I always share the good parts of my travels and trips but rarely do I mention the bad bits. Whilst I have been lucky and not experienced too much in the way of bad events on my adventures so far, I thought I would share a very unfortunate day I had while Matt and I were on a road trip in New Zealand. Every trip surely has to have a bad day and this is mine…
Day 11 of travelling around New Zealand’s South Island we were leaving Queenstown around lunchtime en route to Te Anau. We’d made the decision over breakfast that morning to go to Milford Sound, to break up the journey we would stop over night in Te Anau. The drive was around three hours and with a trip to a glowworm cave booked for 6pm we were keen to get on the road. Stopping for fuel on the outskirts of Queenstown I took the opportunity, as you do to go to the toilet. I had my purse with me and not wanting to put it on the floor I rested it on the hook on the back of the door. All fuelled up we set off, driving along the winding road we stopped to take photos along the way of the gorgeous scenery and the mesmerising blue waters of Lake Wakatipu. An hour into the journey I noticed my credit card was in the pocket of my jeans, pulling it out I went to put it in my purse. It suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have my purse and I knew exactly where it was! Heart pounding and now heading back the way we had just come I hurriedly searched online for fuel stations in Queenstown, desperately trying to remember the name of the one we had been in. Thankfully I found it along with a phone number. I was relieved to find out that my purse had been found and put in the garage safe, but I had a lot of cash in it and was hoping it would still be in there. It seemed like the longest hour back to Queenstown, pulling in at the fuel station I jumped out and ran in. I was so grateful to the staff for keeping it safe and was relieved to find all the money still inside. Drama over it was back on the road and my turn in the driving seat. We were now pushed for time and were rushing as we wanted to get to Te Anau before 6pm. Half way there I admittedly was driving too fast, with no one else on the road for miles and miles it was easy to get carried away and attempting to make up for the time we lost I sped on. Unfortunately over the brow of a hill a police car passed us in the opposite direction, before I knew it the vehicle had turned around, lights flashing and appeared behind us. Pulling over I started to cry knowing I had gone above the speed limit. The police officer was very nice about it all and could see how upset I was, we even joked about what a bad day I was having after explaining about leaving my purse behind. But of course there are no excuses, I was speeding and I got a rather hefty $90 fine. Continuing on the road I was still upset and now angry with myself for having been so stupid, lesson learnt I stuck to the speed limit and we arrived at our campground in Te Anau with just enough time to cook dinner and have a rum and ginger to calm my nerves! Although the last thing I felt like doing was going on a trip it turned out to be a really great adventure, exploring caves with under water rivers and floating around in a boat in the darkness staring up at hundreds of beautiful glowworms; it was a happy end to the day!
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling? Let me know in the comments below…
Mauritius has such a diverse landscape from stunning beaches, jungles, mountains, waterfalls and volcanoes to bustling streets and markets in the capital of Port Louis. Found in the Indian Ocean, near South Africa and India, this beautiful island is influenced by these two countries, religions and cuisines spill over and a mixture of cultures also means a mixture of languages, French, Creole and English are predominantly spoken across the country. The curries I’ve tasted in Mauritius have been some of the best I’ve eaten, apart from those I’ve had in India. I love this island, it has so much to see and do. If you are planning a trip to Mauritius read on for my top things to see and do, there is so much to explore and a lot more to do than just sunbathing…
1. Swim with dolphins
Swimming with dolphins in Mauritius is an unforgettable experience. The fact that these dolphins are wild was one of the main reasons I chose to do it. Bottlenose and spinners can be found close into the shoreline, playing and feeding early in the morning. Jumping in and seeing these majestic creatures glide past me was amazing, they are very fast though so keeping up with them was almost impossible! To watch spinner dolphins jumping out of the water was pretty impressive too!
2. Relax on a boat trip
You can’t go to Mauritius without going on a boat trip. It is a fantastic way to see this beautiful country, sailing along the coastline stopping off for snorkelling adventures, swimming on small island beaches, sunbathing on deck and not forgetting a barbecue lunch and unlimited drinks is a very nice way to spend the day. A beer or a rum and coke in the sunshine, legs dangling over the edge of the boat is just bliss! The boat trip I went on was combined with the dolphin swimming trip; I went with JPH Charters from Black River.
