About a week ago I was passing by Spitak in Armenia while hitchhiking. Spitak is a small town surrounded by beautiful mountains. One hour outside of town, in the foot of the mountains, there is also an old abandoned Russian hotel. This old hotel complex is huge and include a bar, swimming pool and bowling hall.
Posts tagged ‘trekking’
In early August while trekking in the Pirin Mountains I was taking these pictures which I later on forgot to post, so here they are. Pirin Mountains are located around 2 hours drive away from Sofia with the highest peak at 2914 meter. There are several huts in this Bulgarian mountain range but camping is also possible as always. If you camp be prepared with warm clothes as the nights are getting really cold even in the summer.
To prolong my Thai visa with a month I had to go out of the country and then fly in again, because by land the visa extension is limited to 2 weeks. This was lucky because even though I always wanted to visit Philippines I didn’t have any plans to go there during this Asia trip. But now I found a cheap return ticket (one way is not allowed anyway) and the next day I found myself being in Manila, the capital of Philippines.
Arriving at 4 am in the beginning of the week I was surprised to see that the city was still alive and moving. There are no public transport at this time besides taxi and the area I arrived to is a bit expensive, so I get a cheap taxi to another area which some helpful local recommended to me 5 minutes earlier. The area I arrive to is the party area of Manila. Everywhere lady-boys and taxi-men are yelling after me, dark alleys with people hanging around and strip clubs (“Gentlemen clubs”). But people are really helpful and about half an hour later (around 5 am) I am checked into a hotel and laying in my bed, starting to realize that I am in the Philippines.
The next morning I force myself up at 9 am to get the complementary double breakfast. Double because I have a double room, although its pretty small. Next to me for breakfast sits one foreigner and his lady-boy. They are really friendly people and when the lady-boy leaves the guy tells me his wife is luckily coming firstly next week.
Back in my bed, which covers almost the whole room, I am thinking I can not wait to explore Manila. Just one more hour of sleep…
Part 2 – enjoy the road, not the goal
The next day i go up early but take it easy as somebody told me what time the last bus goes, already at 9:30 am, don’t ask me why. My first step to go to Adam’s Peak will be to pass by the small town of Ella. When i get to the bus station i ask two different people working there but they both tell me i need to go to Matara to take the bus from there. I do what they say, thinking that I will miss the last bus but instead I arrive just in time. One and a half hour later I am back in Dickwella, not surprised at all and just smiling.
The bus continues and after a while 3 young monks enter the bus. Usually people here are very polite and stand up for elder people, but this time the old people sitting most near the door where the monks enter stand up immediately, giving their seats away (later on I understood that those seats are reserved for monks). I also realize that the monks pay for the bus trip, something I have been curious about earlier as I have seen monks before on the bus stations here.
Finally we arrive and i jump out of the bus, after verifying both with the bus driver and a passenger that this is the right city. But after a tuk-tuk driver wants 1000 rupees to drive me to Ella I quickly realize that I jumped off in the wrong city, Wellawaya. This is obviously not my bus day. The tuk-tuk drivers tell me there is no more bus to Ella today, but of course 30 minutes later I am sitting on a bus on the way, once again, to Ella.
The road to Ella turns out to be beautiful with a great mountain view and even one waterfall. Probably there was just mis-communication again, and I needed to change bus to go here. Anyway, when arriving to Ella I see a really touristic small town but still nice in its own way. I get a double room (there are no smaller) with warm water and WIFI for 1200 rupees and manage to publish my first blog post about Sri Lanka. The next morning I need to go up early again, around 5:30, so I make it an easy evening with some food (curries and lassi) and finishing off with a beer. In the restaurant I hear some travelers complaining about how expensive Sri Lanka is. Again I see how different people think about one and the same place, and why you need to know a person well first to understand what you should make out of the persons travel tips. I would recommend to follow local peoples advice, and from people not working with transportation or similar tourist occupations. However, I am glad people have different interests and think in different ways, in other case we would all end up in the same place.
The next day I am standing at the train station in Ella at 6:30 in the morning.
– “Have you got any money? Yes, a little.” the English learning program on the radio teaches me, while playing children music in the background. While I stand warming myself with the sun in the face people are starting to show up, walking on the rail track like it was a normal pathway.
