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Welcome to the second installment of this four-part series where we highlight some accessories that can enhance your image and audio quality while your travelling. This time we’ll look at mobile photography and some of the lenses that are available.
If you haven’t read the first part, Smart accessories for travel: vlogging , we featured some of the common accessories that you might need to help improve your video recordings.
In last week’s blog post, we featured an attachable lens kit for your iPhone called olloclip, but there are other ones available online, some are practical, some less practical, but all are very cool.
The iPhone Lens Dial
It’s been around for a few years now, but it has that ‘old school’ feeling to it that still makes it relevant today.
Apple iPhone SLR Camera Lens Mount
A great way to enhance the photo clarity and utilise your Canon or Nikon DSLR lens by attaching this accessory to your iPhone which then connects your iPhone to your camera lens.
Similar to the iPhone Len Dial featured above, the Holga iPhone Lens by Photojojo features a dial aspect but what seperates this from the rest is the multi-coloured overlay options you can use over your iPhone.
Source: Photojojo via MyKikIsland
Photojojo telefoto lens offers up to 12x zoom for the iPad
With more and more people taking up tablets (the majority of tablet owners happen to own either an iPad or iPad mini) these amazing zoom lenses give you even more reasons not to carry around that Heavy DSLR camera that you bought in that ‘I’m going to be an amazing photographer’ phase.
Final Cool - Ikea KNAPPA Digital Camera
I saw this a little while ago and was looking for a moment to share this, unfortunately this was a limited run, but it’s still really innovative and cool nonetheless.
It was first reported last year and was picked up by various culture and tech websites around the world, Ikea created a cardboard digital camera called the KNAPPA as a free gift to promote one of the seasonal ranges.
Bonus Lens - Dot by Kogeto
A really unique way to shoot fully-interactive 360 degree video which you can then share instantly with your friends online. It’s available right now on the iPhone 5/4/4S. Check out the videos and see for yourself the videos people have shot using Dot.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Cover-More Insurance.
In this new four-part series, we’ll look into some of the coolest smartphone travel accessories out there to improve smart phone image and video quality while you’re on the go.
Travel is one of the most enjoyable things in life. Whether it’s travelling to explore or to relax, capturing those moments can be just as important as experiencing it.
In order to get the most out of the video and camera on your smartphone and make your friends wish they were there with your video or shots, here’s a few accessories we saw that can help you and are compact enough to take on your travels.
Microphone – Boom mic for iPhone
If you’re capturing video while you’re travelling, one of the most important elements that can make your video more enjoyable is the audio quality. Having great content and visual effects will mean nothing if the audio isn’t clear, or totally distorts the visual appearance.
One way to improve the audio quality is attaching an external mic, like this Boom mic from photojojo.
Stand – Woxom Smartphone Video Stabilizer
Adaptable for both iPhone and Android smartphones, this stand will enable the user to take those hard to reach and angled shots with ease, using the adjustable legs. Source: http://woxom.com/
The best possible light is natural sunlight, but sometimes the moments we want to capture aren’t always during the day. To give your video or images the best possible chance of capturing that amazing moment, a simple add-on LED light can be the solution.
Lens – Olloclip
If you want to improve the camera and video quality on your phone, this lens add-on can help. Made by olloclip, this is a 3-in-1 lens you can attach that will allow you to create some awesome Macro, Fisheye and Wide-Angle effects.
Check out the next blog post where we’ll continue smart accessories series and look into top lenses for your smartphone.
New York City or the “Big Apple” is one of the coolest cities I’ve travelled to and is the mecca of fashion and big brands.
To see New York City properly, you need at least two weeks and even then, you’ll find you need more time as you discover little pockets of culture and funky places to hang out.
If you’re one of those people that can’t stand crowded areas or prefer a relaxed atmosphere, New York City may not be the place for you. On the other hand, if you thrive on the hustle and bustle, where beauty meets attitude and where people work hard and play hard, then you’re going to love New York!
For this post, I’ll break it down to three areas of interest – shopping, sightseeing and nightlife entertainment.
If you check out nycmag.com you’ll find their top 25 destinations to shop which is a good place to start planning your shopping route.
Personally, I think West 34th Street in New York is where you want to go as it has all of your shopping needs, including Macy’s, Uniqlo and Dr. Jays. But if you can’t get to the mid-town section, you can always find something at Century 21 near the World Trade Centre or the various department stores at Times Square.
Tip: I recommend having lunch at Shake Shack at Madison Square Park (prepare to queue up for a while during the peak lunch hour rush) first, then burn away the food you just ate by walking up to West 34th Street.
New York is made up of five boroughs, which include Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island, and, to be honest, there’s so much to see in Manhattan alone that I can’t do it any real justice.
But, in saying that, here are my top areas to visit if you only have a few days in New York.
There are various other bars and lounges in New York City and you can generally start off at the meatpacking district on the lower west side (between 12th and 13th streets), then head your way up to the tourist bars and restaurants in Times Square between 42nd and 47th streets.
There are also other various bars and lounges in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn as well.
However, if bar hopping isn’t your thing, the ‘must do’ in New York has to be to attend one of the many Broadway shows playing each day.
Tip: To get the cheapest available tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows, head over to the TKTS ticket booth where you can find shows at 20-50% off face value.
When we received a phone call from my mate's Mum telling me he was getting married in Sri Lanka, I must admit, one of the first thoughts to run through my mind was "what's wrong with Fiji or Thailand?".
The following day, we began planning our trip to what my parents told me was 'clean India' (FYI, they were right). Without hesitation, we booked our flights (ex-Adelaide) with Emirates. Admittedly, this means flying to Dubai, then back to Sri Lanka but the outstanding service, huge baggage allowance (30kg!!), recent partnership with Qantas and how inexpensive the flights were was all worth it. Also, the short stopover in Dubai airport is worth it. I have never been to an airport that felt more like a nightclub district than an airport - stumbling happy/tipsy people everywhere!
Now, I should tell you that Mark and I are gay and I'm vegan - not that we fly the flag for either but we need to be aware of both when we travel. We understood homosexuality isn't illegal in Sri Lanka but it's not promoted; however, being vegan seemed like it was going to be a breeze because there's an abundance of vegetable curries (made with coconut milk) on offer. As it turned out, we didn't need to worry about either.
We landed in Colombo and booked a car to take us down to Galle Fort where we were staying for the wedding. Experience No.1: Being a passenger in a car on Sri Lankan roads. It seems traffic lights and indicators have been invented but drivers are yet to be trained on how to respond to both. The same applies to lane markings on the road. In fact, the only thing you need is a steering wheel with a good horn on it! Thank God we didn't opt to hire a scooter and drive ourselves around!
Galle Fort is a beautiful little community filled with narrow streets, cute shops, traditional food and friendly locals who genuinely want to help and not scam you. Over the three days we spent there, we went to the wedding (uh-may-ZING!), enjoyed an Ayurvedic massage and partook in a cooking class. I can highly recommend Karuna's Cooking Class, we were both surprised how easy Sri Lankan cuisine can be to prepare and cook!
Leaving Galle on a train to head to Kandy, we decided to take second class tickets which (to our understanding) guaranteed us a seat on the train. As a couple who don't normally travel via public transport, we were happy in our carriage. Locals strolled up and down the isles selling everything from food to books to lottery tickets but never bothered us to buy any of it, probably because we don't speak Sinhala and they didn't speak English.
We arrived in Kandy, it was cooler, quieter and if you've ever been to Japan, kind of like Kyoto. Our time there was super hectic though. We arrived in at 6pm, settled into our guest house, grabbed rice and curry for dinner, had a 2 hour nap before the driver we had organised picked us up at 10:30pm to take us to Adam's Peak.
We arrived at 1:30am and started climbing 4,800 steps to the top. We arrived at the top, freezing cold with sore legs at 4:30am. We spent two hours sipping tea at one of tens of little stalls along the way before witnessing the sunrise over tea plantations and mountains all to the soundtrack of locals chanting from the temple at the top. Possibly the most gratifying and grounding experience of my life to date, I can't recommend it highly enough.
We arrived back at our accommodation at midday before being picked up again at 1:30pm to go to Sigiriya. Maybe it was a mix of tiredness induced delirium and the heat but I wasn't all that impressed with Sigiriya. We were warned by fellow travellers not to hire a guide because there's plenty of them around and you can get as much info by eavesdropping on other guided tours without the moderately high price + extortionate tip. Zing!
