Still looking for holiday inspiration? Can’t decide between lazy beach or active holidays? Corfu may help you balance both.
Number 1: Public transport
How to get there? Despite being a small island Corfu airport is fairly busy with flights all week. Alternatively you can fly to mainland Greece or Albania and hop on on a ferry.
Travelling within the island.
Best way would be to rent a scooter but that’s not practical if you travel as a family or a group. Local transport connects most popular destinations on the island but it is not that frequent. There are two bus stations: Green bus station and Central bus station. I could not find an online bus schedule but you can pick one from the Green bus station. You can also pick up a time table from tourist information office. Even during high season I didn’t feel like I have to book in advance but some routes may be more popular and busier than others. When riding a coach you will be asked to put even a small backpack in the luggage department.
Number 2: Taxis
There are taxi stands in most towns but in high season you may need to wait for up to an hour. Bear that in mind when leaving for the airport. Taxis will have meters inside or you agree on the fare beforehand. Make sure you have a cash.
Number 3: ATMs
ATMs are plentiful and usually don’t charge a commission.
Number 4: Cash/Card
Plenty of places accept card payments but some still prefer cash only.
Number 5: Food
Greek food is delicious. No doubt about it. Except whoever invented this Pringles flavour should go to jail immediately.
I recommend visiting local taverna for the most authentic experience. Corfu is relatively small so it’s hard to find an area without tourists.
Number 6: Safety
Generally speaking Corfu seem like a very safe place. The only danger I can think off would be drunk tourists causing havoc.
Number 7: Hiking/ Walking
There are plenty of hikes and lovely walks especially in the Northern part. If there are markings they will usually be white and yellow and you can find them on trees, rocks or pavement.
One of the most annoying and surprising things for me was the lack of sidewalks and no street lights outside big towns.
Number 8: SIM card
If you are from EU then there is no roaming charges and you should be able to use your phone just like you would back home but please double check that with your provider to avoid costly roaming charges. If you are coming from outside EU then getting a local SIM card it’s always a good idea. You will have three providers to choose from: Vodafone, Cosma and Nova. Make sure your phone is unlocked and chose the package that will suit your needs.
So I could not find an official website for local buses and there are no trains in Albania despite there being a track. UPDATE: there is a train from Durres to Elbasan that runs once a week. It is a beautiful ride but will require you to stay in Elbasan overnight.
Tirana has 3 bus stations: one that has buses coming from the airport, one local one and one regional one for buses reaching the rest of the country and abroad. The last one is located outside the city and you will need a transport or a local bus to reach it.
Here are some buses prices: Airport to the center 450 Leke Taxi 2000 leke to the airport. Tirana to sarande 1700 leke Saranda to delvine 180 leke. Tirana to Vlora 600 leke Durres to Elbasan 400 leke Tirana to Kruja 200 leke
Return trip to Corfu: £40 (boat ride lasts 1hr 10min)
There is an option for a faster ride but it is more pricey. Podgorica to Tirana €20 (you can also go from Budva). Durres to Tirana 200 leke
Lots of traffic so be sure to plan ahead and leave plenty of time if you have a plane to catch.
Number 2: ATMs
Sadly most ATMs charges you a fee that varies between €5-€7 per transaction. Yep, it sucks. The ATM at the shopping centre in Tirana is free however so maybe it’s worth planning a budget.
Number 3: Food
Portions are fairly generous in restaurants and depending on where you staying, you will have more or less choices. Sea food is very popular by the beach whilst pizzeria and kebab places are more common in big cities. You may find some Asian cuisine as well. Generally the food is good but make sure you wash fruits and veggies bought locally before eating them. It is not advised to drink tap water either. Plus I think it goes without saying that you should avoid touristy spots and head to where the locals go for best food and price. Mind you, they will most likely still charge you “European” price.
Number 4: Cash/Card
The good thing is that you can pay in local current Leke as well as in Euro. Some shops will have double pricing to make it easy. Smaller shops may not have price tags and you will have to haggle or be prepared for higher prices.
Cards aren’t accepted everywhere.
Number 5: Safety
Generally speaking Albania may not be more unsafe than any other countries but certain things are here more common than in Western Europe.
As a woman I felt less threatened by the potential of mugging but local men are not angels. Staring seems to be common theme through Balkans but when I smile and say hi, they actually respond with smile and wave back here.
Last summer I had an incident where I was groped by a drunk guy on a public bus so you do need to pay attention to your surroundings. So far during my current trip I have experienced some harassment (always from men!) and frankly, I no longer feel safe in busy places.
Locals are very helpful in general and speak decent English or Italian. The latter is more common in small villages.
When using Couchsurfing: Local men would prefer one on one meetings and will back out at the last minute from group meetings. They will also always ask you if you are here alone and where you staying. When they invite you for dinner, they will pay but will expect invite back to your apartment. And no, it will not be for coffee.
