Scepan Polje, Durmitor National Park

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We booked a rafting tour through Old Town Hostel Kotor and headed up to the National Park as a day tour (74 euros). It’s a winding 3 hour drive each way, with some pretty spectacular views that give Lake Bled a run for its money on neon blue water. The white water is apparently level 2 – 3; enjoyable with a few drops & splashes. With river temperatures of 4 degrees you wouldn’t necessarily want to fall in, even with a wetsuit. After the travel, a nice breakfast & lunch, you spend about 2.5 hours on the water. The best bit was during a waterfall stop when our guide casually remarked that we were in Bosnia! Apparently border control is pretty relaxed on the Montenegro / Bosnia border since we had no passports. A shame, as I’d love to add ‘raft’ to my list of border crossings.

Gorkhi – Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Terelj is what pops up on google image when you think Mongolia; wild horses, grassy plains, nomads, gur tents. It’s where Mongolia lives up to its ‘endless blue sky’ reputation.

We’ve come here to sleep in a traditional gur; a cosy igloo made of yak fur. The interior is like being inside a russian doll, with flower painted beams holding up central dome and fire chimney. It burns an almost tropical heat, as you’d hope for those Siberian winters.

Our host family, namely 3 year old and 7 year old sisters, know two english words; ‘food’ & ‘horse.’ An American tries to amaze the girls a GoPro. She counters by showing us how to take panorama shots on her mum’s I-phone. These tourist camps are only 90min out Ulaanbaatar. To find true nomads you have to venture a few days further into the Gobi desert.

The horses are sturdy 14 hands mountain natives tacked out in rope girths & makeshift bridles like resilient little grafters. I tried to feed one an apple, it snorted in my face. Sadly at night their legs are bound so they don’t roam too far. They’ve learnt to canter on a half-pence and refuse to be patted, as if to retain their wild streak.

IMG_5044To get a little further ‘into the wild’ we took a 5 hour trip down the Tuul river by canoo with http://www.mongoliancanoing.com. Our german guide Ernest starts stories with; ‘when I was living in a squat in Berlin…’ and ‘when I hitchhiked a ferry to Ireland…’ He’s an ideal river companion. Having lived in UB for 10 years with his wife and kids he’s full of interesting stories, especially about his longest trips 40 days downstream all the way from UB to Lake Baikal! We stop for a picnic lunch on a spot straight out of Little House on the Prairie – wild ponies, nomad women airing their laundry and mountains scenery. It’s definitely a worthwhile day tour. Plus after the icy river, coming home to a cosy gur fire never felt so good.

Terelj tour; booked through Bobby at UB Guesthouse. $90 USD for 2 nights, including food, transfers & 2 hours horse riding.
Canooing; $95 USD a day for 4 – 6 hours on the river, including food and transfer.

 

Changi War Museum

wpid-img_20140504_133242.jpgThis Sat morning I went back in time to a (fun) World War II GCSE History class, curtacy of The Original Singapore Walks. Their 3 hour tour stops at The Changi Museum, the beach of the Sook Ching Massacres & outskirts of Changi Prison.

For an enjoyable way to brush up your 1930/40’s, Noel Barber’s novel Tanamera is a great read for anyone that knows or loves that era of Singapore. The rest you can piece together from the backpacking trail of The Death Railway or Hiroshima.

It’s not only useful to learn about Pearl Harbor from a South East Asia (not American) point of view. They also share nice myth busting like whether Singapore really did have her guns pointing the ‘wrong’ way. Most intriguingly though, is where your Kaya toast is baked and your 5* hotel laundry washed every morning….

 

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is a bucket-list favorite, and a nifty tag onto a Jakarta trip.  It’s even possible to squeeze into 24 hours, so what better to do with your Sunday than climb a volcano!

Getting there:
Only a 1h flight from Jakarta  / 2h flight from Singapore for under $50 SGD with Air Asia or Tiger.  The jumping off point is Surabaya airport.

The local bus runs from Surabaya to Probolinggo (2.5 hours express bus for 27,000R) then minibus from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang (1 hour for 30,000R) Or taxi the whole way for $500k/$50 SGD in 2.5 hours. Bluebird taxi will even keep it on the metre!

Staying:
There’s plenty of mountainside guesthouses dotted from Probolinggo upwards. Cemoro Lawang is highest at the base, so although rough, sparse and overpriced, it’s the best views and the best starting point.

LP favorite Cafe Lava offers basic (fit a bed in) rooms for $220,000R or nicer en-suit ones for $450,000R. It’s worth springing for the hot shower alone, plus you get breakfast included. A couple of home-stays offer the same for $150,000R. It’s a two street town so easy to walk-in on arrival. Cafe Lava has a surprisingly cosy restaurant, and they also hire decent waterproofs jackets for $25,000R

Tour or DIY?:
Don’t be fooled, whichever option you choose the sleepy daytime town of Cemoro Lawang is transformed into neon Vegas as 3am. 4 x 4 touts and motorbikes appear from miles around. Local guys will offer you tours to the sunrise point & crater for $100,000R, hotels the same from $250,000R.

If you bug staff at Cafe Lava long enough, they’ll eventually help you out with a map to walk yourself!

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Here’s the original from another blog with great advice – but Cafe Lava will drawn you your own too;
http://www.bemytravelmuse.com/mount-bromo-without-a-tour/

Sunrise Trek (Looking ONTO Mt Bromo)
To reach Seruni lookout point for sunrise, set off at 3am. It’s not as cold as you think but you can buy beanies for $20,000R & gloves for $10,000R in Cemoro, just to look the part. It’s then an hour by torchlight up the road past Hotel Indoh, and another hour after that to Penanjakan & the radio mast.  You’ll still share your 5am sunrise tripod spot with a dozen others and a nice lady selling tea, but walking yourself means you can make it back down for 7am without waiting for the traffic convoy. Plus the satisfaction of breaking a sweat and all that jazz!

Mount Bromo Crater
This is by far the better half of the trip (and maybe a better alternative for Sunrise?) You can walk the flat valley sea in approx an hour, or like we did hop on a $50,000R return motorbike for a nice fly across the volcanic ash desert. Again, the steps to the crater are a little like queuing at peak commuter hours, but it’s still a spectacular view down into the sulphur smoke and back across the valley. You share the climb with a herd of pony sellers who urge you to “buy horse’ if you want to amble up the steep ash dunes a la Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  It’s packed & lively, with many Indonesian tourists on a Sunday. So although you can’t expect serenity, it’s still a fantastic morning, all before breakfast at 9am!

 

 

 

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

IMG_3167“Enjoy the amazing view for 10 mins. Then it won’t change for the next 3 days. Welcome to the Australian outback.”

About as far as you can get from the bright lights of any city you’ve ever known, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is an absolute must do. Yes it’s expensive, yes it’s ‘just a rock’, but somehow it’s all so much more…

#5 fantastic reasons to visit

1# To lay in the open air on the red desert earth gazing up at the southern cross stars

2# To toast marshmallows on burning firewood you’ve collected by hand at sunset

3# To cosy up in a swag with new tour friends (note the camping definition not the urban dictionary one!) ;)

4# To learn the more positive side of Australia’s indigenous culture & heritage

5# To sleep amidst the deafening sounds of silence, miles from where Iphone signals live….

It’s straight out of Waltzing Matilda. Once in a lifetime stuff.

The Rock Tour offer awesome & award winning 3day/2 night camping tours from $355.  Tiger Airways & Qantas Fly Daily to Alice Springs from Sydney & Melbourne.

And remember, it’s your decision, but for many a good point well made join the debate here on why NOT to climb.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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