We woke up with a spring in our step to see the sunrise over the mountains from our guest house balcony. We were soon whisked away by the drivers to Pinnawala elephant orphanage where we witnessed elephants feeding, bathing and roaming around big paddocks. The downside was we also witnessed elephants chained up for the sake of tourists being able to touch them and a seriously badly behaved English family.
Here's my rant: If you're traveling overseas to a country where the primary language isn't English, you have two options. One: make an effort to learn the language so you can communicate with the locals in their dialect. Two: explain to locals that you don't speak their language and hope to God they have a limited English vocabulary. However, under no circumstances do you have the right to abuse locals and get up their grill because they don't speak English. It's ignorant, arrogant and damn right rude. End rant.
After visiting the elephants, we headed back to Colombo in a train carriage that moments before we boarded, was filled with smoke due to an electrical fault. In true Sri Lankan tradition, the train left the station none the less. We took advantage of our last few days in Sri Lanka and splashed out to stay at Casa Colombo. We ate at Nuga Gama, roamed the markets for souvenirs and two locals attempted to scam us. I won't go into details but I will warn you not to get into a tuk tuk with a local, no matter how nice they have convinced you they are.
After ten days in Sri Lanka, I'm by no means an expert but I can share a few tips with you to help plan your trip:
1. Trip Advisor is a trusted marketing tool in Sri Lanka. Almost everywhere has a window decal and if an establishment has won an award, the plaque is proudly displayed by the entrance. Likewise, business owners actively encourage guests to leave reviews.
2. Eat traditional Sri Lankan cuisine - yes, even for breakfast!
3. If you're eating out, go to the place filled with locals. We did this in Colombo and ended up sharing a table with a young market stall worker. We both enjoyed rice and curry, sans cutlery. There's something strangely barbaric, confronting and gratifying about eating with your hands - I highly recommend it!
4. Barter, barter, barter! The 'tourism' switch has only recently been turned on in Sri Lanka and market stall owners see whities coming a mile away! However, don't get too caught up in it, otherwise you can find yourself arguing with a stall owner over 10 cents and I reckon they probably need it more than you do.
5. In Colombo, always hire a metered tuk tuk. We didn't see them in Galle or Kandy and probably paid a little too much for some journeys.
6. I know I said it at the beginning but I can't recommend Emirates highly enough. As a vegan, I could recognise all the ingredients in my vegan meals and the in-flight entertainment (ice) kept me entertained the entire time.
Galle: Seagreen Guesthouse
Kandy: The Kandy House
Colombo: Casa Colombo
By Ryan Holland
In Moroccan Whiskey Part 1 and Moroccan Whiskey Part 2, Ryan found himself stranded with no money, no friends, no passport and along way from the bus that departed with his luggage. Ryan had hoped a game of pool would win him a taxi ride. He lost... What happens next? Read on....
A few punters with an ear in each part of the room seemed to pick up on the comment. I tried my best to ignore them and discreetly handed Mohammed the money, combining the transaction with a handshake, hoping to delay the inevitable. He counted up the filthy notes close to his chest like a poker player contemplating a bluff. The smoke from his cigarette made him wince as his eyes glanced up briefly to meet mine. I assumed that was the exact moment he realised I had short changed him. I closed my eyes, knowing I was at the end of my rope.
‘OK- so let’s go!’ Mohammed threw his arms in the air, with a big grin and animated posture.
My eyelids sprung open “...What?” “To Chefchaouen? C’mon!” He replied. There was a silence amongst the crowd. Stare’s like daggers followed me out the back door of the building to Mohammed’s beaten up blue taxi. There was briskness in his walk which made me anxious enough to do the same. I jumped in his taxi, on edge, thinking this may be a trick. We drove a kilometre or 2 and I felt myself calm down after a short mental revision. Mohammed could have easily given me away, even by accident, back at the truck stop - he didn’t - in fact I had the feeling he was protecting me. During the hour’s long drive, we talked the whole way. Mohammed came across as an intelligent, funny guy. I really enjoyed my time with him. We soon reached the bus depot at Chefchaouen, where I was pleasantly surprised to find my backpack still in one piece with all of its contents still there. I offered Mohammed the money I owed, plus the cab fare, but of course, he vehemently refused.
I thanked Mohammed and we exchanged email addresses. He was a real gentleman in a place I least expected to find one and I was lucky enough he was sympathetic to my story. Turns out, he has loads of money; he just enjoys a good game of pool!
We still keep in contact to this day.
In Moroccan Whiskey Part 1 Ryan's bus had taken off with his luggage. He had no wallet, no money, no passport and no friends. Part 2 of Ryan's Moroccan adventure sees Ryan get himself deeper and deeper into trouble...
The inside of the truck stop was full of locals, all eyes glued on a single 40" plasma at the front of the room. It wasn't your regular news channel. Saddam Hussein was on the tele and the subtitles told me he wasn't too happy with the Americans. So I walk in, and every single patron in the place, spun around like I was the gringo in a bad spaghetti western saloon.
'American?' asks someone amongst the crowd.
This in fact gave me some comfort. With 9-11 and subsequent invasion of the Middle East fresh in everyone’s minds, all trip I had gotten used to this question, and was confident in my response 'Australian!'. I intentionally said it louder than needed so there is no confusion. The usual 5 second uncomfortable silence begins as they look at one another and search themselves for an opinion. 'AUSTRALIAN!! Kangaroo, kangaroo!!' it seemed like the whole place erupted at the same time with welcoming smiles and back slapping. I check the TV in my periphery every now and again, hoping Saddam doesn't give my game away - Australia of course being close allies to the US
One of my new 'friends' seemed to speak English. '...do you know if there are there any taxi drivers here, or truck drivers en route to Chefchaouen, that might be able to give me a ride?' I ask 'my friend'. His accent was part Arabic, part French, 'I would not recommend a truck for you, but Mohammed has a taxi.' He points to an overweight gentleman in the corner of the room, playing on the single, beaten up pool table. 'He is an excellent player, and I doubt he will take you there for free - do you understand?' I nodded. The guy holding the table was good... Very good. He lived for this... Every challenger here was just a sucker handing over their hard earned Dirham’s. He introduced himself with a smug grin. Full of confidence, counting the spoils of his last win. I challenged him to a game. 'How much to take me to Chefchaouen tonight?' I ask Mohammed. 'Oh no sir, it is not possible tonight, I am off duty and already had too many Moroccan Whiskeys!' he replied with a chuckle.
The hustle. Moroccan 'whiskey' is simply sugary mint tea. Drinking alcohol was quite rare in public.
'How much?' I ask disbelievingly. He glances up at me as he racks the pool balls. '60 Dirhams.' he says cheekily. This was overpriced, and we both knew it. I could get all the way from Tangier to Chefchaouen with about 40 Dirhams, and this place was already about half way. He knew I was desperate. I agree with some hesitation, after all, it was double the cash I held, so I was betting with money I didn't have. Who knows what would happen to me if I lose and can’t come up with the funds.
The bet was on, and we suddenly had a bigger audience than Saddam. Excited and hostile cries came from the crowd. Even without any knowledge of Arabic, I sensed I was the away team at a home game. I think if I could have understood the language, the threats and insults would have made me more nervous.
If you play pool long enough, you can just about know instantly if your opponent is worth his or her salt. Their stance, the bridge, where they hold the cue, and how smooth their stroke is. Now I’m no expert, but I know Mohammed addressed the white ball with a traditional snooker stance. He knew what he was doing. From this brief observation, along with his reputation, I knew immediately that Mohammed was a better player than I. What choice did I have? In my mind, I was literally playing for my life. I was alone in a remote trucker stop in Morocco, with a bunch of guys that disliked Americans, but apparently tolerated Australians - for now. Mohammed broke the balls without asking me. It was his table after all, so I didn't sweat it. He ended up clearing the table without giving me a shot. I wasn't too worried; I expected to lose the first game given the terrible state of the table and cloth. Mohammed knew these like the back of his hand. I picked up on where the table was uneven and how all of the scratches and divots in the table affected the roll of the balls.
I played a safe second game, using the poor roll of the table and divots to my advantage, and managed to claw back a close win against Mohammed. It was 1-1. This last game was to seal my fate. My conscious wrestled with my guilt of not being up front with Mohammed in the first place, knowing I didn’t have the money to pay if I lost. The situation was out of control. Half the audience were betting on the game amongst themselves, so I had more people to potentially be angry with me. Flashes of panic crossed my mind. Who would know if I disappeared forever here? I saw a vision of my mother crying over an empty casket back in Sydney. I did my best to block these out of my mind and concentrate on the game. Even if I won, what guarantees do I have of a safe passage to Chefchaouen?