Number 6: Taxis
Taxis are usually yellow in the capital so very easy to spot. Make sure they will put the meter on or you agree about the price before getting in the car. They will always quote you the highest fare possible.
My taxi driver challenged me to get his age right to get a free ride.
Number 7: SIM Card/Wi-Fi
SIM card (21 days, 35gb, unlimited calls, 2000 lek or 30 days, 33gb 2100 lek). It gets cheaper the longer you have it.
Wi-Fi is available in most places in the city but not at every accommodation.
Number 8: Accomodation
Plenty of choices from hostels in big cities like Shkodra and Tirana, to 5* resorts by the coast and guest houses and villas in the mountains. Prices vary according to season but are definitely not the cheapest anymore. During summer it is quite common to see locals standing by busy roads with a phone number and size of accommodation available.
AirBnb and Booking.com works here too. Be vary off fake reviews and pictures though. What you see on a website may not always be what you get.
Number 9: Dogs
Stray dogs seem to be on the loose pretty much everywhere and they can be quite aggressive and annoying. Be careful if you carry shopping containing meat as you may be followed by a pack 🙂 Carry big rock with you for safety (comes handy with interactions with local men as well).
Albania seems more Van travel friendly than Montenegro.
Is this small country on your bucket list? I have spent 3 months there and the best way I can describe it is : imagine Albania and Italy having a baby. What does that mean? You will get all the beautiful lakes, beaches and mountains but you will have to compromise on comfort and good customer service.
Number 1: Public transport
Getting to and from the airport: either a taxi which will set you about €20 (depending on your bargaining power) or you can walk 20 mins to the train station.
Buses. This is the official website for timetables and routes. There is an option to buy ticket online for some routes but I have never tried it.
There is also a separate timetable for Stari Bar-Canj which can be find on bus stops in Bar or Sutomore.
When you buy ticket from a bus station you will be charged 1€ extra. Also luggage costs extra too (1-2€ per bag). You pay at the beginning of the ride unless there is a conductor.
The “no smoking” sign does not apply to the driver which is a nightmare in winter. Anywhere indoors in public is a nightmare if you are non smoker like me.
Don’t expect politeness such as queuing or men offering you seat on the bus.
In addition to public buses sometimes taxis or private cars will pull up at a bus stop and ask if you need a ride. The price should be the same as a bus fare so agree on that before hoping on. Also make sure you roughly know the direction you are going into. I almost shat my pants when my driver took a turn towards Ulcinj instead of stari bar, as I thought he was kidnapping me to Albania.
Here is a list of the routes I used with prices and journey time: -Podgorica to Sutomore €4 (1hr) -Podgorica to Budva €6 (1hr 30mins) -Sutomore to Petrovac €3 -Sutomore to Budva €4.50 (1 hr) -Sutomore to Bar €1.50 (20 minutes) -Sutomore to Stari Bar 1.50€ (45 mins) -Sutomore to Kotor €6-8 (depends on the time of the day) 2hrs -Kotor to Perast €1 (1hr). -Budva to Cetnije €4 (30 mins). -Sutomore to Ulcinj €5 (1hr 30mins) -Podgorica to Tirana €20 (4 hrs)
Sutomore to Podgorica €2 and it takes about an hour. Trains are often delayed and journey will take longer. Announcements will be made only in Serbian so make sure you ask which platform when buying the ticket. There are only two regional trains: Bar to Podgorica and Podgorica to Niksic. There is also a train to Serbia.
You can use this link to check the train schedule:
Best SIM card deal in Europe so far : 15€ for 500gb for 30 days or 10€ for 15 days. Make sure you have your passport and tourist tax receipt (sometimes they ask!) when buying or topping up your sim. You will have three options to chose from.
Also very important: the SIM card does not come with free minutes so you will not be able to call anyone except for suing WhatsApp. This may be a problem if you end up stranded somewhere and need a taxi.
The solution is to buy one with 400gb and free minutes. You can buy SIM cards at kiosks or mobile stores.
Most cafes and accommodations will have Wi-fi.
Number 3: Tourist tax
You have to pay it for every city you are planning on staying at overnight. It has to be done within 24hrs of your arrival. Not every accommodation will do it for you so please double check. You may be asked for receipts when leaving the country so bear that in mind. I got asked but when I demonstrate the proof, the guy at the border didn’t even want to look. Amount of tax varies between cities too. The more touristy the area the higher the tax like in Zabljak and Kotor.
To register you need to go to Tourist office or some Post Offices will have that service as well. Bring your passport and tell them how long are you staying for. Price is between 0,60 cents to 1,5€ a day. It may be more in high season.
