Category: Travel

Back to Bangalore

My first trip to Bangalore in February 2005 was, practically speaking, the reason I started blogging. Somewhere about there the blog, as it became, was a few years away but my first travel blog post was written about that first trip to India. 

Now I’m on my way back. Ten years, many miles, many places & many moments on. 

Here’s my favorite moment from that first blog post.

Saturday I had my first true taste of Indian food when I had masala dosa (a bready pancake with a spicy filling) at breakfast. Even better than the food was our first rickshaw ride to MG road.  Anyone familiar with bumper cars will already know something of the feeling you get riding a rickshaw. These guys don’t mess about, if there is a gap in the traffic they lurch for it regardless of whether it is even on the right side of the road. Buses hassle cars, cars harass rickshaws and rickshaws bully bikes. The result is a jerky, noisy adrenaline filled ride. Fantastic!

Not your usual London top ten list

A friend is off to London and I wanted to send him some recommendations. Having not lived there for a while and knowing that there are hundreds of “best” and “top ten” lists I purposely choose to share simple things, things that I want to do when I go to London.

An activityThe Castle
I used to love going indoor wall climbing at The Castle. It’s an old pumping station and pretty neat to explore.

By Jeremy Keith from Brighton & Hove, United Kingdom (Stichelton  Uploaded by Diádoco) CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Borough Market by Jeremy Keith (Stichelton uploaded by Diádoco) CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

A marketBorough
Cheese and coffee. Nothing more to say.

A museumThe Hunterian
Creepy but cool.

Richmond Park by Donald Macauley (Red Deer uploaded by Amada44) CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

A parkRichmond Park
There are deer there!

I’m not that keen on the new decor but it’s got good beer and a nice crowd. Lenin used to drink there, but not with me.

By Simon Doggett from London, UK CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons

St. John by Simon Doggett CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

A restaurantSt. John
Best for meat eaters but good honest food, classy but not pretentious and they do breakfast too. We used to live up the road and I recommend visiting the area as well.

A squareBrunswick Centre
Not strictly a square but a wonderful architecture anyway.

A takeawayThe Fryers Delight 
You can’t really go to England and not have Fish and Chips. This central location is pretty good. Get a pickled onion too.

Your first trip to Yosemite: Yosemite Valley

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Yosemite Valley view in the Winter by Ian Carvell
 
If you do nothing else you must explore Yoesmite valley. You can’t really avoid the crowds here but you should see it. There are valley loops that are good walks or cycles. I personally enjoy walking through Cooks Meadow, to Lower Yosemite Fall and to Bridalveil Fall. Taking a dip in the Merced River in the valley is also lovely. I’d skip the museums in the valley unless the weather is bad as the crowds are crazy and it’s better to be outside in the park anyway.
 
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Yosemite Valley from Half Dome
 
If you fancy something a bit more challenging try the Vernal Fall trail. It gets popular too but the falls are stunning. It’s an uphill hike but the views are totally worth it. Once you get to the top it’s not too much farther to Nevada Falls if you’re feeling strong. Please be careful by the falls and do not enter the water. At the top you can either retrace your steps via Vernal on The Mist Trail (hopefully you’ll know why it’s called Mist by then!) or take The John Muir Trail down. 
 
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The top of Nevada Fall from the John Muir Trail
 
For a less strenuous hike on the flat try Mirror Lake which usually has a lovely reflection of the granite around it floating about on top. Very picturesque.
 
If you have time explore other parts of the park such as Tuolumme Meadow.

5 weeks in a campervan: revisiting New Zealand

I’m excited to say that a friend and her husband, as well as my brother are all off to New Zealand later in the year. Their planning has prompted me to revisit our trip last year and encouraged me to share more advice on campervanning in New Zealand.

Kaikoura

Enjoying dinner in the DOC campground north of Kaikora, South Island by Ian Carvell

Our campervan

We used a company called Lucky and got the crib van because it was the cheapest we could find. We booked it through Camper Travel.