It was Mohammed’s break again, and it was good. It was seemingly another easy clearance for him; he knew it, as did the vocal audience, who had already assumed the outcome of the game. Mohammed took his time potting the balls, which gave an opportunity for small talk. His English was excellent, and he seemed to take a genuine interest in my strange predicament as I explained it to him, of course leaving out a few financial details.
4 ball...1 ball... And finally the 8 ball. I had no chance at the table, and my heart sank realising I’d lost. The crowd roared with both hostility and appreciation, and I think my ears picked up on a single word from Saddam’s sermon - Australia…
TO BE CONTINUED...
Ryan went to Morocco for an adventure. Well, he found one. It wasn't too far into his trip when he ran into a spot of bother. How about we let Ryan, one of our employee's and one of our most popular travel bloggers, tell the story.
I was desperate to use the bathroom. The dry heat of a 45 degree day meant I’d already gone through 3 bottles of water. This place was an oven. The CTM bus I was on wasn’t yet equipped with air-conditioning. In fact I doubt anyone had come up with the idea when this bus was made. The rattle of its ancient engine was a welcome distraction to the inevitable. I HAD to get off this bus.
I politely approached the driver. We'd not stopped once since leaving, so I thought it was a fair request. 'Suuuure, I can stop for you'. There was something in his voice that bothered me, but I was desperate. I literally took 2 steps off the bus when its rickety automatic door screeched to close, followed by the groan of a laboured engine... Followed by a cloud of dust and me peering through the back window of the bus, where I was seated just a minute ago. The dust cleared enough for me to have one last glance at my backpack, still tied to the roof of the bus, as it disappeared into the horizon.
The feeling of shock gave way to anger once I realised the bus wasn’t coming back for me. It wasn’t a joke. Anger then gave way to panic as my mind cleared for a minute to take stock of my personal inventory. NO wallet, NO money belt, NO passport, NO friends, and stuck literally in the middle of a Moroccan nowhere. In fact, all I had were the clothes on my back, half a bottle of water, about 30 Dirhams change in my back pocket, some sunburn and a full bladder. As I relieved myself of one of my problems, I cursed myself for putting everything important in my back pack - a rookie error when travelling. Feeling sorry for myself, I kicked at a loose stone on the side of the road and threw out a thumb as I walked in the stifling heat. My destination was Chefchaouen. At a guess, I was about an hour’s drive away - mostly up steep hills. Dusk was approaching, so walking wasn’t an option. I didn’t feel safe at all. It felt like the badlands of a Mad Max movie.
About an hour’s walk with no takers on my now weary thumb and right arm, I stumbled into a lonely looking truck stop which appeared like a welcoming desert mirage.
I should have ignored it and kept walking...
TO BE CONTINUED...
By Dan Moore - intrepid traveler, photographer, video blogger, goPro legend and star of Dan does…
We sent Dan off for an adventure of a lifetime and let our Facebook friends choose where he would travel to and then what he would do each day whilst overseas. He ended up in Peru & had an incredible experience. Before he left, we gave him a Global sim card to use whilst over there. Here's his Global sim card review.
Ok so planning a backpacking trip overseas can be a bit daunting especially if it's your first time and you're going solo. Things like booking connecting flights and buses, what to pack if you're visiting winter and summer climates are all part of the planning process, not to mention what do I do about a sim card?
Lucky for me I've done a fair chunk of travelling around the world and quite recently done most of it solo. For business trips, the company generally pays for your phone bill or sorts some kind of global sim card for you but I've never really had to look into sourcing a card for myself. On my latest trip to Peru, I used a sim card that CoverMore Travel Insurance gave me. I had used CoverMore for most of my trips for travel insurance and found them great to deal with so thought I'd give the global sim card a try.
The whole process was refreshingly simple. I use an iPhone 4s and this card cater for the micro sim (some other company's only use the older large sim card). The activation process was really simple. I just jumped on their website, followed the simple prompts to activate and "Bob's ya uncle". I was now in business (Tip: Make sure your phone is unlocked by visiting your provider's website and following their instructions).
As long as you follow the simple dialing structure of placing a * at the beginning of the number and a # at the end you can call and message world-wide and the best part it's super cheap! I wouldn't travel overseas without some kind of a travel sim these days as a bill from your local phone dealer can take quite the chunk out of your bank account if you don't plan ahead. There are plenty of different companies offering travel sim deals, some better than others but having used the Global sim card for South America I can honestly say, the activation was a breeze, topping up the card on their website is a breeze, their customer service was prompt and friendly and the call costs were some of the cheapest out there. If you're traveling for a short trip or large trip I'd definitely recommend the Global sim card for your trip. I've been diagnosed with the 'Travel Bug' so I'll have to head back overseas to quench a thirst shortly and will definitely be using this sim card again.
Dan Moore was supplied a global sim card courtesy of Cover-More Travel Insurance for his trip to Peru.
ANZAC day in New Zealand is celebrated much the same as it is in Australia but with a few differences. At the end of the day we did fight together and you can’t have ANZAC without NZ. We join nations on this day to remember the sacrifice our grandfathers made for these two great countries, so maybe the old ‘Eastern Australia’ joke isn’t quite as bad on this one day of the year.
Anzac day back in my home town always started with a traditional dawn service which means an early start (5:30am). I would walk down to the local football ground (Memorial Park in Petone, Wellington) where there is a large garden and statue with the names of the fallen from Petone as it was where I grew up. There was a smaller gathering of people here which gave it more of an intimate feel. A few dawn services I have been to in the past I have been with Maori friends and their families so this involves a very Maori based ceremony i.e. the Haka and speeches in Te Reo Maori. But other than that the ceremonies are very similar with marching bands and the last post being played as the veterans were introduced. If you were to go into Wellington city (where the main parade is) there is the traditional 21 gun salute in respect to the fallen. This is a much larger parade with a lot more people.
Not all businesses in New Zealand give all employees the entire day off. There is only a half day public holiday technically. At my last employer when I was in Wellington I was required to go back to work at 12 noon. As a result of this it meant that we could not drink, which is a large differences between us and our brothers over the Tasman. Not all businesses required their staff to go back to work at noon (just the stingy ones), however students would get the whole day off.
Another Australian tradition that is not followed over the ditch is that we do not play two-up on ANZAC day. I only discovered this game after arriving in Australia so I was totally unaware of the rules. This made it a little embarrassing when I first played this in an Aussie RSL club on ANZAC day. It was as if I didn’t know the traditional game of our fallen heroes! But hey, I think it makes the day more of a celebration!
If a tourist was to come to New Zealand and I was to take them to an ANZAC day parade then I would firstly ask them if they wanted to go to a large gathering of people or a small community based ANZAC gathering. I was always more a fan of the community based ANZAC day celebrations so I would take them to a small town, but if they were after a large gathering and a bit of a drink afterwards I would take them into the city.
Overall, it’s not too different. There is the same feeling of respect for those that fought in battle or died trying to protect their countries. There is the same sense of community and a spirit that is so strong on this day and essentially a sense of pride and remembrance. It’s also a day that a New Zealander can even put aside the memory of that ‘under arm delivery’ or last week’s sheep joke and doesn’t mind having a beer with the Aussies. It’s a time of mutual respect. Lest we forget…
This week we have a fantastic guest blog post from Julie Jones from www.havewheelchairwilltravel.net. Julie shares her knowledge about travelling with a family member who has a wheelchair or disability, as well as sharing a positive attitude you just want to breathe in and harness for yourself. You can find more information about travelling with a wheelchair on the website or follow them on Facebook for great tips and stories.
As a child Julie Jones was lucky enough to travel extensively. Julie still wants to travel and at the same time still wants to share the joy of travel with her children. Julie now shares her knowledge about travelling with a family member who has a wheelchair or disability through her website www.havewheelchairwilltravel.net.
Travelling with a wheelchair - let’s make this happen…
When I think of travel I think of spontaneity, adventure, letting go of work and home commitments and ultimately a sense of freedom! It conjures up scenes in movies of the open road, standing atop a mountain or huge smiles as people complete an adrenaline thrill and survive!
When our son was diagnosed with a disability a wheelchair became part of our ‘baggage’ and I wondered how we’d travel. There seemed so much to consider. Even when we went two hours up the coast, our car was weighed down and fully loaded.
Well, several trips later I can report that with meticulous planning (which means spontaneity went out the window!) we had the joy of adventure and freedom. The freedom seemed twice as sweet because we felt even more liberated managing to travel with a wheelchair and had a fantastic time.