Number 4: Public toilets
You can find public toilets at bus and train stations, in some places by the beach. Make sure you carry spare change as they are not free. Be prepared to squat also. The only free public toilet and the best one I have ever used is located at Lustica Bay.
Here you can see the difference between paid public toilet in the capital and free public toilet in Lustica Bay.
Number 5: ATMS
There are two ATMS that will not charge you a withdrawal fee:
All the other ATMS have a fee of €5 for single transaction. Also if you happen to damage your euro notes do not even bother to go to the bank in hopes they will exchange it. First time ever I have seen bank refused to accept money 😂
Number 6: Accommodation
Plenty of hotels and apartments, Airbnb is very popular as well. Make sure you establish if the tourist tax is included or you have to pay it on top. During my 3 months stay I had few bad experiences with hosts so be careful. This so not a European Union and the customer service is lacking.
If you planning on staying in Budva I can recommend this hotel:
It is run by my friend Ali and I know he will take good care of you. He knows the country pretty well and has plenty of recommendations up his sleeve:) He will always make sure you get a good deal. And no, he doesn’t pay me to say that.
Number 7: Safety
Not once did I feel like someone is going to rob me but sexual harassment was a reoccurring thing especially in Stari Bar. There is a place called Starobarski Kutak and my advice would be to not park your car there nor linger there for too long. Every time I passed that place (it is on the way to the bus stop unfortunately ) I was cat called and followed. If you decide to park your car there you will have to pay extra and I would not guarantee your car will be there when you are back.
Also if you decide to jump into a taxi or a car instead of using the bus, make sure you agree the fare beforehand. In one instance I got in the car thinking I will pay the same as for the bus ride only to be informed 5 mins into the ride that this driver charges £1 per kilometre. I only had €5 on me but wasn’t going to argue. When we got to my destination I gave him the note and he told me that is not enough. When I said it’s €5 or nothing he proceeds to drive off with me still inside. I quickly jumped out and threw the money at him. Luckily I was sitting in the front so no child lock but it was scary.
Number 8: Card/Cash
Majority of restaurants and most supermarkets accept card payments.
With accommodations it depends if it is hotel or private apartment. Most of them will ask for a cash if it is the latter so maybe ask in advance.
Number 9: Food
Very disappointing I have to say. Maybe it was because I was during off season and most places were still closed but generally you won’t find many cuisines. Montenegro doesn’t seem to have National dishes, rather weak imitation of Italian and Mediterranean dishes. But I managed to find few wonderful places where the food hit the spot every time. Service is slower than you would expect and portions can be quite big so get easy on those starters. Most restaurants and bars allow indoor smoking which is why I didn’t go out as much. Smelling like an ashtray is really not appealing to me.
Lack of fast food except for Burger King.
Number 10: Hiking tips
In summer many water sources dry out. Be aware of hunters ( they usually hunt on weekends between 6am-11am). Not every trail is marked and some are in very bad condition with overgrown bushes. Due to excessive hunting there’s barely any wild animals so count yourself lucky if you see as much as a dear or an eagle. You will meet lots of cows, goats, sheep and horses too. And dogs. They can be a pain in the ass but I found a rock would usually keep them at bay. Most of the time the motion of me picking the rock did the trick, few times I had to pretend I throw it and twice I really had to throw it to keep them away.
Fairly dirty country. Very common to find a beautiful view point or place in nature trashed with rubbish. Drives me crazy as getting to those places requires more effort than driving to a skip.
Except for Intersports there doesn’t seem to be any store for outdoor gear so make sure you have all your equipment and spare parts. Not to mention even the basics like hiking poles can be very expensive (cheapest one I saw were €60 whilst in most EU you can buy simple ones for half the price). For country that claims to offer amazing hiking experiences I found that very odd. Your best shot would be shopping centres in Podgorica.
There you have it:) hope it will help to plan you your next trip and don’t hesitate to ask anything in the comments!
When you live in London you rarely get a break. There are people everywhere, all the time which is annoying if you are an introvert like me. Surrey is most likely responsible for saving my mental health since 2020. Only 1 hour by train from central london and return ticket under £10 if you have a Network Rail Card (I absolutely recommend spending £30 a year to get 1/3 discount especially if you use trains every weekend like I did).
Sadly they stopped trains going to Holmwood between June and December, I’m guessing so they can fix the platform or whatever. Good news was you could still drive to there or walk from Dorking.
What is so great about that area? For once is filled with Redwoods which happens to be my favourite trees.
And there is even a small waterfall:
The forest is very popular with bike riders as well as with shooting spots, so please stick to the main walking paths. You may also want to visit the Leigh Tower which at mere 280m is the highest point in that area.
If you love trekking then no doubt you will be out in all sorts of weather but you may want to save this particular route for those sunny days. Maybe you will even take a dip in the sea:)
Return ticket from London costs £20 from Victoria or £24 from London St Pancras. The latter is also a faster option.
