Archive | Travel RSS feed for this section
July 8, 2017

New Zealand’s Heaphy Track – One of the Great Walks!

16353798287_94ec5caabd_z

16353798287_94ec5caabd_z

New Zealand has some of the world’s best walking tracks (or as they call them in Kiwi land, “tramps”!) and the Heaphy Track is one of them.
It is situated on the north western coast of NZ’s South Island within Kahurangi National Park. You can choose to walk the track over either four or five days. My group did it in 4 days but if I had my time over again I would choose the 5 day option. 78.4 km is a long way!

The Heaphy Track is not a circuit track so you have to consider your transport options in and out. You can walk it from South to North (Kohaihai end to Collingwood end) or North to South (Collingwood to Kohaihai). Sometimes 2 groups of friends will arrange to walk the track from opposite ends, meet in the middle and swap the keys to their cars so that they can both drive out. We drove to Karamea (the small township near Kokaihai) from the city of Christchurch and stayed the night. The next morning we took a helicopter flight to the north-eastern end of the track and then walked the track back down to our car. Of course you can arrange to catch the helicopter to either end.

We walked the track from North to South but on reflection I think South to North would have been preferable. There are two reasons for this. On your first day you are carrying more weight because you are carrying food for 4 days. From the southern Karamea end, the the first day involves walking along a largely flat track up the picturesque coastline. Three of the first day’s highlights are the grove of Nikau, Scott’s Beach and the inlet camp site at the end of the day. However, walking from the northern Collingwood end the first day is mostly uphill through beautiful native bush. I found this quite tough with a full backpack and wished I’d walked from the southern end which would’ve allowed me to ease myself into the hike, as it were.

So we walked 5 hours up through the forest to Perry Saddle Hut and stayed there the first night. The next day was a very long day! It took me about 8 hours to walk across the alpine tussock grasslands of the Gouland Downs to the Mackay Hut. It’s supposed to take 6.5 hours but one of my knees was playing up and causing me pain.
Day 3 involved descending through beautiful bush and then crossing and following the gorgeous Heaphy River out to meet the sea where we stayed our 3rd night at the Heaphy Hut. The final day we walked south along the coastal track through the forest of Rata and Karaka trees and Nikau Palms. There are quite a few swing bridge crossings of streams which can swell into torrents after heavy rain so be careful. There are opportunities to walk along the beach in some places. The sea is breathtakingly beautiful but you should NEVER be tempted to go for a swim – it far too dangerous.

The Heaphy Track is one of the great walks of the world. You get to see such diverse landscapes along the way – beech Forest, alpine tussock grassland, podocarp forest and coastal palm trees. I would love to do it again and next time I would be better prepared. I would do some training beforehand and make sure I had more comfortable boots. I developed blisters on the 3rd day and was a bit of a cripple on the last day which was a shame as it did impair my enjoyment of what otherwise was a spectacular last day. Bring some plasters!

Image by Christoph Strassler under Creative Commons license.

October 26, 2016

Preparing for a trip around Southeast Asia

Viking

southeast asia

With the winter weather getting a lot of us down, many people are looking forward to their summer holiday. If you’re sick of the bog-standard hotel chain full of lager louts and cheesy entertainment, it’s time you spread your wings and headed further afield. Yes, it’s time to wave bye-bye to the package holiday, and hello to Southeast Asia.

Made up of beautiful countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to name but a few, here’s everything you need to know to plan the perfect Asian escape.

Planning your route

The first thing you’ll need to decide when it comes to your Southeast Asia vacation is where exactly you will be going. Will you be spending all of your time in one place or will you be exploring the region to see everything it has to offer?

If you are planning to visit more than one location, it will pay you to fly into Bangkok Airport. From here, you will be able to get a connecting flight to your chosen destination. Usually these flights will be reasonably priced.

What to pack

When it comes to packing, you’ll need to take into consideration when you are travelling. If you are visiting between April and May, you can expect hot and dry conditions. However, from May to around October, it is monsoon season in much of the country. The cool winds arrive in November. (Some areas of Thailand have a different monsoon pattern – check it out here)

If you intend to travel during monsoon season, it is recommended that you take a waterproof jacket, to avoid getting soaked. As the weather will still be incredibly humid, you should choose a thin, non-insulating one to prevent you from getting too hot. An umbrella would also be handy too.