Here are a few of my tips for booking a holiday with a wheelchair;
Everyone with a disability has different needs so these are just some general tips. Firstly, decide on a destination you feel comfortable with for your initial trip. Starting local gave us a good idea of what we found essential on a holiday. When we did take the plunge to travel further afield we were more confident choosing accommodation and certainly knew what questions to ask following some interesting experiences!
Considerations when booking flights and accommodation
When booking accommodation we usually book longer stays in one place as we find that we are slower travellers with a wheelchair. We also understand we can’t fit in the same amount of sightseeing into our travel day as we did as a couple. Accommodation that is centrally located means that it isn’t necessary to get in and out of the car for something as simple as going to dinner.
If the person with a disability needs their carer or companion to assist them in the bathroom check to see if the airline you are booking with has a disabled toilet on board (these are just larger in size).
When booking flights the airline will need to know the dimensions of your wheelchair (height, width and approximate weight) and will want to know if it is manual or electric. Have this information available to save time. Let the airline know if you prefer, or need your own wheelchair to the aircraft door.
The airlines have an upper body torso harness available to help passengers with a disability with poor torso control but these must be pre arranged through special handling at time of booking. These harnesses can only be used in specific seats on the aircraft.
Advise the airline of any dietary requirements and any special equipment you need to carry on board. (eg we had medication that required an esky and dry ice)
If booking online or through a travel agent I suggest once the booking is made phone the hotel direct. Double check all the details and ensure the hotel understands your requirements. Accessible rooms vary greatly. We found that in the US there was very detailed information on hotel websites, often including plans of the room layout and room measurements. That’s handy to get an idea of how tight it will be with a wheelchair.
Don’t assume hotel staff or management know what you need. Ask questions to make sure you know if the room is on the ground floor and if not whether there is a lift. Check if there is a roll in shower and if needed a shower chair or flip down seat.
Car Hire – there are specialty companies for wheelchair modified hire cars and vans. If you are booking just a station wagon or people mover with one of the major rental companies though ensure that it is noted in your booking that it is being booked to accommodate a wheelchair. Rental companies generally book a particular car and add ‘or similar’. It needs to be made clear that you require a certain type of vehicle for a reason.
Ensure that the transfer bus, if there is one, to the car hire depot is also accessible.
Shuttle buses – We have found that not all shuttle buses are fully wheelchair accessible. In LA they could not accommodate our son’s wheelchair because it does not fold. Melbourne airport shuttle can. It is just a matter of checking.
Once you have decided which sights and attractions you wish to visit do some research about accessibility. Somewhere like Disneyland has extensive information on accessibility on their website. Other smaller attractions may need an email or phone call to check. Often entrances for wheelchairs are located in different spots or they may have special seating available if you contact them in advance. It saves a lot of time and frustration going armed with some information.
Tickets - Many attractions offer a free ticket for a carer/attendant so check for this and make an email enquiry if it is not on a website. The Australian Companion Card needs to be produced in Australia. We found in the USA it was accepted as a form of proof of disability at most attractions
Preparing your wheelchair - a general service on your wheelchair is a good idea ensuring no nuts or bolts are loose and that everything is in good working order. We also take a basic repair kit which we get from our wheelchair manufacturer.
If you are getting a new wheelchair, my best tip is to get as much storage built in as possible. A zippered pocket under the seat, behind the seat and net storage underneath all come in handy when you travel.
Travel Insurance - Once you’ve got your holiday booked, apply for your travel insurance to ensure you are covered for the unexpected. You should consider the type and amount of insurance you require for your wheelchair as it is an expensive piece of equipment and the airlines usually say “all care, no responsibility”.
Declare any pre-existing medical conditions and ask if you are unsure about a condition. Despite my experience as an ex travel consultant I was surprised to learn my son’s disability, Cerebral palsy, is a pre-existing condition. In my mind he is a healthy boy with a disability NOT an illness or condition. It didn’t cause any problems to cover him but I am using it as an example of how it’s better to check than find you are not covered if something does go wrong.
Consider an annual policy if you are travelling more than once throughout the year. We did this for the first time last year and it saves time, money and filling out forms! For example, Cover-More’s annual multi trip policy will cover you when you travel anywhere further than 250kms from home.
All the same rules apply to anyone packing but for your comfort make sure you have the things you need to make your trip as pleasant as possible. Check with your airline as to how much luggage you can have as a person with a disability. Qantas, for example, allowed us our luggage plus two pieces of mobility equipment in our luggage allowance.
Pack all medication in your hand luggage and have a letter from your GP covering the medication you are travelling with.
Arrive early at the airport. You will avoid the worst of the queues and you do need more time at every step of the way. This will ensure you are not rushed.
People with limited mobility and those using a wheelchair are first to board the plane and last off. We always have drinks with us (buy or refill a water bottle once you have cleared security) because it is quite a wait and it is hot before the air conditioning system truly gets going on takeoff.
Unless you are fortunate enough to travel at the front end of the plane, most of us find economy seats on long haul flights confining and uncomfortable after several hours. We find this especially so for our son who is disabled. If finances permit consider premium economy for the extra room. If not, take whatever you think will most help the person be comfortable.
Lastly, travel with a positive attitude! Things can go wrong with any travel booking but a positive attitude will go a long way to ensuring your experiences and interactions are enjoyable.
This week we have the pleasure of having a
guest blog from Caz and Craig from yTravelblog.com.
Caz and Craig Makepeace love to use their expertise to help people travel more
and create better memories.
You can download free videos from their website or connect
with them on Google+, Facebook and Pinterest. They were lucky enough to recently visit Phuket for
the third time and have provided us with their "Best Of" to help you get started with planning your
Caz and Craig Makepeace love to use their expertise to help people travel more and create better memories. They were lucky enough to recently visit Phuket for the third time and have provided us with their "Best Of" to help you get started with planning your Phuket trip.
Best of Phuket...
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island destination boasting an international airport allowing for direct flights from Australia and the Asian Pacific region. It's also the gateway to many of Thailand's other famous islands, beaches, and dive sites.
Phuket island has a rich cultural history, and a range of activities and accommodation styles to suit traveller's of all types year round.
We recently visited Phuket as a family of four, our third visit in total, and below are our "Best Of" to help you get started on planning your Phuket trip.
Best Beaches of Phuket
Looking for your own piece of paradise with crystal clear water, soft white sand, and a super chilled vibe? Then head to the northern end of Bangtao Bay and Layan Beach. Take your pick of beach chairs in front of a few quiet restaurants and relax, read, swim, drink coconuts (or a beer) and enjoy Thai bliss.
A long straight beach, great for walks, with white sand and nice water for swimming. Several resort developments and restaurants call Karon home, but it’s not overdeveloped like Patong! Great vibe and plenty to do whether you're a family, couple, or a solo traveller.
One beach further south from Karon. A scenic cove shaped beach with the island of Koh Pu just offshore and a nice tree lined street running adjacent to the beach which provides some nice shady spots. Plenty of accommodation options, restaurants and another relaxed vibe, again, perfect for families.
Small and scenic, packed with beach chairs and umbrellas. Enjoyed our day on the beach here including a great Thai massage, delicious cheap lunch from the street carts nearby, followed by a sunset seafood dinner right on the beach at "Pla Seafood".
Phuket's main tourist beach and the place to go if you're looking for tourism on steroids: tons of accommodation, loads of shopping and restaurants, and endless bars and nightlife. The beach is packed by day and Soi Bangla (the main strip) at night time is something else.
Best Cultural Experiences
Wat Chalong is the most important and most visited temple of Phuket, but nothing like the crowds at the temples in Bangkok. The Grand Pagoda dominates the temple grounds, and the pagoda walls depict Buddha’s life story. Immense golden statues of the various Buddha poses sit in the main halls, richly decorated with beautiful colours and countless images of Buddha and icons from Thai and Buddhist mythology.
Phuket Old Town
For a glimpse of the island's life over a century ago, check out Old Town. Best explored on foot early in the morning or late afternoon once the heat has subsided, Phuket Old Town offers shrines, temples, preserved Chinese shop-houses and examples of Sion-Portuguese architecture. For nice views over Old town, head up Rang Hill, a popular visited viewpoint with a cafe and small (deteriorating) kids playground.
We didn't quite make it to see the 45 metre high Big Buddha, but a visit comes recommended. He sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and has 360 degree views of Phuket. The Buddha’s body is layered with Burmese marble which shines in the sun, making it a symbol of hope and a guarding force of protection.