Whichever direction you will chose to walk, I guarantee the views will be worth it. There is so many things to see as well: Dover castle, the port of Dover, the White cliffs.
If you opt for a route taking you towards Sandwich, the way is pretty straight forward, and will mostly be by the coast. However heading towards Folkestone, you will have three walking option: coastal route (bear in mind you can only walk the path from Samphire Hoe Country Park to Folkestone during a low tide! Please double check at the cafe!) and two routes that are higher up.
My favourite one was the lowest route on a hot sunny day as you can dip your toes in the sea, and the middle high one rest of the time.
Best part? In Folkestone there is a fish and chips shop that also sells fried halloumi. I totally recommend giving it a go:)
This is another gem near Portsmouth which makes for a perfect day trip. Buy a return trip to Fratton and make sure your ticket is valid on any route as you will be returning from Havant. Return ticket comes to £21 from Waterloo and £18 from Victoria. Now this is the one route when buying in advance does make a difference in a price.
Approximately distance: 15km
If you start walking by the Esplanade just remember that once you get to Fort Cumberland you will need to get back to the main road. Also Eastney beach has a nudist section so you may find it awkward when you find yourself to be the only one wearing clothes not to mention is pretty hard to maintain eye contact (don’t ask me how I know!).
Then you need to hop on the Hayling ferry which is a tiny boat with few seats inside and larger outdoor deck. It gets packed fairly quickly with cyclists. The ride takes less than 5 mins and you buy ticket on the boat. You can find the timings here:
Once on the other side you can find pub, cafe and public toilets and that’s where the beach fun also start. You may have to walk a little bit further to get that pure sand experience. During low tide you get an extra mile or two to walk on:) and of course you can see Isle of Wight from here.
Further ahead you can find an Amusement park, water sports and cafes. This part is also very popular with kite surfers and quite often there will be festivals held during summer.
The last part of the walk follows the Staunton Avenue till you reach Billy Lane and follow the Langston canal. Popular biking route so try not to walk in the middle of the path.
Once you walk across the bridge you are back to the urbanised area.
Pentland hills regional park (Scotland)
Granted, it was only a long weekend visit but I’d like to think I used it to the fullest.
Of course you need to hike to Arthur’s seat as the view is amazing but visiting Pentland Hill Regional Park will give you a much better run for your stamina.
I started my hike from Silverburn towards East Kip, West Kip and continuing to Hare Hill. It’s an uphill and downhill stroll but the scenery is wonderful.
Then I slowly made it to Loganlea Reservoir before hiking up to Black hill followed by Harbour and Capelaw hill with Allermuir Hill being the last ascend for the day.
I finished my hike in Swanston near the golfing club as I figured will be much easier for Uber to find me. It turns out it’s not easy to get an Uber on Saturday evening in Edinburgh.
Los Baranquillos to Valle Gran Rey
Named hikers paradise for a reason! Not the easiest one to get to as there’s no direct flights from anywhere in Europe but only 90mins by fast ferry from South Tenerife or a short flight from Gran Canaria.
So for this hike I took the bus to Los Baranquillos from Vallehermoso. You start your hike in the forest. The mist you see in my video only covers the forest between March and July.
Once you get to Mirador Ermita del Santo you will follow a path called Camino La America.
The views will get better and more spectacular as you will reach the optimum altitude on this hike.
And you will end up in Valle Gran Rey spoiled for choices with beaches.
Fuerteventura, Playa Cofete 11km
Another gorgeous island from the Canary range and this one would be my favourite one 🙂 Don’t ask me why, I can’t justify it either considering it’s just a giant desert.
The public transport is great but you have one bus every hour so lots of planning required unless you rent a car. Here is the offices website for buses:
Best part? Almost every hike can end at the beach:)
After a lot of brain storming I decided to pick the hike from Morro Jable to Cofete.
It is fairly easy one and the ascent is not too crazy but still packed with stunning views and variety of terrain.
Before ascending to Cofete you may want to check out Villa Winter.
And to get back to town you need to take this cool bus and get ready for a thrill ride on the most dangerous road on the island.
This is the bus stop
Isle of Wight
Shanklin to Ryde (21 km)
My favourite place in the whole England for sure. You will never ran out of walking options on this little paradise that is only 20 mins by ferry from Portsmouth, or 10 mins by hovercraft. Ferry is cheaper but a little bit less bouncy.
Every year there is a charity 100 km run around the island that you need to complete in 24 hours. I’ve never participated but I surely walked around every corner of the island by now.
This walk takes the crown simply because of its variety and diversity of the trail. You start by following the esplanade from beautiful Shanklin all the way to the end of Sandown.
