Ticking things off my bucket list: SUP

Rocking my favourite colours

I can swim fairly well even though I mostly use frog legs style 😂 Spent most of my childhood swimming in lakes and didn’t see sea till I was 23 so is pretty obvious I am not a beach bum.

Luckily for me other people must have felt similar because in the past 20 years humans developed at least 15 new water activities. Not all of them require an access to the sea nor an extensive beginner course. Paddle boarding has been on my mind for a while now and I had plenty of opportunities to try it but just lacked the courage.

As a complete beginner I opted for a lesson on the canal rather than the open sea. No waves means one less thing to worry about.

LOCATION: Godalming Wharf

Yes, I love Surrey so of course I would choose trying paddle boarding here.

I booked with Roar Outdoor and here is their link: https://www.roaroutdoor.co.uk

In the last 5 years companies offering paddle boarding in London multiplied like mushrooms after a rain so you really do have plenty of choices. Multitude of canals also means you don’t have to venture all the way to the sea side. Well, at least not at the beginning anyway.

SESSION

I booked 2 places so my fearless adventure buddy @beckytravells could also embarrass herself. Yes baby, I’m not going down on my own.

I recommend bringing spare clothes just in case. There is a big Sainsbury by the Godalming Wharf with a toilet facilities you can use to change.

The morning didn’t start promising as we encountered rain and fog on our car journey. I was wearing shorts, vest and swimming shoes so felt a bit underdressed but it meant less drying in case I got super wet.

All ready for us

I booked two slots but expected at least few more people to be in the group. Turns out it was just me, Rebecca and our instructor who’s name I have forgotten.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Whilst I liked the fact that we will have a rather private SUP session it made me anxious knowing the instructor will be giving us his whole attention constantly. I mean what’s the worst that can happen? I will fall into the canal and get wet. I did bring spare clothes but no towel… Common sense has left the building.

I love the colours of the board and life jacket as it is my favourite combination: red and blue.

My main concern was a group of about 15 kids in canoes who will be travelling on the canal at the same time we are. What can possibly go wrong?

Happy and still dry 🙂
I haven’t found my “go to” pose with a SUP yet

INTRODUCTION:

This is the part where we learnt how to use the paddle, how to hold the board, how to position it on the water and how to get on. Easy peasy. The one bit I didn’t like was that you have to strap yourself to the board. Every time we had to carry the board I would almost trip over the chain and it also made me feel like I’m a prisoner. Was the instructor concerned I will just run off with the board?

I actually voiced over my concerns and was told the strap is to help me get on board in case I do fell in the water. It is there for my safety.

When you are paddling on the canal you will have to carry the board over each time you approach a lock, which is very often.

I’m cross handed which basically means I was born left handed but had to adapt to living in a world built for right handed people. The right side of my body is the strongest but I also know how to use the left side. Win win you may think except my brain will be lagging when I’m asked to play sports.

Luckily our instructor must have experience with that because he asked a very valid question to help me solve my dilema: which leg would you use to kick me? With no further hesitation I strapped my right leg to the board.

Now this is where it got complicated for me: since my right leg was strapped to the board it makes sense to carry the board with my right arm. However I would always end up carrying the board with the back facing front which is incorrect. I just couldn’t comprehend how to make my legs and arms work whilst not tripping on the chain. That’s the part I need to work on. I know, it’s really simple.

Laughing at my incompetence. Still dry though

GETTING ON WITH IT

Once we were explained the basics it was time to put it into practice. We sit on a small wooden deck and place our boards on the water. Well I’m glad it was on a strap because otherwise I would have to swim after it. Got it. It all makes sense now even though I still feel trapped. Getting on the board it’s really fun too…

We were told to put our left hand and right knee in the center of the board. Luckily for us our boards had a strap to indicate the center so at least there is that.

We started off on our knees which is very humbling. Time to practice the navigation skills first. There are two ways to turn the direction of your board: paddle on the right to steer left or paddle on the left in backward motion to go left. Do the opposite if you want to turn right.

After few minutes of practice it was time for stand up position. I watched Rebecca as she glided gracefully on the water like a swan. “Have you done puddle board before?” I ask even though the answer should be obvious. “Yes, I have done it in NZ”. Great, now I’m the only beginner here.

“Come on Ania, stand up. You can do it” I hear from my adventure buddy and can’t help but wish I could accidentally on purpose hit her with my paddle to wipe that smirk off her face. But I need to focus on finding my balance and get up, which is actually lucky as my knees were killing me.

In case anyone is wondering, the kids in canoes are finally starting to move ahead of us and it’s a total chaos I do not want to be near.

The instructor gets right next to my board and asks if I want him to hold my board steady so I can find my balance. Yes please.

He puts his paddle across my board to stabilise it whilst I’m on all my fours trying to find my balance. Feels like I’m learning how to walk again…not that I have any memories what was that like.

One knee up then another and I’m standing. Apparently you are not supposed to look directly at your board but rather a bit further ahead, same like when you riding a bike. Navigating the board is much easier when standing up, at least that is my impression. Need to work on my steering skills as I bump into the edge of the canal. Finally the instructor gives us a signal to move along and off we go.

Bit more practice and maybe we can enter the Olympics 😂

The surroundings are beautiful and tranquil. Even the sun is trying to break through the clouds. Perfection.

At least it was till we had to pass a family of swans with cygnets… Trying to avoid them I paddled too close to the edge and got stuck. Not a big deal till you remember I’m on a canal which is not that wide and Rebecca bumps into me. She is closer to the swan and it starts hissing at her. I’m desperately trying to back out of the corner without panicking. Well if the swan will attack it will be Rebecca who gets to be sacrificed first…:)

“Ania move!!! Is hissing at me! Just go!!”.

“I’m trying! But you are not helping. Just chill”

“It’s hissing at me! Go!”

I don’t know how but I managed to finally get myself out of that corner without falling off the board. No swans or humans were harmed.

As we are getting closer to the lock all I can hear is screams and laughter. The kids in the canoes are waiting to cross the lock. All we have to do it get close to the edge, pick our boards and carry them across the road so we can continue our paddle.

THINGS I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR:

You do have to be a certain level of fitness. The board is quite heavy and uncomfortable to carry if you are new to this. My arm did hurt after the session.

You do need strong thighs and good sense of balance. Of course you will get better with practice, but it is a workout for your muscles. So do the squats and planks as a part of your morning routine.

I’m not saying you need to be super fit, but it certainly helps.

I’m natural
The canoes

THE SUMMARY:

The whole session lasts approximately 2,5hrs and I feel like it took me an hour to feel confident on the board. There is a lot to grasp at the beginning but just take your time and accept that you may end up in the water…and that is perfectly fine.

Like I said earlier there are plenty of SUP schools available so be picky. Go with what makes you comfortable.

Most importantly: have fun! Be patient with yourself whilst learning new skill. And give yourself a pat on the back! You are awesome!

And now for the bit everyone was waiting for: did anyone fell in the water?

YES! But it was not me…

My adventure buddy after her dip😂
The rescue 😂

What happened? We had to turn around to swim back to our dock and I guess Rebecca’s body turned before her paddle did because all I could hear was “Aaaah! Oh gosh, oh gosh!” Followed by a splash. Sadly I was already facing the other way so didn’t get to see her fall in.

Next thing I hear is: “My glasses! Oh no!!”but I desperately try not to laugh:

a) because when I laugh it makes the board shake and it is hard to keep balance

b) because I feel like I will piss myself

c) because my friend just lost her glasses and is possibly upset.

The instructor is with her within seconds but I keep swimming ahead as the canoes are approaching. I can’t look back because that just causes me to laugh more seeing my friend all wet and sitting on a board.

It is a miracle that I didn’t fall in at this point. Finally the instructor and Rebecca catch up with me and the first thing I ask is: “can I laugh?”. “Yes, go ahead” says Rebecca and at this point I can’t hold it anymore. I also realise that the instructor must think I’m a horrible friend … But what was I supposed to do?

I honestly thought I will be the one falling in
How could I keep a straight face?

I had permission from my friend and you better believe it I took advantage of that. Plus Rebecca was such a good sport and was also laughing.

I was concerned about her driving home without glasses though but luckily she found a pair of prescription sunglasses in her trunk. But she didn’t have spare clothes so she had to drive back in a towel and my water shoes! Come on! How can you not laugh at this image!!🤣🤣

I’m still cackling Rebecca

No, I could not drive because I don’t have license. And no, I love my adventure buddy but there was no way I would sit for 2 hours in a death sit with her driving without glasses. So I opted to walk for 2 hours to Guildford instead:)

Yes, I have a permission from Rebecca to post this.

