicious coffee all day. I lashed out and ordered a mocha and was stoked that it actually tasted like at home! It cost about $5 but the caffeine hit was more than worth it!
We began the hike to Dingboche and I’m not sure whether it was the caffeine or the stunning view but I felt particularly good today. The first hour of the hike was lovely, through lush green forests along a flowing river. The water in the river almost glowed an aquamarine colour. It was quite warm still and the temptation to jump in for a swim was still there.
As we hiked through small villages, past porters of all ages carrying loads of all weights, it was again lovely to just hike in silence and enjoy the view. There was a short uphill stint before reaching the village where we were having a break. Again, we were sat here for ages waiting for the final members of the group to arrive. As we were a diverse group, we all had different walking styles. Some people had raced ahead and had been at the meeting spot for an hour whereas the slower members of the group were still good hour or two behind us. Krishna gave us the go-ahead to keep walking but like yesterday, the long break had evaporated our motivation to hike on.
It was a short uphill stint again but at the top we were rewarded with the most incredible view! Lhotse and Nuptse, Mt Everest’s next door neighbours stood before us while Everest herself, hid behind the cloud. Surrounding us was the most spectacular mountain range. I was in Himalayan heaven! Energised by the stunning view, the six of us who had formed a little hiking group were enthusiastic about the rest of the hike. We walked through a valley at about 4100m, heading towards the Everest mountain range. I felt like I was in Frodo in Lord of the Rings, going on an adventure! We were tiny specks of scenery compared to the vast land mass around us. The mountains that had looked so far away just a couple of days ago, were now dwarfing us in the valley. The landscape had started to change and the dense, green forest transformed into sparse, desolate rocky plains. Only the toughest of plants can survive in the thin air and it was clear that there wasn’t many that could.
We walked through the valley for about an hour, enjoying the lovely mountainous hike until the inevitable uphill began. It was nowhere near as bad as yesterday, maybe because of the clear skies giving us motivation to keep walking or the remnants of the caffiene were still working. It took about an hour or so to hike up the path and around the bend into Dingboche. This little village was situated in a small valley, surrounded by some of the most famous mountains in the world. We were here for two days to acclimatise and with the view as good as this, I wasn’t complaining! Tomorrow is a rest day with just another acclimisation hike about 400m higher.
We left early from our little B&B in Loch Lomond with a mission to be in Stanraer by noon to catch the ferry over to Northern Ireland. Though of course, we had a do one last castle in Scotland and did a flying visit through Culzean Castle, which was absolutely magnificent.
The entire property included a walled garden, a swan pond, deer paddocks and of course, the grandest looking castle I’ve seen in Scotland! The Culzean Castle is the former home of Marquess of Ailsa, the chief of Clan Kennedy.
The most impressive rooms were the armoury rooms and the grand oval staircase. It was unfortunate that we had to rush through because you could easily waste a day there enjoying the royal vibes.
Jumping on the freeway, we managed to make it to the ferry dock with five minutes to spare. Mum and Dad with their forward thinking had booked us into Premium Loading so we drove straight onto the ferry and had first pick of seats onboard. Go parents!
The ferry ride was uneventful but pleasant as we had scored lounge seats right near the window. Definitely opt for Premium Loading if you’re taking the ferry from Scotland to Ireland, well worth the extra pounds! It took about two and a half hours to reach Larne and us Premium Loading folks were first off the ship. There were about four or five guys with their Ferrari’s and other super fast cars that I know nothing about surrounding us. They had been revving their engines, showing off when we were loading and disembarking. It backfired on one guy in a red Ferrari though, his clutch stopped working just before the disembarking begin, leaving him a little red-faced!
We left the embarrassed Ferrari guy behind and speeded up towards Bushmills, where we would be staying for the night. We had plans to see the Giant’s Causeway the following morning but decided it would be better to visit in the fading sunlight, and boy, weren’t we correct.
The Giant’s Causeway is essentially a free attraction to see. You can pay to visit the information centre and have a tour guide, but seriously, all you want to do is see the crazy rock formations in real life. We walked down the Causeway, (which was actually a bit of a hike!) admiring the green, lush coastline. As we reached the Giant’s Causeway, it was hard not to be in awe of what nature can create.