3. Explore the markets of Port Louis
Central Bazaar in Port Louis is the place to head for shopping and buying souvenirs. During the The Festival of Lights, better known as the Hindu festival of Diwali I enjoyed strolling around the streets taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the markets. The fruit and vegetable market is full of vibrant colours and plenty of friendly locals selling an impressive array of produce. It really is a bustling place to immerse yourself in; I love nothing more than to explore a local area and watch people going about their day-to-day business especially somewhere like Mauritius where it is so different to my culture. The market is a good place to buy vanilla pods, they are very cheap compared to the price in the UK; spices are also nice to pick up and there are plenty of stalls selling clothes and pashminas.
4. Eat Curry
After a visit to the markets in Port Louis finish the day off with a curry, I love Tandoori Express. Found along the waterfront it is a no frills restaurant and really doesn’t look like much but their curries are to die for! Friendly service and cheap it is worth checking out. Combine your curry with a local Phoenix beer, heaven! Generally speaking eating out in Mauritius is fairly cheap compared to the UK, you can get a curry and a beer at Tandoori Express for around £10. For a night out in Port Louis Keg and Marlin is always busy and often has live music. Just out of the city Flying Dodo is a craft brewery with a restaurant, if you are in the city on a Friday night Le Suffren hotel is good for cocktails and there is always a party atmosphere.
5. See the Seven Coloured Earths of Chamarel
You could be forgiven for thinking that you have landed on another planet at the Seven Coloured Sands. Created from volcanic activity and the cooling of molten rock the sands are ever-changing in colours and depths. I’ve not seen anything like this before, the seven colours are apparently red, brown, green, yellow violet, blue and purple but I struggled to see some of these, I could definitely pick out red, brown, yellow and violet. It is such an amazing landscape and being backed by so much green rainforest made the stark contrast of the sands even more interesting.
6. Visit a dormant volcano
Tor Cerf is a dormant volcano found near the town of Curepipe, you can walk around its circumference and get right up close to the edge. There were lots of tourists there when I visited but it is worth stopping to take a photo and the panoramic views of the coastline and mountains are gorgeous.
7. Be blessed by at Hindu priest at Gang Talao
A visit to this sacred lake is a must; Gang Talao or Grand Bassin as it is also known is considered to be one of the most sacred Hindu places of worship in Mauritius. Formed in the crater of an extinct volcano, people come from far and wide to pay their respects to the Hindu Gods. There is a small temple beside the lake and statutes along the edge of the water. A pilgrimage to Ganga Talao happens every year in February or March during the Shivertri, a festival dedicated to the Hindu God Lord Shiva, during the pilgrimage people walk barefoot from all over the island to worship and pay their respects at the lake. There is also a huge statute of Shiva just outside the lake; it is 108 ft tall and very impressive! I found it very interesting to visit the lake and observe visitors paying their respects; I also got a blessing from a Hindu priest while I was there.
8. Take in the rainforest at Alexandra Falls Lookout Point
This incredible viewpoint is definitely worth stopping at with views looking out across Black River Gorges National Park. Look down on lush green valleys, rainforest and waterfalls. There are 60 kilometres of hiking trails within the park so if you have time for a walk this is a good area to explore.
9. Chamarel Waterfall
This stunning waterfall is 100 metres high, making it is as tall as the Empire State Building. There are two viewpoints an upper and lower one, both as good for taking some photos. You can abseil down the falls on an organised trip, hike the trails surrounding it and swim in the pools at the bottom. For more on exploring waterfalls in Mauritius head here: Chasing Waterfalls and Other Adventures in Mauritius.
10. Beach time
Mauritius has plenty of stunning palm lined, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters for relaxing on, Flic en Flac, Tamarin and Grand Baie to name just a few. Which ever you pick you won’t be disappointed, it would be rude not relax for at least a few hours in the sunshine, listening to the waves lapping on the shoreline while you are here!