See?

We had so many adventures together and this one was the second one that didn’t involve police 😂😂

So yeah, looks like I found a new hobby. Next time I will be trying it on the open sea..Wish me luck and keep on exploring!

Would you dare to go on a fastest zip lane in the world?

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” Hellen Keller

One of my Instagram followers told me recently that it has been a while since I have done something spontaneous and it was like a wake up call to me. The past 16 months been mostly spent working, studying and visiting the local hiking paths to make sure I have my legs trail ready.

It was getting quite repetitive so when my adventure buddy suggested a road trip, I was all in. Originally we were supposed to visit local lavender farm but the weather looked bad and we were not sure there will be any lavender ready yet (we were supposed to meet at the beginning of June).

Next suggestion was Cotswolds but if we were willing to make a 6 hour round trip why not turn it into a proper road trip and visit another country?

I have been to Wales exactly 6 years ago and remember how beautiful it was. But this time we were not concerned with the mountains, lakes and multiple hiking trails. We opted for a special experience, one that has been on my bucket list for over 4 years.

Excited 😜

Velocity, the fastest zip lane in the world.

I suffer from vertigo but I’m not the one who will let my fears rule over me. i I tend to eliminate them one by one by simply facing them. I spent 4 months on off road adventures just to cure my motion sickness and yes, it worked!

I know vertigo isn’t an actual fear but rather a condition but I will not let it stop me from having fun either way. I needed to do something that makes me feel alive again. Fine, I wanted to scream out loud in public!

LOCATION

The Zip World is located in a beautiful town in North Wales, called Bethesda. About 374 km from London if you take the fast toll road.

My adventure buddy obviously didn’t want to pay the toll, so our journey took 7 hours… More time with my bestie, right? As long as we get to the Zip World on time.

The Zip World is build in a quarry with plenty of dirt roads and beautiful tranquil pond. No, I mean really. The water is so tranquil and blue that you feel like you are in a computer game or virtual reality.

There is a shop and a cafe with outdoor picnic area. You can sip your coffee and listen to the screams of the brave souls zipping above you. Very relaxing:)

Cafe and picnic tables

BOOKING

Like with almost everything these days, you need to pre book your adventure through the link here

https://www.zipworld.co.uk/adventure/velocity

You can decide if you want a camera or not, but remember personal cameras are not permitted during the ride.

At £15 you can have a camera attached to your helmet and a video along with some pictures will be emailed to you at the end.

Mind you, the video will be an edited version which means it will not show your whole ride.

REGISTRATION PROCESS

As we approached the information desk we were told they were running 20 minutes behind the schedule so our ride will happen at 4.40pm instead.

Not a big deal except the blue sky was quickly getting filled with clouds. I’m really hoping we will be able to squeeze into the sunny spot.

Of course I thought the whole experience will be us registering and getting our kit on and then straight on to the zip lane. Wrong.

The whole experience takes about 2 hours from start to finish.

1. STEP ONE

After your registration you will get a green wrist band which you need to show when collecting your gear kit. If you purchased a camera, you will also receive a yellow band with a scan code.

DO NOT put the green wrist band on just yet.

2. STEP TWO

In a separate room you will be called to step on a square platform with a cross on it and pop your green writs band on the desk. Why? The square with a cross it’s a scale and they need to put your weight on the green band, so the next member of staff knows which kit to give you.

Not enough weight and you will end up dangling midway the lane… Apparently the staff finds it funny 😁

Also that was the reason for our delay. Someone got stuck half way the zip lane… Please don’t let it happen to me…

We were in a group of about 12 people. Once everyone was weighed and had goggles and helmet, we were given a short health and safety talk. I know this is a standard and necessary procedure but isn’t there a bigger fun killer than someone telling you what can go wrong on the ride you are about to go on!?

Believe it or not but I was not nervous at this point. That changed very quickly when the lady told us that we will first go on a smaller zip lane to familiares ourselves with the process… What?? You mean I have to experience this twice??? I wasn’t prepared for that at all?

I looked at my friend: Did you know about this???

“Nope, no idea!”.

“Well shit. Now I’m scared” I say as we both laugh nervously.

3. STEP THREE

This is where you put your suit, goggles and helmet on. Everything is already lined up for you and you just have to follow the instructions of the crew. Our suits are grey and look like aprons except they have metal bar attached to them and about zillion carabiners and clips. One member will put it on for you whilst another one will double check everything has been done correctly. We look like minions and I can’t stop laughing. There is a guy in front of me and he also can’t stop laughing. He says is because he is nervous. I told him laughing is better than crying.

Minion look

Once everyone in our groups is suited we march to the little zip lane.

Can you see the fear in my eyes?

STEP FOUR

So like I said earlier, the little zip lane is just basically a warm up. It’s not very long but still fast. There are 4 stations and you need to go to the one you have been told. Each station has a nice soft table (a bit like a massage table) and a crew member. When is your turn you are asked to lie down on your tummy and bend your legs. Next the instructor attaches your suit to the lift and places the metal bar on your feet. You then need to straighten up your legs to make sure the bar is tight enough and love your arms behind your back. Another member double checks if it’s all in place and then they lower the table leaving you suspended in the air. Yeah… I did not like this part. Not even a tiny bit. There is a reason why I am not a bird… Between me and you: if I was all by myself chances are I would have chickened out… but there is no way I will let my friend be the more adventurous one. That’s the famous Leo’s pride…

Getting hooked…
It looks like a form of medieval torture…or is it just me?

Once you are in the air, you need to wait for the remaining 3 people to be ready which can be nerve wrecking. You will know when it’s time to go because the crew will start a countdown…in Welsh! Sometimes they will even sing a song before releasing you!

Well I know I should have gone to the toilet but now it’s too late… off we go! The first few seconds are awful, not going to lie…

Have you ever had that dream that you are falling? This is what it feels like except your eyes are open. I screamed of course…just for like a second or two. By the time I felt comfortable the ride comes to an end. The stopping part hurts a little bit. You will hear a click when you reach the slowing down part and feel a sharp pull.

There will be two crew members helping you down the ride and checking if you are alright. Once you decide you liked it enough to proceed to the big one, you are hoist to a red truck. The ride to the top is 15 mins long , bumpy and very dusty.

Minions off to work lol
Told you it was dusty

I asked my friend: “How come you didn’t scream? Weren’t you scared?”

“I was scared which is why I had my eyes closed at the beginning”.“

Ohhh… do you were cheating!”.

STEP FIVE

Once at the top our group is told to wait our turn as there are three more groups before us. Yeah… the sun is definitely going to be covered in clouds by the time we will be zipping down…Sigh…

Minions at the top
From the top…

There are toilets we can use so finally a chance for me to empty my nervous bladder. A task that proves to be a little bit challenging but not entirely impossible with the suit on. I didn’t eat much except for some pastry and my tummy is rumbling. Or maybe is just nervous rumble. No time to figure this one out as our group is called to gather up in line where we will have another safety talk. I find it hard to concentrate as every 2 or 3 minutes another group of 4 brave souls zips down the line. Some are screaming and some are completely silent. The instructor has to call me out of my day dreaming state and to pay attention. Oops.

Apart from the safety precautions we are also told that the crew places bets on who will be the fastest down the lane. Well I can save them the time because obviously it won’t be me.

Finally our group is ushered inside the cabin where we have to stand on marked spots. Again, there are 4 stations and you have to go where you told. This is also when your camera will be attached to your helmet. Great, now we look like ants…

Waiting my turn…

The procedure is exactly the same. You are called to attend to your station and lay on the table when you ready. Now, wearing helmet and being a little bit overwhelmed I almost picked up a fight with the guy at my station. I was just about to lie down when I heard “heavy” so I turned my head and said: “Sorry but what do you mean heavy!?”

“What? I said ready” but I think he can see I’m not convinced as he comes closer to where my face is and says: “Did you think I said heavy? I said when you are ready” and he puts his arm on my back in reassuring motion and smiles. Then looks at my wrist band with the weight and says: “That’s not even heavy. I weight 10 more kilos than that”.