Thai Cooking Class
We love Thai food, so taking a traditional Thai cooking class was high on the list, and one of the best places to learn is through Pat's home cooking school. First opened in 1996 in Phuket Town and has since been featured in many print media publications and TV programs.
Your experience begins in the local market gathering the supplies, before returning to Pat’s open aired kitchen attached to the side of her home. She never has more than 8 people per class, maintaining that small, homely feel.
Get a Thai Massage
One of the best things about a visit to Thailand is that you can afford, if you wish, to get a Thai massage everyday! Ranging from $8 - $12 on most beaches you will find the friendly Thai ladies with their set up in the shade offering full-body massages, foot massages, or neck and shoulder. Of course every Resort and Hotel has the "Spa" added to it, but you will pay more!
Best Day Trips / Island Hopping
Phuket's location has many benefits as far as offering access to some of southern Thailand's premier Islands and activities, most merely a few hours by boat.
Phang Nga Bay - James Bond Island
James Bond Island, made famous by the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” is very picturesque and photo worthy. Our full-day tour of Phang Nga Bay took in several of the islands in the Bay area, including James Bond, a floating Muslim village, plus a spot of sea kayaking and the dramatic limestone mountains.
Phi Phi Islands / Maya Bay
Maya Bay, that place made famous by "The Beach" movie staring Leonardo DiCaprio, still remains one of the most stunning beaches/bays I have ever seen. But I've heard how it can be overrun with boats there now (try the low season). And snorkeling trips out of Phi Phi are a definite consideration also.
Krabi / Railay Beach
Another amazing location with towering limestone cliffs sheltering stunning beaches. Great place for swimming or chilling out, and a popular rock climbing destination. Accommodation ranges from cheap bungalows to incredible 5 star resorts.
Similan Islands National Park
The Similan Islands are a group of islands in the Andaman Sea about 85km north west of Patong, and are noted as one of the top ten dive destinations in the world according to the National Geographic Society. With stunning beaches and natural rock formations these islands are a definite bucket list item.
Raya Island, Koh Khai, Coral Islands and Koh Yao Noi
For islands a bit closer to Phuket, yet ones that still offer great swimming, snorkelling, and stunning white beaches, consider chartering a boat from Chalong, Rawai or Laem Ka beach and exploring Raya Island, Koh Khai, and the Coral Islands Koh Yao Noi, accessed from Bang Rong pier in the NE of Phuket, comes highly recommended for it's laid back, under-developed nature.
Best Sunset Locations
Either rub shoulders with the cool people at Catch Beach Club on comfy sofas drinking cocktails whilst listening to tunes, or do as we did and have dinner at a restaurant on the beach, such as "Pla Seafood" and get the same sunset views!
After Beach Bar in Kata
The After Beach Bar on the hill behind Kata Noi is legendary for sunset drinks and a relaxed vibe. Sit back with a cold beer or a cocktail (don’t order a mojito – they were awful) and watch the sun go down over the Andaman Sea. Just don't do what we did and choose the cloudiest day of your trip!
One of the most popular places to see the sunset with scores of locals visit it every day at 6pm. It is the southernmost tip of Phuket Island and with an elevated view, the scenery is gorgeous even without the sunset.
Sunset Cruise on Chalong Bay
Another great way to see the sun go down in Phuket is jump on a sunset cruise on Chalong Bay. Enjoy a few cold beers, some Thai food and relax away the last moments of the day!
Best Places to Stay in Phuket
Karon, Kata and Bangtao Bay areas are our pick whether you are solo, a couple or a family. In Karon we stayed at the Hilton Phuket and had a fantastic family holiday.
As mentioned, Patong is the main tourist beach and is also an option. One Resort that comes highly recommended and is just outside Patong Beach is the Amari Coral Beach Phuket.
Best Time to Visit Phuket
You can visit Phuket year round, however there are benefits and negatives to each season.
Peak season is January to April which co-insides with the northern hemisphere winter and Australian school holidays. This is when the beaches are most crowded and prices the highest. However, there is low rainfall, lots of sunshine, and sea conditions are good for swimming and diving.
Low Season is generally May to October and is supposedly the rainy season which basically means a daily downpour, but most of the days are actually hot and sunny. The rates are lower and the beaches are less crowded, and it's a great time for a tropical holiday.
Tracey and her friend soon found out that driving on narrow winding roads on a wet blustery day in Ireland can not only be an adventure, but end up the highlight of their trip.
My best friend Marissa and I spent a magical 4 weeks travelling around Ireland. We had many adventures during our trip, but the one that stands out for both of us was our drive through Dunloe Gap.
It was a miserable, blustery day and Joan, our host at Beaufort, mentioned that as the weather was so inclement, the ‘Jaunting Cars’ wouldn’t be running and that we could take our car through Dunloe Gap, despite this usually not being possible. ‘Jaunting Cars’ are horse-drawn buggies and for a mere 160 euro you can ride one through the gap for an hour. At that price, had there been opportunity, we probably would have passed on that anyway. That would have been such a tragedy, because we were to experience some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery imaginable. We were a little taken aback to discover a very large sign that announced cars were not allowed through the gap. Hmmm………should we trust Joan’s advice?
The rain lashed down and horses with their heads hanging low and their carriages covered in blue tarp stood forlornly near the entrance. We decided there was nothing to lose and off we set with Marissa clutching the steering wheel tightly and leaning forward with intense concentration. Mountains rose majestically before us, mist and rain obscuring their peaks. Waterfalls were abundant and flowing fiercely. It’s difficult to describe how utterly breathtaking the scenery was. Dark, almost black clouds hung between the valleys and the rain was a fine mist that caused the most curious effect in the wind. The very air seemed to consist of ghostly waves, adding to the mystical atmosphere. At times the road was very, very narrow, and rocks jutted out so frighteningly close to both sides of the car that we found ourselves holding our breath as we inched between them. If we were to meet up with another vehicle on this steep, tight road it would mean one of us would have to reverse down. Aaaahhh! As luck would have it, just as we shared this thought we spotted a car heading towards us. Gulp!! We both broke out in a cold sweat and decided this had been a very bad idea. Inching around the next bend we saw with intense relief that there was just enough space on the edge of the track for us to pull aside. Though it looked like we might get bogged in the mud, there was no choice.
We survived a couple of these encounters during our trip through the Gap and only had to reverse once in a relatively easy space. We emerged from the gap feeling that we’d just had a truly magical, albeit white-knuckle, experience. The pictures can’t possibly do the place justice as the scale and ambience can’t be transferred (at least not by this photographer). Dunloe Gap was one of the highlights of a very special holiday. However, on our next visit we’ll do the sensible, safe thing and catch a ‘Jaunting Car'!
When Brendan decided he would get out of the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur he found that the Batu caves to be just the sanctuary of peace and quiet he was after.
My partner and I recently travelled throughout Malaysia and Singapore for a number of weeks. Besides undertaking the usual tourist activities such as the Petronas Towers, market shopping, Universal studios and Marina Bay Sands, we decided that we needed to take part in a cultural activity and that we would attend the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
The Batu Caves consists of a limestone hill which contains a series of caves and cave temples. The cave is a Hindu shrine, dedicated to Lord Murugan. The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old, while thee temple is said to be founded in 1890. The biggest cave, is referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a 100 meter high ceiling, which can only be accessed by climbing 272 steps. Now these were not your average steps, they were some of the steepest steps I have ever encountered. There were a number of factors we had to deal with while climbing these stairs; the first being the weather. The day we decided to do the climb was a 38°C, 89% humidity day. Coming down the stairs were flocks of birds and bats (I have to say that winged animals are a great fear of mine), and jumping from the trees along the sides of the stairs were monkeys.
The further we made it up the stairs the more our legs began to burn and the hotter it got. We ended up having to pick certain areas along the stairs where we could rest. As we finally made it to the top of the stairs it was not only an achievement in itself, but to turn around and look behind you at the view of the surrounding areas was just magical.
Once you reach the top of the stairs you can immediately begin to smell incense and the chant of Hindu prayers. As you walk down into the entrance of the cave the limestone walls tower overhead and at the very top there is a small hole where light is filtered into the cave. As you get deeper into the cave, carvings of Lord Murugan and different prayer versus have been inscribed into the limestone. Some of the carvings have been on the walls for of this cave for hundreds of years.