The 40,000 interlocking basalt formations spread themselves along the coastline and the hexagonal shaped rocks are somewhat similar to bee’s honeycomb. The formations are a result of a volcanic eruption about 50 million years ago. Though, like most natural wonders, there is a legend about how it way created. According to Gaelic mythology, the basalt columns are the remains of a causeway created by the Irish giant Fionn man Cumhaill (Finn MacCool). After being challenged to fight by Scottish giant Benandonner, Fionn accepted and built the causeway across the North Channel so the two giants could meet. In some stories, Fionn wins the battle, though in others he loses and destroys the causeway so no more battles can occur. Whatever way the story ended, the result of the rock formation has fascinated humans for many years.
We climbed and clambered over the honeycomb shaped rocks and watched the sky turn all shades of gold and blue with the disappearing sun. Definitely was a smart choice to visit in the late afternoon. We caught the last bus back up the hill and drove the 200 metres to where we were staying for the night, at the Ballylinny Holiday Cottages.
In my true family fashion, we were jam-packing our days to the absolute last second. After we’d ticked off Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, we were speeding towards the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis.
Ben, of course, had been looming over us for awhile now but as we got closer, the colossal size of him and his mountain-y friends was beginning to overwhelm me. Standing at 1,344 metres above sea level, Ben is the peak of the Scottish Highlands.
We hadn’t intended to stop in at Ben, due to time restrictions but had spotted a sign for a gondola going up Aonach Mor, one of the mountains in the Ben Nevis range. Thinking we couldn’t pass the big fella without getting up amongst the clouds, we paid our money and jumped in the gondola and watched the people below us get smaller and smaller.
We scored an excellent day. The wind dropped as we reached the top of Aonach Mor and the fluffy clouds looked cartoon like against the perfect blue sky. We had even timed it perfectly so that the large group before us were heading back down as we walked off the gondola. There was a walking track which took you out to a higher peak on the mountain. Mum and I fast-tracked to the top point where the landscape made our jaws drop to the rocky ground. We could not only clearly see Ben Nevis and the Great Glen but the clear skies gave us a view spanning for miles. I know I say this a fair bit, but this was hands down, one of the best views I’ve ever seen.
Mum and I were the only two up here and it felt like we were on top of the world. The air tasted fresher and it made you feel pretty damn lucky that you are alive. We stayed up there for awhile, in awe of the view until other people started to come along. Heading into the cafeteria, we grabbed a bottle of water and jumped back in the gondola towards lower ground.
We met Dad down at the bottom, stoked with what we had just experienced. I would have to say this has one of the best things I have done, thank God we decided to stop in!
We jumped back in the car and said goodbye to Ben and his hilly friends as we delved further down the A82.
Unbelievably, I’m not even finished my day of driving through the Highlands. Read on to see how we dealt with witnessing the most extraordinary places on Earth.
Another early wake up (thanks Mum), we chomped down some brekkie and set off towards the tube while B headed off to work. Our first stop today was the Natural History Museum, which I’ve heard is a must-do in London but have never gotten around to going. Mum went the last time she was in London over 20 years ago, so she was excited to see what had changed.
We got off the Tube at South Kensington and walked the short distance to the museum. As it is a free attraction it gets rather busy but luckily we were there early enough so we only had to wait in line for 15 minutes or so to get it. The grand old building is bloody beautiful, to put it bluntly. The architecture had us fascinated, particularly Mum and Dad, who own a building company. The sandy coloured stones, intricately carved and detailed and the pointy turrets make it seem like a castle. The entrance is just as grand as the outside, with a giant skeleton of a dinosaur in the foyer and colourful stained glass windows. We walked through the different exhibitions, such as the dinosaurs, mammals and the cocoon. The museum, as beautiful as it is, was a little out-dated. Mum even said it looked much the same as it did when she visited 20 years ago. In saying that though, they are still researching new species and providing updated information. Even if you aren’t overly interesting in the natural world (can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be!), a visit to the Natural History Museum is definitely a must-do. The carvings in the stone walls are enough to marvel over.
After the museum, we walked through Hyde Park and the Kensington Gardens where we caught the tube to Camden Town. I love Camden. It’s quirky, cool and there is always something to look at. We were pretty starving at this point so we made a beeline for the Stables and grabbed some lunch from the multicultural bunch of food stalls in the middle of the markets. My dear friend K met us briefly for lunch and a wander around the markets.
Unfortunately, jetlag was still affecting Mum and Dad so we headed back to Hammersmith for a quick rest. Dad by this stage, was a bit over London and the crowds, so Mum and I bought tickets to see the Lion King in theatre, while he had a quiet night in. Mum and I did a quick turnaround and were back in Leicester Square by 6:30pm. B met us for a quick dinner and then the three of us went into Lyceum Theatre ready for the show. Even though it was my second time seeing the Lion King, I still got goose bumps when the curtains were opened and ‘Circle of Life’ begun. I won’t go into great detail about the Lion King, I don’t think I need to. If you haven’t seen it, well then, go and see it. You will not regret it in the slightest.
