by Sarah Blinco | Apr 14, 2012 | South America, Travel blogger destinations, Traveller tales and interviews
Another day, another guest interview, and tonight I’m excited to offer some insights into one that is definitely on my own ‘to do’ list, PERU. Simply *amazing*.
Name: Kim Shields
What’s so cool about this place? Peru is filled with amazing scenery, people and wildlife. Every town and city has an interesting history to tell. My husband and I travelled with Intrepid on the Highlights of Peru trip. It took us from the city of Lima to Pisco, the Nazca, Araquipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, Picchu, Aguas Calientes and the Amazon Jungle.
Why did you decide to go? Peru seemed to offer everything we wanted in a trip. I love the outdoors, love wildlife and love seeing places that are so different from what we have here in Australia. It had the right mix.
Favourite part/experiences of your trip? The trek to Maccha Pichu was the major highlight. Parts of it were hard but I love something that is physically challenging and the reward at the end was worth it. The Amazon Basin was also amazing to see. There is such a vast array of wildlife and magnificent trees that are centuries old. Lake Titicaca was also special. When you see what people can build out of reeds from the lake it blows your mind. With Intrepid we were able to have a homestay with one of the local rural families that reside at Lake Titicaca. They are extremely hard workers and life remains simple and uncomplicated for them. We were treated to a village dance in which we were to dress in the local costumes and also a fantastic game of soccer against the local villagers.
How did you get around? After flying into Lima via Santiago the majority of movement was by bus. Some were big buses and some were small. You can expect that not all buses will be in the best of condition. We had an overnight trip on one where the toilet door wasn’t staying shut and the foulest of smells wafted through the back of the bus. We took a very short flight (filled with many air pockets) from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then back to Lima after returning from the Amazon Jungle. We travelled by boat down the Amazon River to our destination. This was a great way to see the wildlife and surrounds.
What would you recommend other people do? We went sand-boarding in Huacachina, outside Araquipa, and it was fantastic. You arrive at a road-side restaurant with little sand in view. They then whisk you up and over the nearby hill in a sand buggy and it opens up onto this amazing expanse of rolling sand hills. The buggy weaves up and down the sides at great speeds giving all on board a thrilling ride. The board riding is fantastic. I recommend forgetting the trying to stand part (unless you’re a pro) and lying down on the board head first. This was lots of fun. There is also a flashy looking Italian restaurant just off the square in Cuzco that offered a nice break from the local cuisine.
Any accommodation you would recommend? We had no problems at all with any of the accommodation that we stayed in. It was all prearranged by Intrepid and whilst not luxury you know that you will have somewhere to stay that meets the standards of the company and most that travel with them.
Anything you didn’t like about this travel destination? The bus trips are long between the destinations but there is little chance of avoiding this if you want to see all that Peru has to offer. There were parts of the west coast that I would not bother with seeing if I had the trip over again.
An insider’s tip based on your travel experience to this destination? We were lucky but I have heard many stories of people getting gastro on the trek to Macchu Picchu. Be careful with what you consume and hit the chemist for all the electrolytes and gastro stop before you go. You may be unlucky enough to get altitude sickness, especially if you fly straight into the high country. There are apparently some medications you can take but the locals will also advise coca tea which seems to work.
What’s your number one travel tip? Always research the country you are going to. While the world is a wonderful place to explore you need to know where to go and where not to, and how to fit in when you get there.
And your next (ideal) travel destination? I am looking forward to a ski holiday, Canada or Europe.
by Sarah Blinco | Apr 10, 2012 | Europe, Travel blogger destinations, Traveller tales and interviews
How remiss, Sugoi Travel & Style is in need of a little update… too much work and not enough play for this space’s moderator ;-)
Not to worry, you’re all in for some special treats over the coming few weeks. The Escape Travel / Back Roads Blogging adventure begins in just 12 days! In the meantime we’re running some special interviews with a few pals who also share a love of travel.
Today, the lovely Melissa Loakes fills us in on some insider’s tips to NORWAY.