Whether you’re visiting the metropolis that is Bangkok or are simply enjoying the region’s magnificent landscapes, you won’t want to forget all of the sights you see. That’s why you should invest in a high-quality digital camera or at least have a smart phone with a decent camera.

In the monsoon season, mosquito bites can be common. As a preventative measure, invest in an insect repellent with a high DEET factor to keep the bugs at bay.

What to do

The activities you partake in and the sights you see will be influenced largely by the type of holiday you are after. If you’re looking for a lively nightlife and bustling party scene, head to Bangkok for some of the best bars and clubs the region has to offer. Or, for a one-off experience, take advantage of one of Thailand’s many full-moon parties on the island of Ko Phangan.

If you’re looking for a more cultural experience during your Southeast Asia trip, head to Thailand’s Chiang Mai. Here, you’ll find a plethora of exquisite Buddhist temples. Likewise, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the largest and oldest temple ruins on earth, won’t disappoint.

For more inspiration on must-visit Southeast Asia attractions, take a look at this post on the Reader’s Digest website.

October 25, 2016

Hitting the Adventure Trail in Turkey

image002

Smoking a shisha pipe in Istanbul and lying on a beach towel in the sun are just why reasons why choose Turkey as an holiday destination. There’s much more to the country than this especially if you’re an adventurer, natural athlete or aspiring fitness fanatic. And if you aren’t, you’re missing out!

What to Pack

Take some supplies with you so that you’re ready to rock and roll when you get off the plane. A first aid kit is a must, as is some Factor 30+ sun cream to protect your complexion. A hydration kit which includes mineral salts and a water bladder is also a good idea. This will come in handy for hot afternoons of beating the pavement. Also, some comfortable, high-quality cycling kit will come in handy, and so will some general purpose hiking boots and polarized sun glasses.

Evliya Celebi on Horseback

The ancient Roman and Ottoman roads to the north west of Turkey pass through some remarkably beautiful landscapes, including hill forts and quirky villages which are concealed from the main tourist traps. This takes you as close to the authentic Turkey as you can get. Approximately 650 kilometers, this journey was originally a pilgrimage undertaken on horseback by the enlightened Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi. The route takes 25 days to complete on horseback, and if you’re up for it there’s no shortage of tourist operators who will give you a leg up onto the back of a pack horse so that you can do the same.

Mountain Biking in Cappadocia

This central mountainous belt in Turkey features lunar-like volcanic rock cones and spires known as “fairy chimneys.” It’s perfect for gung-ho mountain bikers and stunt riders who want to put their abilities to the test. Depending on how fast you ride, the Cappadocia route takes between 3 and 10 days to compete and is graded at medium difficulty level. Along the way you can sleep in underground cave venues and country hotels.

A Drive through History on the Aegean Coast

This glittering part of Turkey is a popular playground for the rich and famous, but there are also plenty of historical sites to satisfy curious travelers. Some of these crumbling ruins feature in ancient epics. Here you can visit the Temple of Artemis, the Doric temple of Athena, the ancient city of Pergamon and the landscape surrounding Mount Mykale.

Kayaking in Bodrum

The ceramic coast in Bodrum offers some of the most exquisite seascapes in the world. The quiet coves and deep inlets all call out for swimming, kayaking and scuba diving adventures.
Whether you prefer an underwater adventure or to see Turkey by bike, horseback or simply relaxing in a rental car, you have all kinds of opportunities to enjoy a real slice of Turkish rural life. What are you still sitting around for? Get yourself on over and grab a slice of the action!

February 4, 2016

Tis the Season — Springtime Fun in New York

touncertaintyandbeyond.com 25 03 2014

In the summer, scores of New York residents escape the oppressive city heat to more rural retreats but when autumn rolls around, beautiful fall foliage starts to appear in Central Park. Then the whole city embraces wintertime, with attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty looking picture perfect.

But following on from the holiday season and bitterly cold weather, New York welcomes spring, which is a tremendous time of year to visit. With many recreational activities and outdoor events taking place, it’s no surprise that tourists from all over the world check in to hotels in New York for an immensely enjoyable springtime holiday.