That’s the easy part so treat it like a warm up. Once you passed the Animal Sanctuary the climb begins. The elevation is only 100m but the low angle will make you believe it’s a 1000! But the views!!! Just look at this perfection!
At the top you will find a cafe and a pub to refresh yourself and get ready for the descent.
Passing Bembridge harbour I recommend you head to The Causeway by Old Mill Holiday Park. You will feel like walking on water:) Unless it has been raining heavily, then you will feel as if you entered a mud run.
You will also find plenty of beautiful river houses. Just look at them!
From there you will be heading to St. Helens where you will find easiest one of the most stunning beaches! So you better come on a sunny day and bring your swimming costumes!
The rest of the walk is quite literally a walk on the beach with as many pubs as you want.
If you are lucky and time your walk right you can catch the sunset at the Ryde Pier before either hoping on a ferry back to mainland or taking the train back to the island:)
I am perfectly aware that Albania is home to some of the most amazing mountains, but I visited during one of the hottest months so had to settle by the sea side. I love hiking but 40°C it’s a bit too much.
Delvine it’s a little village one hour by bus from Sarrande and makes for a great escapes the busy city. I felt like I could breathe again and hear my thoughts. No, seriously Sarande in August is a nightmare unless you love lying down on a beach so full that you can hear your neighbour breathe and feel their hot skin next to yours.
I try to always go for a circular route as I consider coming back the same way a bit unlucky. Yes, I am a little bit superstitious.
Yes I will walk the same path back if there is absolutely no other option.
This was a short walk, about 10km all together as it was super hot and I needed to seek shade for a siesta.
I took the left turn towards Varezza cemetery which is a beautiful stretch of dirt road with high hills on the side.
I passed some sort of factory with a security guards on my way, which always makes me feel on edge. Like am I allowed to walk here? Is this a secured area? Haven’t seen any signs and the security guard didn’t say anything, but was watching me for a good stretch. I suspect it was because not many “foreigners” head this way.
Since the road wasn’t circular I decided to climb the Maja Kopres peak but I abandoned the idea half way through when I stumbled upon the perfect bench/tree where I could take a little nap.
After two hours of blissful rest I made it back on the dirt road and stumbled upon abandoned van. The inside was overgrown with fern and bushes and covered in rust.
Past the van the path was following some fenced area which was part of the factory I’m guessing.
On the path leading back to the village I heard dogs barking and I was praying they were behind a fence. Technically they were but the fence had a hole in it and I was lucky enough to pass by it before the dogs got up. They were territorial and you can see on the video they weren’t that aggressive.
Mere 100 metres down there was another dog blocking my path and I refused to proceed. Luckily there were some workers around and one of them saw me and asked what’s the problem. When I pointed at the dog he motioned for me to proceed but when I refused he called his friend to take the dog away.
My legs were still shaking though. And I’m glad I was carrying my hiking poles.
Visited Corfu twice within two months and I have to say it’s not what I expected. For a place that have been a popular tourist destination since the dawn of times how can you still not have pavements for pedestrians nor street lights???
During my first visit I didn’t manage to hike to Pantokrator mainly due to high temperatures and me prioritising sea side 🙂 it was also my last destination on my three week holidays so I was tired thus hiking was not my priority.
I started my hike by taking a taxi to Old Perithia, which is a 14th century permanently inhabited village. Well worth the visit on its own.
Once you leave the village you will be surrounded by hills from which you will have a magnificent view over Corfu and coast of Albania.
The path is somehow marked but the peak is pretty obvious so very unlikely for you to get lost.
If you want to visit the Monastery of Ipsilos Pantocrator, then please remember to bring a scarf to cover your shoulders or you can use one from the box at the entrance. You have to pay for it if I remember correctly but it’s a small amount.
There is a one cafe where you can refuel but I suspect it gets pretty packed in summer since you can drive all the way to there. Yep, you guessed it: I didn’t linger for very
long specifically for that reason. I truly believe that unless you have a disability preventing you from walking, you should not be able to drive to viewpoints. Some views need to be earned in order to be appreciated but that’s a whole topic for another blog:)
Weather being perfect and plenty of sunshine hours still left I decided continue my walk all the way to Kassiopi. Buses are very infrequent on the island and I knew I can easily get a taxi back from there.
Remaining route equaled to 13km and most of it downhill with miles and miles of beautiful coastal views. I think one of the reasons I love islands so much it is the amount of open space and horizon that stretches for infinity.
Quite often on long hikes like this I try to squeeze a power nap or a simple moment to enjoy my surroundings fully. According to my calculations I could have a full hour of basking in the sun once I find a comfortable peace of soil or a rock to lie on. Sadly my rest was interrupted within first 10 mins by a tourist and that interaction ruined the rest of my hike and I was not keen on hiking solo for few weeks after that. To this day I have no idea where he come from as I checked all the trails multiple times before deciding to take my break.