The company – the people were friendly and helpful. The office in Auckland was not far from the airport and easy to find. The vans they rent out are basically older, repurposed Jucy vans. The Jucy vans seem to be the newer, cooler vans around but they were out of our budget. As they are older, the Lucky vans definitely look and feel “used”. They were not horrible but you certainly know that they have been occupied before. We brought our own sheets for the bed and did a clean over in the van when we got it just because we knew we’d be spending a lot of time in it and we wanted it to be homely.

The driving – the crib van is like a soccer mom minivan so it’s pretty easy to drive. It has automatic gears and is not too slow. But our van was pretty old so it seemed to guzzle fuel. We felt like we were filling up every day and at $70-80 NZ each time it soon added up. Out of all the things we did on the trip the unexpected fuel costs on the van really meant we spent a lot of money in New Zealand. Yet it was all worth it!

The bed – the whole van is basically a bed on wheels. It wasn’t a proper mattress but the foam was comfortable enough for the few weeks we were in it.

The other facilities – there was also a wash basin, a small cool box for food, a stove, plates and utensils. We didn’t really use the wash basin as most of the campgrounds had better facilities for washing. The cool box was great and really helped keep the food cool and edible. We found that the stove was very hard to use in the wind and so we often used our own camping stove instead. This van does not have a toilet onboard. This means that it is not considered self contained and can limit the amount of freedom camping one can do. It’s not very hard to manage this as there are plenty of campgrounds with facilities but we just had to make sure we looked for them.

The tip – we were told by someone before we went that picking up a van in Christchurch and dropping in Auckland was the most cost effective way to do NZ. Often the van hire companies will pay you to drive the van in that direction up the islands as many people don’t go that way round. Unfortunately we were not able to find any of those deals but it seems if you can then that’s great.

Where to stay

Banks Peninsula

Dinner in the Banks Peninsula, South Island by Ian Carvell

We loved staying at the DOC campgrounds. They were the most unique, scenic and the cheapest. They are often remote and very quiet. When we wanted a nice hot shower and to do laundry we headed to a “Top Ten” campground. The one in Queenstown and the one in Te Anau were both new, clean and well placed, close to town.

We would highly recommend downloading this app as it has many campgrounds on it and was really helpful to find places to stay. If you download the maps when you are at home it will really help you out when you’re in the middle of nowhere and need somewhere to stay.

Enjoy your campvanning trip in New Zealand!

Your first trip to Yosemite: Tuolumme Meadow

Tuolumne Meadows Sunset.jpgTuolumne Meadows Sunset by Steve Dunleavy Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Spring and summer are the best times to visit areas in Yosemite National Park outside the main valley. If you have more than a day in the park I recommend heading along the Tioga Pass Road to Tuolumme Meadows. The views along the drive are magnificent. If you’re early in the season there will still be snow on the ground in some places and the peaks will shimmer in the bright light. Make sure to stop often, look out and breathe in the cool air.

Swimming in Tenaya Lake late afternoon Yosemite

Swimming in Tenaya Lake late afternoon Yosemite by Jono Hey. Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Dimensions altered.

One stop not to miss is Tenaya Lake. If you’re lucky and it’s a hot day (or brave on a cold day) you can have a refreshing swim in the water. Especially wonderful after a long hike.

Once you finish your drive, Tuolumme meadows at the end is a beautiful sight. Freshly blooming and green in spring, the vast meadow makes for easy hiking. With the Tuolumme River flowing fast between the meadows you can enjoy the relaxing sounds of water in the quiet landscape.

While you’re there, the short hike across the meadow to the Soda Springs is worth a quick look. The cabin has historical value but the springs are modest and no competition for Yellowstone.

Lembert dome.JPGLembert dome by Inklein. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A wonderful way to get a good view out across the meadow and the surrounding peaks is to climb up Lembert Dome. You don’t need special skills or equipment, just be careful where you put your feet and don’t climb in the rain. If you have longer to explore the area add on a short hike out to Dog Lake as well.

I hope you enjoy your first trip to Tuolumme Meadows.