Oh so it’s a competition now? But out loud I only say: “Yeah, but it’s all muscles”. “Sure, beer muscles” and he laughs whilst patting his tummy. He is wearing a jacket so can’t see anything but he looks like he skis for pleasure so I doubt it’s true. “So have you done it” I ask to distract myself from the fact that I’m about to be dangling 150m above the ground.

“The zip lane? Never. I would never do it.”

“Why?” I ask as I’m getting ready to get off the table and walk back to safety.

“Too dangerous” he says laughing as he can see panic in my eyes. “Just joking. I did it 20 times more or less”

“Is it the same thrill each time?”

“No, like with everything else after the 4th or 5th time it becomes less and less exciting.” After that another member comes close to check on my suit and if everything is hooked correctly. “How are you feeling?” He asks. “I don’t know … I’ve never been in this position before” I say as he lowers the table and I’m now dangling in the air… looking directly at the drop underneath me… Gosh… how did I find myself in this situation? Why not just climb Snowdon? I’m feeling a bit dizzy but no backing off now… My heart is up in my throat and I really wish I was wearing a nappy now…

I look to my left to check the progress on the 3 people that will be going down with me. My friend is just dangling there and looks pretty content…I find that super annoying..and motivating at the same time. Here comes the countdown….and with a click we are off…

Me about to faint..

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” it’s all that comes out of my mouth as fear squeezes my tummy. The drop was brutal for me… then I look up and see my friend just zooming past. Yep, told you I will be the slowest in my group…Once the line levels up all I can hear is the wind blowing in my face and I’m glad I wear face covering and goggles. I just recently got a crown and can you imagine ramaging through a quarry trying to find it? That would be an expensive ride…

And you gonna hear me rooo

Time seems to slow down and I’m desperately trying to enjoy this moment but I feel like I may throw up at any minute…it is only when I zoom above the beautiful tranquil blue water when I surrender to my situation and just make the best of it. The water is crystal clear and I see few sea gulls scattered on the surface but no fish. Very surprising. I’m always envious of birds and their freedom to roam the skies freely but I suspect they don’t suffer from vertigo.

The whole ride may last 2 minutes top but it felt much longer to me. Finally I hear screams and then the clicking sound, meaning the end of the ride is here.

IMPORTANT: you will be dangling 10ft above the ground so you need to hold on to the pole a crew member on the ground will be holding out for you. Try not to miss it and hold on with both hands as that’s how they pull you down.

And voila! You did it!! You faced your fear so now you can finally stuff your face! Or have a pint!

Fresh off the line…

My legs a bit trembling but that does not stop me from skipping:)

Hey ho…

I have to say that I was really impressed with the crew members. They will reassure and guide you at every single stage of your experience. Always smiling and joking and maki nag sure you are safe.

Oh, almost forgot. The zip lane can go over 100m/h

So find yourself a good adventure buddy like @beckytravels and go and explore your fears!

Will you do it? Let me know in the comments:)

My first through hike in England

My presidential suite

I guess the reason why I never camp overnight in England is because nights are relatively cold all year round plus wild camping is frowned upon in most places.

Last year I treated myself to a hammock as a cure for my empty travel diary and spent most of my free time swinging between trees in various places outside of London. Some of those places became like my second home so I thought why not spend the night?

I know all the trails and paths in Surrey like the back of my hand by now and know which ones are very busy with walkers. All those winter walks finally paid off and I chose my route on Friday morning but it didn’t start off well.

When I arrived at Waterloo station I was greeted by what looked like a massive exodus. I know the weather was supposed be really good this weekend but is everyone leaving at the same time!? Only after I look at the message board I notice that every train is either delayed or cancelled. Crap.

After speaking to a member of staff I learn that there is a circuit power failure in Surbiton and no train has left since 8 am this morning. Marvellous.

My ticket has two travel options: one from Waterloo and another one from London Bridge. The first one is faster and less chance for a missing connection so I decide to wait a little bit and see if there is any improvement. After all my goal today I just to hike to my hammock spot and spend the night. As long as I get there before it’s dark, it’s fine by me.

There is a light of hope as we have one train that has the green light light to go and it serves my route, but there is one small issue with it: nobody knows where the driver is. Just as I am about to board the train they cancel it. I can either waste more time here or take the alternative route. Two hours after my schedule I arrive in small village in Surrey, home to my favourite forest. Well one of many. Even the sun started shining which I take as a good omen.

What’s not to love 💕

What did I pack:

-three pairs of socks and underwear

-long leggings and shorts (it will be hot on Saturday and Sunday, at least during the day)

-4 litres of water (that bit is painful but there is nowhere to refill bottles)

-hammock

-sleeping bag

-jacket

-hiking poles

-power bank

-camera

-kindle (which I opened once and just browsed through my library)

-first aid (yes, I’m better at it now)

-rubbish bags

-food for two days (I will be changing locations so will replenish it at pit stops)

My backpack’s total weight may have been around 10-11kg. It’s hard to believe it’s the same one I used when trekking across Central Asia for 7 months. There was barely any room left after I squeezed my sleeping bag and hammock in it.

Hopefully all those planks and push ups didn’t go to waste.

All I have to do now is to hike 7km at my own pace. Easy peasy, no rush stroll. I can even take the scenic route if I want to. Oh I so wanted to but the weight load on my back forced me to take a rest every 40 minutes. Nothing too uphill this weekend for sure.

My queen size bed
The bedroom
An evening guest

The sunset official time is 9.17pm but you still have another hour of semi light left. Good to have this buffer of time if you need to change your hammock location. The original spot I chose was in a dense fir forest and so perfect! Except it belonged to a private property and I was not about to break two laws in one night. But I figured I may find something near by that has public access. Bingo! At 7.30 pm I have my spot located and my hammock hang between two trees. Fitting sleeping bag, backpack and me into it was a true test to it’s strength. I did not have a plan B in case the hammock broke. It would have to be ground.

Many people will ask me: why not a tent? Well because hammock is cheaper and being off the ground means I’m exposed to less bugs. Works for me.

After changing into my night gear aka wearing everything I brought with me at the same time, except for underwear, I am finally ready to settle in. You have to be firm with hammock and have a good sense of balance. Tucking myself in the sleeping bag is a bit of a challenge and I try to think of myself as a caterpillar trying new outfit rather than me being stuck in a coffin. Takes a lot of shifting and shimmying but I’m in, my net bug is zipped and my bladder empty. Now if only all those birds could politely shut up so I can enjoy some peace and quiet. Ha! They were singing for an hour after the sunset and just when I thought it will be silent, all the creepy birds came on afterwards. You know the one they use as a soundtrack in horror movies? Exactly. At 11.30pm I managed to fall asleep only to be woken up by a growling. Thinking it’s someone’s dog I quickly sit up and try to look up only to realise the growling it’s my own stomach. Tough luck buddy. Dinner is over.

An hour later I am woken up by …rain! Yes! The rain that my weather app has not mentioned!! We are about to find out of my sleeping bad really is waterproof. Luckily it’s just a drizzle. At 3am the sky starts turning bright and all the birds are awake again. Unknowingly I set up my hammock in the best place for sunrise view! I’m shattered though! And I have to hike over 20 km to my next location.

Woke up like this 🙂 no filter
Sunrise

After morning toilet, changing back into my day attire and some breakfast, I try to fall asleep but too many walkers near by. Why are some people so loud??

I know I’m cranky because of lack of sleep so will need some extra chocolate today to keep me going. The hike which supposed to take me 3 hours ended up being a 5 hours journey but I saw some really cool stuff on the way. Walked through forest, field and ended up by a canal.

Dead mole.
Giant dandelion clock
This beautiful lodge
Sooo much better than Box Hill
I mean is it even a hike when i

Then 10 minute ride in a train and quick stop to buy more water and food and I’m back at the trail. The last 40 minutes it is a hell but I can already see how empty and quiet this place is. Heaven.

Around 5.30pm I reach my final stop. THE STOP. I discovered this place a month ago and it is the best view ever!!!

I have a quick dinner and a rest before watching the sunset and by rest I mean bailing my eyes out. The exhaustion took the better of me so I just let it all out. Good thing there is nobody around. Except for the sun and birds. Gathered myself up just in time for the show:

I mean…😍

Better than any 5*hotel!!! Just look at this!

Wow 🤩
Best cinema

Beside the already familiar chatter of birds I can also hear football fans cheering and singing. I really hope they won’t stay all night nor they will discover my location. Phew! At midnight everything is pitch black and quiet. And I’m left with the best view one can ask for: starry sky!!! I saw 4 shooting star and you bet your ass I made 4 wishes!!