The following morning we packed up our gear and said goodbye to our little London home and B, potentially might not see him until he’s back in Australia around Christmas time, so that was a little sad. We didn’t have to pick up our hire car from Heathrow Airport until 1pm so we spent the morning in Notting Hill at the Portobello Markets. It was a delightful morning, however somewhat rushed as we browsed through the many stalls as quickly as we could before catching the train to Heathrow. You could find anything at these markets and if not, the people watching level is off the radar!
From here we start our three week long UK road trip. First stop is at friends of my grandparents in East Bergholt!
Ahh GoPro, the once unknown brand that has become a household name. What was once specialised camera for action sport lovers, has transformed into an everyday camera. Every man and his dog know owns one. In fact, GoPro just released a harness that you can put on your dog to capture life from their perspective. It pretty much lives up to its brand slogan as ‘the world’s most versatile camera‘.
I’ve previously written about GoPro and my initial struggles with using it, however fast forward to this very moment and I’d like to think of myself as a rather suave GoPro user. I’d also go as far as saying in one particular aspect, I’m a pro. And that my friends, is known as the GoPro selfie.
I can see my old housemates, hardcore windsurfers and snowboarders, shaking their heads at this. I remember hiding my recently purchased GoPro from them when I first bought it early last year, when GoPro was just beginning its road to success. They both had GoPro cameras and used them for their proper function, to record themselves doing adventure sports. And here was me, ready to jet off to Europe, with my new GoPro camera that I had no idea how to use.
Over the past year I’ve slowly taught myself how to get good shots, how to edit, etc. etc. I’ve invested in extras for my camera, such as the LCD, the tripod mount and my favourite, the selfie stick.
What I believe is the cause of my already high level of vanity, has transformed this sometime selfie taker, to an absolute selfie monster. When travelling, I’m hardly without my trusty GoPro and pink selfie stick. When travelling with B, we turn into selfie addicts. And you know what, I’m not even ashamed to admit it..
“Hi, I’m Jess and I’m a GoPro selfie addict”
However, I’m a little bit biased. This may just be because my iPhone is absolutely prehistoric and about to die, but I don’t like any other kind of selfie. I shake my head at people trying to fit the entire view, plus their head in the shot. I feel somewhat superior whipping out my GoPro and capturing the entire view, plus a good chunk of myself without a worry. Does this mean I’m a selfie snob?
Whatever it means. I’m still going to continue being an avid GoPro selfie taker. Even if they’re as dorky as this one..
p.s – I swear this wasn’t just a post to share some more photos of myself. I’m not that vain.
If theres one thing I like to do when travelling, its finding the biggest, most popular, adventure touristy thing to do while in a new place. In Tromsø it reindeer sleighing, in Cappadocia it was hot air ballooning and now in Ölüdeniz, it’s paragliding.
Ölüdeniz is famous for its Father Mountain (Babadag) where people from all corners of the Earth come to launch themselves off the top of the mountain. It is regarded as one of the best sites for paragliding in the world due to it’s unique panoramic views of Ölüdeniz and the Blue Lagoon. Having seen photos upon photos of the magnificent views and rave reports about paragliding, I couldn’t resist signing myself up for it.
I organised my paraglide through Gravity Tandem Paragliding (http://www.flygravity.com) who were excellent in accommodating this blondie off a mountain. My first paraglide was supposed to be scheduled for the Friday before. However due to strong winds they had to cancel, which gave me four days to work up a massive amount of nervous energy and anticipation.
Tuesday rolled around and I caught the two buses to Ölüdeniz from where I was staying in Kabak Valley and met the Gravity team at their shop. There was about twenty other people in the office as well and after quick wait we were herded down to their headquarters, where we were put into groups and taken up the mountain in a mini-van.
The drive up was spectacular and windy as we drove higher and high heading for the clouds. We were told to pick from a deck of cards to determine who our flight guide was and I picked Apo, a tough looking Turkish man who wore a bandana and rode a motorcycle. We were dropped off at the launching point which was pretty much an area that was concreted down to the edge, where we had to run off. There was also a restaurant there, but no time for coffee with a view, I had jumping to do.
Apo harnessed me up (in a non S&M way :O ) and we were hooked up to the parachute, ready for launching. There were others around me who were already running off the cliff and watching them race for the edge made my heart race. The nerves definitely were sinking in! Much like the morning sky in Cappadocia filled with hot air balloons, the sky was filled with colourful parachutes. Apparently around 150 flights are made each day in the peak season, with each paragliding guide doing at least three to five jumps a day!
