Posts categorized under ‘Travel & Living’

Israel passport stamp

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

There is a lot of confusion out there about what it actually means to have a passport stamp from Israel in your passport. Well, what it means is that you can not visit any of the countries in the following list with the same passport:

Israel passport stamp

  • Iran
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

 

There are also unverified rumors about the same problems for these countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei
  • Indonesia
  • Irak
  • Malaysia
  • Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia


How to avoid getting the Israel passport stamp

This is actually really easy, at least if you travel by airplane. When arriving at the airport passport control you just kindly ask to get the stamp on a separate paper, which he or she in most cases will grant you. The guard will then ask you to fill in a form (17L) and then you will get the stamp on that form. Keep this form as you need to leave it back when exiting the country. You will also get a stamp on another paper that the next controllant will take back as proof of that you passed the passport control.

In my case there was some interesting misunderstanding which led to me only getting one paper and giving that paper away just 30 seconds later. This meant I had to travel through Israel & Palestine without any Israel stamp whatsoever, which was interesting but not impossible.

Also it’s easy to forget to ask about the stamp after the long interrogation/interview from the border guard (which consist of a bunch of stupid questions and provocations about the situation in Palestine) is finally over.


What happens if I travel by land and get an exit/entry stamp to a neighbor country?

Most people say this is not a problem but there are definitely reported situations where people got denied to enter some of the countries in the list above  because they had border stamps from for example the border to Jordan.


Do you need a visa to enter Israel?

Most nationalities are free to travel to Israel without a visa and to stay for up to 3 months. Be aware that you might need to prove that you have a return ticket out from Israel, as well as enough money (or payment card) to cover your travel costs. As always you need a passport that are valid at least 6 months AFTER your EXIT from Israel.


How is the airport security to/from Israel?

Always calculate with at least 1½ hour of questioning from the security personnel at the airport. That is, if you usually come to the airport 1 hour in advance, this time make it 2½ hours. For me, as a single traveler without any booked hotels or fixed plans the risk of being singled out in the security is bigger. The normal questioning to/from Israel is about 30 minutes including unpacking your bag and you packing it again, but for me it took 1½ hour both ways. The security check always include molecule tests of your bag and sometimes also of your clothes together with a forced striptease. In the end I was not allowed any carry on board luggage to Israel, including my throat candy that I was forced to send.

If you have electronics you will be forced to start them to show that they are working (and are not a bomb). This means that if some of your electronics are out of battery there is a big risk that you will have to wait while the security men charge your batteries to be able to test the product. I am curious what happens if you have no charger, anybody had this problem?

It is possible that you will have to pay VAT for expensive electronics like video cameras and computers when you enter Israel. Keep the receipt as you will only get the money back when leaving the country if you still have the receipt.


What do I do if I get the Israel passport stamp anyway?

Well, as long as you don’t travel to any of the countries in the list above there is no problem. But if you have plans to go to any of those countries or if you want to be able to improvise your travels 100% you need to loose your passport and apply for a new one. I have also heard about the idea to put a visa paper (from another country) on top of the stamp, covering it, but it’s unclear how well this tactic works.


Is there also a problem entering Israel with stamps from certain countries?

This is a common misunderstanding but there are NO passport stamps that could get you refused to enter Israel. There will be extra questioning and mistrust if you have for example a stamp from Egypt, but they will not refuse you to enter the country.


Always when traveling

Check other sources just to be sure you always have the most updated information, and contact the embassy/consulate with questions.

Israel & Jordan for Christmas & NYE

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

I will probably not be blogging for a while because I will be going on an offline holiday, that is, a holiday where I will not bring my computer. What I will bring is pen and paper so maybe I have something to write about when I get back to my current home in Bulgaria in the middle of January.

Until then, have a great time & enjoy your holidays!

Back in my “home base” Bulgaria

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Once again it was time for me to find another flat share or apartment in Berlin. I was getting tired of spending time and energy jumping around within the same city, even though I really liked it there. After contacting a few friends all over the world to see if they had a room for me, I started thinking this was the perfect timing to go back to Bulgaria. I called a good friend in Sofia and she told me that they just got a free room for rent in the apartment where she was staying. Incredibly enough I found a cheap flight already for the next morning and around noon the next day I was in Bulgaria for the first time in a year.

Bulgaria have always felt like my home, even since the first day I arrived here about two years ago. The people are amazing, so are the nature, culture, music, food and possible outdoor sports. I was really missing the nature when I was living in Berlin, and felt it even more after a short visit to my family in Sweden. The timing to go to Bulgaria was also good since the summer is still here with around 30 degrees celcius and a lot of activities in the city.

Berlin to Copenhagen

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

If you want to travel from Berlin to Copenhagen (or the opposite way) there are several cheap options. Which one you should choose depends mostly on how much in a hurry you are, how many days in advance you book your trip and how much luggage you have:

The first and fastest option is a cheap flight with easyJet from Schönefeld airport to Copenhagen airport. This takes 1 hour plus about 1½ hour in transfer times one way. Of course you need to include the hour you need to be in advance at the airport. Price for the whole trip is 25 euro for the flight plus 5 euro total for both metro transfers one way, booking- and luggage fee is additional for the flight. The flight ticket should be booked around two weeks in advance, and less then one week in advance can be difficult to find a good price for the flight.

The second and cheapest option is to go by bus from Berlin ZOB am Funkturm to Copenhagen Ingerslevsgade (near the center) with the company BerlinLinienBus. This takes abous 7½ hours plus the half hour or so the transfer to the Berlin bus station takes. Price for the bus trip is from 23 euro and on top of the bus price you will need 2 euro for the metro to the bus station (ZOB) in Berlin.

Another good thing with the bus is that you can bring a lot of luggage for free. Sometimes you need to pay 1 euro extra per luggage though. The buses also have free WIFI (only on German side), personal electricity plug, a lot of leg space, toilet and free water. Included in the price is a 1½ hour ferry ride where you also can get some expensive food and stretch the legs.

Summary

Flight from Berlin to Copenhagen
30 euro, 3½ hours, 1 hand luggage (56 x 45 x 25 cm)

Bus from Berlin to Copenhagen
25 euro, 8 hours, “unlimited luggage”

Berlin to Copenhagen

Berlin to Stockholm

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

To travel from Berlin and Stockholm there is only one good option, to fly. The flight takes 1½ hours and it’s really easy to find a cheap flight. Here are the most common flight companies and the cheapest tickets found on each airline:

Germanwings
28 euro + booking fee (from Schönefeld to Arlanda)

Norwegian
32 euro + booking fee (from Schönefeld to Arlanda)

Ryanair
13 euro + booking fee (from Schönefeld to Skavsta Airport)

TUIfly
42 euro + booking fee (from Berlin Tegel to Arlanda)

As usual the more time before departure you book the cheaper ticket you will find. For the transfer, the metro in Berlin costs 3 euro to the airport, and from Arlanda to Stockholm you can take a bus for 11 euro. If you fly with RyanAir be prepared that the airport they use are further away from Stockholm then the main Arlanda airport is. The bus transfer when you fly with Ryanair takes 80 minutes from Skavsta Airport (NYO) to Stockholm and cost 14 euro. To pay the ticket use the ticket machines inside the airport, or a VISA card inside the bus (no cash is accepted). Youth tickets are available at a reduced cost for the airport buses from both airports.

Berlin to Stockholm

Stockholm to Berlin

Again in Brussels

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I took some days off to visit one of my new European favorite cities, Brussels. It was just 3 months since I was in Brussels last time, on my way to Dahab. After two months in Egypt it’s was very refreshing to be back in Europe. The contrasts were big, like the gray weather which I had missed so much and the quietness even though the city is big.

Brussels is very idyllic with green parks and beautiful streets. Most people are happy and smiling here, but at the same time they are “trapped” in their boxed every day lives not integrating with the people around them. Here, for example, people look strange at you if you start a conversation or smile to a person that you don’t know. While it’s very relaxing to be back in a “civilized” city I can also miss Egypt where you start conversations with random people on the street several times per day.

Belgian tree

Bois de la Cambre

Brussels bus

Brussels lake

Brussels park

Etang d Ixelles

Flower girl

Belgian swan in Brussels

Mirror effect

Belgian graffiti

Graffiti Bruxelles

Jupiler Belgium

Abstract plants

Atomium Brussels

Alexandria pictures

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

After Cairo I decided to see Alexandria which many Egyptians had recommended to me. Alexandria is a big city, like Cairo, but situated next to the sea. What I liked most about this city was the local market and the incredibly fresh and tasty market food.

Again, more Egypt pictures, this time from Alexandria:

Alexandria beach

Alexandria harbor

Alexandria boat

Alexandria fish market
Fish market in Alexandria

Boat building
Boat building

Alexandria barber

Alexandria car

Alexandria festival

Alexandria market

Alexandria fish

Alexandria food

Sugar factory Egypt
Fun map over Alexandria

Alexandria library
Alexandria’s new library with a lot of interesting museums inside

Egypt revolution pictures
Photographic exhibition with pictures of the Egyptian revolution

Egypt police

Alexandria cafe

Cairo pictures

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

On the way out from Egypt I visited Cairo for some days. I really loved this vibrant city although travelling inside the city can take a long time due to the size of the city and that you have to change transport system a lot of times to get from point A to point B.