“It’s That Time Again” — Annual events

Commemorate Saint Patrick’s Day — From wearing the national colors to enjoying a few traditional drinks, there are few better places to commemorate Ireland’s national day than New York City. Its Saint Patrick’s Day parade is the biggest in the world as floats, dancers, marching bands and bagpipers all take to the city streets.

Flower show fun — In March, Macy’s Flower Show features exotic, rare blooms from around the world, while the Orchid Show at New York Botanical Garden displays thousands of bright, colorful flowers in lush surroundings. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 220 cherry trees are in full bloom, which is celebrated with the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Easter celebrations — Along with the annual parade, tourists can attend special church services, take part in an Easter egg hunt or enjoy themed menus at one of the numerous restaurants around the city.

“Sick of Being Indoors” — Being Outside

Have a picnic or BBQ — Brooklyn Bridge Park is the perfect place to nibble your first picnic of the year while you take in lower Manhattan’s skyline. This area also features reclaimed-wood tables and 22 permanent barbecues so visitors can cook whatever their hearts desire.

Go on a rooftop bar crawl — With the evenings getting lighter and the nights becoming milder, there is nothing better than sipping a cocktail or beer from one of New York’s rooftop bars after a long day sightseeing. You can go from the East River to the Hudson without having a drink inside.

Take a stroll down the High Line — This public park is one of New York’s most fascinating attractions. Built on an old freight railroad above the streets of Manhattan, the High Line features an array of greenery and plant life. In spring, several food and drink vendors start appearing as well as Tuesday night stargazing.

Sticking to What You Know — Recreational Pursuits

TD Five Boro Biker Tour — This annual trans-city cyclotron is a must for pedal-powered enthusiasts. Around 32,000 people cycle 40 miles through all five boroughs and over five different bridges. Thankfully, every mile is free from cars.

Check out a baseball game — Both the Mets and Yankees play their season openers during spring, so take this opportunity to watch one of America’s best-loved sports. Sit back and watch the game unfold while indulging in some traditional (if a little unhealthy) cuisine.

Visit Coney Island — Home to rollercoasters and spinning tea cups, Coney Island also has a few entertaining yet active pursuits too. From whac-a-mole and break-a-plate to basketball three point challenges and a duck pond, fun is on the menu!

So whether you attend an annual event, get all active outdoors or just indulge in your favorite pastimes, New York is the place to be in the spring.

March 20, 2015

Romantic Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria 3

Gran Canaria 1

When I imagine the most romantic places in the world to take a vacation I usually find myself thinking of island destinations. I associate islands with romance because they conjure up images of ship wrecked lovers, abandoned on a tropical beach with a mountainous jungle backdrop. The couple has everything they need (i.e each other) and they don’t ever want to be rescued. I kind of like the idea of being trapped in paradise :-)

Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands off the north-west coast of Africa, appeals to me for a number of reasons. For one, it isn’t so small that you’re going to get bored after a day or two.  I love beaches as much as the next person but I’m not one to spend my whole vacation just swimming and sunbathing.  When I take an island vacation I like it to be of a size that I can rent a car and explore it with my partner. This adds a feeling of freedom and romance to our holiday, whether it be an independent trip or a package holiday through a company.

Gran Canaria has vastly differing geographical areas which give it very contrasting landscapes and micro-climates. This makes it even more interesting. A third of the the island is Biosphere reserve under the protection of UNESCO. The best beaches are in the south and east of the island while the north and west are mountainous and have a cooler climate.

There are many romantic activities for you and your sweetheart to enjoy on the island. Here are some of them:

–  indulge and pamper yourselves at one of the island’s many beach resorts and spas. There are 2014 package deals available through the likes of Cosmos Holidays. You can be as active or lazy as you want to be. There are all sorts of water sports and land based activities you can try and/or you can just relax, swim, sunbathe and stroll hand in hand along the gorgeous beaches.

– Why not learn to dive the explore one of the top diving destinations in the world. One of the best diving spots is Sardina de Norte. If you are already experienced at diving there are 2 shipwrecks just off the port of Las Palmas that provide an amazing diving experience.

–  Go for a walk on the Dunas de Maspalomas,  vast and beautiful sand dunes on the southern coast of Gran Canaria. As you can imagine the colours and shadows of the dunes are at their most dramatic and spectacular at sunrise and sunset.