With my confidence shaken I decided to skip the Big Caves of Lotuses and took the less demanding path straight to the village. I could not get rid of the feeling that I am being followed or watched till I saw buildings and some form of life, even in a form of live stock. I also stumbled upon this cool bell you could ring:) I didn’t in case it was used for emergencies only.
You will see some beautiful villas on that walk and the coast of Albania.
Kassiopi is full of cafes, gift shops, ice cream places and restaurants. I really liked it’s vibe and even witnessed a wedding whilst there.
Dorking Sunday Roast Loop Hike
This was a hike I did every Sunday since 2020 but I only added the Sunday roast to it in 2021.
The idea behind it was very simple: still getting the steps in but in a more leisure way with a delicious lunch to look forward to. Yes, ideally the hot food would be at the end of the hike but sadly they don’t serve Sunday roast past 4pm neither the location of the pub was anywhere close to the station. This is a loop hike that comes to a nice 20km
Return ticket from London is £9 with a discount. Lunch cost is £20.
I start and end this hike on Ashcombe Road which leads to Horley’s Copse. Then I take the McPherson’s Mount towards Lince Lane.
Here you will have to cross the main road ( Westcott Road) and follow Milton Street passing the fishing lakes. In winter you will find many of those houses decorated with lights from top to bottom.
Then I head towards Squires Great Wood which is the only uphill on this walk. The true fun begins at Wolvens Lane which has a beautiful redwood forest and sandy path. I usually take my shoes off regardless of the season as long as it’s dry and walk this patch barefoot. I do get funny looks from other walkers but that is their problem not mine.
I also get very happy because I know the pub is not too far away now and I already rehearse my food order. I recommend making a reservation at least one week ahead as otherwise they may not serve you food if they are very busy.
Do you really want to miss out on this:
With my tummy fool I’m quite often tempted to just call the taxi and end the walk here and then but then I remember how peaceful the last section of the walk is and you know you need that extra peace before heading back to London. Every minute out of London counts as a happy time:)
Once past the St John The Evangelist Church I’m heading towards the White Downs and then it’s straight way back to the main road.
It is a sweet and sour feeling of having the hardest part of the walk behind and knowing the end is coming.
You can adjust the walk according to your needs and abilities. I would just like to point out few attractions you can find in this area: The Temple, Tillingbourne Waterfall, some ruins, Denbies Vineyard.
Whilst I’m very familiar with Portsmouth it took me very long time cross over to this side.
The ferry takes like 4mins and return trip costs £4.30 (you can’t buy a single way).
Please double check the timing for last ferry returning to Portsmouth so you will not get stranded. On Fridays and Saturdays there are smaller boats that offer crossings between midnight and 4.30am.
One thing you can be sure of: you will not run out of options as to what to do in Gosport. Plenty of museums to chose from: Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, Royal Navy Submarine Museum, The Diving Museum and Hovercraft Museum.
But since my post is about trekking/hiking o skipped the museums and head to Warsash which is a little bit further ahead than I anticipated. Took an hour by public bus (£5) but I was ambitious to walk the whole Solent.
Starting from the local nature reserve the path is pretty straight forward: you just follow the North Channel.
Ideally you would pick a sunny day to do this walk to truly appreciate the gorgeousness of the area. You can see both Isle of Wight and Fawley at the start of my route.
It is an easy 18 km walk but because I had to catch the last ferry leaving at 6pm (winter time I guess), I had to rush it a little bit which takes the joy out of the whole experience for me.
It was Sunday after all and the sun was shining. Once I got near the Solent airport I knew I will have to make a decision between finishing my whole trek or watch the small planes landing against the setting sun.
No brainer, right? What would you pick?
Montenegro , Stari Bar
I am well aware that Montenegro is a home to many magnificent mountains but due to the timing of my trip I had to wait for better weather. I am not very experienced in hiking in snowy and icy conditions especially in a place where many trails are unmarked.
This trail starts in a beautiful Stari Bar, which is a charming location at the foot of mountains. You can start by visiting the Old Bar Fortress (may take you up to 45 mins to walk around it). Once you done just head right and you will find these markings on the wall pointing the directions to the Vrteljak Waterfall.
It is a relatively short hike (about 3km one way) but packed with astonishing views right from the start.
Once you exit the village you will walk alongside one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever came across.
It is the combination of the mountains, the massive rock and blue sky in the distance with a panoramic view back to the village that just takes my breath away whenever I visit.
At the bridge junction just follow the sign and that is when the ascent begins. Nothing crazy but may leave you breathless on a hot day. The good thing is there is plenty of fresh water supply to drink and also to cool yourself down.
There is also one of the coolest toilets which is hopefully open in high season.
I’m assuming this place is fully packed in summer and you can buy some food at the cafe but it was dead silent when I was there.