As you reach the end of the cave there is a shrine to the many Hindu deities, where thousands sticks and cones of incense is burning and many Hindu practising people wearing traditional dress praying. The noise of their prayers echo off the walls and the thought of how many years people have being partaking in this process is truly astounding.
Many hours can be sent watching the prayers or exploring the caves.
After having done a small amount of exploration we decided to begin our descent back down to the ground. However on the descent don't be fooled by thinking it will be easier than going up. Going down the stairs presents its own set of challenges besides the animals and the weather. Due to the stairs being so narrow it is hard to fit your whole foot on each stair therefore if you over step you will slip, and if you slip it is a long way down to the bottom. After making it to the bottom in one piece we decided to take a break at one of the market stalls and enjoy a nice cool drink of coconut juice, directly out of the coconut.
Looking back at the stairs it was quite amazing to think we had just made it to the top and back again. The whole holiday was very relaxing and beautiful weather. We have now begun planning our next holiday to the island regions of Malaysia.
Ryan headed off for an African Safari. He was really looking for some adventure. Well, he certainly found it. A brush with a bull elephant becoming a significant part of the fun.
It was a few years ago when my travelling companion, Trevor, and I went to Africa. We wanted to experience it all over there - the people, Victoria Falls, the food, but most of all, we wanted to do a genuine African animal safari!
So we booked one with a local travel agent, and soon enough we were sitting in the back seat of safari Jeep, with some other tourists and a driver named Raphael.
We took off just after lunch. The dry heat was unbearable, but there were plenty of animals to photograph which was a good distraction. All had been going smoothly, Trevor and I had a camera full of photo’s - buffalo, giraffe, a few vultures munching on carcasses and those animals that look like baby deer’s, bounce around and are always the ones getting taken down by bigger animals in nature doco’s...I forget what they are called.
It was a great ride, but we longed for something more exciting. Was it too much to ask for a pride of lions, or some tigers? Anything!
To quench our thirst for excitement, Raphael had told us a story of how a lion once jumped on the back of his jeep and how he lived to tell the tale, but it wasn’t the same as living it yourself. Well, you know what they say, be careful what you wish for...
It was dusk and our safari was coming to an end. On the way back, a gigantic bull elephant stepped it’s gigantic feet into the middle of the dirt road. With dense bush on either side of him, there was no way around. It was a standoff that seemed to take hours. The elephant started to scratch at the ground and make snorting sounds, like an angry bull about to charge at the matador. We all started to panic, including Raphael. I remember one particularly hysterical women in the back screaming over and over something we were all thinking, “Raphael, please don’t let me die, please don’t let me die!!”
To add to our already frayed nerves, a few minutes before the elephant turned up, another jeep of tourists pulled up to our side. The drivers spoke between them and we overheard them say something about the other jeep having failing brakes.
We caught a break. The elephant decided to go back into the bush for a quick munch on some trees. Now was our chance to get past him, but the other jeep had to go first and couldn’t stop should the elephant come back out in front of them...Glad I wasn’t in that jeep. The elephant wandered back out onto the road, angry as ever. Jeep 2 narrowly made it through, so close that from where we were sitting they seemed to drive between his legs.
Everyone sat silent...still...not even daring to breathe...all eyes focused on the elephant’s next move. It was getting dark, but it’s massive presence still clearly visible.
I heard the loud sound of everyone in the Jeep exhaling simultaneously, as the elephant once again retreats into the bush, this time the other side of the road. “GO!” – And we were off! My eyes darted from the elephant, to the speedometer, to the elephant again, who was racing alongside us through the bush. Unbelievably he was keeping up with the speeding Jeep. My heart was in my mouth, everyone was crying and screaming. The elephant comes back onto the road behind us and gives chase. The speedometer trembles its way to the red numbers at the end of the clock, the ones you always wished you had the guts to get to when driving your own car.
With baited breath and our necks contorted the wrong way, we watch the elephant fade away into the distance behind us through clouds of orange dust.
That was my first and likely last African Safari!
Cover-More ‘Essence of Travel’ Photo Competition Winners
What an amazing response to our 2012 Cover-More ‘Essence of Travel’ facebook photo competition. With more than 1000 entries from all over Australia, we had so many personal moments shared with us it was just incredible. The photos were taken in some amazing locations with gorgeous scenery, often inspiring every part of the traveller within us. Many photos depicted nature at its best, some showed word history or architecture, some were unexpected moments or a chance photo and some were purely about those special personal moments that made that individual just want to re-live their adventures over and over through their photo. All of the photos however, depicted to the photographer the ‘Essence of Travel’. This made for an amazing assortment of special moments that makes travel so special. So, here are the winners. Our overall winner receives a $2000 travel voucher and our Runner-up winners receive $50 gift cards.
Entries were judged by Craig & Caz from yTravel Blog who summed up the winning photo nicely when writing “I think when we look at that photo we immediately get a sense of travel, being free, enjoying fun with our friends, seeing amazing sites and just living life to the full. Travel is so great at helping us live life to the full. The essence of travel is more about our discovery, those random moments we have and who we share that with on the way.” If you look closely at Dan Moore’s photo the tattoo says ‘life to the full’. This certainly seems to be captured in this moment.
Photo by Dan Moore – “Live life to the full”
Country stop # 4 on a solo adventure of a life time. I found myself climbing the awesome Les Arenes in Nimes, France with my sister and brother in law. How often do you stand on top of a huge amphitheatre built in 70AD.... (not that often). We felt like we had gone back in time, not a person in the place, every word we spoke echoed, standing on top of Gods creation, family, friends, sunshine and one awesome photo later....now this is what I call "Life to the Full!" Device: Canon G12
Secondary prize winners
Photo by Jason Young – “Mesmerised” Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia
It was a 4am rise in order to get to the Salar for sunrise. It was the wet season so the entire flat was covered in about an inch of water. The result of this at sunrise is positively trippy! You can hardly work out what is the horizon, what is sky and what is reflection. In the distance were a couple of other 4WDs and they looked like boats sailing towards us. The sky started out as a rich deep blue with a hint of gold on the horizon then striking golden tones of the sun appeared, warming the dark moody clouds. All of this reflected in the massive expanse of the watery Salar means you feel suspended in the clouds. You are surrounded by this magical image, above you, below you and all around you! We felt like we were in heaven!! We really did! Too unbelievable for words. As the sun rose we watched the 360 degree image evolve and felt blessed to be up in the clouds, lucky enough to experience such another otherworldly sight and to be sharing it with friends. A very special morning, beautiful people and a magical journey.
Photo by Rieanna West – “Getting lost in unknown cities”
There are times when a moment appears in front of you, unexpectedly, which makes you think "wow". You don't have time to take out your camera so you quickly snap away on your trusty smart phone. This is what happened to us in Bari, Italy in August 2012. Lost in the back streets of a town which was foreign to us was where this photo took place. It was the moment, the timing and the unknown location of this picture which makes it so special to us.
Photo by Jessie Pellizer – “Fijian Girl”
This little village in Fiji has me going back every year to spend time with the locals and see the children grow up. I'm lucky enough to have my own little namesake in the village after one of mothers asked to name her child after me! This little cherubs name is Kasalia and I caught this photo whilst she was playing around in her church dress. The essence of travel is all about culture, connections and spending time in places you never thought you could hack it. Drop toilets, ponds for bathing, no roads, cars or shops...all part of the most incredible experiences of my life :) I look forward to many more in the coming years!
Photo by Joanne Taylor - "Seminyak Sunset - Bali 2012"
We were sitting at a
little cafe on Seminyak Beach, the sun was going down and the locals were out
playing soccer and the tourists were still swimming. The sky became such
a surreal colour and I could not take
my eyes off that sunset. Just another reminder of how perfect nature is, if we
just take the time to appreciate it.
Photo by Lisa Fryar – “Exposing my children to one of the greatest pleasures in life: meeting people from all walks of life. Himba Village Namibia.”
I took this photo on my “big birthday” holiday doing a road-trip around Africa with my family. The birthday had a 4 and a 0 in it! We hired a jeep from Johannesburg and drove through Botswana, Namibia and Zambia before returning back to South Africa. We spent time in camp grounds and villages along the way, our car had two tents on the roof to keep us out of harm from elephants during the night! This photo was in a Himba village in northern Namibia where most of the children are orphans as a result of HIV- which continues to spread through Africa at alarming rates. My sons were 7yrs and 13yrs at the time and despite being well travelled, were absolutely moved by the spirit of the Himba children singing, dancing and playing with us. The little boy in the photo was so adorable and covered in ochre (cuddles meant we too were covered in ochre!) We took some soccer balls and a pump with us and at every village started a game of soccer. It was a great way to break the ice and meet people – and we then left the balls as a way of giving to the community. That was another brilliant holiday.