Name: Melissa Loakes
What’s so cool about Norway? It’s spectacularly beautiful, with friendly people and lots to see and do.
Why did you decide to go? I had wanted to visit Norway for years, mostly for its beautiful scenery, and decided that it was time to go!
Favourite part of your trip? The fjords and the surrounding landscapes. The scenery is breathtaking: words and photos can’t really capture the feeling of being completely surrounded by it. There are some lovely little towns on the fjords, too. I particularly liked Rosendal on the Hardangerfjord. I stayed in Bergen and Ålesund in Western Norway, both of which are lovely cities and departure points for fjord tours.
How did you get around? I flew to Bergen and Ålesund. Once there, I walked around the cities and caught buses to places that were on the outskirts. For my trips out on the fjords and to surrounding areas, I pre-booked day tours (these are unguided, but the transport – trains, buses and boats – for each leg of the journey is booked) and a boat trip. I did the Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour from Bergen with Fjord Tours; a boat trip on Hardangerfjord (also from Bergen) to Rosendal, to visit Baroniet Rosendal; and the Fjord Experience (to Geirangerfjord and Hjørundfjord) with 62°Nord.
What would you recommend for others? I definitely recommend doing at least one trip on and around the fjords. There are a number of trips available to book through companies such as Fjord Tours and 62°Nord. In Bergen, I recommend a visit to the Bryggen area with its old wooden buildings and the Fløibanen funicular railway to the top of Mt Fløyen for a view over Bergen. If you like Art Nouveau, the Jugendstilsenteret/Art Nouveau Centre in Ålesund has exhibitions about the history of Art Nouveau and some beautiful pieces on display.
Any accommodation you would recommend? The Augustin Hotel in Bergen and the Scandic in Ålesund were clean, comfortable and conveniently located. Both also have good restaurants. I particularly liked the Altona wine bar at the Augustin Hotel in Bergen.
Anything you didn’t like about this travel destination? No.
An insider’s tip based on your travel experience to Norway? If you’re going out on the fjords, bring warm clothes (even in summer), as there can be quite a wind chill.
What’s your number one travel tip? Good research and preparation make for a much smoother trip.
And your next (ideal) travel destination? Israel.
by Sarah Blinco | Dec 5, 2011 | Lifestyle, North America, Travel blogger destinations, United Kingdom
Musings from 1 December 2011: Sitting in a darkened coach (which once upon a time I would have called a ‘bus’ – inside joke, ask Steve our Welsh Expat Explore driver ;-), on my way back from beautiful Whistler Village in British Columbia.
As I stare back at my own reflection in the window, unable to make out the Sea to Sky view into the black night, it hits me all of a sudden. It’s the day I knew it would nearly be all over, just a few days before we head back to Australia.
When travel comes to an end – what to do when the adventure is ‘over’
It’s hard to not feel a little overwhelmed by this realisation, as all the memories of packing, goodbyes and new beginnings during our first week staying in Bloomsbury come flooding back as if it was all just yesterday. What will I do when travel comes to an end?
I began updating my old Sugoi blog space a couple of years ago in 2009. Our very first entries document when we came up with a grand plan to drop everything and start a new life in London for a year or more (a smart or brave thing to do in our thirties?). We talk about plans, excitement, challenges, apprehension but most importantly the adventure that lay ahead.
Since then I’ve had all manner of fodder to write about – new jobs, new homes, snow, Starbucks, dogs we’ve met in the park (or cafes, street or just about anywhere actually), first-times for everything from visiting European cities to being stuck in airports, and having to work out where to buy groceries and linen.
It’s been 16 mesmerising, special, amazing and unbelievable months. We’ve made new friends, embarked on adventures I never dreamed possible and visited places abroad that I never ever thought I’d have the opportunity to go.
I no longer shed a tear at the thought that I’ve ‘missed out’ on travel – feeling like I’ve lost the chance to gaze up at the glittering Eiffel Tower as it lights up into the evening or missed out on falling in love with Prague as I watch from the castle above the city.