There is also a swing you can use to jump into the waterfall from. I was too afraid I will be stuck above the water and will have to swim back fully clothed (visited in December).
Real shame the hammocks were broken.
So there you have it: 12 best hikes I got the pleasure to enjoy in 2022. Here’s to 12 more! Let me know in the comments which one would you like to visit.
Also I feel like I have to add that just because those were my favourite hikes it absolutely does not mean those are the best hikes in those locations.
So I didn’t want ruin womens day yesterday but here is the reality check for women travelling solo. There will always be creeps. Hardest thing for me was to stop blaming myself: I should have plan better route, maybe I should wear thicker clothes and all black, shave my head, get a hiking buddy 24/7. NO! We just need to educate men from a very young age to respect women. And leave us alone.
On Tuesday I decided to venture on a long walk to familiarise myself with the are I’m staying at. Started at the beach and ended up on some country roads with few locals about. All of them said hello to me and just smiled. Of course they were curious as there aren’t many travellers around in this area. On my way back I decided to use different path and stay closer to the beach again. My GPS didn’t show any routes there but there was a visible path I followed.
Just when I was about to enter the beach I notice a motorbike and a guy standing near by.
Something about him annoyed me from the start and he didn’t appear to be happy to see me either. We exchanged greetings as I passed and I didn’t think anything of it. That’s a tactic girls by the way. Always look them in the eyes and say hello. Try to remember as many details as possible about their appearance. He was riding a motorbike on a very narrow path close to water instead on the dirt road which I found odd. There were some fishing nets so fair enough, maybe he was checking those. Except he wasn’t. After a while the path connected with a wild beach and I decided to walk there.
That’s when I heard the motorbike again. When I looked back I saw him jumping off it and pretending to look at something on the bank side (river and sea are connected here). That’s when my gut went into an alarm mode and I decided to walk as close to the water as possible. I knew he won’t leave his bike and he can’t ride it on the wet sand. I occupied myself with looking for shells and glass and what not just so I can casually keep glancing in his direction. He was following along on the other path. At some point when I looked he called me and motion to come closer. I pretended I didn’t understand and just waved back. I checked if my phone has a coverage (it did) and had a police number ready. Luckily, unlike in Montenegro, the tourist SIM card here comes with unlimited calls. I was really nervous at this point as I was still at least 6km away from the nearest neighbourhood and the noise from the sea would muffle many screams. I have a whistle and I carry a small knife. Now this is one of those situations where size doesn’t matter, you just need to hit the strategic place which with men is insanely easy and obvious.Don’t come at me in the comments that is illegal: stalking women also doesn’t fall under obedient citizen law. Anyway, i continued walking at faster pace on the beach whilst he drove into a small area with palm trees and bushes which made him very difficult to see. Luckily that’s where the path was also the furthest from the beach, unluckily that’s also where the beach was suddenly separated by another small river causing me to return to the main path. I couldn’t hear the motorbike nor see the guy anywhere at this point. Cursing under my breath I followed the path constantly scanning the horizon for his presence. My peace was lost completely and any benefits of relaxation from the hike were replaced by anxiety and anger. After about 3 minutes I saw a light green building and two abandoned houses.
I decided to take advantage of the empty road and explore the buildings and it was only when I got closer I noticed the motorbike parked by the green building. And then I saw the guy chatting to a fisherman. I ignored both and turn right towards the abandoned houses. Minute later the guy on a motorbike drives pass me. I ignore him completely but wait till he is out of sight before I enter the houses. It was maybe 5 minutes I spent there taking pics etc when I get back on the path and hear the motorbike again. He is coming back in my direction and I am mentally prepared for confrontation. Walking on a dirt road with dips and puddles in it I try to avoid , I still try to be respectful and leave enough room for him to pass by without getting too close to me. When he catches up to me he slows down and asks “Italian?”. I say “no” and continue my walk. He drives off towards the green building when he talks to the fisherman again. There is no other way to get back to the town so I look for the bridge by the green building. Completely ignore the guy on the motorbike and just exchanged greetings with the fisherman who waves and smiles at me. Just few more minutes alongside river and I will be in the safety of some occupied houses. That is when I hear the motorbike behind me again. This time I decided to take a video just so I have an evidence if he tries to do something not to mention police will have something to identify him with.
Luckily he doesn’t say a word and drives off and I get back to town safely.
For the amount of solo travel I do situations like this are quite rare but the always knock my confidence out. I try to treat those men the same way I would treat an aggressive dog: stay clam and assertive, give plenty of space and use rock or something if they won’t leave me alone.