Photo by Phillip Minnis – “Christmas Morning in Grindelwald, Switzerland”
For many years my family and I dreamed about experiencing a white Christmas. Our dream was realised in December 2008, when we flew to Paris, and then gradually drove to Switzerland, where we spent Christmas in a traditional wooden chalet, in the breath-takingly beautiful village of Grindelwald. On Christmas morning, I awoke before sunrise, and walked out onto the balcony, to take in the unbelievable view. To my left was the mighty 3,970 metre high Eiger, and in the valley below, were dozens of the traditional alpine chalets. The sun was yet to rise, the air was crisp, the snow was deep, the sky was clear, and there was complete silence, except for the occasional sound of a snowmobile in the distance. For a moment, I pinched myself, realising that my dream had come true. I grabbed my camera, placed it on the balcony's wooden railing, and captured this scene. I woke my wife and teenage daughters, and urged them to join me on the balcony, to take in the moment. We stood together, in our pyjamas and dressing gowns, and hugged each other, gazing in amazement, and almost disbelief, at the view. It was quite an emotional moment, which we all savoured together. Since then, we have been to Europe on two occasions, but nothing compares to those unforgettable few minutes we stood together, on that balcony, on Christmas Morning, in Grindelwald. For me, that was the true 'Essence of Travel' experience!
Photo by Jason Young – “Beautiful Maria”
My wife and I did a month's voluntary work (in the year we travelled) in a tiny village in rural Singida, Tanzania (helping build a school). Maria was a local girl (she had a sister and a brother) who used to hang around our camp and would play with us, or just hang out with her brother and sister. The experience was one we will never forget and was truly the highlight of the whole year trip.
Photo by Simon Linge – “Outnumbered”
On my last day in Mumbai, I decided to get up early for sunrise and take some pictures around the Gateway of India. I headed out with my travel tripod to take some long exposure shots of the architecture and when I saw all of these pigeons I set up my tripod. Shortly after, something triggered the birds to take off suddenly and I held down the shutter button and sprayed off about 5 consecutive shots. It all happened so quickly that I didn't have much time to change any settings on my camera, but lucky enough I had it set so that it resulted in a slightly longer exposure which captured the motion of the birds while the tripod prevented the scene itself from any camera shake blur.
Photo by Tahlia Crinis – “The Beach”
It was last year when I won a trip through work (I was a travel agent at the time) so I went on this whirlwind 7 day trip with a group of other travel agents through Phuket in Thailand. After days of rain we managed to get the perfect weather for our day trip out to the islands and Maya beach was my favourite spot. Even though it's very touristy, it still has an eerie untouched vibe. You could imagine a time when it was untouched, magnificent nature at its best- The crystal blue water, white sand and surrounding jungle.
Photo by Gerard Ahrens- “Great Walling it up!”
OK, so I got my dream job to do rollerblade stunt shows in Beijing china at a theme park called happy valley and on my day off I wanted to see if I could find anything to skate (rail or ledge etc.) at the Great Wall of China. So I took my backpack with my skates and hiked up through the great wall. I didn’t find anything to skate but just being at the Great Wall of China with the fog/pollution sky line made it an amazing sight so I snapped this photo.
I recently had the wonderful privilege of 5 weeks off, a healthy tax return and an urge to get out and do something different. In the spirit of the intrepid adventurer (and lacking a passport) I turned my sights to my own backyard and decided to see where the road might take me. Hiring a Toyota Tarago campervan, loading up and hitting the road, I found myself meandering across the country on my own, determined to get off the beaten track and see some of the amazingly beautiful country we live in. My journey took me 9500km around outback NSW, SA and the NT, to some of the most driest, alien and remote locations on the planet. I had a taste of some of the rugged beauty that is our country and got a sense of just how vast parts of it can be. My philosophy was simple: just drive.
With no timetable to stick to, or other passengers to please, I found myself detouring randomly down roads, muttering "That looks interesting" and pulling up for the night in places, most people wouldn't think of travelling to. I went to bed under a blanket of stars and woke up to sunrises that were so achingly breathtaking that I was still grinning at the thought of them by lunchtime. I met people in quaint little towns (little more than a petrol station and a place to camp of a night) and slowly started to see why people would choose to live in such out of the way places. To put it simply: the landscape was stunning. Every 100kms was different from the last. For an area that is sold as being the "Red" Centre, it was so much more than just red sand, rocks and long flat plains that seemingly spanned forever. When people talk of the red centre, images of Uluru, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs come to mind, and they were all places I visited, certainly living up to their iconic reputations as parts of the Red Centre. But none of them quite had the charm of Gemtree.
Located 140kms North East of Alice Springs, bordering somewhere between the East MacDonnell and Harts Ranges, Gemtree is the outer border of the Red Centre geographically. Getting there involved travelling along a "Highway" (and I use this term in all seriousness, even if it was 1 lane of bitumen laid out precariously between red dirt and mud) through cattle ranches and over dry rivers, to a location that was so remote, you'd be hard pressed to think that anyone actually lived out there. But live there they do, and it's evident from meeting the people in their little community, that it's with good reason. Gemtree is prime real estate for the budding fossicker after all, and after signing myself up for a little garnet fossicking myself, I can understand what all the fuss was about. With my pick axe, sieves, bucket and shovel shouldered, I watched keenly to pick up the tips on how it was all done and dreamed lazily of finding that thousand dollar stone just waiting to be scooped out and washed up in my sieve. I wasn't disappointed.... well maybe a little. I didn't find the big one, but I found enough that in the time I was there, I was thoroughly addicted to the dreamy lifestyle of dig, wash... SCORE! and then back to dig again. There is definitely nothing more satisfying than holding a 3.5 carat jewel to the sunlight and watching it sparkle, knowing that you were the one that found it.
Sitting around the campfire after a roast and a beer at the end of the day, I got talking with the seasoned fossickers staying at Gemtree. This motley crew told the tales of their adventures travelling around the country, on the hopes of having lady luck smile upon them to fund their next big trip. They talked passionately about leaving the daily grind of city life behind and living on the road, travelling along the ranges and of the nomadic lifestyles they lived... and I, fell in love with their dream. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I’d stumbled across one of Australia’s best kept secrets, just because I decided to “take a right” on a whim with a smile onto a red open road.
When Ryan immersed himself within the Indian culture he had many amazing and life changing experiences. This week Ryan has a chat to a 'prophet' which was definitely one of the more amusing ones.
Necessity is certainly the mother of all invention, and nowhere in the world is this more apparent than in India. With such a large population and many of its people still in poverty, there seems to be no niche that goes unfilled, no service that isn’t catered for. From specialist ear cleaners and head masseuses, from street dentists, to people that bring your home cooked lunch across the city for you still hot. With a bit of creativity, there is endless opportunity for the budding entrepreneur. This is especially true when it comes to tourists. Since the hippies of the sixties, and likely long before that, people from all over the world have come in droves to seek the spiritual comfort of mother India. I was not immune to the seduction of instant enlightenment that is promised by the many ‘gurus’ willing to offer their services- for a fee.
In hindsight, I’m not sure what made me think I’d somehow find my guru, not on a Himalayan mountain top, but in the seedy back alleys of Paharganj, Delhi.
“100 Rupee’s I guess your mother’s name!” I hear a booming voice call out behind me. The guru spoke perfect English
“Err, No thanks” was my reply.
“C’mon! 100 Rupee’s I guess your birthday, and your mother’s birthday. If I’m wrong, no charge!”
What are the chances? I thought. “OK, why not”
I follow my guru down twisting alleys until we find a quiet spot he’s happy with (I sensed it was more to get away from other people, rather than it was his usual place of business). He was short fella, with a big round tummy and a beige turban atop his bearded face. He sits me down on the ground, cross-legged in front of him. He hands me a scrap of paper and a pencil.
“OK, now write down your birthday, your mother’s birthday and your mother’s name” (I thought awesome- he will do all three for 100 Rupee’s!). I do a quick scan of my surroundings- nope, no mirrors or an assistant looking over my shoulder at what I’m writing. I cup my hands over what I’m writing so he can’t see through the paper either and hold it all super close to my chest. Even if there was someone else- there was no way they could see. At the same time, he also scribbled something down on his piece of paper. OK, maybe he is psychic, I’d better put up some psychic defences for him, and so I lie about my mother’s name and write down the longest name that popped into my head- Catherine. After I wrote it, I even went back and scribbled out the ‘C’ and corrected it to a ‘K’ (Katherine). That’ll test him!
