Home Stay in Lake Titikaka

Towards the end of our travel time in Peru, we were gifted with the opportunity to integrate ourselves in the day to day life of the Aymara culture.
After visiting some of the floating islands, of which you will read later, we arrived at our home for the evening and were greeted by our host families. We then had a game of football against the locals which we lost and blamed entirely on the fits of hyperventilation caused by the altitude. We then put on our best traditional outfits to be taught and guided through a dance.

At the end of the day we followed our mother, Lucy, to her home where we had a wonderful dinner and helped clean the dishes. The room was simple but perfect for both of us and we had a restful night in preparation for the following day.

We were encouraged and excited to participate in the mundane tasks of the family, delving into their day to day lives. We helped feed the pigs and sheep, prepare breakfast and wash dishes as well as the laborious task of seiving through barley seeds. The experience was truly wonderful and enlightening as we learned about how this culture continues to live in the most simple way. 

I admire their plain lives, dedictated to the day to day and what the earth can offer them. I must say, I did appreciate the beauty in the simplicity and how it must be peaceful to live like this. On the other hand, I was also able to gain even more appreciation for my own life, as I have the opportunity to dedicate my time and part of my life to a career I am passionate about and in many ways, the things I think are basic items have suddenly become luxuries that I am incredibly grateful for. I am in awe of Lucy, who runs her house, farms her land, cares for her family and still finds the time to host us ignorant and bothersome travellers in many ways. Yet she does it all with such patience and grace. What an incredible woman. She made me realise that although that is not the life for me, there are many things that I can take from it and apply to my daily life. I feel that overall the experience has influenced me to search for constant improvement in my daily home life. It seems all the little things can positively impact on your routine.

I would encourage you all to really delve into your home stays, even if they are short there is always something you can take from it.

Bienvenidos a Lima

I cannot believe I am nearly 20 days into my 80 day trip. What a trek it has been already. I have so much I want to share with you guys about Costa Rica in the future, and I am keeping a journal so I can keep all the memories alive for blogging. It’s not easy to write on the go I find, especially as I only have my trusted mobile phone to update you all with. It’s strange how a paragraph does not seem like a paragraph on a phone. Anyway, I digress, I am finally in Peru!

After a long day of travel between San Jose and Lima, I got here and pretty much passed out. Yesterday I went off on a Peruvian venture to discover the downtown of the city, where most historical buildings are located. With a warm welcome to Lima, I was even luckier because the city had celebrated just the night before its 482nd anniversary! So as I walked the Plaza de Armas, a government official stepped out of the Palacio Municipal de Lima (City Hall) to deliver a speech which touched the many that were present. I have no idea if it was a man of importance but the fact of the matter was that the city was bustling with a feel of celebration, peace and joy. It was great! What an amazing welcome to the country for me. 

I have discovered that I am actually enamored with colonial architecture. How sweet are the colours, so calming and inviting. And the space inside these buildings is beyond ridiculous! I’d love a little house like this in England, it would be a success, standing out from the built in blocs houses that are all a carbon copy of each other. Plus wooden floors and copious amounts of space for everything, even if I don’t necessarily want lots of stuff I like there to be empty space.

This is only a brief post as I saw so much yesterday, but let me just tell you that I purchased a bottle of Pisco for my man and I to get merry together and also I saw lamas! I mean only in Lima can you be walking downtown and find yourself in the same street as two lamas. How cool! Also I was wandering around and started to feel peckish so was able to buy two huge slices of pineapple for 50 pence, I mean how incredible, I love fruit. Tropical, sweet and juicy fruit. Speaking of food, I want you wall to appreciate my dinner last night that I couldn’t even finish, which cost me less than Β£4 with the drink included. God I love Peru already. 

I am sure I will have so much more to say and it is beginning to dawn on me that travel really does encourage self discovery. Well tonight I will also discover who I will be sharing this 35 day venture with! How exciting.

To finalise,  I have one question, how do you fellow backpackers go about souvenir shopping and lugging it around? Happy travel, writing and reading.

Hiking the Ulriken

So the national past time in Norway has to be hiking.Β 

My partner and I donned our really unfashionable but sturdy hiking boots to trek the Ulriken, a stunning mountain that you can see from the centre of Bergen. The peak is about 645 metres up and the hike takes on various curves that make you fall in love with the shapely mountain.

The trek we took crosses over with some cycle paths, so be sure not to get slammed on by a mountain bike, and it took us around 2 to 2 and a half hours to hike up, with lots of stops for photos, snacks and water breaks. I would also say that the path at times is not very clear, you are pretty much winging your way up the mountain through difficult and ever changing terrain, but it is stunning and totally worth it. It is also the best work out in the world.

Overall, the trek is meant to take around an hour to an hour and a half for those with more experience, know the path and haven’t carried a crappy back pack. I can tell you now, the correct back pack with lumber support is key! Lesson learned. None of this fashionable pretty looking business for any type of trek in the future. Make sure you always take a rain coat of sorts because Norway is temperamental and renowned for having the most consecutive days of rain… 295 in 2015.