I have had a chance to smile down at the Gondoliers as they calmly float on by through a Venetian canal, and be chastised by the Gladiators in Rome for taking a photo of them outside the Colosseum without paying my €5. There are so many things that make me smile now – memories that are mine and Cooper’s, not just scenes from a film.
A couple of years ago for some reason I thought I’d lost all chance to follow my dreams of living and working overseas, but fate stepped in and opportunities arrived seemingly out of the blue. I’m super excited to go home – it was sad to leave our parents, siblings and dog. I can’t wait to give them all a big hug.
My brother now lives in Australia after being away in Japan for five years. It was really sad to literally pass him as he came back into the country and I decided to leave. Since we’ve been gone a new baby nephew has come into the world. What a happy little guy he looks to be; he’ll be sick of me kissing him by the time Christmas rolls around (as will my other 5-year-old nephew, come to think of it). It will be nice to have a ‘home’ base again, at least for the time being. I mean, I think even my computer is getting tired of moving around, with its flickering screen that keeps crashing every few minutes – makes getting through work very frustrating, but I can’t be too upset, it has seen me through travels and work from the Gold Coast to Cairns, London to Paris, throughout Europe, Scotland, Dublin and across to Prince Edward Island, down to Boston, across to British Columbia and beyond.
How though, do I come to terms with the end of life as I presently know it, where every day brings somewhere and someone new across my path? When I was in London I saw another travel writer Tweet something about this and I’ve saved his feature on file… somewhere… I remember the key message though. He was discussing his life as a traveller and a journalist and how each day abroad is addictive, intoxicating − especially for some personality types: the drug of a new day and the exciting type of challenges that the lifestyle brings.
When he touches back down at home and is planning to be there for an extended period sometimes it’s challenging in itself to get back to the ‘real world’.
The lesson, he pointed out, is that travel and adventure should teach us to bring the new found love of exploration back home. Explore places in your backyard that you might not usually go to or that you take for granted. Write about it, film and photograph, share tips, tricks and strike up new friendships that you would if you were a tourist.
My adventure has provided me with so much insight into what can be done – by me and others. I have a feature on the topic in the pipeline for a very fabulous Aussie national monthly women’s consumer magazine (out mid 2012), I’ve learned the value of blogging and social media from my time in London; I have learned to love and be inspired by music again (also thanks to London) and I have ideas and inspiration regarding the future.
Once upon a time I had looked on this day as the ‘end of the adventure’, but now I maintain the hope that it’s really only just beginning. Next year I have the privilege of going back to England as the new Blogger for Back-Roads Touring – something I would never have had the tools or knowledge to even consider entering in the first place but for this time outside of my comfort zone.
Following some supremely inspiring interviews with a series of women aged between 30 and 40 who all decided to do the same as me – take a mid-career pause to live, work and travel overseas – I realised that not one of us for a single second regret taking this ‘time out’ to pursue some kind of crazy Eat Pray Love dream.
In fact, each agrees that regardless of any fears prior to leaving ‘home’, all have returned with a greater sense of inspiration and knowledge we can do so much more than we ever thought possible. Certainly some, like myself, feel just a little bit broken hearted about leaving what became a ‘new home’ (whether it was London, Paris, Vancouver…) but we don’t believe the adventure is over. It’s life changing, both for what’s happened in the past and what will be directed to happen by us in the future.
When travel comes to an end, what to do when the ‘adventure is over’? Start a new one.
by Sarah Blinco | Dec 5, 2011 | North America, Travel blogger destinations
One of my very favourite experiences travelling the world has been visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge (just outside of Vancouver), especially when they switch on the beautiful twinkling Christmas lights display throughout the forest.
We’d visited this special site a couple of years ago and loved Capilano’s Canyon Lights so much that we specifically waited until this December to head up and into the woods again.
Unfortunately my images don’t do the spectacle justice (the camera I have isn’t working so well in the dark; go to the official site or Instagram for a divine view); let me assure you, it’s a vast fairyland high above the canyon and into the rainforest – sparkling lights throughout the woods, a magical treetops walk set to sweet classical music tunes echoing throughout the trees.