Can someone tell me what bird is this?

I kind of wish I had someone to share it with but at the same time I’m glad I have it all to myself!!! What an experience! And another sleepless night, this time due to me counting shooting stars:)

Fine, I edited this pic just to show you what I have seen.. I suck at taking night time pics…

Even though it was my first time camping outdoors I chose places I’m familiar with. I need to know in advance where my hike is going as otherwise I will not enjoy it and be anxious most of the time. You don’t have to tell me the route but tell me the destination. Plus I would otherwise focuse on finding the perfect camping spot rather than the surroundings.

I’m glad we don’t have predatory animals because honestly I don’t know how anybody can sleep knowing there may be a bear roaming near by. Or a wolf. Or a mountain lion.

I’m very proud of myself for preserving but gosh, you have no idea how much I wanted to quit on the train.

The lack of sleep and heavy backpack completely depleted my physical body but mentally I feel like a new born. I found peace in the present. Wherever I go, there I am.

May I always be content like this in beautiful nature

Sleeping outdoors was always my dream but I never had the opportunity or guts to do it. Guess I can tick it off my bucket list then:) I will be tackling another fear of mine this coming up weekend so stay tuned! And you? When was the last time you tackled your fears?

Most beautiful hikes in England

You aren’t truly a traveler until you explored your own country”. How many of you stumbled on some hidden gems in the city you called home for the past 10-20years? Or how many of you finally managed to visit the local park or a new city?

Being locked up in one place for over a year can seriously mess up with your mental health. I don’t care how beautiful is your hometown, how many amazing beaches you have at your door step or how many trails lead to your house.

It will all get mundane and repetitive after a while.

I myself had no choice but to explore English trails over and over again to the point that I am sure most of the cattle can recognise me by now. If it’s not by my footsteps then definitely by smell:)

Being bound to public transport I had to make some compromises and pick up my fitness level.

Whilst I may not enrich with you a knowledge of local culture, I am more than happy to share some of the most scenic hikes and views I enjoyed those last 15 months. From ferry rides to forts to cemeteries here is a list of inspiration for the next time you will need a break from London.

As always, the order is random.

1. TILBURY FORT AND FERRY TO GRAVESEND

In just 40 mins train ride from London Fenchurch street, this location makes for a very pleasant day out.

Make sure you book your ticket to enter the fort online and bring your own picnic or enjoy a lunch in a pub across the river.

The fort has an unique shape that sadly can be seen from above only.
Gun powder magazine
Pocahontas statue in Gravesand
View from the ferry

There is a pub waiting for you as you disembark the ferry in Gravesend so if you are like me and dislike being on water, you can calm your nerves with a pint and good meal.

There are plenty of lovely cafes in the city center and you can also explore the city bazaar.

2. HERNE BAY

If you love coastal walks here is another gold mine to explore.

If you like a challenge then I recommend walking the whole distance from Margate to Herne Bay which is roughly 20km.

Easy to walk or cycle path

The path is well paved and pretty straight forward.

Stunning Reculver tower
Great for bird apotting

3. BRIGHTON

Most people associate this vibrant city with one of the most popular beach in England and at only 1 hour away from London, we can see why.

But if you are an avid walker or want to earn your beach rest, then I recommended getting of the train two or one stop earlier and hit either the South Downs way or head towards the Fulking hill. Both directions offering stunning views of the landscape as well as multiple point of interests.

An entrance to the train tunnel. Loving the architecture.
Jack Windmill
Jill windmill
Beautiful picnic table with astounding views. Perfect pit stop.
Truleigh hill walk

4. BROOKWOOD

Less than an hour from Waterloo you can be transported to one of the largest cemeteries in Europe also known as London Necropolis. At 500 acres it is home to almost quarter of a million graves and the train station is located right at its door step.

Saint Edward Shrine Church
You can find graves from 1800…
The nature is just as impressive here.

You can find sections such as: Canadian Military cemetery, American cemetery and even Air Accident Cemetery. If you are one of those people that don’t get spooked easily or on the contrary, you love a bit of a thrill why not give it a go?

WARNING: during heavy rains the passage between platforms becomes flooded which means you need to walk an extra hour or two to get to the platform bound for London. Trains may also be cancelled so make sure you check beforehand.

The water was knee deep in the middle…

TRIVIA: Brookwood used to have its own railway for transporting dead bodies, complete with flowers, coffin and grieving relatives.

5. HIGHAM

6. WEST BROMPTON

7. FARNHAM

8. HASLEMERE

9. DOVER

Well known as the connecting portal between Britain and rest of the Europe, white cliffs and of course the castle.

Take the high speed train from King’s Cross and you can be there in 1 hour:)

Walking possibilities in Dover are endless and everyone will find something interesting: history buffs can explore the multiple fortresses and citadels, nature lovers can admire all the wildlife from slow worms to peregrine falcons.

View from a Shakespeare cliff
North Down way
One of many lookouts left over from WW II. Yes, you can go inside.
Part of English Coastline path
Is it England? Is it Cinque Terre?
Samphire Hoe
You get to walk through a tunnel:) it is a pretty cool experience.
Sadly this pretty tower is closed to the public at the moment.

I recommend walking from Dover to Folkestone. There are two options: either via North Downs and English Coastal path which will take you above the cliffs. Or take the lower beach path from Samphire Hoe.

WARNING: the direct beach path can only be completed at low tide. Please do make sure you check it before commuting. There is a cafe at Samphire Hoe and they can check it for you:) It takes about 1hr 30min to get safely to the elevated platform and it is tricky walk. I stretched my ligament there:( luckily for me the high tide wasn’t scheduled till 11 pm so I had time to crawl slowly.

10. CHILWORTH

This beautiful village hidden in the Surrey Hills is well worth visiting. Unfortunately it does not have a direct train access to London so you will have to either transit in Redhill or Guildford. I recommend buying ticket that will allow you travel in both directions in case you miss one.

Blackheath forest
Unbeatable winter sunsets
St. Martha’s hill. Perfect for winter sunset views
Alpacas:)

Memorable encounters

With everything that is going on in the world recently and all travels being postponed one has no choice but to cherish the memories of better times as you flip through your holiday pictures.

I knew I wanted to use this time to create something and occupy my mind but I was not sure which direction should I go into. So I decided to ask my Instagram followers for advice as to what should my next post be about. One of the requests was to post about crazy encounters.

So here are 10 most memorable encounters I happen to cross paths with on my travels and hikes. The order is totally random and I will let you decide which one should take the trophy. You can let me know in the comments below:)

1. BULGARIA.

Back in 2017 I visited Bulgaria for the first time. It was a long May bank holiday weekend so perfect opportunity for a mini break. It only has been few months since I started hiking and I didn’t even have a proper GPS on me. Always learning by trail and error 😕 which sometimes works and sometimes does not.

The trail starts basically at the doors step of my apartment but I had been socialising the night before and only had 4 hours of sleep. I reached Boyansko Ezero without any troubles but after that my map is not very clear as to which way I need to decent. I notice a guy with a backpack sitting at the edge of the lake having a snack. I decide he looks experienced so he will know the way. He does indeed and shows me directions but then asks if I would like to join him as he is heading towards the waterfall. What I did next surprised even me. I ask: “how can I be sure you will not kill me?”. Now I don’t even know what is a normal reaction to this question or how would a serial killer answer it to be honest.

Well he is taken aback but then starts laughing and says: “ok, let me prove it to you that I do not have bad intentions” and proceeds to take out his phone and shows me some of the pictures.

“Would a serial killer have a pink car? Or a baby duck pictures?”he asks. “I mean frankly I wouldn’t know. “ I say. He then says that it is ok if I do not trust him and don’t want to join him for a hike which obviously makes me feel like an asshole. And I do want to see the waterfall. We set off together on our uphill journey I quickly regret agreeing to. He never stops talking whilst I can barely breathe… During that 40 minute hike that feels like eternity I learn that he speaks 8 languages (supposedly as I never fact check him on that), opened up his own prosperous coffee business in Thailand and is now hiking his way home to Hungary. He also tells me that I waste my life working 40 hours a week and I should at least strive to have a family. When we finally get to the top he ask if I can take a picture of him by the waterfall but just one. No matter if it’s good or bad. Apparently it’s a bad omen to take more than one. I snap 5, hand him his phone and say goodbye.