This was a fantastic way to break my hiking boots in preparation for the treks in South America. I think it would have been great if the trek was better signed but it was still do-able as you can see the end line throughout the trek. You walk through some really great locations, it is so refreshing and helps clear your mind. You won’t get to see many people on your hike either, but the few you do will be like mountain goats. This is no joke. The national past time must be hiking, they fly up and down the mountain as if they have no fear of falling off the face of the rock. We saw children hiking too! It was amazing, such a healthy way of living and it made me want to do it so much more. Inspiring really.

Once you get to the top enjoy the mesmerising views and make sure you give yourself a well earned sit down, a hot drink and some food. It was just breath taking. After all the sweat, slipping on a few rocks and the heavens opening up and drenching us head to toe, we reached the summit and it was so worth the work. It was the most beautiful experience, and I wish we had had more time to trek other mountains but sadly we did not. I cannot wait for our next Norwegian adventure and to hike some well known paths in Stavanger next time. For now, enjoy some photos of our trek up the Ulriken.

Happy reading, writing and travelling!

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View from the top

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A not so Summery Holiday #Norway

Most people prepare for the incoming Winter with a good minimum of 2 week holiday in some summery destination, soaking up the sunshine and feeling the rays tickle their skin. Not this year. This year was all about the mountains, the hiking and the rain.

For the last five years Norway has been at the top of my bucket list of destinations. I met some phenomenal people from there and had been eager to visit them soon. Luckily, one of my closest friends was getting married there and my partner and I decided to make a holiday of it. We packed our best adventure outfits and our fancy clothes too and off we went.

Norway is a stunning country, with the water paving the picturesque scenery shaped by the fjords and the mountain ranges dropping drastically to the deep blue seas. It is a photo opportunity waiting to be taken every 2 metres you walk. I think we took hundreds of photos of the same mountain, of the same view, getting better each time. Some of the food is amazing, the cakes made me extremely happy, the people were kind and the culture was just incredible. I have to say, it is probably THE MOSTΒ expensive place I have ever visited, so either save a lot of money or be prepared to have some really weird meals at a 7/11.

I got to visit the cities of Bergen and Stavanger, both coastal but very different and I cannot wait to share all my experiences with you. Overall, as a far as a summer holiday goes, I loved it! It was adventurous, fun and really different to my usual summer destination so I truly enjoyed it. It was not the first time I have had a cold vacation in the summer and it will certainly not be the last.

So pack your bags and save for months… you have to visit Norway!

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

So when I planned my trip to Krakow I had a few things that I knew I wanted to see and visit, such as Auschwitz, Schindler’s factory, Wawel Castle amongst others. Everywhere I researched for things to see and discover in the illustrious city, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed. No one explained why, no real details were included in this, it was always just stated as a must. I was convinced this was going to be a tour about how miners extract salt from rock, which is of course very interesting, all the ancient techniques and past labours are always fascinating, but it didn’t seem to be enough for everyone to make such a huge fuss about it.

I have to confess, I didn’t even look at the website, which is a real shame, as my last weeks leading up to the trip were so busy with work that my usual preparation was not the same. Merely two months before I had been in Budapest, so I didn’t even have enough time to fully recover from the high of the previous trip!Β At first I was a bit apprehensive to visit, as I was travelling with my mother who is not very physically fit after an unfortunate heart attack. However, a few emails back and forth and I finally booked us two tickets for a disabled tour, which actually was the best thing ever.

Firstly, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and most of all patient, as we paced ourselves slowly but surely through the less demanding paths of the mine. We were drawn in and mesmerised by stories of a Hungarian Princess who brought salt to Poland by dropping her engagement ring in a salt mine in Hungary, tales of the site’s many miners, the scent of salt lingering in the air its flavour touching our lips.

We were invited to lick the walls – I know that sounds weird! – and experience the white salt melting in our tongues and the pure flavour and kick of the darker salt rock. We were taken through a winding mine up and down and already the experience was better than I had expected, as we learnt so much more than just the process of mining salt rock. Finally we discovered the rooms, these caves where water deposits eroded the rock salt and formed a pool. We were awestruck by a particular room called the Chopin Room, where the entrance was so dramatic, the music stormed through the space and hit each of us with such overwhelming force. We were so moved. I can’t really explain it, it was just beautiful.

We knew we were here to see something special.

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The salt on the wall!

We then walked towards the biggest cave of all, which we discovered is the largest underground church in the world, a Unesco world Heritage site, one of the first to join the list. It was entirely carved out by three sibling miners, who did it in their spare time and were then commissioned to finish it when their boss found the church. The wall carvings, altar and stone chairs are all carved from the original cave, the detail is incredible and it is absolutely a sight to behold. The Pope has even visited and had a statue made for him. He returns to Krakow this year.

I feel that in my writings I haven’t done this place proper justice, it was just so unexpected and so overwhelmingly stunning that I feel all the words in the world won’t do. The photos itself are difficult to be amazed at, as it is quite dark (underground!) and what you see in naked eye isn’t quite captured through the lens as well. I truly feel this place made my entire trip that much more special and I would encourage everyone to visit it. Tickets are inexpensive and can be found online, I would advise to book it early as it does get very busy and like I said we were lucky because we had to take a special tour anyway so it was a lot quieter, but there were tonnes of groups in several different languages going around.