A lot of people ask me about the safety in Egypt right now, specially in Cairo, due to the political status. Because of how media is showing the country people get the idea that the whole country is dangerous to visit both now and in the near future. What I could see from my travels there and with people I spoke to this is far from the truth. The police and even the military are back on the streets and Cairo are back to normal again with a safe feeling. Most of the other cities in Egypt was never affected by the revolution, besides from having less tourists.

Here are some pictures from last week in Cairo and around:

Cafe in Cairo

Cairo citadel
The Citadel

Cairo city view
City view with the Giza pyramids

Cairo mosque

Muhammad Ali mosque
Muhammad Ali mosque

Cairo prayers

Modern church
Modern church with LCD TV and roof fans

Midan Tahrir
Midan Tahrir square

Talaat Harb
Talaat Harb street, Tahrir Square

Cairo protester

Egyptian car
Typical Egyptian car with decorations

Red pyramid
The Red pyramid

Bent pyramid
The Bent pyramid (2600 BC)

Saqqara
Saqqara Step pyramid of Djoser (2648 BC)

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs inside Saqqara tomb

Palm forest
Dade palm forest

Camel spider
Camel spider

Egypt kite

Egypt revolution graffiti

Egypt satellite TV

Cairo sunset

My travel (living) backpack content

Monday, July 11th, 2011

During the last years of traveling I have only lived with one or maximum two bags. The contents of the bags have been mostly the same, but some things have been added or taken away depending on my current living style and need. In general I have dropped a lot of winter clothes, and nowadays I only own some warm clothes to have for walking up the mountains. At the same time I have added more equipment that make my hobbies easier to do by owning it myself instead of renting or borrowing equipment every time. So, for the first time in this blog I here reveal my current belongings, packed into one 45 liter backpack and one small backpack for daily use:

Backpack packing list

Clothes & health
Clothes for about one week
3 pair of shoes (mountain + normal + sandals)
Sun cap
Basic hygiene products
Basic survival kit

Outdoor sport & hobbies
Climbing harness & shoes
Headlamp
Scuba diving computer, hood & snorkeling equipment
Joggling balls
Harmonica

Electronics
10″ computer for work
2 cameras (normal + tough)
2 phones (wifi/gps + cheap)

The rest
2 sleeping bags (12 degrees + silk)
2 thin towels
Hammock + ropes
Books for learning Spanish & Bulgarian
Notebook & pen
Small things for pleasure, like incense

Even though I am trying to live my life without paper, I still think it’s worth to have a regular notebook to write down thoughts easily in tranquil surroundings, which always is without a computer.

Sometimes I travel with a small tent but usually I give this away to somebody due to it’s weight or size, and then pick up a new one whenever I need it again.

The biggest space problem is the warm mountain clothes. Without these my backpack size would be reduced a lot. The same would of course be a problem while travelling in cold countries.

This was by the way my 100th posting in the blog =)

Backpack packing list

Egypt to Jordan (Dahab to Petra)

Friday, July 8th, 2011

A lot of people continue east after Egypt/Dahab and most of them go to Petra. There are one-day-tours from Dahab for example for the people who want to do it the easy way. These cost a bit more then 200 euro and will let you stay in Petra a total of 3 (!) hours. Instead of this I recommend you to stay in Petra for a few days, and here is how to do it:


Egypt to Jordan

To travel to Jordan from Egypt is most easy done with the ferry from Nuweiba in Egypt to Aqaba in Jordan. There are two ferries with departures every day:

Fast ferry (1 hour), price 70 USD.
Slow ferry (3 hours), price 60 USD.

In Nuweiba you can only pay your ferry tickets in USD while in Aqaba you can use both USD and JOD. If you plan to go back the same way you will save money buying a return ticket at the same time.

On top of the ferry price you have to pay around 5 euro in departure tax. As with all transportation in Egypt, count with delays.

To go to Nuweiba, take the bus from Dahab which costs 1½ euro. From Cairo, the cost of the bus to Nuweiba should be around 10 euro.


Entry visa for Jordan

A normal entry visa for Jordan cost 30 USD but if you enter through Aqaba (with the ferry like described above) you get a free visa to Jordan. Get the visa on board the ferry. In other case you only have 48 hours to register with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority visa office after arriving, to get the free visa.


Aqaba to Petra

After arrival to Aqaba the best thing is to stay there overnight (around 9 euro for a hostel) and wait for the bus, which costs 8 euro. If you decide to go to Petra directly by taxi instead, this will set you back around 30 euro.


Petra entrance fee

To get into Petra you need to buy an entrance ticket. The price of the ticket is 50 euro for one day, 55 euro for two days and 60 euro for three days.


Hostels in Petra

For a roof over your head in Petra, count with around 6-7 euro per night. It can be a good idea to book a hostel in advance to guarantee a place when you arrive.


Total price for Petra trip from Egypt

An estimated total price one way travel from Dahab to Petra including a 3 day ticket and hostel for three nights: 145 euro

In Cairo

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Cairo is a great contrast after Dahab. Too bad I will only stay here a few days, but I will come back.

Tahrir square on a Friday

The picture is from the Tahrir Square where the 2011 Egyptian Revolution took place and where they still have demonstrations every Friday. More pictures from Cairo will come later.

Airline hubs

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

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Mount Sinai, Egypt

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

About a week ago I was up on top of Mount Sinai to look at the sunrise over Egypt’s mountains. This is a common thing to do here in Sinai, and although you will not be alone on the top it’s still recommended to go. The sunrise is nice, but even more beautiful is the dark night sky with all the stars visible and a clear view of the Milky Way Galaxy.

To go up to Mount Sinai, take a 2 hour transport from Dahab to Saint Catherine’s Monastery (total price 6-8 euro for two ways) and then walk up the mountain for 1-3 hours depending on how used you are to trekking. If you are lazy it is even possible to ride a camel up half the way. The monastery is around 1500 meter over sea level and the mountain top from where people use to view the sunrise is on 2300 meter. Bring some warm clothes and a lot of water, but there are also cafés on the way up where you even have possibilities to rent a warm blanket from the Bedouins that live in the area.

Remember, if you are scuba diving you need to wait at least 12 hours from your last dive before going up to the mountain, to protect yourself against decompression sickness!

Mount Sinai, Egypt

Mount Sinai mountain

Mount Sinai sunrise

Mount Sinai (Egypt)

Picture of Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai tour

Saint Catherine's monastery camel

Egypt needs your money

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Everybody here in Egypt are hoping for the tourists to come back. The locals are trying to spread the message that Egypt are now safe to be in, but everywhere you hear the same story: that people are afraid of traveling to Egypt. The economic crisis is a fact, specially in the cities that are entirely built up from tourism and totally dependent of it.

It is now 4 months since the Egyptian revolution took place. In Dahab, like the rest of Egypt, there is no trace of unsecureness or problems. Not even when the events were at their peak in Cairo were it visible in the other Egyptian cities, where life continued as usual. Still, people outside Egypt have got the impression from media that Egypt is unsafe to travel to right now. Not even after that the foreign governments took away their warnings not to visit Egypt the tourists returned.

This, together with the earlier freak accident with the shark attacks here, have taken Egypt to a really deep economic crisis. Only you, the tourists, can help them back on track.

Revolution in Egypt

Egyptian visas

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Two days ago I went to El-Tor to extend my Egyptian visa. This was even easier and cheaper then I thought. To start with, if you are in Sinai, take the bus from Sharm El-Sheikh to El Tor, which will take about one hour and cost around 1 euro. Then, take a taxi for less then one euro or walk 15 minutes to arrive at the place for all passport enquiries. Not so many people in this town speak English, so if you need to ask for directions you can show the note with text that I will put further down on this page (later).

At the passport office, fill in the English form which you can also find below, and leave together with a copy of your passport (the page with your photo + the page with your current visa). These copies you have to make before you arrive here, for example at the post office 500 meters away (costs 10 cent). The whole procedure at the government should take about 30 minutes and cost you 1 euro for a 1 or 3 month longer stay in Egypt. If you want to stay longer, it will cost less then 10 euro for up to a one year period.

The office is open 8 am to 3 pm every day except Fridays. When in El-Tor, take a random walking tour in this nice town. People here are incredibly friendly and the town reminds me visually more of India then Egypt.

Be aware that there are rumours in Egypt that after the new government, about a year from now, it will be more difficult to get a prolonged Egyptian visa. Also, it is possible you only will be allowed to stay for 1-3 months total within a one year period, depending on where you are from.

Things to take with you:  Passport and money (maximum 5 euro in EGP currency needed)

Egyptian visa application

Bus station Sharm El-Sheikh

Egyptian tea

Bus Sharm El-Sheikh to El-Tor

Egyptian street

Egyptian chair

Egyptian goats

Egyptian graffiti

Egyptian soda

Egyptian fruit

Egyptian clothing

Egyptian furniture

Egyptian market

Dasani

 

Egyptian women

Posters El-Tor Egypt

Aquafina

Dahab festival

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Yesterday was the last day of the Dahab Festival. This is a one week event with two festivals taking place at the same time, the Dahab International Festival of Water Sports, Culture and Desert Adventure and the Dahab Bedouin Festival. The idea of them both are to make the tourists come back to Sinai/Dahab, but instead of cooperating there is a small clash between the two festivals. The first one is organized by the Egyptian business owners and the second one by the local Bedouins, who actually were here first but now gets more and more pushed away. Still, they have the right to claim land wherever it’s possible to own for them self, which is the same pattern I saw also in Mozambique.