2. ITALY, ANCONA.

This was during a short weekend away in October when you could buy a return plane ticket for £20. Destination did not matter much as long as there were decent hikes around. Ancona with its sea side location and mild weather was perfect. Plus it is Italy so how can you not go? Worse case scenario you will always have a good pizza and pasta:)

My flights are usually very early in the morning so I can make the most of my trip. After dropping off my bag at the hotel and sorting out the formalities, I am on my way to a park in San Pietro region. The weather is gorgeous, blue skies, sun shining. I pass a small cemetery and make my way down towards a beach. There are few view points along the way so of course I stop and check out the views. Park is almost empty except for a guy wearing all black and talking in his phone. He walks in my direction and as he passes bye he says “hello”. I found it very annoying that he didn’t say it to my face but waited till he was behind me. I turned back to check if maybe it was to the person on the phone but he already put the mobile in his pocket and made a 180° turn and started walking towards me. “Oh ffs, here we go again” I think to myself and a panic swipes over me. “Excuse me do you have the time? My phone just died” and he tries to show me the phone. The screen is black but I can tell he is lying. I tell him the time as politely as I can and slowly start heading towards the beach. He smiles and asks where I am from to which I do not reply as not to encourage him. I pretend I didn’t hear him and speed up my pace. He stands in one spot for few moments watching me but luckily does not follow up.

I know that this my seem like an ordinary encounter but there was something about him that set my gut alarm off. I learnt to never ignore that feeling.

3. ENGLAND.

A while back I dreamt about having my own hiking group so I joined MeetUp.

There are at least thousands of hiking groups so I knew it may take time to build up a following. I posted the route, date and time of the meeting. I had two people responding:one woman and one a guy. Unfortunately the lady cancelled at the last minute but the guy appeared rather enthusiastic. He kept messaging me on the app checking if I haven’t changed my mind etc. I thought nothing much of it.

The hike date came and I was heading to Tring where we supposed to meet up. Between you and me I was hoping he will not show up so I was disappointed when he was already waiting at the platform.

As always his pic was very old so naturally he was older in person but fairly fit. He let me lead the way even tho he knew this area quite well himself. When we got to the view point he asked if he can take a picture of me. I was like “why? You want picture together?”. “No, no. Just you”. Ok… rest of the hike was rather uneventful but he sent me a message to express his thanks that showed off his ugly side. Right at the bottom of the message was “you have a very sexy body”. I pretended I did not see it and hoped this will be the end of it. He sent me like 3 more messages and every single one of them has a reference to my appearance…

We met for one more hike and he was a decent human during it. Then I’ve left the country for 7 months and we would exchange stories about our hikes. By then he started following me on Instagram and would always comment on my pics. The final straw came when I posted a selfie on my stories and announced I am taking a break from social media. He messaged me privately and inquired if my huge smile has something to do with meeting a guy. I told him even if that was the reason then certainly it was not his business. He was rather upset and finally unfollowed me shortly after.

Here are some of the messages:

And here is where I lost it:

4. KYRGYZSTAN.

Whilst travelling through Central Asia I would use Couchsurfing to socialise with other travellers. On one of those events I met a Brazilian guy, well travelled and very funny. We have done a trip to a local historic side together but mostly we hanged out in the evenings. He was the typical social animal as most Aries are.

During one for those long session hang outs we discussed different reasons for travelling and someone mentioned that guys usually travel to get laid. It was me, the Brazilian guy, a girl from America and another guy from Ireland. As a joke I presented a meme with the map of the world coloured according to the size of men private parts, and said that this is why I travel. Of course they all wanted a copy of the picture and the guys wanted to verify the data so the subject of body count came up. The Brazilian guy said he slept with 136 women and of course the table is very silent for a second. But then he drops even bigger bombshell: he has a spreadsheet where he keeps track of all the nationalities he already tapped. Of course I needed to see it and I can verify he does in fact have it.

I kept asking him when his warranty for his male parts runs out:)and even wanted to propose a bet that he will hit 200 by the end of the year (we met in July). I do not have any updates:)

5. KAZAKHSTAN

On my 14hr train journey from Almaty to Tashkent I was sharing a coach with a girl from Japan. It was an overnight journey so we each had our own bed. I had one lower bed and the Japanese girl settled on the opposite side one.

When it was time to ditch the lights off, she went to the bathroom and put pyjamas on which I wasn’t expecting but maybe that’s how she gets comfortable? What buffers me most is that she hang her pants on the seat. In plain sight. Why???? If anyone has an explanation for it please feel free to share it with me:)

6. KYRGYZSTAN.

During my two months where I was staying in a local guest house and volunteer at a school, I met about 20 travellers from all paths of life.

One of them was a doctor from Chile who collects…knives…

7. KYRGYZSTAN

During my first month in Kyrgyzstan I met a very friendly polish couple. We were all staying at the same yurt camps so we always saw each other during meals. They would made sure I seat between them. Every time. The husband wanted a picture with me….just me and him and no wife. They were also hogging the sauna constantly which was mildly irritating. One day after a particular long hike I wanted to shower but was told the couple is using the sauna (shower and sauna were in the same tent). I am annoyed so the husband suggests that I shower whilst they are in the sauna. They do not mind. Also there is a door separating both, but you need to pass through the shower area to exit the tent. No exit directly from sauna. I accept the offer and head for my shower and hoping I can be quick enough. I was about to rinse myself when I hear : “we are too hot, can we please go out? We will close our eyes”. I quickly turn the shower off and cover myself with a towel. “Ok”. They step outside the tent and I finish dressing myself. When outside the wife makes a remark:” we haven’t seen anything we have not seen before” whilst the husband looks directly into my eyes.

8. TAJIKISTAN

To be able to start my journey on the Pamir Highway I had to travel from Samarkand to Dushanbe. It is a 5hrs taxi journey through mountains. The driver asks of course if I am married. I reply “I’m a widow”thinking there will be no questions after that as a sign of respect. Wrong. He asks what happened to my husband….like what!? I was not prepared for that…so the first thing that pops in my mind is car crash. I really hope this is over but when we stop for a break the driver joins me outside and starts yelling at me but I can not understand most of it. Maybe it’s for the best.

You have no idea how much I wanted to push him off that cliff. He wanted to hold my hand for the pic but I pushed him away.

9. This fact was reminded to me by Tanja as I shared all my crazy encounters with her as I went along on my journey. I met a girl who travelled the world as her goal was to sleep with a men from every single country. I know, she should have teamed up with the Brazilian guy:)

10. An Irish couple who were both teachers, lived together and travelled together so naturally I was curious as to how long they were together. “We aren’t a couple. Just friends”.

Have you got a memorable encounter or a crazy story to share? Feel free to post it in the comment section.

Obviously I am also wondering how many crazy encounters involve a story about me:)

Stay safe and keep exploring. If not foreign lands then maybe your own limits:)

Trekking Turkey part I

So the holiday season is once again upon us and since Turkey is one of the few countries that opened up their borders this summer, here are few tips you may want to read before you book that trip of a lifetime.

I had plenty of opportunities to come to Turkey as it’s a popular holiday destination and has been for a while now. With the abundance of beaches, crystal clear water, mountains, blue skies and sunshine all year round it’s easy to understand why.

Here are three reasons to make Turkey your bucket list destination:

-food! My mouth is watering just as I even mention it! Meat cooked and seasoned to perfection, plenty of fresh vegetables and variety of dishes depending which region you are visiting!

-landscape for everybody! You can go skiing in the morning and swimming in the sea later that afternoon! How amazing is that??? History buff? Plenty to see there too!

-value for money. Turkish lira offers you a great exchange ratio so you can have more fun for less!

Since I was already in Central Asia and wasn’t in a hurry to get to Europe, Turkey seemed like a perfect transition place. I wasn’t too happy when I found out I need to apply for a visa but the whole procedure takes less than an hour and you get your e-visa instantly upon successful application. Here is the link https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

Bear in mind that even tho the visa is valid for 180 days, as a British citizen you can only stay in the country for 90 days. It’s a multiple entry visa so you can exit and enter as you please. If you want to stay longer then you have to get an extension within the first month of your visit.

Local SIM card.

Turkey isn’t a member of Europe Union and roaming can be very expensive. Your best solution is getting a local SIM card which costs 100TL plus any packages. All you need is your visa and passport and visit a local phone store. Turkey has three major mobile operators: Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom.The main difference between them is price so chose which one suits you most. Yes,I strongly advise you to get a local SIM card especially if you planning on hiking in remote areas. Free WiFi isn’t widely accessible.