11. Stop to admire the views
Exploring the island by car is a great opportunity to take in the diverse landscape from coffee and sugar plantations, rainforest, salt farms, stunning coastline, tiny towns and pineapple plantations. (Who knew they grew from the ground?!) Don’t forget to make frequent stops to take in the surroundings and beautiful viewpoints, I loved stopping off in between locations to take photos. I visited Black River Gorges National Park, Chamarel Falls, Alexandra Falls viewpoint, Grand Bassin and the Seven Coloured Earths all in one day. I hired a taxi from Port Louis for roughly £52 for the day, leaving at 9am and returning at 5pm. My driver was very friendly and I learnt so much from his local knowledge.
Seeing the Northern Lights was one of the main things I wanted to do when I visited Iceland in January, so when Iceland Travel invited Matt and I on a Northern Lights trip we jumped at the opportunity! This wasn’t just any old Northern Lights trip either; it was a Super Jeep Tour…
I had been keeping an eye on the Aurora forecast and it was looking good, the Icelandic Met Office is brilliant for checking on the upcoming Northern Lights action. All ready to go, wearing thermal layers and most of my clothes I had packed in preparation for the cold night, we were picked up promptly at 8pm outside our accommodation in the centre of Reykjavík by our 4×4 driver. The super jeep was a very cool looking white Land Rover pimped up with the biggest wheels I have ever seen! In fact I struggled to clamber up into the seat with my little legs! As we drove out of the city, busy bright roads turned into snowy tracks and darkness, we were joined by seven other super jeeps and continued in convoy. Making our way through deep snow I began to get excited. One of the benefits of going in a super jeep, apart from being immensely fun is that the vehicles can get to places that coaches and cars can not reach, the powerful Land Rovers could plough through massive snow drifts with ease, it felt like a real adventure! The snow-covered forest tracks eventually turned into a clearing; we pulled up and jumped out. I looked up and there were the Northern Lights, dancing in the night sky. I watched in silence as the vibrant greens constantly changed shape swirling and gliding through the darkness. As well as taking photos of these beauties I was conscious of just taking it all in, after all it’s not everyday you get to see the Aurora Borealis if you live in the UK. For information on capturing the lights on camera take a look at my blog: Northern Lights photography tips. After a good hour at this spot the lights started to fade and I could no longer feel my feet! So it was back in the jeeps to chase the lights once more and onto the next location. We drove higher up into the mountains, it felt a lot chillier here as I jumped out and scanned the sky. The lights were still visible but not as bright as they had been, it was really interesting here to see what the camera could pick up that the eye missed, the lights were much more apparent viewing them on the back of the camera but of course still great to witness. Our guides whipped out some hot chocolate to keep warm and we even had the option to add vodka to it, a proper winter warmer! Loosing the feeling in my hands and feet again I reluctantly retreated to the warmth of the 4×4 to warm up. Not long after that it was time to make our way back to Reykjavík, snow drifts blocked the road home, after some clever manoeuvres the super jeeps ploughed on through and back onto the road, we even got air at one point! It was an exhilarating experience; one that I definitely won’t forget and to top it off we even saw the Northern Lights again from the roof terrace of our hostel. Seeing them over the city was great and the colours of the lights even changed to purples, it was the perfect end to a perfect evening and something to tick off my bucket list!
You can’t go to Iceland without seeing the natural wonders of the Golden Circle, either hire a car and do your own thing or book onto an organised tour. Matt and I went on a small group trip with Sterna Travel. As well as seeing the main sites there were a few other interesting stops along the way, we also chose to add a visit to a geothermal pool as when we were in Iceland the Blue Lagoon was closed for refurbishment. If you are visiting during the winter months wrap up warm with plenty of layers as the minus temperatures are definitely part of the experience!
The highlights of the Golden Circle are Þingvellir National Park, Geysir hot springs and Gullfoss waterfall. The drive itself was fantastic and a great way to see Iceland’s incredible landscape, we drove along mountain passes, through lava fields, past lakes, over fresh water and glacial rivers which are apparently clean enough to drink, across fault lines and past plenty of steam billowing from the ground from geothermal activity; you could smell the sulphur! Not to mention catching glimpses of volcanoes such as Hekla, which erupts every ten to twelve years making it one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes and Eyjafjallajökull the volcano which erupted in 2010 causing disruption to air travel worldwide. I got up close to this volcano whilst exploring the south of the island. Visiting in early January meant not seeing daylight until around 11am. This was the perfect time to stop in the mountains to watch the sunrise; it was an epic start to the day….