The pictures below are from the Homemade boat race, the Bedouin Festival, the Bedouin camel race and finally the [end of the] Bedouin Full moon party.

Dahab festival

Dahab snorkeling

Dahab scuba diving

Egypt pirates

Egypt festival

Dahab surfing

Bedouin Festival

Bedouin tea

Egyptian Bedouin

Nescafé Egypt - Bedouin style

Camels in desert

Dahab photos

Camels photo

Camel racing

Camel race

Egyptian flag

Egypt sunset

Dahab sunset

Bedouin bread

Meeting & leaving friends

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I meet people almost every week that I fall in love with. It can be very chilled out relaxed people, or people with interesting life goals and missions, or just very individual people that are fun to be around.

At the same time as I am very greatful for the chance to meet all these people, it gets very tiring to keep saying goodbye to them, knowing it will probably take years, if ever, to see them again.

I could choose to stay in one place, or to only travel between the countries where I have friends who I should visit, but if I do this I know I lack out of so many future friends from different cultures and backgrounds. The choice is mine and already taken, but it’s not always an easy choice.

In a near future I will probably choose one or two “base” cities in the world where I can come back more often between my travels, and where I can take care of long lasting relationships.

“Nice one mate” – Sam

Scuba diving in Dahab

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

About a week ago I started working as a trainee on Aqua Divers here in Dahab, on my way to become a Divemaster. This means taking my scuba diving knowledge to the next level, as well as learning all aspects of how a scuba diving center works on daily bases.

The first step was taking the Rescue Diver certification some days ago, which is probably the most interesting and fun course you can do as a scuba diver. In this course, you learn everything you need to know about saving scuba divers (and other people) from accidents in the water. This includes recognizing different problems and attending them, searching for missing scuba divers and taking them up to the surface, rescue breathing in the water while removing equipment and towing to safety, carrying techniques, CPR and oxygen use, as well as to be the organizer of a rescue and assigning tasks to people depending on their qualifications.

The common red line throughout the course is your own safety first, which becomes very clear when you are trying to save a panicked person in the water. For example, if on surface, always stay clear from the persons grasp. Then drop his weights and inflate his BCD from behind or below, followed by taking a safety distance again. If impossible to get in contact with the diver or inflating his BCD, wait until he is exhausted before trying the rescue. The best option is always to throw a floating device to the person if possible, instead of going out in the water yourself.

To be able to take the courses in the Red Sea is a big extra, as the coral and variety of sea life here is incredible. Hopefully I will be able to get to Sharm El Sheikh within a week to buy an underwater camera, to be able to show you some of the things you can see here while snorkeling or scuba diving.

Also now is a good time to be in Egypt while it’s not overcrowded by tourists, because a lot of people abroad are not sure about the political status here. Both the Egyptian government as well as the charter countries that used to have regular trips to Egypt are trying to campaign the country again as a safe and fun place to go, and everybody here are counting on that in a few months from now the tourists will have found their way back to Egypt.

Dive in Dahab

Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Sharm el Sheikh to Dahab

When travelling in some Arabic cities (and other places also of course) you need to be well informed or to be awake all the time, not to get tricked. This is sadly also the case in Sharm El Sheikh when you want to go to Dahab. It starts when you arrive at the airport (if you fly there) and the taxi drivers try to rip you off with high tourist prices. Also for me they tried to tell me that there is no bus to Dahab before 7 o’clock in the next morning and want to drive you all the way to Dahab instead (which will cost you about 150 EGP = 18 euro if you are good at bargaining). Later, when you arrive to the bus station in Sharm El Sheikh there are also what looks like official guards outside the station, because of how they are dressed. These people will ask you if you are on your way to Dahab, and then again tell you that there is no more bus for today and try to take you to their taxi friends instead. Most of the economics here (and way of thinking) is based on bringing people and favors to each other, which I will tell more about in a later post.

Here are some prices and information to help you on your way from Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab:

  • Taxi from airport to Sharm El Sheikh bus station:  45 EGP = 4,5 euro (for the whole taxi)
  • Bus from Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab:  15-20 EGP = 2 euro (per person)
  • Minitaxi (back of a pickup truck) from Dahab bus station to central Dahab:  5 EGP = 70 cent (per destination)

Travel time:  taxi about 20 minutes, bus 1 hour, minitaxi 5-10 minutes

Bus schedule / timetable for Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab:
6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 14:30, 17:00, 20:30

The bus can be delayed about one hour and you can only buy the ticket from the ticket office at the bus station when the bus have arrived. Be aware of pick pockets, specially when in “cue” to buy the ticket!

The pickup truck minitaxi you can also use when staying in Dahab. To do this, you can stop almost any pickup truck you see on the street and ask them to drive you to your destination. ONLY pay 5 EGP (or more if you want to give a tip) regardless of destination and wait with the payment until you arrive at your goal.

4 days in Brussels, Belgium

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

A lot of times I fall in love with a city within the first days. So was also the case with Belgium and its capital Brussels. This city is really multi cultural and hosts a lot of interesting and individual people. Also it’s very green, both with some beautiful parks and a lot of planted trees in the streets.

One funny surprise for me was the Balkan music trend that is big in Brussels right now, with festivals and private parties playing balkan music and people trying to imitate some of the dancing styles of the Balkan countries.

All in all what was supposed to be a long transfer just to learn a bit about Belgium turned out to really give me a wish for more!

Porte de Hal | Hallepoort

Place du Jeu de Balle

Everard t Serclaes

Belgian comics (mural street art)

Manneken pis

Window graffiti, Brussels

Brussels megaphone speech place

Beautiful lantern in pub

Jef Aerosol (Brussels)

Graffiti stairs

Beautiful houses, Brussels

Auberge - Brussels

Brussels graffiti

Graffiti Belgium

Brussels spring

Tee shop, Brussels

Graffiti Brussels

Brussels park

La Grand Place | Brussels plant market

Wall mural painting, Brussels

BBQ party on roof top

Camping on Gran Canaria

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Last weekend (in double meaning) on Gran Canaria I spent camping on a hidden nudist beach with a friend. Because of the easter holidays just starting the beach was full of tents and people. What started as a problem when our tent broke ended up as a perfect solution sleeping under the stars and full moon, accompanied by the sound of the waves and guitar music.

Although most people don’t know it, there are some free government campings on Gran Canaria. To find them you need to know where they are because there are no signs for them or even information on the governments official web site.

If you instead decide to camp in the nature there is a fee of some hundred euros if the police finds you, which means that most people doing this option choose a hidden place for the tent.

In the case you are camping near the ocean, have in mind the high tide which peaks at 12 o’clock in the morning and at full moon.

Nudist beach in Gran Canaria

Camping en Gran Canaria

Camping on Gran Canaria

Full moon Gran Canaria

Surfing tips

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

A week ago I started taking surfing lessons here on Gran Canaria. I had only tried surfing once before in Ponta Do Ouro, Mozambique, but still I managed to stand on the board already on the first wave thanks to some practice on my technique before getting wet. Now I am totally hooked and just want to surf all the time, although it is really physically demanding even if you are well trained from the start.

Anyway, for any beginners out there that want to learn how to surf and have access to a board but not lessons, here are some initial surfing tips for you:

  1. Use a beginners board, that is, a long thick board. This will make it more difficult to turn but will help you with the balance.
  2. Check where the other surfers are in the water, or ask somebody where the best surfing spot is. If no other surfers are present, try to look for where the most white water is and where there are least rocks.
  3. Lay centered on top of the board, with your feet slightly out in the back and your chest lifted up
  4. If the nose of the board is high up, move more to the front. If the nose instead is dipping in the water, move back on the board or lift your chest even more if possible.
  5. When you see a good wave coming in your direction, check that nobody else is going for that wave (before you) and that nobody is in the direction that you want to surf
  6. Start paddling (like the swim style crawl) slow and softly straight out from the wave/white water (90 degrees) about 3-5 seconds before the wave will hit you, while looking back to have control of where the wave is
  7. At the moment the wave hits you, paddle fast to get even more speed
  8. When you feel that the board are leaning forward/down it’s time for you to stand up on it
  9. Put both your hands in front of you on top of the board, not on the sides. Then first put up your back leg quickly followed by your front leg. Stand up!
  10. Keep your legs bent and relaxed, and look at the direction you are going (not on the board)
  11. Try moving back/forth on the board or change your weight of the legs if the nose of the board is to much up or down. If the nose of the board points up it will make you loose speed.
  12. Don’t get happy about standing on your feet and jump of the board to fast, try to make it all the way back to the beach
  13. When falling, try to land on your feet. If this doesn’t succeed, protect your head with your hands not to dive into a rock or get a flying board on it.

When you feel more secure, you can try this:

  • Instead of paddling straight out from the wave, paddle diagonally out from it. Your weight should be more against the wave when it hits you, not to turn over. Then, when standing on the board, turn the board even more towards the wave to follow it for maximum speed. To turn your board, just turn your waist/upper body and look in the direction that you want to go.
  • Instead of standing up when the board start to lean down, stand up when you are on top of the wave. With this technique you need more weight on the front of the board though, to get initial speed.

If you don’t feel sure about what you are doing, or don’t feel confortable being in and under the water, I recommend you to find a surf mentor. I have done some wind surfing and other water sports before so that was not a problem, but I still felt that I want to know the right surf technique not to loose my time trying it out or learning it wrong. The school I attend is Ocean Side and I am really happy about my choice, mostly because of great surf teachers and that they are in a good location in Las Palmas (10 meters from Las Canteras which is the beach walk with some of the best surf spots here).