From Ella I take a train at 6:40 in the morning to Hutton. Because the last days travel was a bit tiring I choose to sit in 1st class. Usually I like to travel like the majority of the locals and even though there are Sri Lankans also in 1st class I feel a bit weird being there in the beginning, but after a while I fall back into the comfortability and just enjoy it. Here I have a booked seat, a waiter, food and drinks to buy, a TV and even WIFI that works sometimes, mostly when the train stops at a train station Next to me sits a guy from Amsterdam that I met on the street the day before and was surprised to see again on the train platform in the morning, us being the only two foreigners there waiting for the train. We have a nice talk and combined with the interesting view, the 4+ hours my train trip takes passes almost to fast. When arriving, I get out of the train and thinks that now it will only be 10 minutes walk to a guesthouse near the trail to Adam’s Peak. Again, thanks to a tuk-tuk driver I realize that I should have read up a bit more about the destination. There are actually 2 more bus rides that takes one hour each before I reach my destination. I double check the information online this time and then jump into the first bus. Two hours later I arrive and find a guesthouse with a good location quickly thanks to a Swedish guy I ask in the bus. We even decide to share a room and spend the evening talking. We also decide to check out the start of the trail and end up taking a dip in a lagoon we find. Later that night we play some games with two Austrian girls before going to sleep somewhat early.
A lot of people pressed into the train, most of them have to stand for several hours. The buses and trains in Sri Lanka is a service from the government and are kept at a low price which the other private companies have to follow.
In the morning we wake up late because of problem with the alarm clock and start our walk at 3:20. The idea is to be at the peak at sunrise. People have told us that the walk will take around 2,5 hours but we manages in 1,5 so the late wake up turned out to be no problem at all. Clouds. The sunrise is not visible but I enjoyed the walk so much that the sunrise feels unimportant. I instead find some guys that lives up here selling tea to the tourists, and we get invited to their home for a while to warm up before the walk down again.
Finally arriving back to the guesthouse a superb breakfast awaits us, before taking the two buses back to Hutton again where we depart from each other.
While I am sitting alone waiting for the train from Hutton to Kandy a group of school girls surrounds me. At first I think they are around 12 years old, but when I ask the girl flirting with me she tells me she is 18. She tries her best to use her very limited English to speak to me, while being really shy and hiding her face in her hands several times. Her classmates help her the best they can, and we can at least understand a few sentences both ways. This time I have chosen 2nd class and when the train arrives everybody pushes into the carriages. I realize quickly that there is almost even no standing place in the normal carriages so I take a place in the restaurant carriage. Here there are no chairs so the lucky people sit on the tables, while the less lucky sit or lay down on the dirty floor, or stand up like me. Luckily I only have somewhere between 2-3 hours train ride, and although I only slept a few hours last night I feel somewhat ok. Hopefully I can stay 2 nights in candy to get some rest, and then head over to the capital, Colombo, the last night before my flight to Australia.
That’s my 10 day transit in Sri Lanka. Next time i will stay for at least
Did you miss part 1?
Sri Lanka – a travel story
Wow I can not believe it’s already been a week here on the island of Ometepe. There are so much outdoor activities to do here and the nature is just amazing. Although there are almost no tourists on Ometepe at the moment (probably due to low season) I have spent a lot of time with the few travelers that I met here, as well as with some locals. So what did I end up doing during this week?
- Bicycling around on the island. This is really nice but a bit slow in the southern parts because of really bad roads. The price to rent a bicycle is US $5 for one day.
- Watching bull rodeo. Some locals told me there are bull rodeos every Saturday and Sunday, but at the same time other people told me that this was a special event sponsored by an upcoming politician on Ometepe. Well, if you miss the bull rodeo you can visit a cock fight instead which is organized frequently on the island.
- Trekking up the active volcano Concepción. This is one of the two volcanoes that are the base of the island. Concepción is the oldest and tallest with it’s 1610 meters and takes about 7-8 hours to trek to the top and back, or about 2-3 hours one way to the 1000 meter plateau that has a nice view. The volcano peak is usually covered with clouds so you have to be lucky to see anything from there. The other volcano, Maderas is a bit smaller and with a lake inside the volcano that is possible to visit. Because a few tourists have died trekking up both of the volcanoes, the government decided that you nowadays need a local guide to trek on them. Although there is no control of this, it’s still recommended because the paths are not well marked. Cost of a guide is US $20-25.
- Canoeing along the amazingly beautiful coast. I didn’t see the crocodiles that the local fishermen told me should be around, but I was mostly happy about that. The lake also have Bull sharks but both the crocodiles and Bull sharks should be concentrated on the east coast of Ometepe, and I can not see any locals that seem to care about them.
Besides the list above you can rent a motorbike for US $20 per day to explore the island. There are also a natural spring and a water fall to visit, as well as a ton of small charming villages. All in all, Ometepe left me with a really positive impression and I really recommend it as a travel destination for people who likes spending time in the nature.
Yesterday I spend the day with some friends walking up to the peak of Vitosha mountain, just outside of Sofia. The weather was perfect and during the day we experienced everything from walking in t-shirt to light freezing with several layers of clothes. Although the weather was great there was not so many people up in the mountain, and because there are several trails up to the peak of Vitosha we mostly met people at the top. There, at 2290 meters elevation, we got warm lunch (lentil soup and kofta with lutenitsa) from a hut while enjoying the beautiful view of Bulgaria’s mountains around us.
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!
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.
I 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.
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.
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.