Apo informed me it was our turn to run so I obliged and started jogging towards the edge. Its sort of difficult to run with someone strapped behind you, as well as the parachute so I just moved my feet while Apo pushed me forward until we were dangling in mid air.
Before I knew it, we were soaring high above Ölüdeniz and the mountains surrounding the glorious beach. It was surprisingly peaceful flying this high up, despite only being strapped in by a couple of straps! If there was ever a time in my life that I felt like a bird, this was it. Oh the freedom they must feel!
Apo asked me if I wanted to do any acrobatics and I scoffed, of course I would. He told me to hold on and spun us around and around, dipping from side to side. The G-force was incredible, I couldn’t even lift my arms up.
We settled back into soaring and spent the next few moments in silence, admiring the view and wiping the tears that had accumulated in my eyes from the fast winds of the acrobatics.
We soared further over the beach and the royal blue waters, which sparkled in the sunlight. I could now see why it was the best place for paragliding, the view is nothing short of epic.
We glided further down towards the beach and the busy streets of Ölüdeniz where we did a few more acrobatics before preparing to land. The funny thing about paragliding here is that the landing spot in right in the main walkway of Ölüdeniz. Every few minutes you’ll hear ‘Landing!’ and a few Turkish boys running towards an incoming paraglider, all while tourists duck out of the way.
I asked Apo if he had ever run anybody over, he just smiled devilishly and said “Just a few”.
The landing was a lot smoother than I had anticipated and I didn’t fall over like I thought I might. I’m pretty much a pro now! Now on land, I felt like we only jumped off five minutes ago, when in fact it had been about 25 minutes. I was itching to go again, but settled for watching the other paragliders in the sky.
After Apo packed up his parachute, we walked to the headquarters where we showed me my pictures and videos of the flight. I wasn’t intending on buying them, buuuuuut as I like to say ‘When in Rome!’, unfortunately my credit card starting to disagree..
Paragliding is definitely a must when visiting Ölüdeniz, or even anywhere in the south of Turkey. You can’t beat the views and its one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences that you’ll never forget! There are so many paragliding companies in Ölüdeniz that you can choose from. Most of them are pretty open to giving you a good deal, however you’re looking at around 200-280TL for a flight. Do it! It’s absolutely worth it!
Just to catch up on the past week (which I will write more in depth about later), I have been residing in the hidden but glorious part of Turkey, known as Kabak Valley. Because I thought two weeks wasn’t long enough to spend in this fascinating country, and I wanted to get my moneys worth for my visa ($60USD for 3 months, whaaat!) I said goodbye to my gal K and caught the bus from Bodrum down to Fethiye.
Another two buses later and I was walking into my new home for the next two and a bit weeks – The Shambala. I found this little slice of paradise of http://www.workaway.com, where in exchange for a few hours work a day I get free food and board. Not bad right! Anyway, I will elaborate on my Workaway experience closer to the end of my time here.
Today however, after spending a few too many days lazing about in this little piece of heaven, I decided to do some exploring. There are some great waterfalls about an hours hike from Shambala, so with my free morning I decided to go and find them.
Now I’m admittedly not the best at directions. North and south mean absolutely nothing to me. I’m a landmark kinda navigator. However when every tree and damn rock looks the same, it was only expected of me to get lost.
I had some basic directions from the staff at Shambala and what I briefly Googled. I figured it couldn’t be that hard. Its a popular hiking trail, surely it must be like Australia and very clearly marked, right?
I started off around 9:30am, feeling fresh and good. I walked down to the beach and up to the cross roads, where the hiking paths begin. There was a signpost with three signs all pointing in different directions, all written in Turkish. I vaguely remembered something about the waterfalls being to the right so I took a punt and headed off in that direction. The rocky path, sometimes indicated by red and white spray painted stripes, led me uphill rather steeply, winding through bushes, over rocks and out of breath. I paused after about 15 minutes, searching for my next red and white striped indicator but couldn’t see anything. I continued along the path which was slowly becoming less and less established. 10 minutes later I hit a dead end. The beaten path just stopped, I didn’t know where to go next.