I know I have published this video before but my camera is still at the repair shop so I have no new pictures or movies from Gran Canaria.

Gran Canaria to Tenerife

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

I am just back in Gran Canaria after spending a weekend in Tenerife. I had a great time and really enjoyed Tenerife which is more green than Gran Canaria, both in the main city Santa Cruz de Tenerife and in the nature.

One of the interesting things that happened to me was when trekking with a friend in the north west part of the island. The plan was to only trek for one day, but the first afternoon we met a couple we started to talk to on one of the trails. The man told us he is a doctor and that he comes from a small village where he was visiting a patient of him, a kind of hippie. He also tells us that we probably can stay the night with Juan, as the man in the village is called. We continue our walk and ends up in the small village, which a man at the pub later that night tells us only have 10 inhabitants.

After some searching in the village we find Juan and his friends who are visiting him for the weekend. We end up staying at his place and head out the next morning for a walk to a bigger village where the car road starts, managing to hitch hike back to Santa Cruz de Tenerife with only some hour to spare before our ferry back to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria departs.

The most strange thing about this is the story a friend of mine told me when returning to Santa Cruz de Tenerife after the trek. She told me that her parents actually met on the beach in this small village of only 10 people which I had just returned back from. On top of this my friend and her parents lived before in a hippie community in exactly the house where I had spent the night, and her brother was also born there in that house.


There are two ferries from Gran Canaria to Tenerife and the most cheap of them are Armas which takes a little bit more time (2½ hours). For a timetable and prices, visit this web site:

http://www.navieraarmas.com/index.php?id_pagina=1&idioma=en

Standard price for the Armas ferry is about 50 euro for a return ticket, or half the price if you have the Canary Islands residency (NIE), which is very easy to get and costs only 20 euro. The NIE you can use for the rest of your life, or as long as you stay on the Canary Islands.


Finally, here are some pictures from Tenerife:

Tenerife travel with ferry

Tenerife weather by night

Tenerife meat market

Tenerife fish market

Tenerife market with fish

Man reading while sitting on ground bradying- Tenerife

Barefeet guy in tenerife

Tenerife nature

Tenerife waterfall and lagoon

Tenerife rock

Tenerife bar

Tenerife flowers and trees

Teide volcano, Tenerife

Tenerife coastline

Tenerife village

Villa in Tenerife

Tenerife balcony

Tenerife bird

Tenerife beach

Unknown island (peninsula) Tenerife

El Faro sign, Tenerife

Las Palmas de Anaga, Tenerife

Tenerife coast

Tenerife climate

Picture of cloud in Tenerife

Near Taganana, Tenerife

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria by night with ferry

How to get NIE on Gran Canaria, Spain

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

It can be a good idea to get a residency (NIE) if you are planing to stay on the Canary Islands for some months. This will only take you one morning to fix and costs 20 euro. With the NIE paper you have cheaper prices on most things here, like half price on flights and cruises.

Here is how you do it:

* Go to the Gobierno Civil on Plaza de la Feria at 8 o’clock in the morning (Monday to Friday). The entrance is at the side of the building that face away from the park. Don’t forget to bring 20 euro, your passport and a pen. If you want to save 5 minutes, also bring a copy of your passport.

Map of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (Spain)

* There will start to be a queue at this time and if you are somewhat in the beginning of it at 9 o’clock when the place opens you can count on about 30 minutes for the whole procedure. If you instead go there at opening hour there will be around 100 people in front of you with different errands and about 10-15 minutes waiting time for each person of them that wants to get a NIE.

* When the door opens you tell the guy at the desk that you want to get a NIE. He then gives you an application form where you have to fill in your current living address in Las Palmas together with your contact information and your parents names. He also gives you a ticket number which, if you were first in line, will be E001.

* Now enter through the metal detector and go to the main waiting room to wait for your number, while filling in the application form. If you are lucky you will not have time enough to do this before your number is displayed.

* Now enter the room to the left inside the main building. Here find the person (of 3 desks) that is your man/lady. Present your passport and application form and ask for help to fill it out if needed. After this the person will give you another form to pay the NIE.

* Go to one of the banks that is within 50 meters from the Gobierno Civil and pay the 20 euro (in cash) while presenting the filled in payment form. You will then get the form back with a computer stamp at the bottom, to prove that it’s payed.

* After this go to one of the copy places also within the same area and make a copy of your passport (the first page with your picture on it). This will cost about 5 cents.

* Now you are ready to go back to the Gobierno Civil and the man/lady that helped you before. You will not need to take another waiting number, just go there and wait for him/her to be ready with the person(s) he/she is helping at the moment. Present the photo copy of your passport together with the computer stamped payment form and 5 minutes later you will be walking out with your new NIE recidency in your hand!

5 days of improvisational travel

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I just arrived back to Las Palmas after travelling for five days without a plan. It all started with packing my backpack with a borrowed tent, my computer (for work) and some other things, adding up to a total of 14 kg. Five days later I have learned that hitch hiking on Gran Canaria is easy, I have camped under orange trees & at the hippie festival Rainbow Gathering but most of all walked up and down a lot of mountains.

The trekking here is nice with some small villages that does not feel too touristic, some empty trails and a lot of beautiful views. Following the trails is tricky though, as the markings are really bad if even existing, and the markings look the same all over the island which means that you can easily mix up the trails and end up somewhere else than planned. Also the maps are not 100% correct and some trails or even roads are not existing on the maps. The good thing is that you usually end up near a road anyway and can hitch hike to your goal instead, which is also the bad thing here that the roads are everywhere. So don’t expect to be alone after a full day of trekking to a top, instead you will find a big car park and a lot of tourists, with the street sellers that come along with tourism in an area.

I post some pictures below from a borrowed camera as my own camera is in repair at the moment. Also you will find the map I used to trace where I have been these days, although it may not be totally correct or easy to see.

Gran Canaria mapa

Canary trekking

Gran Canaria canary trekking

Gran Canaria trekking

Gui gui beach trekking

GuiGui beach trek

Hippie juice :) with view (+ pepsi)

Doghouse with a view

Almond tree picture

Pot plant, Gran Canaria, Spain

Trapped plants, Gran Canaria, Spain

Rainbow gathering @ Guigui in Gran Canaria, Spain

Roque Nublo, Gran Canaria Spain

Roque Nublo stone

Senderismo Canarias

Senderismo en Gran Canaria

Senderismo Gran Canaria Spain

Tasartico Gran Canaria trekking

Tejeda & Culata, Gran Canaria (Spain)

Travel Grand Canary

Trekking Gran Canaria

Waltz

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

While doing a short backpacking trip I met a girl who was currently working at a hostel in Puerto de Mogan on Gran Canaria. She told me she is travelling the Waltz lifestyle, doing pottery. This means people who have studied at least 3 years of handicraft then leaves the country and travels around the world working in different workshops to learn from them. The goal is to do this for at least 3 years and 1 day, and to work at least half of the time in a workshop, while staying maximum 3 months in one and the same workshop. She also told me that because she moves around so much even after 2-3 weeks in one place she feels restless. While travelling they need to be in a special dress, for example white clothes with special zippers on the pants, a hat and a walking cane which is in the form of a natural spiral.

This mission is mostly performed in Germany and a few other countries in Europe. Most people in Germany (where she was from) just know about this culture, but not the details. To read more about Waltz, here is a link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journeyman_years#The_German_.22waltz.22

Pictures from Lisbon, Portugal (part 2 of 2)

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Lisbon building sign, Portugal

Lisbon boat race, Portugal
Lisbon boat race (radio controlled boats)

Lisbon police department meeting, Portugal
Lisbon police department meeting

Lisbon tram in midnight, Portugal
Typical tram on leaning narrow road at midnight

Lisbon hills (Belem), Portugal

Statue king Jose Lisbon, Portugal
Statue king Jose

Lonely sock in Lisbon, Portugal
Lonely sock

Honey bee collecting pollen from flower, Lisbon (Portugal)

Praça do Comercio, Lisbon (Portugal)
Praça do Comercio

Machado de Castro elephant statue, Lisbon (Portugal)
Statue made by Joaquim Machado de Castro

Learning portuguese, Lisbon (Portugal)
Learning portuguese

Lisbon jewelry bike (unicycle), Portugal

Tagus river, first sunset 2011 in Lisbon (Portugal)
Tagus river, first sunset 2011

Cova do Vapor

Cova do vapor, Portugal

Cova do Vapor - beach at sunset, Portugal

Cabo da Roca (Portugal’s most western point)

Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Most western point of Portugal, Cabo da Roca (near Sintra)

Sintra

Magical Sintra forest, Portugal
Magical Sintra forest

Parrots as pets at a hotel in Sintra, Portugal

Porto

Porto art, Portugal

Douro river in Porto, Portugal
Douro river

Porto tram (vertical), Portugal
Porto tram

Washing clothes by hand, Porto (Portugal)

Outdoor laundry drying line, Porto (Portugal)

Porto road, Portugal

Porto bridge, Portugal

Guarda

Hand washing technique poster, Guarda (Portugal)
Hand washing technique poster

Sesimbra

Sesimbra rock climbing, Portugal
Rock climbing next to the ocean in beautiful Sesimbra

Sesimbra, Portugal

Cascais

Rock climbing in Portugal - Cascais
Rock climbing in Cascais, again next to the ocean

Cascais climbing Portugal (repelling)
Repelling down to the climbing walls

Lisbon’s ferries (Portugal)

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Lisbon have a great transportation system if you don’t count the not so user friendly ticket system. Besides the local bus, tram and trains here there are also ferries that are mostly used by the local people. Instead of taking a guided bus tour or even the “tourist cruise” that also exist here, I recommend you to try one of the normal ferries listed below. All of the boats go from the morning until about 2 o’clock in the night, and usually every 30 minutes even on weekends. The duration of the boat trips varies between 15 and 30 minutes and even though the ride on the river is very calm some minor waves exist that you should be prepared of if you easily get seasick.