The next stop was Þingvellir National Park, the site of the first Viking parliament it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also has a lot of geographic importance due to being on a fault line. You can actually walk between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates through the Almannagjá canyon, which is pretty cool!
Iceland has its own breed of horse. These hardy creatures stand between 13 and 14 hands high and could be mistakenly classed as ponies. But make this mistake at your own peril, as you will offend an Icelander by calling them ponies! They are very good-natured and I got to make friends with some of them on a short stop.
Onto the geothermal hot spring area where water temperatures hit 100°c and water continually bubbles from the ground, steam rising high into the air. The showstopper here is the hot spring Strokkur, it explodes regularly every 5 to 10 minutes without fail, shooting a high spout of water up into the air. It’s fascinating and addictive to watch!
Gullfoss was one of my favourite stops of the day and I think one of the coldest. The thundering falls are enormous, the power and noise of the gushing water falling into the crevice 105 ft below is like nothing I have experienced before and as I already mentioned the cold was extreme too! Removing your glove for just a second to take a photo led to instantly frozen and painful fingers, but it was worth it!
Next was a quick stop for a selfie at the beautiful Faxi waterfall before the final stop of the day at the Secret Lagoon. As I mentioned the Blue Lagoon was closed during our trip to Iceland so the Secret Lagoon was for us the next best thing. As I was six months pregnant at the time I was unable to go in but Matt went for a dip and loved floating around in the hot pool which is generally around 36-40°c with a beer in hand. I loved wandering around the edge of the hot pool watching the steam rising and taking photos of icicles hanging from tree branches, retreating into the warmth with a hot chocolate when I got too cold. This natural geothermal pool was first opened in 1891 and is such a unique experience.
For more information on what to do in Iceland take a look at my other blogs: What to do with four days in Iceland and if you are planning to see the Northern Lights: Northern Lights photography tips.
With an early pick up from Port Louis at 6am and fighting jet lag I really struggled to get out of bed, but arriving at Black River just in time to watch the sunrise made the early start well worth the struggle! Hopping into a boat and cruising out to the open water, the silhouetted landscape of Le Morne and the surrounding coastline looked stunning. Being on the water at that time of the morning was so calm and tranquil. As the boat slowed down we all fell silent in anticipation, watching and waiting for dolphins to appear. A few soundless moments passed and then as if by magic five or six fins gracefully popped up and disappeared again. With masks, snorkels and fins already on our guide instructed us to get in, hastily I dropped myself into the water and put my head straight under. I was so surprised to see three Bottlenose dolphins swimming in a circle right underneath me. They were a lot larger than I had expected them to be, in fact they were huge! I swam in a circle above them, it felt like they were inspecting me as much as I was them and playfully they continued in a tight circle below. In a split second they shot off, I followed as quickly as I could but even with fins on I found it almost impossible to keep up. So, it was back on the boat and on to another location to see if we could spot them again. Further along the coast we found some Spinner dolphins, smaller than Bottlenose but just as speedy! Jumping in the water I caught a fleeting glimpse as they shot past and into the deep blue. Back on the boat more Spinners appeared in the distance propelling themselves out of the water and spinning around in mid-air, definitely living up to their name! Getting to see these beautiful creatures in their natural environment was amazing and knowing they were there of their own free will even better. As the sun continued to rise the dolphin sightings lessened, I presumed they were in the bay for feeding perhaps and as the morning progressed had moved further out to sea.
Next it was time to head for shore and onto a new venture, a catamaran boat cruise. There is nothing quite like relaxing at sea with a beer in hand watching fishing boats sail by. Anchoring up alongside a reef gave the perfect opportunity to discover more of the local marine life. Crystal clear waters and vibrant corals inhabited with all sorts of colourful fish made for a great snorkel. After an active morning a barbecue lunch was the perfect treat followed by a shoreline stroll along the tiny island of Ile aux Bénitiers. Cruising back into the harbour it was time for more relaxing and one last beer…
Things to know:
The trip was booked through JPH Charters.
I was picked up from Port Louis at 6am (the early start is definitely worth it) and dropped back to the hotel around 4.30pm.
The cost of the trip was around £60 and included swimming with dolphins and the catamaran cruise, this came with unlimited drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and lunch.