Sweaty, puffing like a overworked race horse and slightly worried, I tried several different directions that looked a little bit like a path but decided to turn back because I didn’t want to end up in ‘Castaway, The Sequel’. Walking back down, retracing my footsteps until I reached the crossroads, where I asked a Turkish woman which way to the waterfalls. Of course, like most elderly Turks, her English was very limited. With lots of nodding and hand gestures I was sent off in another direction, with hopes there was a waterfall at the end of the track. This track was more clearly marked, this time with red and yellow stripes, and I was feeling more optimistic. About ten minutes into my hiking, I met another hiker. A Turkish man, who certainly looked the part of the hiker exchanged greetings and he asked if I was headed for the waterfall. His English was just as bad as the lady before, so the hand gestures came out again, until we agreed we were both searching for these elusive waterfalls.
We hiked, him in front by about 20 metres, for awhile, clambering over rocks, in a steep ascent. By this time the sun was starting to really give it to us and the sweat was pouring out. We continued to hike uphill, and I was thinking this so called ‘moderately easy’ hike was severely underestimated. We walked along the edge of the mountain, only inches between our path and the rocky descent below. There is no such thing as safety railing in Turkey. If you want to be crazy and hike up a mountain, do it at your own risk! We reached the mountains corner, where we had a breather. The view was AMAZING.
The water below ranged from baby blue to aquamarine and the white pebbled beach glowed in the bright sunlight. Across the bay I could just see the wooden bungalows of Shambala, hidden amongst the green topped trees that clustered on the mountains edge. The severe white and grey mountain faces looked Photoshopped against the clear blue sky. Even though there were no waterfalls in sight, just seeing this view was enough for me.
We saw another sign post, with absolutely nothing indicating a waterfall. The Turkish man luckily had a mobile phone with reception. He called the camp site he was staying at and even with the lighting speed Turkish being spoken into the phone, I could tell we were in the wrong spot. Crestfallen, we decided to head back to the starting point.
After jumping down rocks, using trees to balance and walking slowly where path was slippery we eventually made it back to the starting point. I was almost ready to ditch the waterfalls and lay on the beach for the rest of the day. The Turkish man pointed in the direction of the camps and indicated waterfalls. He kept saying ‘Follow, follow’ and pointing towards the bush. I was a little hesitant to join him, every horror story of stranger danger flashing through my mind. I did want to see the waterfall though. .Sizing him and his skinny arms up, I reasoned that if worst comes to worst, I could definitely hold my own against him (sorry Mum). I let him walk ahead a bit, keeping an eye out for any big sticks.
We walked along what seemed like a dried out creek. Pebbles of all different sizes made for difficult walking, but it was nice not to be trekking in a severe ascent. We walked for 15 minutes or so, with me debating with my conscious as to whether I should turn and run. When suddenly we heard voices up ahead. Ah! At last, other people! And English speaking people, heading in the direction of the waterfalls! Feeling safer, we made some quick introductions and continued on our way. A funny group of Turkish, English and Australian, the six of us followed the red spray painted arrows, with hopes of a refreshing discovery. Of course, the way we were heading was the shorter, yet more dangerous way. Free rock climbing as they called it, we pulled ourselves up rocks, waded through creeks and ducked under trees, with hopes of getting closer and closer to our destination. I had taken my joggers off and found my bare feet were better than any shoes at climbing up rocks. Surprised at my strength, I easily climbed up rocks and feeling a bit like Bear Grylls, I got excited as the sound of rushing water was getting louder and louder.
Finally, after one particularly scary climb up a huge rock with not much to hold on, we reached the middle waterfall. These waterfalls were a set of several different terraces, with little ponds of crystal clear, icy cold fresh water. Ripping off my sweaty shirt and shorts I jumped into the frigid water, losing my breath at the sharp shock of coldness. It was so nice to be in fresh water after so long swimming in the sea. I felt clean and refreshed.
We hung about the waterfalls for awhile, chatting and laughing about our little adventure. There was another terrace higher up which the others wanted to climb to. I was running out of time, as I had to be back at Shambala for my shift. So after a long while, I pulled myself out of the fresh water, said goodbye to my new friends and headed back off to play Bear Grylls once again.
The climb back was equally as hard, as I had to jump down the rocks we had clambered up early. Thankful for all the push-ups I forced myself to do at the gym, I found it easy to use my arms to lower myself down, instead of just jumping onto the hard ground. I managed to find my way back to the campsites, with only a few moments of ‘where the hell am I?”
I reached the beach and bought myself an iced tea and bottle of water to quench my hard-earned thirst, before trekking up the steep hill to Shambala. I got back to my tent, exhausted but happy. I had found the waterfalls and met some lovely people. Just goes to show what happens when you trust a few strangers and don’t give up!
Next time, however, I’ll do a bit more research as to what way I need to go :p