Belém to Trafaria

Trafaria is on the other side of the river and from here you can walk about 30 minutes to come to Cova do Vapor which has a magnificent view of the North Atlantic Ocean. This place is also a good spot for wave surfing. Be aware that this is the SECOND stop with the boat, not the first.
Price: 90 cent + 50 cent for the rechargable card (Carris)

Praça do Comércio to Barreiro

This ferry will take you to the opposite side of the river from Lisbon, with the boat ride being almost more interesting than the destination. Barreiro is a fast expanding suburb with not so much to see besides taking a walk along the river.
Price: 1,85 cent + 50 cent for the rechargable card (Soflusa)

Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas

This is a good option if you want to go to the Cristo Rey statue.
Price: ~80 cent + 50 cent for the rechargable card

Pictures from Lisbon, Portugal (part 1 of 2)

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Arco da rua Augusta in sunset light, Lisbon (Portugal)
Arco da rua Augusta in sunset light, first day of 2011

Abandoned house in Lisbon, Portugal
One of many abandoned houses here in Lisbon. All of them closed down from top to bottom to make it difficult to squat. Lisbon is one of the fastest shrinking cities in the world because the inhabitants can not afford to stay.

Assembleia da Republica government building, Lisbon (Portugal)
Assembleia da Republica government building

Balcony clothes line, Lisbon (Portugal)

Bird watching, Lisbon (Portugal)

Castelo Sao Jorge, Lisboa (Portugal)
Castelo Sao Jorge

Free hugs campaign - Abrazos gratis (Lisbon, Portugal)
Free hugs campaign – Abrazos gratis

Ginjinha, Lisbon (Portugal)
Ginjinha

Lisbon alien, Portugal
Lisbon alien

RC boats old guys, Lisbon (Portugal)
RC boats in Belem

Lisbon Christmas santas, Portugal
Lisbon Christmas santas on strike

Lisbon street view, Portugal

Monumento aos Descobrimentos, Santa Maria de Belem statue (Lisbon, Portugal)
Monumento aos Descobrimentos, Santa Maria de Belem

Lisbon police, Portugal
Lisbon police on segways

Lisbon new year eve, Portugal
Lisbon new year eve

Narrow street, Lisbon (Portugal)

Oceanario de Lisboa, Aquarium Lisbon (Portugal)
Oceanario de Lisboa (Lisbon Aquarium)

Sanctuary of Christ the King Lisbon, Portugal
Sanctuary of Christ the King Lisbon

Lisbon café view, Portugal
Café with a view

Lisbon tree shadow, Portugal

Parque Florestal de Monsanto, Lisbon (Portugal)
Parque Florestal de Monsanto

Picture of a balcony in Lisbon, Portugal

Tram Lisbon, Portugal
Typical Lisbon tram

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos fountain, Lisbon (Portugal)
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos fountain

Tagus river, Bateaux Sur le Tage (Lisbon, Portugal)
Tagus river, Bateaux Sur le Tage

The next part can be found here:
Pictures from Lisbon, Portugal (part 2 of 2)

Top 5 travel mobile phone applications

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Free Android mobile phone applications for travel - top 5I have during the last year found some interesting and useful applications that I use in my mobile. Some of these are good when travelling and I thought to share them with you. All the applications are for free, but keep in mind that they are for mobile phones with the Android operating system. You can probably find similar programs for your mobile phone if you have another OS.

1) MapDroyd
This program gives you an offline map for whatever countries you choose, with street names and interesting points like gas- train- and bus stations, hospitals and more. Every country usually takes between 1-100 mb of space to download, and when you have it you don’t need an internet connection like Google Maps and similar map applications do. The only negative thing with MapDroyd is that it does not have navigation built in yet, which means you can only use it as a map instead of getting directions from point A to B.

2) Compass
It’s self explanatory that it is sometimes good to have a compass. The thing with this application is that you also can save positions and later on you will see in which direction the saved position is in and how many meters away it is. I prefer to find the way by myself or even getting lost, which makes you learn the neighborhood faster, but this application is a good backup when you are tired or in a hurry.

3) SlovoEd Compact dictionaries
I use different dictionaries for different  languages but keep coming back to SlovoEd’s compact dictionary which I think works fine and have a lot of languages to choose from. It also have speech built in to hear pronunciations. On top of this I use Advanced English & Thesaurus to improve my English. This dictionary have more than 1.4 million words, synonyms, antonyms, related words and explanations.

4) GPSTracker Lite
This program is good for a lot of different things. The main idea is to track your movement and then get statistics over your speed and altitude and even to see on a map or satellite picture where you have been. This is for example good when working out (bicycling, running etc) or trekking.

5) AK Notepad
Ok most people use TripIt to save their travel information, but I think the service is not user friendly and usually doesn’t work with the airlines I travel with. That’s why I use AK Notepad instead to write down important travel information and other things that I have to remember. The program even have an optional setting to back up your notes online.

The applications above are all downloadable from the Android Market. On top of these applications I also use some of the already built-in applications in the Android OS, like the calendar (with Google Calendar synchronization), the email application, the web browser, alarm clock, WIFI analyzers and security programs.

Street selling & artists in Lisbon, Portugal

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Because one of my friends is selling artworks on the streets here in Lisbon I have talked even more than usual to other street artists and performers here, trying to help her. What I have noticed is that the police are much more liberal here than in other countries in Europe. Most people that earns money on the street are never bothered by the police, and only a few newcomers gets their stuff taken away if they are not liked by the local police. Also it’s a big difference between the winter- and summer season here, with very little business in the winter period and during the summer business bloom for everyone. Even before Christmas the business were bad for everyone but the beggars and expensive shops.

I have also been in contact with some shop owners selling different kind of handicraft or importing art from other countries. They tell me that the rent for a small shop in any of the many different shop areas here are from 1500 euro per month and up, which means that it is very difficult for new companies to afford it. The art shops that are here already don’t sell so much and even have whole days sometimes without even one customer, but they have had the same store/contract for 10 years and have very good rent deals because of this.

All in all, Lisbon seems to get more and more expensive, with the result that there are over 4 000 empty buildings (of total 55 000) here at the moment because of people leaving the city. This means that the city is actually shrinking in population every year because of the high rents. On top of this they have a whopping 24% of the residents that are 65 years old or more. Because of all the young people having to live outside Lisbon, more than half a million people (with 400 000 cars) commute to the city every day to work.

Even with all these empty buildings Lisbon is very difficult to squat in according to several sources. Either the police interfere and throw everybody out in the middle of the night, or the building gets demolished. For me it seems strange that the Portuguese police have so liberal view on some things, but at the same time are much tougher on squatters than for example in Spain.

Street artist; freeze juggler (Lisbon, Portugal)

Street artist; spray painter (Lisbon, Portugal)

Street artist; street musicians (Lisbon, Portugal)

Lisbon weather (Portugal)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Weather Lisbon, Portugal (sunset)The weather here in Lisbon is really interesting. Because of a lot of wind (which you don’t feel on the ground) the weather changes quickly during the days. This means that the day usually start with sunshine, blue sky and around 16 degrees, but at any moment during the day heavy rain will probably start. Then the rain and sun switches place all along the day, sometimes every 5 minutes. Also the rain can be ice-rain instead, but not so commonly.

When I arrived here was biting cold winter, but now two weeks later the weather is great. What I have heard though is that December and January should be the coldest months here.

I was lucky enough to get perfect weather for New Years Ewe, celebrating it with some friends at the Praça do Comércio together with thousands of other people. The free concert was not so impressive but the opposite can be said about the firework show.

Here are some weather statistics for Lisbon:

Summer Winter
Degrees 22-28 C 14-19 C
Days of rain 2-8 11-15
Rainfall 5-40 mm 65-114 mm

One of the results of the wet weather here combined with badly isolated houses is that mold are very common in Portugal in the apartments. Some people try to make it better by reducing the moisture level with machines, but this just helps a little bit and most people just let it be. Long term exposure on high levels can result in mold allergy, which you will recognize by coughing, headaches, irritated eyes, problems breathing, tiredness and sneezing.

Tarifa > Seville > Faro > Lisbon

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

For Christmas and New Years Ewe I wanted to change environment to a place with more people and movement comparing with calm Tarifa. I got a suggestion about Lisbon and started to make my way to Portugal. The trip from Tarifa to Lisbon (if not flying) are always going through Seville, where I stayed two days to explore. On top of this the bus from Seville to Lisbon passes Faro in Algarve, so I stayed also there for two days. Both cities were really nice and different and I enjoyed my stay. Here below are the information and prices on how to do this travel:

Tarifa to Seville
Bus with the company Movelia (Transportes Generales Comes), takes 3-3½ hours and costs 17 euro. Around 4 buses per day.