Make sure they will open the SIM card for you as a tourist and not a local. Otherwise your SIM card will expire after 30 days unless you will bring a residency proof. That exactly what happened to me so I had to revisit the shop and get it fixed.

TRANSPORT

Turkey has generally a good link of public transport made of buses, metro, mini vans. You will need a local travel card with prepaid value. Annoying part is that every region will have their own card: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya etc. So you will need a bigger wallet to be able to hold all those cards:) On the plus side they will look good in your scrap book.

There are plenty of online apps that you can use to track public transport. Like I mentioned before each region will have different transport providers so plan accordingly. Also some apps only work in Turkish language.

IMPORTANT: ALWAYS carry your passport or copy of your passport with the visa stamp. It’s very common to be stopped by a police or gandarmeria and get id. They can stop and checked the whole bus as well (happened 3 times to me). You can get fined if you don’t have relevant documents.

Taxis are also very popular in turkey and relatively cheap. You can usually find special buttons on trees or lamp post that are connected to local taxi dispatch. I found that very useful because I didn’t have to call and explain my location etc. English isn’t widely spoken in turkey.

Turkey has to be amongst the countries with largest number of pilots. Flights are super cheap between cities and much faster than coaches.

I find it really weird that there are no trains in the whole country.

Here are some useful links to help you plan your perfect excursion:

https://www.busticketline.com/index.php/kamil-koc-bus-company.html

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.biletall.com/amp/otobus-firmalari/kamil-koc-bileti (great app since it also shows you plane tickets but frustrating to use without english option. Still worth checking the routes and options etc).

I used this app constantly whilst staying in Antalya region. It allows you to track the bus in real time so you don’t have to spend hours waiting at bus stops. You can also top up your card online.

Another excellent app but only if you are fluent in Turkish.

https://www.biletall.com

https://www.obilet.com

IMPORTANT

Due to the current situation Turkish government is using a mobile app to track passengers.

I couldn’t find it in Apple store and my friend suggested it may be because I don’t have Turkish SIM card.

This is what the app icon looks like:

https://www.railwaygazette.com/passenger/coronavirus-app-as-part-of-turkeys-transport-restart/56602.article

HITCHHIKING

I only hitchhiked in turkey once. I was hiking in a remote area and there was this massive dog that couldn’t stop barking at me and simply blocked my road. The first car didn’t even slowed down for me and it took 15 mins before there was another car coming. It was a massive lorry truck but the driver was super pleasant. Didn’t speak much English but understood that I was afraid of the dog. He gave me a lift to a safe spot where I could continue my hike. Quite often when I was walking by the road a car would stop and the driver would ask if I need help or a ride. Of course it was very sweet and made me feel welcome, but sometimes the driver didn’t understand I was perfectly ok and that’s what I found frustrating. My best advice: go with your gut and always be cautious. I had a guy offering me a lift in Cappadocia but it turns out he was just looking for tourist to sell ballon flights to so as soon as I said I’m not interested at this occasion, he literally stopped the car and told me to get out. One of my best interaction was in Fethiye when I was coming back from a hike and a brand new Merced’s passed me by. After few seconds I saw it slow down and reverse to where I was. I prepared myself the best I could:) the driver rolled down the window and in a broken English asked: do you want to walk or you need a ride? I simply said: thank you but I have an hour till my bus so I can walk. And after that he left. I loved it! Communication really is a key!

ACCOMMODATION

I was using Couchsurfing when I first arrived in turkey. Firstly because I wanted to save a bit of money and secondly I wanted to get that insider look into the country. Yeah…that did not go well at all. Turns out that most hosts use the app as a Tinder and they do expect you to sleep with them in return for free bed. Some are quite open about it, others are more sneaky. I have dozens of stories about my Couchsurfing experience but this isn’t the time nor place.

All I’m going to say is: always trust your gut. Check their references. Try to interact via WhatsApp beforehand etc.

I had a wonderful host in Ankara, Owz,and we are still in touch via WhatsApp. He has a vast knowledge about his country that he could fill at least 10 books with! And he also hosted like dozens travellers and simply loves interacting with people! If you ever in the capital I’m sure he will be more than pleased to grab a coffee with you or host you at his place.

I also had two nice hosts in Istanbul but Cappadocia and Antalya were a disaster.

During my 3 months visit I spent 2 of them staying at various Airbnbs. I found this option way cheaper than hotels and also I had the privacy and comfort I love. Hostels aren’t very popular in Turkey.

IMPORTANT

If you are using booking.com to book your stay in Turkey, you have to do it before entering the country since the site is blocked there.

MONEY

Local currency is Turkish lira. Plenty of ATMs in big cities but harder to get cash in remote villages. Paying by card isn’t widely accepted so always carry cash with you and try to plan ahead.

I never once feared I may be mugged but that doesn’t mean I encourage you to flash your wealth.

Most locals never been abroad so you may want to “tone down” describing your travel experiences. I know it sounds dumb but it will save you in the long term.

Now I feel like I need to mention something about local men. Turkish men don’t have the best reputation in Europe and after 3 months in turkey I can understand where does the opinion come from. Turkey was the first place where I literally couldn’t use Couchsurfing to simply find people to hang out with. Even if I posted an open event for everybody as soon as a local guy joined, he would refuse to let anybody else in. And local men always asked the same question: are you by yourself?

They were literally like piranhas trying to cockblock each other.

I even got a warning message from Couchsurfing that they will remove my profile because too many users are blocking me. Why was I being blocked? Because I refused to meet up with a guy who came too strong aka I was being precautious. Cappadocia was amongst the worst places when it comes to interacting with locals. I feel like it’s a one giant mafia of local guys there who are just looking for naive tourist.

Now I don’t condemn all those people who travel and want to have fun. Go for it! However I would like there to be an option to opt out without being ostracised. And would be much simpler if Couchsurfing kind of had two options in their profiles.

Well I feel like I’ve given you an honest description of what to prepare for your trip. In my next post I will write about all the places I recommend to visit, all the hiking trails I’ve done and the delicious food I tried.

Enjoy!

Travelling solo for long period of time: daydream or a nightmare?

I think we all had those gloomy Monday’s when our boss wasn’t happy with anything we did or our co workers irritated the crap out of us by simply breathing. Or maybe your boss is great or you are your own boss but you simply wondered if there is more to life than just paying taxes, searching for our other half and getting a mortgage.

At one point or another we all sat at our lunch break and considered packing our bag with essentials only and boarding a one way flight to another continent.

We all had a vision of ourselves sipping cocktails by the pool, dancing with strangers during the week, hitchhiking through most scenic routes, tasting new cuisines and star gazing, maybe living with a local family whilst learning how to horse ride:)

Exactly 165 days ago I’ve left London with one small backpack and a suitcase and one way ticket to Central Asia and this hasn’t been one long happy trip.

Between you and me I’m also surprised that I lasted this long 😂 I gave myself a month top lol was ready to fly back to safety after a week!

Btw that’s me on my flight… can you see the doubt on my mind!???

If you look at my Instagram you will mostly see pictures of beautiful scenery with the occasional smiley selfie and mandatory wise quote underneath 🙂 Believe me , it’s not always sunny and things will go wrong one way or another…

There will be rainy days, flights or buses will get cancelled, accommodation will turn out to be not so good, you will meet rude people, you will get injuries. It’s all part of the journey.

To date those are my injuries and downfalls:

-had altitude sickness twice

-one scorpion bite

-one bee sting

-one spider bite

-2 bruised bones

-one raven attack

-2 shepherd dogs attacks

-been scammed by a taxi driver

-met some unkind travellers

-almost got into a fight in a club

I thought saying goodbye to all my old friends and acquaintances was hard. I didn’t know that I will meet so many lovely people on my way and saying goodbye will become as common as saying hello.

People travel for very different reasons. I met married people who travel solo, couples who met whilst travelling, people who take break from the corporate world, people making their ways across continents. The youngest traveller I met was 21 and the oldest 74:) There is no such thing as the right time as you can see!

My reason? I love discovering new places, tasting new food, walking down a street and not be haunted by memories…

I was also tired and bored of having the same small conversations with the same people every day: how are you? When are you going back home? What will your next job be?

Unfortunately as a traveller I had to face even more tedious questions: where are you originally from? Why arent you married? When are you going back? Where are you travelling next?