“OK, now show me your paper” I did, and he showed me his at the same time. They were identical! The birthdays I wrote down, in the same date format and his also had the correction I made on the name. My eyes nearly popped out of my head! Even though he wrote down the wrong mother’s name, as I did, it was the same as what I wrote down. Fair play. Now I owe the man some money. I give him 100 Rupee’s.
“No, I guessed 3 times- you owe me 300 Rupee’s!”
I reluctantly hand over the cash (about 5 dollars).
“Now I tell you your fortune for 500 rupee’s!”
Still gobsmacked by his first trick, I agree. He tells me a few things I think are pretty vague and could apply to any backpacker. And then he said “Do you know a man named Steven” (I DID! He was my best friend) “Never cross him in business” (Steve and I are always coming up with business ideas! This guy is amazing!)
“Do you know someone named Sarah?” (I did! Several in fact). “you will marry someone named Sarah”. He continued blowing my mind.
I kept handing the man cash until my wallet came up empty (a total of about $20). I walked away dumbfounded. How did he do it? I’ve told the story to many people and no one could come up with a plausible answer for me.
Only recently I had an Archimedes in the bathtub moment, and I figured out how it was done! He had watched the end of my pencil move as I wrote, which would also account for the mistake I made that he picked up on. Not an easy thing to do, but with some practice, it would be more than possible. He also now knew my age and gave me probably the 2 most common names for my generation (Steve and Sarah). I could be wrong and maybe he really was psychic- I will never know. Either way, it was great entertainment for $20!
If you are ever in a sticky situation abroad, contact an Italian first. Your problem is their problem, their friend, their Mama and their Nonna’s problem. Although you might have to fight hard for a scrap of information at times, with their fiery attitudes and network combined you’re guaranteed a solution.
We are three girls on their last night in Venice and are consuming numerous Aperol Sprizters. The next morning at 6am we realize we haven’t booked our train tickets to Florence. Stumbling to reception we book three tickets whilst our receptionist grunts in our direction in his stained singlet and belted chinos. Bothered by the heat and headache we sink into our seats on the train, commenting on how the train compartment resembles the Hogwarts Express. Lucky to have the compartment to ourselves we spread out our snacks and get comfortable.
It’s not long before an elegant Italian woman sits down next to me. She speaks about a lot in a short amount of time, my Italian is not up to scratch for this conversation but I stumble along which seems to make her content. Soon crowds of people are boarding the train and a group surrounds the doors to our compartment bantering back and forth in quick Italian. They are looking at us and then at our seat numbers, the train guard who checks our tickets tells us we’re in the wrong seats as we’ve booked them for the wrong day. The elegant lady next to me stands up and tries to solve the problem with the guard. I can catch her saying “Oh, just leave them alone. They’ve paid! They’re only young..” Soon the other passengers in our compartment including a young pierced girl, who I suspect is also hitting on my friend, and a very tanned couple dressed in white, jump to our defence.
It’s a lengthy saga and all very dramatic. Hand gestures flying everywhere and lots of insults. The guard walks away and comes back thrice, each time presented with a new argument. Finally, the team effort seems to work as the train guard says “Come with me, leave your bags,” racing us out the door at the next train stop. He leads us jumping out the train door and running across the train tracks to get to the ticket office as, “there is no time,” he pants. As I’m wondering whether the chance of getting hit by a train is worth it, the train guard only makes us buy one ticket for the three of us. When we are led back to the train I am so stunned by his generosity, he shrugs it off and shoos us away.
Sitting back into our seats I look around at our saviours, united in their efforts we all arrive to Florence by train because when Italians band together train guard officials just don’t stand a chance. So next time you’re having a crisis try an Italian first, they will have a friend of a friend who might just be able to help you out.
Our holiday to Bali earlier this year was a trip to paradise. We spent our first week in Seminyak in a small hotel named Bali Yarra Villas, named after the Yarra River in Melbourne, Victoria. It was a great place and I would highly recommend it to others. Our favourite restaurant was Ultimo - a gorgeous Italian place in Seminyak which served perfect food and even more perfect cocktails, all for a perfect price. Our favourite bar was Hu'u Bar, an extravagant bar set over green lawns and pools with an abundant use of sheer curtains to create a mystique atmosphere for wealthy guests.
Our second week was a huge juxtaposition to the first. We moved to Nusa Dua and spent a week at Club Med. Now this place is not for everyone, but for those who love a bit of social interaction and something to do other than shopping and swimming this place is for you. The staff are by far the friendliest crew in Bali and the rolling coconut groves run right down to the beach and the beach bar, making relaxation a cinch.
The best part of our holiday was our fabulous nanny named Purni, a local lady who looked after our daughter for the entire two weeks of our trip. Purni enabled us parents to get away each day and night to enjoy time by ourselves whilst ensuring she had our confidence at all times to look after our daughter. By the end of our trip, our daughter would rather be cuddled by Purni when upset rather than her parents.
We probably enjoyed Club Med more than Seminyak. Seminyak was an experience, an experience for all the senses and given all the shopping, an experience for the hip pocket as well! Club Med however was a holiday. By far the best parts of Bali though were the people. Such lovely people who are committed to their families and their jobs and who are really struggling with business since the terrorist attacks many years ago.
We will return to Bali year on year given their love of children and the fantastic holidays and experiences that Bali is able to provide.
Planning for a big overseas trip usually starts months in advance, but one thing most of us seem to leave till the very last minute is packing our bags. In the rush to cram everything in, it can be easy to end up with an overflowing suitcase yet forget the essentials. Today I’d like to share with you my top 10 packing tips so you can travel lighter and smarter.
1. Choose the right bag for your trip
Choosing the right bag for your trip is the first essential step to a well packed bag. If you are going to be travelling a lot between locations on trains, buses and the like, a backpack may be your best option. Whereas if you’re travelling by plane and staying in just one or two locations, a suitcase could work well. Whether you go for a suitcase or backpack choosing one with wheels can be a good idea. Rolling your bag along the ground is much easier than carrying it.
2. Don’t over pack your bag from the beginning
When travelling we often find many souvenirs and must have items along our way. Make sure you don’t over pack your bag from the beginning so you have some room for these items. An expandable bag can work well here.
3. Always roll your clothes
Remember the number one packing tip your mum probably taught you when going on your first family holiday, rolling your clothes is the most efficient way to pack. It can be tempting to just throw it all in the bag and hope it fits but taking the time to roll your clothes will be well worth it.
4. Wear outer garments on-board flights
Instead of packing bulky coats and jackets in your bag wear your largest one on board the plane. It will not only save a lot of space but it might also keep you warm mid flight when the air conditioning always seems to get so much colder.
5. Pack any medication and their prescriptions into carry-on luggage
Make sure any medication you are taking on your trip is in your carry-on luggage with their prescriptions. Checked in luggage does go missing sometimes so it’s best to carry it on board with you.
6. Bring travel sized toiletries
Most toiletries now come in travel sizes so there is no need to waste space with large shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser and body wash bottles. The amount of space you can save here is significant so think ahead and pick up some travel sized versions.
7. Remember your electronic chargers
Remember to pack all your phone and other electronic chargers in your luggage. You’ll also need adapters for the countries you are travelling to if heading overseas.
8. Consider the weather
It can be easy to make blanket assumptions about the countries you are travelling to and pack a very one sided wardrobe. For example many overseas visitors come to Australia during the winter months with only a beachside wardrobe expecting it to be hot everyday of the year and are quickly surprised. Do your research on the country you are visiting and pack a range of clothing options. The best idea is to pack clothes you can layer e.g. t shirts, long sleeved tops, jumpers and jackets so that no matter what the weather, you will have something suitable to wear.
9. Don’t pack glass bottles in your checked in luggage
It seems like an obvious one but many people seem to make the mistake of packing wine and other glass bottles in their checked in luggage. Your bags will be handled by airline staff along with many others and you can’t be guaranteed these glass items won’t break. I’ve heard more than a few stories of a whole bag of clothes practically ruined by a broken bottle of red wine.
10. Don’t pack valuables into checked in luggage
Checked in luggage can easily go missing so it’s best to take any valuables like laptops, cameras and jewellery on board with you in your carry-on bag.
If you have any top travel packing tips you’d like to share with us be sure to let us know by listing them in the ‘Was this page helpful?’ feedback box at the bottom of this page.
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