Seville to Faro
Bus with the company Movelia (Alsa/Damas), takes 2-3½ hours and costs 16 euro. Around 3 buses per day.

Faro to Lisbon
Bus with the company EVA Transportes or Rede expressos, takes 3-4 hours and costs about 19 euro. Around 20 buses per day.

Tarifa to Seville to Faro to Lisbon (Spain to Portugal)

Pictures of Tarifa, Spain

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Here below are some pictures from my first month in Tarifa, Spain. Tarifa is famous mostly for the kitesurfing and along the main street there are almost only shops with kitesurfing equipment and lessons. But Tarifa also has a very beautiful nature around the city, perfect for trekking. Here you can find a lot of interesting plants, animals, incredible scenery, unusual rock formations and a view of Africa with it’s beautiful mountains and city lights. The town is also a meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. When you get tired of Tarifa it’s easy and fast to go to Morocco, only 35 minutes with the ferry (cost about 30 euro) and you are there!

Old ruin Tarifa

Kite surfing Tarifa

Ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco

Moon over palms in Tarifa

Gym training in Tarifa

Creating hamper baskets in Tarifa

Reef in Tarifa, morning

Funny dog high up

Dog in window, Tarifa

Fish market in Tarifa, Spain

Jesus statue in Tarifa, with view of Morocco (Africa)

Graffiti of a man shitting in the grass, Tarifa

Emergency exit to the beach in Tarifa

Paddlers paddling windsurfing boards in Tarifa

Military ruin in Tarifa, with windsurfing board & paddler

Neck of mountain plate going into the sea, Tarifa

Old castle on top of forest, Tarifa

Seeds in sand dunes, Tarifa (macro low shot)

Sand dunes with borders, Tarifa

Cows in Tarifa landscape

Bull in Tarifa

Sandstone rock (Arenite) in Tarifa

House plants on mini balcony, Tarifa

Seascape, landscape, Tarifa

Windsurfing in storm, Tarifa

Storm seascape, Tarifa

Wind on wave top, Tarifa

Bird on king statue head, Tarifa

St Mary church, Tarifa

Techniques to learn a new language

Friday, December 17th, 2010

When living in a new country I always try to blend in with the locals as much as possible. This is of course impossible sometimes depending on different things, like looks and language. When I started travel I was trying to learn all the languages that I came across, but soon realized this is too much and creates a lot of confusion with similar languages. Now I mainly focus on a few languages, although it is always fun and practical to learn some local words at every place.

If you are moving to a new country, or just want to learn something new and useful, here are some tips on how to learn a new language:

Practice it on the street
For example, ask people what time it is, ask for directions et cetera. Go into stores, cafés and restaurants and ask them if they have something specific, what they can recommend, ask for the bill and so on. This “street practice” teaches you the words and sentences you actually need on every day bases.

Use a dictionary
Every time you hear a word that you start to recognice but don’t know what it means, find the translation in a dictionary. Then write down the new word in your notebook with some examples of sentences on how to use it.

Put up Post It notes
Post it notes - learn a new languagePut up notes everywhere in your apartment, with the word written both in your mother tongue language  (or English) and the language you want to learn.

Write flash cards
This is similar to the Post It notes. Get a number of small notes that can fit in your pocket. On one of the sides, write a word in the language you want to learn. On the other side of the note, write the same word in your mother language or English. Now, whenever you have a minute of free time, take up the flash cards and practice on the words. Remember to take away the cards you have learned and replace with new ones.

Watch television or movies
You can watch television without subtitles, or with subtitles in your own language or even see a movie in your language but with subtitles in the language you want to learn. It’s all good, as long as you have a dictionary near and use it frequently. If you do not have access to foreign television or movies, you can listen to radio instead from SHOUTcast by searching on a country where they speak the language you want to learn.

Use a computer program
There are  a lot of language programs for PC and Macintosh that will let you practice listening, talking, reading and writing as well as learning new words and sentences. This is a good complement to your street practice, or when you are not living in a country where you can practice your new language skills on the streets. My favorite program for learning a new language is Rosetta Stone, where you learn the same way as a child by looking at pictures and through the words you have learned earlier, without any whatsoever translation to your mother language or English.

Have a friend that speaks your new language fluently
This is also good if you are practicing your new language within your home country. It can also be a guy in a store or similar that you can go and talk to on regular bases. If you can’t find anybody, use a service like www.myhappyplanet.com or www.livemocha.com to find a friend online to chat with. The best thing with this is that at the same time you are learning a new language you are teaching somebody else your mother language.

Keep reading
Start reading all the signs you  see while walking in the city. On top of this, get news papers, magazines or children books and practice your reading.

Listen to audio books in your car or mp3-player
There are a lot of audio books you can find that will teach you the most used phrases. I usually prefer not using these as they sometimes teaches you “book phrases” rather then how regular people speak, and also focus to much on grammar instead of getting you to start speak as soon as possible. But for some people I can imagine this is a good way to learn, specially in your home country.

Learn the 100 most common words in the new language
According to Tony Buzan in his book “Using your memory” 50% of the words used in normal conversations in a language can be counted to as low as 100 words. The list of these words is as following:

1. A,an 2. After 3. Again 4. All 5. Almost
6. Also 7. Always 8. And 9. Because 10. Before
11. Big 12. But 13. (I) can 14. (I) come 15. Either/or
16. (I) find 17. First 18. For 19. Friend 20. From
21. (I) go 22. Good 23. Good-bye 24. Happy 25. (I) have
26. He 27. Hello 28. Here 29. How 30. I
31. (I) am 32. If 33. In 34. (I) know 35. Last
36. (I) like 37. Little 38. (I) love 39. (I) make 40. Many
41. One 42. More 43. Most 44. Much 45. My
46. New 47. No 48. Not 49. Now 50. Of
51. Often 52. On 53. One 54. Only 55. Or
56. Other 57. Our 58. Out 59. Over 60. People
61. Place 62. Please 63. Same 64. (I) see 65. She
66. So 67. Some 68. Sometimes 69. Still 70. Such
71. (I) tell 72. Thank you 73. That 74. The 75. Their
76. Them 77. Then 78. There is 79. They 80. Thing
81. (I) think 82. This 83. Time 84. To 85. Under
86. Up 87. Us 88. (I) use 89. Very 90. We
91. What 92. When 93. Where 94. Which 95. Who
96. Why 97. With 98. Yes 99. You 100. Your


Last but not least, you need motivation
This can be through a need or desire to learn the new language, for example if you are living in a new country and need to be able to carry out your every day life there, to travel, or to find new friends.

That’s it! If you have any more ideas or tips, feel free to send them to me!

Gibraltar pictures

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Here below are some pictures from my last weekend in Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a British overseas territory and the only place in Europe where you can find wild monkeys, the Gibraltar Barbary Macaques, which live on The Rock of Gibraltar. About 230 monkeys live here free, and the higher up in the mountain you find them, the higher up they are in the monkey life hierarchy, and also more aggressive.

Rock of gibraltar, with Gibraltar airport landing strip

Gibraltar industries, Gibraltar port

Bird and cargo ship, Gibraltar view

Funny bird photo picture

Gibraltar strait

Gibraltar coast line with mountains, tilted camera

Baby monkey eating

Cute monkey (baby)

Cargo ships (docked), Gibraltar

Strait of Gibraltar (beautiful weather)

Monkey on rock - Gibraltar view

Picture of monkey

Barbary Macaques monkeys Gibraltar

Gibraltar airport luxery boats

Big waves on coast, Gibraltar

Car tires (hill), Gibraltar

Identical cars on parking lot, Gibraltar

Funny monkey inside city with Christmas decoration

Monkey temple in mountains

Gibraltar weather clouds

Why frequent flyer bonus programs is a scam

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I have tried several flight bonus programs over the years in my search to find even cheaper flights. Because I fly a lot, if I believed the flight companies commercials, I should get several benefits if I join their bonus programs. Let’s look at their claimed benefits one at a time:

Free flights
Let’s say you want a free single way ticket from Sweden to South Africa. To earn the points needed for this, you need to fly the same distance 23 times and the 24th time you will get the ticket for free. This means you will spend about 15 000 euro for flight tickets before even getting one flight for free. Keep in mind that most membership programs delete your points after 2-5 years, so you need to make all the 24 flights within this time not to loose the points again before getting the final flight for free. And remember, all this flights need to be with the flight companies within the network for your membership card. This means you can not fly with your regular low price flights and airlines which have the cheapest flights, or even last minute tickets. The same applies for upgrading your ticket to first class, it takes a LOT of expensive travel to reach this level.

Airport lounges
Lounges at the airport are nice to relax or work in and you can save money because of the free food and drinks. It is also a good place to extend your business network. On the negative side though you meet more interesting travelers outside the lounges, and if you travel with friends they all need to pay 10 euro each to enter the lounge. Finally, most people try to be in the airport as short time as possible anyway, so there is no time for the lounge.

Priority queues at the airport
Ok the priority queues are nice but it will not get you flying earlier than the people in the back of the long queue anyway. The good thing is you can use the time for other things at the airport, instead of queuing.

So for the conclusion, at least for me it would never be worth it to use one of the today existing frequent flyer bonus programs. Of what I see the only situation it would gain you is if you are employed and fly on weekly bases within your work.