I’m not even joking but some people asked me where am I from before they even said hello…

Im not saying I’m hiding my nationality (I’ve been accused of that!) I just simply don’t see how it matters to someone I just met? And do you know why it matters to most people? Because when you tell them where you from they will immediately put you in a box. Box full of whatever information or impression they have of that country and they will treat you accordingly. I hold two passports but frankly I don’t associate my nationality with my personality.

My favourite type of travellers so far are all those fearless independent solo female travellers. I consider myself a beginner when it comes to travelling and I’ve met women who are on the road anything from 2 yrs to 5 yrs. non stop! They always had a piece of advice and encouragement to share. Of course I also met fantastic males travelling solo. However they never encountered certain issues so I couldn’t ask for advice…

yes, travelling as a female can be a bit more challenging especially when it comes to safety.

I often get asked if I’m scared. My answer is always the same: of what?

The truth is of course I’m scared. I’m scared of dogs, bears and…people. I now carry a whistle and small knife with me. Rather as a precaution than a weapon. Had to use my whistle couple of times to draw attention of a sloppy dog owner and used my hiking poles to keep the dog away from myself. The knife is mainly for a survival emergency scenario like if I have to build myself a shelter (as if knew how to!).

For me this trip is mainly about discovering myself and letting go of any attachments. I also decided to face my fears such as claustrophobia. So far I got mixed results on that:) tunnels and small caves are still a no go…

Since I’ve mentioned downfalls it would be nice to also mention my small victories:

-done my first through hike (3 days)

-finally capable to walk 30km a day without breaking too much sweat

-I can pretty much navigate my way out of most forests or mountain areas (but still can’t find an exit out of shopping mall)

-I can live without cheese and be happy

-minimalist when it comes to clothes

-faced my fear of public speaking by volunteering at a school

-I learned to be happy in the moment instead of constantly fretting about the future and next step

But travelling solo for such a long period of time does take its toll on my mental health… I can rarely fully relax as I’m responsible for booking all accommodations, bus tickets etc… of course I became more relax when it comes to planning but still…it has to be done.

Sometimes, especially at nights, you will crave someone you can tell about your day…share the good laughs with or the tears. Journal can help with that a little bit:)

I know that for most people travelling solo is such a crazy idea as jogging is to me but if I encourage even one of you to take that step and do at least one solo trip, then I believe I fulfilled my life purpose:) no, I’m not saying that travelling as a couple of with a group of friends is bad… I’m just saying that everyone should at least try one solo trip in their life time!

The biggest fear many people have about this type of travel is that they will be lonely… trust me! That will be the least of your worries! Especially if you are a woman!

During my 165 days of travelling I had maybe 20 days when I was truly on my own. Oh, what a bliss that was since I’m an introvert :)) I needed that to recharge myself!

But believe me, you will always meet whoever or whatever you currently need.

Safe travels!

Sunshine all year round:) Canary Islands Part 1.

Do you dream of the Carribean sea, cocktails, golden sand beaches, blue skies and crystal clear water but don’t fancy spending all day on the plane to get that?

I have a great news for you! You can find all that in just 4hr flight from uk and for the fraction of the price.

Canary Islands are volcanic isles located just off the coast of northwestern Africa. There are 8 islands in total, with the newest and smallest one being La Graciosa (just 29.05 square kilometres).

I feel like I should tell you upfront that I’m extremely biased when it comes to those islands. I simply love them!!

Love at first sight since 2014 and it is going strong:)

I visited 6 of them and would have a really hard time to pick my fav one, although I’ve been to Fuerteventura about 7 times by now:)

EL HIERRO

Second smallest (268.7 square kilometres) but don’t be put off. It still packs a punch when it comes to adventure and beauty.

There are two ways to travel to El Hierro: by plane from Tenerife North or by ferry from Tenerife South.

For comparison: the flight takes 40min whilst the ferry takes 2hr 30min more or less. When it comes to price it all depends on the day of the week you travel.

The airport is fairly small but not the smallest I’ve ever traveled to. There is a great information desk with a very helpful staff. You can pick up your bus time table, number to a local taxi and tips on what to see on the island.

Here is the link for a local public transport:

http://www.transhierro.com/servicios.cfm?tipo=regular

I also found the locals to be very kind and helpful even tho not many will speak English.

I took a taxi to the hotel because I would have to wait for the bus couple of hours and since I was only in El Hierro for a day and a half, every minute doubted. Could easily spent there at least a month just to take it all in:)

After my check in I ran to the bus station to get the bust to Frontera.

I’ve never been to New Zealand but I feel like this is a mini version of it:)

I also love how peaceful it was!

Because I was short on time I asked for recommendations at the information centre and they said I should visit La Maceta, the natural swimming pools.

It was December and it was super hot (26-28C) so a dip in the cold water sounded heavenly 🙂

The walk is about 4.7km front he Frontera bus station or 2.3km from the Ecomuseo de Guinea. It is a very pleasant walk I must say but again, I love walking:)

Unfortunately the ocean was a little bit too rough that day and I didn’t have the courage to swim:)

I met a local family, super friendly. The parents didn’t speak English but their son did a little and they helped me to get to the bus stop.

Valverde is a really pretty little town. I’m not sure if Christmas is usually the quiet season there because the island seemed pretty empty.

No complains there tbh:)

The next day I got up early since I wanted tot do a bit of hiking before my flight back to Tenerife.

So I headed towards Tinor, where you can find plenty of walking trails and two peaks: Ventejis and La Montana.

I loved how empty the roads were. It was mainly just me a rams. I think it was my first time actually meeting rams and well…it didn’t go well.

I actually had to find another route since the whole flock wouldn’t let me pass through.

Yes I know that whilst hiking one may get close to wild life, but I’m not used to being chased away by one lol

Have you ever been to a place so beautiful that it made you cry?

El Hierro did it for me. I called my friend and simply started sobbing 😭

I mean how can I even try to describe the tranquility? The gorgeous views?

Also I find it hard to believe that the same Source that created this also created me… I mean come on…

The trails were pretty empty but I have crossed path with other hikers. Even tho La Montana stands 839m tall, and Ventejis 1139m the hike is pretty easy because Valverde is already elevated.

The view on a clear day is just spectacular. You can see La Gomera and Tenerife with Teide.

It’s like a perfection:)

Did I mention already that I would be more than happy to stay there for at least a month to take it all in? Such a gorgeous place.

Total proof that great things come on small packages:) well…sometimes anyway.

Are you planning to visit Canary Islands soon? Give this little island go!

Happy travelling!

WHEN YOU LIVE NOWHERE NEAR MOUNTAINS NOR SEA part 1

If like me, you chose your place of living based on distance to work rather than distance to pleasure, and you now find yourself surrounded by a concrete jungle rather than pine trees (or palm trees if you prefer) then you are an idiot…we both idiots…
Luckily for us Great Britain has a solution for that. And no, it’s not travel abroad. Have you ever heard of the Grand Union Canal? Don’t worry if you haven’t because I have been living here for the past 12 yrs and only learned about it last month:)

In a nutshell the Grand Union Canal its a part of the British canal system. A glorious 220 km (137 miles) with main arm starting in London and ending in Birmingham. You can literally point a finger on this map and choose a segment that suits you best. You can bike it, run it, walk it, kayak it or simply hop on the boat.
Of course it’s best walked during the week when most people are at work or school but speaking from experience, I walked a part of it on a Sunday during half term and it wasn’t too bad. The busiest segments will be the one close to pubs, shops and play grounds. Well duh!
It is suitable for all ages HOWEVER the path can be very muddy and very narrow sometimes so please be careful, especially if you walk with little children.
If there is one thing that I noticed is that the further the path gets away from London the prettier the surroundings. But I’m probably biased. I never liked big cities.
Hanwell to Uxbridge (approximately 13km)

It only takes 15 min by train from Paddington station to get to Hanwell. From there you can either follow the Green Lane or the Brent river through Brent River Park. Once you get to the canal you will be presented with two choices: either take the arm towards London or the arm towards Watford.
I have to say on a sunny day this walk can be as satisfying as walking by the beach. No, it didn’t smell nasty although there are few parts that you may want to hold on your breath when passing through. Nothing major though.

I have to say that I had no idea how many people actually chose to live on a boat. It’s like another country. Each of those boats is as unique as its owner.