– Visit Puerto de Mogan, a pretty fishing village which is also known as “little venice” because  it’s inlet has canals and small bridges like it’s famous namesake. Another lovely place to visit is Vegueta,  the old quarter of Las Palmas.

 

Gran Canaria 3

 

– Take a drive up into the mountainous area of central Gran Canaria and hike up to Roque Nublo. The views are breath-taking.  Another wonderful drive to take is up the valley of Barranco de Guayadeque on the island’s east coast.  The valley is covered with plants and cacti indigenous to the Canaries and you will enjoy visiting the historic cave houses and church.

– Take a boat excursion off the south-west coast to go dolphin and pilot whale watching. How romantic to see dolphins leaping out of the water in their own natural environment.

 

photo credit: Vin Crosbie CC

December 12, 2014

How to Save Cash on a North-American Roadtrip – 6 Tips

How to Save Cash on a North-American Roadtrip – 6 Tips

That's all of it!

1. If you’re driving an older car, get a USB car charger for your phone/ipad.

I have a charger with two USB slots that plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter slot. Being able to charge your devices in the car is a huge stress saver. It will also save both money and time because you won’t always be ducking into a coffee shop to try to find a place to charge your device during the day.

2. You don’t need to be driving a van to bring your kitchen with you.

If you’re going on a long road trip and aren’t bringing a ton of luggage, there is absolutely nothing stopping you bring along some small appliances, such as your coffee maker or a small, cheapie microwave.

Pair these with a small cooler and you’ll dramatically cut down your coffee and breakfast expenses. We don’t like to go anywhere without having had our oatmeal in the morning. Going out for breakfast everyday is fun for a few days and after that just feels like a huge time suck when you get on the road.

Don’t bring everything, but bring what’s going to save the most cash for you or add the most convenience. If you drink a huge amount of coffee, this is likely to be a coffee maker and a thermos. Make your coffee in the morning and keep it hot for later.

Call me crazy but I often pack the microwave for roadtrips. I have an old, small one that I’ve kept just for this purpose. It’s from when we combined households and ended up with two microwaves.

3. Make sure you’re getting free parking.

I guess that's a tree branch

Make sure you check that the hotel/motel you’re looking at offers free parking. Hotel parking, especially in cities, can be absolutely astronomical. For example, $40 a day.

When you first start your trip you’ll probably remember to check free parking is available and then over time start forgetting to check.

Street parking will sometimes be ok, especially if you’re two people together. One person can take your luggage into your accommodation and handle check-in. The other person can find the parking spot.

Hostels sometimes provide the lowest cost parking option in cities. For example, the HI hostel in Hawaii has parking for $5 a day.

Hassle saving tip: Have a small bag you need for overnight and leave the rest of your (non-valuable) stuff in your vehicle, unless you’re parking on the street. This might not be the safest but it’s much easier.

4. Shop around for your rental.

One of the best money saving tips for travel I ever learnt was to book car rentals through UK sites. This is because they typically offer collision damage and liability protection as part of the insurance, whereas you’ll probably get charged $30 a day if you book through US sites and need to purchase that coverage separately. Of course, check what you’re covered for before you hit that “confirm booking” button.

I used to think booking things direct with the provider would always be cheaper. The more I’ve traveled, the more exceptions to this I’ve found.

Booking on UK sites typically only works if you’re not a US resident. If you are a US resident, you probably have insurance that covers rentals anyway, unlike the rest of us.

When you rent in the US, when you get to the car rental location, they typically allow you to select which vehicle you want to take from any they’ve got available in the category you’ve booked. Ask the guys on the lot which of the available vehicles gets the best gas mileage or is the nicest to drive.

Consider doing multiple rentals and using flights in between if that’s cheaper. Gas Buddy is useful for estimating trip cost based on fuel prices.

5. Consider Park and Ride when you’re in cities.

Even though you’ve got your rental car, if you want to spend some time in a city, it might be easier to park in the burbs and take public transport for exploring downtown. Run the numbers. Especially watch out for if you could get hit for toll charges. This principle mostly applies to places like New York, DC, and San Francisco where street parking is a nightmare and parking lots are extremely expensive but the public transport is awesome.