If you still think a frequent flyer flight bonus program would be a good thing for you, here are some of the biggest ones. There are about 100 more programs, and you should choose one that have most flights in the area you move around within the most, and at the same time a membership card that can be linked together with your daily payment card. The similarities of partner flight airlines is because a lot of the frequent flyer programs are connected with the Star Alliance Network.

* Miles & Smiles (Turkish Airlines)
Can be combined with American Express, Master Card.
Partners: Adria, Agean, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, AnadoluJet, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, B&H Airlines, Blue1, Brussels Airlines, bmi, Continental, Crotia, Egypt Air, Jet Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines, TAM, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways

Miles & More (Lufthansa & Swiss International Air Lines)
Can be combined with American Express, Diners Club (only Swiss Franc), Credit Suisse. You get a monthly invoice with your collected expenses.
Partners: Adria Airlines, Aegean Airlines, Air Astana, Air Canada, Air China, Air Dolomiti, Air India, Air Malta, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines Group, Blue1, bmi, Brussels Airlines, Cirrus Airlines, Condor, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Germanwings, Jat Airways, Jet Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Lufthansa Italia, Lufthansa Private Jet, Lufthansa Regional, Luxair, Mexicana, Qatar Airways, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines, TACA, TAM, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, US Airways

* SAS Eurobonus (SAS Scandinavian Airlines)
Can be combined with American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard
Partners: Adria Airlines, Aegean Airlines, AirBaltic, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Atlantic Airways, Austrian Airlines Group, Blue1, bmi, Brussels Airlines, Cimber Sterling, City Airline, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egypt Air, Estonian Air, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qantas, Shanghai Airlines, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Skyways, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines,  TAM, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, US Airways, Widerøe

* Mileage Plus (United Airlines)
Can be combined with VISA, American Express (Japan, United Kingdom), MasterCard (Argentina, Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan)
Partners: Adria Airlines, Aegean Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Air New Zealand, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines Group, Blue1, bmi, Brussels Airlines, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, Jet Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airways, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines,  TAM, TACA Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, US Airways

Frequent flyer bonus programs (A380 Lufthansa)

Simon’s Town’s penguins, South Africa

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

On the way to Cape Point or Cape of Good Hope you will most probably pass Simon’s Town (or in Afrikaans “Simonstad”) with it’s small population of less than 3 000 people. This is one of the few places where you can see African penguins free out in the wild. To find them, take a short walk out of town and down to Boulders Beach. Here you can choose to pay around 3 euros to enter the beach, or to go outside the main area where you will also see a few penguins. Some hundred meters away along a path you can also choose to pay to be able to swim with the penguins.

Penguins molt their old feathers and during this period they are less protected against the water. This means that the penguins eat and build fat before the moulting period to be able to be without food while mounting.

Train ride Fish Hoek & Simons Town

Penguins on sea rock with grass in front

Penguins on Boulders Beach Simons Town

Sleeping sun tanning penguin in sand/beach

Penguin moulting, loosing feathers

Bird on Boulders Beach, South Africa

Penguin looking through a fence

Penguins under vehicles warning

Silly signs, train station in South Africa

Humpback whales outside Cape Town

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

2 hours drive from Cape Town I found the perfect whale spotting place, where they come just next to the coast if you are there when it’s season.

Humpback whale outside Cape Town

Humpback Whale near coast of Cape Town

Humpback Whale in South Africa

40 hours in Ponta Do Ouro

Friday, October 29th, 2010

For the trip to Ponta D’Ouro from Maputo you should take the ferry to Catembe (20 cent) which takes about 10 minutes, and from Catembe the minibus (4 euro). Be aware that it can take time to fill the minibus, and although they tell you the trip is about 2,5-3,5 hours it will probably take longer. The road is really bad, mostly dirt road or sand, and if you decide to drive yourself you will need a 4 wheel drive and a good map. For me, because of missed mini buses, problem with driver, flat tire and police bribes the trip took about 8-9 hours from Maputo.

Arriving just when the sunlight is gone, the driver takes me the whole way to a scuba place I found on the Internet in advance. There I am lucky enough to be able to book a scuba dive for the next morning (because of low season) and also get a recommendation for a nearby hostel with really nice owner and workers. The first evening I spend in their company and also checks out a restaurant for an incredible sea food pasta.

The next morning I wake up 6:30 for my scuba dive. The dive is good, just me and another guy that joins a scuba diving club traveling here from South Africa. When trying to return to land from the furious sea with huge waves, one of the motors don’t start and on top of this the radio is dead. After a while we gets rescued by a boat passing by and they drop us off near the shore.

In the afternoon I take a walk away from the normal beach along the coast and a rocky almost hidden path (towards South Africa). After a while I arrive at a beautiful misty beach with sand dunes, where I am totally alone and without earlier foot prints. I soon realize the mist is not mist at all, but instead sand blowing in the air which I also feel on my skin when the wind picks up in speed now and then.

I take a long walk, running up and down the sand dunes and playing around, finding a water snake plus hatched turtle eggs. To have a big chance of seeing turtles I should have been here some weeks later though when the turtles lay their eggs.

Back in town I walk around the small huts in the alley behind the local outdoor market. After a while I decide for a restaurant with excellent food, and end up spending the evening there talking to people mostly from Maputo and Tanzania.

The next morning I go up at 7 to do some wave surfing for the first time in my life. The board I rented for 10 euro the last evening, to be able to surf before the surf shop opens in the morning. The waves are perfect, which not my technique is of course. But a good start and now I want more! One of the reasons why I move to Spain in November is actually to learn how to surf.

When I have no more strength to fight the strong current I end my surfing for this time, moving on to the minibus where I write this blog entry while waiting for the minibus to fill up. Little do I know it will take 5 hours for the bus to get filled and start the journey.

Boat Maputo to Zitundo, Mozambique

Zitundo boats

Zitundo stranded boat

Mozambique packed/crowded minibus taxi

Minibus 4-wheel  drive punctured

Fruit stands under tree shadow

Ponta do Ouro sand road

Cliff passage Ponta do Ouro

Crab on cliffs (Mozambique)

Deserted empty beach - Ponta d'ouro

Strong waves & current in Mozambique

Blowing sand storm - Mozambique

Sand dune - Ponta do Ouro

Ponta do Ouro turtle beach

Unknown object on beach

Water snake on beach

Water snake shallow water

Water snake in wave

Desert flower beach

Footsteps in sand beach

Ponta do Ouro market

Simple Mozambique houses/sheds

Ponta do Ouro backstreet

Walking chicken with her children

Mozambique boy with car toy

Woman carrying on head

American mine sweepers in Mozambique

Surfing board room

Point D’Ouro facts:

When I write this the town have got only one ATM-machine, although so far it only takes some specific cards so bring cash to be sure to have money.

Minibuses leave from/to Maputo at least two times every day and costs 4 euro. Be prepared for one of the most uncomfortable bus trip in your life, or one of the best, depending on how good seat you get and what your idea of fun is. Also bring food and water because there is no place on the way to buy this.

What else to do in Point D’Ouro:

Swim with dolphins (90% hit rate, book in advance)

Fish market in Maputo, Mozambique

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Wow. I went to the fish market in Maputo last week to get some lunch and got a really nice over all experience. I can not enough recommend this place! The fish market is located near the beach in Maputo so you get a nice walk first to get there. Then, when you enter the place, you see fish everywhere and in all different shapes. Prices (without trying to bargain) was 2 euro for 1 kg of clams, 2 euro for 1 kilo of crab, and 2 euro for ½ kilo of tiger fish. All the fish is incredibly fresh and some is still alive, like the clams and the crabs.

After selecting what you want to eat you can, instead of taking it home, go to one of the nearby restaurants and ask them to cook this. The price for this is about 2 euro per dish, and if you want rice or salad to the dishes it will cost you extra. I can truly say this was one of the best food I have eaten in my life, specially the fresh crab. Because I love sea food I will really miss this place when I move away from Mozambique.

A tip is to go into the kitchen when they cook your food, both because it is interesting and also to see that they actually cook the food you brought and not some older fish to save money.

Maputo fish market (with Barracudas)

Red fish at Maputo fish market

Clam seller, Maputo fishmarket

Living clams squirting water

Huge sized tiger prawn

Raw tiger prawn with man holding

Raw tiger prawns in bucket

Living King crabs

Fresh squid octopus, Maputo fish market

Preparing seafood in kitchen

Clam soup (mussels)

Fresh crab plate

Grilled tiger prawns

Kruger park pictures (2nd part)

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Here are the rest of my pictures from Kruger Park, as promised:

Kudu staring at me

Leopard up in tree - Kruger Park

Male antelopes in Kruger Park

Male antelopes eating

Digged fence to Marloth Park

Digged fence to Marloth Park

Kudu in Marloth Park

Baboon walking on trail

Olifant luiperd sign, street names in Marloth Park

Street names in Marloth Park

Ostridge in Kruger Park

Plant twirling around tree - Marloth Park

Kigelia, or "Sausage tree" (Kruger Park)

Kigelia, or "Sausage tree"

Warthog staring from close distance

South African Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera plant

South African cotton plant

Spiders living together in community nest

The only spiders in the world living in a community

Storks and hippos

Stork walking searching for fish

Tall giraffe next to tree

Termite stack with butterflies

Termite stack with butterflies inside

Tree inside termite stack

Tree inside termite stack = fast food

Tree with animal track

Unknown bird in Kruger Park

Unknown flying insect - Kruger Park

Green grass because of water leak

Green grass because of water leak

Wildebeests & zebras on savanna

Zebras and wildebeests - Kruger Park

Zebras and wildebeests together on savanna

Kruger park pictures (+ bonus)

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Here below are some of the pictures I took at the Kruger park this weekend. Even better then the “park” was the area where I was living, Marloth Park. There I could walk around freely and having animals all around me, as near as 2-3 meters sometimes. Examples of what I found was baboon, impala, wildebeest, giraffe, hippo, elephant, kudu, ostrich, warthog, stork, zebra and impala (a lot). In the nights we took a dip in the pool and then barbecued to the sound of roaring lions.