Had a similar encounter in Corfu last September when I was hiking the Pantokrator. I just finished visiting the peak and decided to hike all the way to Kassiopi as I knew I could easily get a taxi from there. Was beautiful sunny day, not many tourists around so I decided to find a nice spot for a little siesta. I scanned all the paths and hills for any signs of life and when I didn’t see anyone I just chose a flat rock to lie on. Within 10 mins I heard footsteps approaching which unsettled me. Clearly I must have missed a path, it’s probably another hiker or maybe a local. I started applying sun cream when the person came into my view and says hello. We changed greetings but he seem to be keen to chat. Apparently he was at the peak as well which is weird for two reasons: he must have been there at the same time as me and yet I don’t recall seeing him there. It’s a closed off area with a monastery and a small cafe so easy to keep track. It also meant he either run to catch up with me or there is a short cut as I would have seen him on the path otherwise.
Whatever. I just want to nap and enjoy the sun at this point so I wish him a good day. He is a bit annoyed by that but leaves and I get about 45 mins of pure bliss before I need to resume my hike if I want to get to the town before sunset.
As I start walking slowly I hear footsteps coming from opposite direction and I’m surprised to see the same guy. He told me earlier he was going for a swim so I say: “that was a quick swim. Did you find a pool or something?” (The sea side was at least 2 hours walk away). What he replied will forever stuck with me as the craziest thing I’ve ever heard man say to me. Quote: “I wanted to go swimming but the wind told me to come and find you”. At first I thought I misheard him or maybe I’m having a sun stroke or something. He then asks if I mind he will walk with me. What do you even respond to that? I get like 5 seconds to asses if he’s :drunk, under the influence of drugs or simply crazy. In either of those instances I can’t make him angry so I decide to be as boring and uninteresting as I possibly can (it helps that I am borderline boring anyway) and luckily he decides to go back to the beach when we come to a fork in the road. However I was not able to enjoy my hike anymore. The feeling of being watched just didn’t go away. It took me 3 months to be able to go on hikes unsupervised after this incident.
Could any of those situations be avoided? No. Creeps will find a way to bother you regardless of your surroundings, your appearance, location.
ALWAYS trust your gut. SAFETY before kindness and being polite. Carry hair spray, small knife, whistle, keys, hiking poles and pay attention to your surroundings.
Make sure your phone is charged and has data on. If a route doesn’t feel good, pick another.
But Anna, you know when you go hiking there may be bears/cougars/wolves and that’s dangerous too. Yes but the difference is I have a better chance of winning the lottery than being attacked by any of those. Wild animals will avoid humans at any cost but if I happen to cross a path with angry mamma bear protecting her cubs, I knew I made a mistake. Bad luck. That’s on me. Bears/cougars/wolves live in the wilderness. I accept that when hiking I enter into their territory. Animals will also give you a warning before striking you. A guy who decides to follow a woman with the intention of hurting her it’s not an accident.
I am also very aware than danger doesn’t only come from men but so far I’ve never had a scary encounter with a woman.
Travelling solo it’s not dangerous. It’s the people you met, the decisions you make,the situations you enter that can make it so.
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.
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.
I Irecommend 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.
I expected at least few more people to be in the group. Turns out it was just me and instructor who’s name I have forgotten.
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?
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.
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 was the only true beginner here which was a curse and a blessing at the same time. 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.
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 swans are very territorial.
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.
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…
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!
“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 road trip was due.
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.
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!
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.
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:)
Like with almost everything these days, you need to pre book your adventure through the link here
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.
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?
“Well shit. Now I’m scared” I say as I 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.
Once everyone in our groups is suited we march to the little zip lane.
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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
“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…
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!
My legs a bit trembling but that does not stop me from skipping:)
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
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 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)
-kindle (which I opened once and just browsed through my library)
-first aid (yes, I’m better at it now)
-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.
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.
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.
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:
Better than any 5*hotel!!! Just look at this!
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!!
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:)
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.
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?
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.
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.
The path is well paved and pretty straight forward.
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.
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.
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.
TRIVIA: Brookwood used to have its own railway for transporting dead bodies, complete with flowers, coffin and grieving relatives.
That’s another one of my spontaneous finds. Direct trains run from London Blackfriars and London Bridge every hour and the journey is just 1hr and 8mins.
There is also a shorter version of this journey from Liverpool Street London St Pancras
I saw someone post a picture of Tilbury Fort and of course had to add it to my bucket list.
Managed to visit it between lockdowns and of course had to turn it up into a whole day adventure but with the fort not being big enough, I had to venture a bit out. Was supposed to walk to Coalhouse fort which is like 5km by the coast, but it was closed so decided to take a ferry to Gravesend instead. Mind you, it’s a little ferry and you can’t book it in advance.
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.
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.
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.
For all the movie fans: you can add a walk to charming Shere where “Holidays” were filmed. It is a very charming village, especially in winter.
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:)
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.
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:
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:)
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:)
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…
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.
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:)