You will meet lots of swans and geese on your walk. Not sure how you feel about them but I personally preferred to be in a safe distance. Can’t really read their body language but I know they will hiss if you are too close:)

If there happens to be the owner on the boat you can be sure they will greet you with a hello and a smile! Very friendly folks!
If you are ever near Uxbridge I recommend a visit to the Little Britain Lake. Especially if you are a keen fisherman. Remember tho you will need a permit. Like for almost anything in Britain:)

There is a big picnic area for those summer days and plenty of space for kids to run around. I suspect it actually gets super busy in summer.
Did I convince you to give it a go? You can always grab couple of friends and turn it into a pub crawl as you will find plenty of them along the way. I know that few guys actually did just that and cycled the whole length:) enjoy it whatever your motivation!

Has Dominica invented the perfect diet for me? Part 1

“Once a year go somewhere you have never been before” Dalai Lama

I’ve been to the Caribbean before but this time I didn’t go for the beach, the music, the sun or the rum. Dominica is the only island that has a long distance hiking trail that runs across the whole island. The Waitikubuli Trail is 184 km (114 miles) long and is divided into 14 segments from Scott’s Head in the south to Capuchin in the north. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it???
You will be walking through coastal villages, lush rainforest, past waterfalls, up Woodland Hills and straight by the sea. Dominica really has it all.

There is no international airport so in order to reach this beautiful island you will need to either take a boat or arrive by plane from another island. I flew from St.Lucia. I love island hopping by air and planes with propellers:)

The first thing you will notice is the lush jungle like nature that is so abundant in Dominica, or rather was. Sadly almost 80% of the trees were permanently damaged during the hurricane Maria. And nobody is planting new ones.
The best way to travel from the airport to the hotel would be a car or a shared taxi. Unfortunately in a low season that can mean sometimes waiting for couple of hours for enough people to fill up the taxi. Yep, solo travellers have all the perks😂
Once in the taxi I can start seeing the damage in the forests. It’s heart breaking. Not to mention how many people have lost lives, homes and family. My driver told me he lost his dog:(((
In the video you can see the beautiful pink house that is missing roof.

I based myself in Rosseau because I wanted to be close to public transport. At the moment there aren’t many hotels in Dominica but you shouldn’t have a problem with finding a private accommodation.

Rosseau is a small town and main hub for tourists since most of them arrives by sea.
TIP: make sure you are always carrying cash with you since cards aren’t accepted everywhere.
After checking in I decided to hit the trail straight away. Busses in Dominica are private mini vans, so most of the time they won’t have any numbers or indications which direction they are going to. They will have some amazing paintings sometimes and stickers. No need to panic tho. They will have their designated stops and most drivers speak perfect English. Locals are extremely helpful too.
To hike the Waitikubuli trail you do need a pass. You can get it either from designated offices or at crossing segments of the trail. Since I was in Rosseau i headed straight to the Forestry, Wildlife and National Park Division. Because I wasn’t sure the exact location of that office I asked a lady, that sat next to me on the bus, for directions. She not only told me which direction to go to but also offered to walk me to there. It happened to me every time I asked a local for directions. They would simply walk me to where I needed to be:)
Sadly I was turned away at the office with nothing. They wouldn’t sell me the hiking pass. The official excuse was that the trail is closed. I was devastated. More so because I knew it wasn’t true. My taxi driver gave me a number to a local guide who walks with people on the trail, and he told me that some segments are indeed closed. But not the whole trail. I simply wasn’t allowed to hike it on my own:( most likely because I’m a female who looks like a child😂
You probably are wondering by now why didn’t I simply hire a guide. Well because I simply like to hike at my own pace. Looking back I wish I was a bit more open minded and maybe did make an exception this time.
Very disappointed and quite upset, I didn’t want to waste my whole day trying to fight the system. Instead I took a bus and went to see the Trafalgar falls.

TRAFALGAR FALLS

I will be honest with you, I don’t like that name. I didn’t travel half way across the globe to be reminded of London lol!
The bus stop for Trafalgar Falls is based on King George V Street, not far from the Astaphans shop and police station. The ticket is 4.5EC (Eastern Caribbean Dollar) which equals to £1.30 and it takes about 20 minutes to get to Trafalgar. From there is another 15-20 mins walk.

It’s a beautiful walk slightly uphill. You do need a site pass in order to visit the falls. From the office it’s a downhill walk.

There is no time limit on how long you can stay there. It’s a beautiful area, with lush green vegetation. All you can hear are birds, crickets and the roar of the water.
There are also list of crabs so be careful when you decide to tip your toes in the water.

I wasn’t even aware that this little fella was trying to catch my toe… Yes, Dominica is wild.
There was only one other tourist while I was there, and once she left I had the place all to myself. Jackpot!!!
I’m not sure how long did I stay there but once back up I discovered that the main office was closed and there was nobody around. Luckily they didn’t close the gate so I was free to leave.
I was heading back to the bus stop when I spotted a house hidden in the forest. Like how would they even build it there???

I was contemplating that idea when suddenly a car appeared in front of me. The driver noticed me and turned the car around so he was now driving by my side. Quite good looking male with one hand on the steering shell and the other holding a plastic cup with a rum. Drinking and driving…. when is that not a good idea? He asked me “are you here toying?”. I stared at him blankly because I couldn’t understand what was he asking about. I believe in being stupid once and ask rather than remain stupid without asking. I had to ask him three more times before he explained: “Touring+enjoying=toying”. Now, English isn’t my first language but even after over 12 yrs I was fairly confident I haven’t heard that expression before. After we established that I’m not that smart we had a little chat. I told him that I had a trouble to get the hiking pass and ask him for advice. He simply said they wouldn’t sell me the pass because I’m a female and I should get a guide. When I explained to him that I like solitude, he said with a knowing smile “A lone wolf” and drove off. I know, I’m such a hit with men… International hit one may say:) Rest of the way to the bus stop was uneventful. Just me and the nature.

PORTSMOUTH

The second biggest town in Dominica and home to Cabrits National Park.
To get to Portsmouth you need to find the bus stop on River Bank, near the junction between Roseau River Bridge and Great George Street. The ticket from Roseau costs 9.50 EC (£2.74) and the journey lasts over an hour, depends on traffic. There are no seat belts on the bus and they will be going super fast sometimes so just be prepared.

Most of the time there will be loud music busting through the speakers too:) It is quite different from the unlicensed transport I’m used to in England but tbh I do miss those mini vans sometimes:) it’s fun!
Since there are no bus stops with time tables, I would recommend to simply ask your driver about the return service if you aren’t planning on staying over night at Portsmouth.
It is 2.4km (1.5 miles) to Cabrits National Park from the bus stop. It’s a lovely walk as you will be walking by a sea side. You will pass by Purple Turtle Beach which is just lovely.

You do need a pass for the park. I am rarely interested in museums or old buildings so I head straight towards East Cabrit, a small hill with a fantastic view. It’s not a long hike and the path is mostly even, but it is uphill and you will walk through a forest. Very humid forest. What was surprising for me was the amount of crab shells I saw on my way. Last thing I would expect to find in the forest to be honest.
Once you reach the top you will get to see the beautiful Douglas Bay and Prince Rupert Bay.
From the park you can also join the last segment of the Waitibukuli Trail, segment 14. Of course I decided to walk that part.

Found a little beach completely empty except for a builder from nearby construction zone, who was taking a nap there.
I didn’t swim in the water but took off my shoes and just cooled my feet.

Caught the glimpse of Guadeloupe:)

DOES DOMINICA HAVE THE BEST DIET FOR ME?

The apartment I was staying at was located on a ground floor of a two storey house. My host, French lady who moved to Dominica over 20yrs ago, was based upstairs. Now I’m not sure if it was for personal preference or simply the side effect of the hurricane, but the living room in my apartment didn’t have a proper window. Generally not a big deal but that meant all the mosquitoes and creepy crawlers had the freedom to come in as pleased. And pleased they were indeed! Every night I was doing this crazy dance involving running around with a newspaper and squashing bugs! And mosquitos!
The first night there I discovered a big spider on my kitchen ceiling. I don’t like spiders but I respect most living creatures (exception are coackroaches!). I figured we can coexists under one roof. As long as I was sure I locked my bedroom double door securely. We did live in a perfect harmony for two nights but then the spider moved to the centre and I discovered I can live off snacks. And cooking dinner is just a waste of time. So is breakfast. I was only eating fruits for the rest of my stay:) Maybe that spider was sent to me to make me eat more healthy?? Maybe I can apply this here in uk? Turns out I love food but I dislike spiders more!