Every adult, youngster and dog visiting tonight (on a particularly lovely, clear night here in Vancouver) marvelled in childlike wonder.
5/5 for this fantastic Vancouver experience. Almost indescribable; simply spectacular.
Our afternoon’s IMAGES HERE.
by Sarah Blinco | Nov 22, 2011 | North America, Travel blogger destinations
Hello again! I’m back following a forced hiatus − that is, my computer decided to have an extended nap for a week. $$$ and a new screen later, I’m back!
It’s even cooler here in beautiful British Columbia, and the snow is falling. Ski resorts are now welcoming winter sports enthusiasts and I’m there ready to… well, drink hot chocolate and watch in awe.
Cool travels – Grouse Mountain and Vancouver Island
We paid a visit to gorgeous Grouse Mountain last week. Grouse is cool because it’s only about half an hour’s easy commute from Vancouver city. We’ve been patiently watching from the city down below each day, waiting for powder to appear on Grouse’s peaks, and as soon as it did (on a sunny day, no less) we ventured up top for a play in the snow.
Grouse is special to me because it’s really the very first place I ever saw decent, fluttering, deep white winter wonderland-type snow, back in 1999 when my brother and I first visited.
Grouse is fabulous and this time around we trekked into the mountain a little further to see if we could meet the bears they have at a refuge nearby. Unfortunately the lazy little fellas (like the wolves in the sanctuary at the bottom of the mountain) were sleeping, so we were left to guess what they look like. Anyone however, can check out what they are up to day or night by logging onto the Grouse Wildlife Refuge bear-cam.
Little did we know that one day soon, we’d come face to face with a bear in the middle of the night in Whistler village!
Ice-skating, skiing, snowboarding, walks, hot drinks and fabulous Vancouver city views − it’s all at Grouse. There was even an Aussie Blue Cattle Dog playing up the top of the mountain with his owner − a highlight of our day, because this young dog looked just like our very own Harry who we miss back in Aus.
This is my third visit to B.C. but there’s just so much to see in this beautiful part of the world that I never seem to make it far out of Vancouver city itself. We had an aim this time around to at least get to Victoria on Vancouver Island (about four hours from Vancouver by coach, ferry then coach − check for deals on Pacific Coaches).
We’ll have to get back over to Vancouver Island one day because we realise we’ve missed so much − it’s one of the largest islands off the west coast of North America, and there are numerous areas of the region (such as Ladysmith and Tofino) we didn’t get to visit: untamed, wild beautiful landscapes. Typical ‘super natural’ BC (as they tout in the tourism advertisements).
Victoria however (capital of British Columbia), is a picturesque, clean city brimming with cool old buildings, contemporary shopping and night-life.
My friend, Lauren, once sent me a snow globe featuring Victoria’s romantic city skyline and I’ve wanted to visit for myself ever since receiving this treasured gift. Victoria is Western Canada’s oldest city, originally settled in 1843 and is named after Queen Victoria.
Mostly it is easy to navigate by foot if you’re staying in the city centre. Stroll around the inner harbour for lovely views of the city’s classic, famous architecture of parliament buildings and grand old hotels; Government Street offers shopping and entertainment options, and look out for areas like Old Town, Chinatown, Market Square and Bastion Square for historical buildings and boutique browsing.
It’s also worthwhile finding your way to the famous Butchart Gardens and Craigdarroch Castle, and of course whale watching is a popular activity with numerous adventure companies offering a range of options to suit your time and budget.
We were lucky enough to be reunited with a fellow Expat Explorer from our brilliant August trip, which made this visit extra special.
Vancouver Island is definitely worth adding to your B.C. itinerary − it’s stunning, typical of the whole region, but with a slightly different feel to Vancouver city. Again, I feel fortunate to have visited such a pretty part of the world.
We adore Canada and British Columbia and believe it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Take a look for yourself here on Flickr
If you’re interested in more stories from this divine part of the world, you might also enjoy:
Heaven is Harrison Hot Springs
Coffee & cocktails in Gastown
Wonderful Whistler adventures
The X-Files and Vancouver travel journal
By Sarah Blinco