February 26, 2014

Four Things To Look For In A Business Hotel

nyc

nyc

Searching for the right hotel for your business trip can be stressful. Your boss might not mind if you stay in a dingy hole in the wall to save on money, but you have other (more expensive) options in mind. We’ve all stayed in a hotel that was less than perfect; even brand new and refurbished rooms will make you dig behind the TV cabinet for signs of a second power point or only offer one instant coffee sachet amongst the million bags of tea. If the man up top needs a little extra persuading for a better hotel, here are the four features every business hotel should offer for their corporate guests.

Is it in a convenient location?

I’ll be honest, it’s not the presentation that sends me into a ball of anxiety, it’s the getting to the destination that does. Organizing the public transport and then wondering whether you got on the right bus, or being stuck in a traffic jam and fretting on whether you will get your projector screen set up in time. Save your sanity, by choosing a hotel that’s in a central location, close to amenities and is within ample distance of your client meetings.

Can I plug in more than one thing?

I know, power points right? Petty as it sounds, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to plug in more than one gadget at a time. This doesn’t include power points with clocks and lamps already plugged in, no one wants to have to choose between a light or charging source. When it comes to power points, the more the better! If there’s international points then sign me up now!

Does it have a desk?

While we’d love to leave our work at the office door when embarking on a corporate trip, it has this uncanny way of following us. It doesn’t just disappear overnight, and if we leave it, the workload will be doubled by the time we return. For this reason, it’s really important to find a hotel that offers a chair and desk set up within the room. A desk will ensure you won’t fall asleep in the middle of writing an important email on your comfortable bed.

Please sir, can I have some free Wi-Fi?

Imagine this: You need to complete some last minute research for an upcoming presentation but when you check the Wi-Fi rates, you realize a ten minute search will leave you $50 out of pocket. Hotels are smart and often charge a daily fee for internet usage. In the world of corporate travel, free Wi-Fi is everything so I always try to choose an hotel where it is free, especially if I’m the one who’s paying.

Of course, this isn’t an extensive list of hotel desirables; services including board/conference rooms, transport organizers, and in-house receptionists also come in handy.

February 25, 2014

Preparing for a London Getaway

Jones Bootmaker

With so much to see and do, it’s unsurprising that so many holidaymakers flock to London every year. Whether you’re planning a shorty city break or a long vacation, this post will cover everything you need to know to prepare for your London getaway this spring.

What to pack

Unless you’re intending to visit the financial district, the style of Londoners is generally quite laidback. During the day, you won’t be out of place in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Just remember to take the ever-changing British weather into consideration when you pack: it may be forecast for sun, but pack a jacket for those pesky April showers.

While you want to look stylish during your time in the UK, you don’t want to bid farewell to practicality. Visiting all of the sights and attractions can take its toll if you wear flimsy, unsupportive shoes. Leave your fashionista heels at home and opt for a pair of comfy shoes which will allow you to see even more of the city on foot.

Where to stay

London has accommodation to suit whatever budget you’re working on. Hotels in the centre of the city can be expensive as they are closer to the action, but choosing a hotel a little further out can help you save some cash. Located in the city’s Dockland area, the Hotel ibis London Excel has sleek contemporary rooms that start at just £56 per night. With the Docklands Light Railway nearby, you can quickly and easily get amongst all of the action of the vibrant city.
If you’re splashing out on your city break and looking for a luxurious haven to lay your head, how about staying at the four star Radisson Blu Edwardian, Vanderbilt in stylish Kensington? Or, if you’re feeling flush, how about a few nights at the iconic Savoy?

What to do

London is blessed with a plethora of year-round tourist attractions. Places like the Natural History Museum and London Dungeons are perfect for families, while the range of theatres and West End shows make it ideal for an adult escape.

The city also boasts some great yearly and one-off attractions. If you’re feeling green-fingered, why not go along to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show? Pick up some inspiration for your own garden, or simply admire some of the beautiful flowers on display. The show’s on from the 20th-24th May. Last year, 157,000 people attended, so if you’re planning on going, you’ll need to snap your tickets up quickly!

How to travel

The London Underground makes it easy to get around the city. The price of a day ticket is normally around £7, however, if you don’t intend to use the tube much, it may be worth getting an Oyster card. Usable on buses and trams as well, the card allows you to get the cheapest possible fares for your single trip.

purchase essay papers online pay to write a paper professional research paper writers world history homework help argumentative essays from support services