South African border "Jeppes Reef" border control

Alien looking Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera cactus from inside, with torns

Animal skeleton up in tree

Baboon sitting with impala antelopes

Baby bushbuck impala klipspringer animal

Birds in foreground with hippos in water

Blue wildebeast kruger park

Buffalo and birds drinking from water hole - Kruger Park

Curious giraffe looking at me in Marloth Park

Fishes in dried out lake, Kruger Park

Fresh animal poo shit track

Giraffe eating leaves from tree

Giraffe head with tree frame

Wild giraffe looking at the camera

Giraffe profile

Hippo (hidden) with eyes in water

Hippo group in water

Hippos in water under tree

Impala antelope looking at a giraffe

Impalas in the Kruger Park

Kruger Park bird with bended nose

Dried out lake (ground) in Kruger Park

Kruger Park elephant

Kruger Park - hippos on land

Kudu - Marloth Park

Kudu eating grass from ground

Kudu profile (Marloth Park)

This is the end of part 1 of the pictures, I will try to post
the next (and final) part tomorrow!

Swaziland, a travel log

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Welcome to Swaziland

One week while staying in Mozambique I decided to go to Swaziland. After about 4 hours on a small and fully packed mini bus from Maputo (6 euro) I arrive to Manzini in Swaziland. After buying some food and taking a quick walk around I continue to Mbabane, about 45 minutes away. This small town is situated just next to the mountains. The plan is to call my Couchsurfing host who I am supposed to stay at for my 3 nights here in Swaziland. But when I try to call him I realize I have no signal with my mobile company here. On top of this, the mobile store don’t sell sim cards TODAY (they are all sold), and the internet places tells me their internet is broken. Anyway, a nice café owner borrows me her phone and I manage to set up a meeting for 4 hours later (the guy is busy at the moment, which is weird because we decided to meet about this time).

Manzini minibus market, with street food

Street food (grilled meat) in Swaziland

While I wait at the place for the meeting, a fancy sports restaurant, I realize some of the food here seems similar to Indian food. This is something I also noticed in Mozambique but didn’t think further on. Later on I learned that this is because around 200 years ago a lot of Indians was moved here as cheap labor to work on the sugar cane fields. Nowadays they have created a big community in the southern Africa.

Back to Swaziland… The local people seems really nice here, calling me “friend” all the time and doing everything they can to help. Even when I asked a taxi driver about the (cheaper) mini bus earlier, he told me how much I should pay for the mini bus not to get tricked.

For the currency, they use Rand here, the same as in South Africa. Be aware though that if you withdraw money from an ATM machine you will get Swaziland currency, which is worth exactly the same, but you will need to exchange/use it before leaving the country as you can only use it here.

After checking a magazine and some billboards, still waiting for the Couchsurfer, I realize there is both a wildlife sanctuary nearby, plus a lot of adventure sports like white water rafting, caving, mountain biking and warm natural springs. I only have two full days here this time before I have to meet some friends for the Kruger Park in South Africa, but I look forward to these days for exploring this interesting and beautiful country!

When the guy finally comes to the restaurant where I am waiting I realize it’s the wrong guy because of a mixup of phone numbers. I borrows his phone and calls the other guy, which now is occupied and wants me to take into a hostel for the night instead. Later on I found out this was because of the guy having a date that evening.

Early morning. The hostel I finally ended up in yesterday was in a handicraft center and protected park, so I start the day with a short walk to see the surroundings accompanied by beautiful bird song. Finds a coin phone but it’s out of order since yesterday (what is it about me and phones on this trip?). Borrows a phone again in a shop and calls the Couchsurfer. The guy tells me to call him from the original place from yesterday one hour later. Walks there, tries to buy a sim card without luck again. Borrows a phone.. And finally we succeed to meet half an hour later!

After driving around and doing some choirs we drive home to my new friend “D”. On the way I learn that he has family from Finland and has lived there for some years. His mother is also a finish consulate here, as I can see on the flag that welcomes visitors on top of their house. D does not have a job so he has a lot of spare time, which he use to activate local kids. On top of this he is starting a business with handicraft workshops with the goal to get the Swaziland artists to create more individual and unique handicraft, instead of stick to the stuff they know sells.

D’s house is a nice cabin surrounded by beautiful mountains. Here I do some work and then we drive around to pick some kids up and continue to a school on top of one of the mountains. Here we do indoor climbing, basketball and ultimate frisbee with the energetic and incredible positive kids.

Swaziland - climbing at university

When everybody finally is out of energy we drive to meet a Canadian couple who have lived here in Swaziland for a month now. They actually came here with the intention to stay for 3 days, but liked it so much they stayed for longer. While hitch hiking here they met a guy who was going on a long trip and borrowed them his house for free if they look after it and the two dogs (called “Big dog” and “Small dog”) + one cat who lives there. Sadly Small dog was attacked by 15 wild dogs today and has some nasty bruces to prove this. Small dog is a Jack Russel Terrier, the same crazy and self confident dog that I was traveling with in Greece for a month.

Big dog & Small dog

When we arrive to the house the lights are out and we only have candles plus an open fire on which we make some food. After a nice evening with a lot of interesting talk and travel stories I decide to stay for the night.

The next day we go up around 7 to run for a while and to take a morning dip in a nearby, ice cold pool. I then decide to take a walk in the center, so me and a friend hitch hike there. After walking around for some hours, and also working for a while from a café with a beautiful mountain view, I go with some more friends to an art exhibition of an university here. The exhibition is great and shows the students final works before leaving the university and entering the big real world. After the exhibition we go back to the house and relax with some beers at a nearby lodge.

Cellphone repairs store in Mbabane, Swaziland

Swaziland house near Mbabane

Swaziland art exhibition at the university

In the next morning I go up at 6:30 to hitch hike to the Kruger Park, where I will meet some friends from Mozambique. The hitch hiking have to wait though because a minibus stops and picks me up almost immediately. In the middle of the way the bus stops and the driver handles out tickets. I soon realize why when around the corner a police car stops us to check the papers of the bus. This is common here and a lot of minibuses seem to be illegal but still have no problems. The feeling in the bus in happy and cherish, with the people joking and having fun with each other. I think about the differences here and north Europe, where people take maximum distance between each other in the busses. Also I realize it will be difficult to leave Africa with its smiling and happy people. I came here thinking it would be a dangerous region in the world, after so many people warning me. But what I have found here is an incredible helpful and friendly people.

Swaziland mini bus with people inside

Actually, taking a minibus is one of my favorite things to do in Africa. The interesting road, African music pumping in the speakers (if you are lucky) and really positive and easy going people.

I make a stop in Pigs Peak, a small town with beautiful surroundings. Here I also find an ATM machine to increase my zero euro in my wallet to 7 euro, not wanting to take out to much because of the Swaziland currency.

Pigs Peak, Swaziland

Swaziland - Pigs Peak mountains

After about 2 hours, 3½ euro and 3 minibuses in total I arrive at the South African border “Jeppes Reef”. Now when I have crossed the border  its only about 2 hours to klimatipoort (3 minibuses, total 5 euro) before reaching my final destination, the Kruger Park.

Scuba diving & whale sharks in Tofo, Mozambique

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Last weekend I was in tofo, a 8-9 hour bus ride from Maputo. Me and some friends stayed at Fatimas hostel, a nice place with sleeping halls for about 8 euro per night. It is next to the beach, has an okay restaurant/pub and is only 200 meters from Tofo Scuba which was my main focus for this weekend. Tofo Scuba is a scuba diving center which also offers other water sports as surfing, kite surfing and more. For me, I had booked 3 scuba dives for Saturday and Sunday. The scuba diving here is famous mainly for the mantas/stingray cleaning stations, bus the thing that really made my trip worth it was actually not a scuba dive but took place between the dives.

September to November is the whale shark season in Mozambique, with an almost unbelievable big chance to see one of these wonderful animals! So between my two dives on Sunday, I had 1½ hour of surface-time (“decompression stop”) before being able to scuba dive again. We used the time to go around with one of Tofo Scuba’s crazy fast motorboats to look for a whale shark. After only about 20 minutes we found the first one! On with the mask, snorkel and fins as fast as possible to jump in the water with it! It was an incredible feeling to free dive just 1-2 meters next to the whale shark. It was not afraid at all but instead hold us company for about 5 minutes.

After this we found several more whale sharks, which we could sometimes swim next to for 15+ minutes at a time. The biggest one was about 6 meters long, and was gracefully swimming with what seems like no effort at all, thanks to it’s big tale.

The whale shark can become up to 12 meters long, 1 meter wide and have a lifespan of about 60 years. They are a filter feeding shark, which means they eat only plankton.

Whale shark in Tofo, Mozambique