Take a towel with you as these were not supplied.
Swimming with dolphins in the Indian Ocean was an unforgettable experience, if you are planning a trip to Mauritius this is one activity to add to your must do list.
Here’s something other things I really recommend doing in Mauritius:
Sitting on my board staring out to sea, eyes fixed on the horizon in anticipation as I watch and wait for the waves to build and the sets to role in…a turtle pops its head up beside me and swiftly disappears again. I look up to the sky for a moment and bask in the warm sun shining down on me. Glancing back out to the ocean I spot the swell building and roll onto my front ready for the waves. Slowly I start to paddle. I look over my shoulder keeping an eye on the wave and paddle faster though the water. As I feel the force of the wave underneath me I jump to my feet, heart pumping and adrenaline going, I turn to the left as I surf along the line of the wave and feel the rush of water glide underneath my board…sheer and utter bliss, there is no feeling like this…
Surfing in Barbados is one of my travel highlights, I spent 48 hours in the Caribbean in early January; it was definitely a good start to the year! I surfed at Freights on the south of the island, it is the perfect beach break for all levels of surfer and is renowned for its long left hand waves. One thing I love about surfing in Barbados is the warm water, surfing in a bikini is a novelty compared to surfing at home in the UK which mostly involves a winter wetsuit, boots and gloves. I took my GoPro with me for the first time on this trip and attached it to the front of my board. I was really surprised with the footage and images that I got from it, along with some funny wipeouts! I put together a short edit of my trip, to watch it click on the link at the end of this blog.
There are plenty of surf spots to choose from on the island, Surfers Point by Zed’s Surf School and Pebbles Beach near Bridgetown are good for beginners. Brandons, South Point, Duppies and Soup Bowl are excellent for more experienced surfers. Soup Bowl is a world famous reef break with the likes of Kelly Slater enjoying its perfect, clean barrels.
After surfing I always need to refuel and you can’t go wrong with simple, honest Caribbean food. My usual post surf snack is a fish cutter (fish burger or sandwich to you and me) from Cuz, a small shack at Pebbles Beach. I love this place! It is so popular with locals and tourists there is often a large queue. Ranked number two out of seventy three restaurants reviewed on Tripadvisor in Bridgetown, believe me it is definitely worth the wait. Your fish cutter is cooked to order with salad in a tasty bun, it goes perfectly with a dollop of Bajun hot sauce. Be careful if you are not used to it though as it is pretty fiery! I love the stuff. The other option is fried egg or cheese, but really it’s all about the fish. I normally wash this down with a coke or a local Banks beer on the beach. I have already mentioned how small Cuz is, but it is so good that it is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide to Barbados. Online the Lonely Planet guide says Cuz is open Monday – Saturday from 10am – 4pm although in true Caribbean style I have rocked up a few times to find it shut, often once they have run out of fish it’s time to shut up shop. So my advice would be to visit earlier in the day to avoid disappointment. My other favourite Bajan snack is a Roti; Chefette a local fast food joint does a very tasty chicken and potato one, yum!
If you want to learn to surf or are already an experienced surfer, Barbados is the perfect place for a surfing holiday and ideal for all levels of experience. I learnt to surf at Zed’s surf school about 6 years ago and have been surfing with them ever since. I have made so many friends along the way, Zed, his family and everyone who works at the surf school along with lots of other people who have been surfing at the same time as myself from all over the world. I am still in contact with some of them too. It is definitely something you can do by yourself; everyone is so welcoming it is easy to make new friends…
Sunshine, surf and sweet company, I can’t wait to return.
I found this great write-up from the New York Times it is jam packed full of information on surfing in Barbados and includes a mention of the lovely Zed.
I love this beautiful piece too: Super Salty Barbados.
If you want to know more about Cuz, My Destination tucks in here: Cuz’s Fish Snackette.
Do you have a favourite surf spot? I’d love to hear all about it…
Ad: Matt and I worked in collaboration with Jucy campers and were given our van in exchange for blog and video content.
I mentioned in my last post 10 day road trip itinerary South Island New Zealand that I would share the links to the work we did for Jucy, a campervan company that Matt and I collaborated with while we were in Australia and New Zealand, so here’s an awesome edit put together by Matt…