Tag Archives: adventure

An Amsterdam-to-London adventure

I hadn’t planned to catch a train from Amsterdam to London. I had my flight booked and an easy 45 minutes or so in the air already planned.
Yet the weather had a different plan…
And this is the story of how travel disruption turned from very stressful into a nice adventure :-)

Monday 11 December 2017. Snow, fog and strong wind cause the cancellation of 95% of flights out of Schiphol airport.

When at 5pm announcements were made that also my flight (initially scheduled for 2pm then delayed to 7pm) was no longer going, panic seeped in! I have to be back in London within 24 hours due to more travels planned, and there are no seats on other flights until Wednesday, I cried to the desk agent – how the heck am I going to make it?!
To add to the misery and mayhem, also all trains from Schiphol were cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The only way out of the airport was to catch a taxi. Welcome to a two-hour queue then :-(.

Based on the EU regulation Nr. 261/2004 on “compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long delays of flights”, I was reassured that my airline would reimburse any additional expenses incurred (within set limits). So I went ahead with taxi and hotel booking in Amsterdam for the night.

And to get to London? Then train will have to be! Intercity from Amsterdam to Brussels then Eurostar from Brussels to London. It would take me most of the following day but at least there were seats. And a chance to get home!

It was sunny with blue skies in Amsterdam the following morning. I took a stroll around Amsterdam Centraal train station to enjoy the snow. But it was soon time to catch the train.

And here I am, on board of the Intercity train to Brussels. Slower but much cheaper than the Thalys, it felt like being back to the days when train journeys across Europe (good old InterRail!) were the norm. Slow travel. Stare out of the window. Enjoy the moment.

The scenery was lovely – snow covered the fields, the streets, the roofs of the houses. White everywhere, shining in the sunlight of a beautiful day with bright blue skies.

The train drove through Den Haag, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Roosendaal, Antwerp, Mechelen. And eventually reached Brussels, 3hrs and 20minutes later.

The Brussels-London stretch wasn’t as interesting. I slept most of the two hours on the Eurostar, it was dark outside and in the tunnel under the Channel. I had finally relaxed, knowing that I would make it home in time to unpack my bag, repack it for the tropics, and fly out again the following morning!

As for my claim for a refund, once I got home I immediately submitted it online, uploading all receipts for transport, accommodation and meals costs incurred as the result of the flight cancellation. (Update Jan 2018: Within a week I received the reimbursement of most of my expenses, while still awaiting for the train ticket refund. Hope remains).

If your travel plans are ever disrupted in a similar way and you find yourself stuck, try and see the bright side to it as you can turn it into another adventure :-)

Luxembourg here I am!

How did I get here? Luxembourg had never been anywhere near my top 20 countries to visit…

But when my Emirates airmiles where converted into an EasyJet flight, all I could reach from London was Luxembourg. So I thought: why not?!

And one Friday evening I found myself on a bus from the airport to Luxembourg City, listening to announcements in French and wondering what to expect from the city.

It didn’t take me long to get excited at the idea of a new destination to discover, though! And with the help of a map, a travel app and an ice cream – while relaxing at my hostel – I quickly set my itinerary for the following day.

A new adventure was about to start!

I am a traveller, not a tourist

I am a traveller, not a tourist.

You are a traveller, not a tourist.

We love discovering places, experiencing their authentic side, going under the surface of what glossy tourist magazines show. Smell. Taste. Breathe. Explore.

That’s why we get along. That’s why we immediately click when we meet along the road.

We meet at bus stations, in hostels, at food markets, walking around small towns away from the main tourist paths, sitting on piers while watching the stars.

We talk about the meaning of travelling, the meaning of life, we exchange stories and experiences, we get richer every time, we feel part of a large community, of a family. We belong to the same soul group.

Back home we are often the quirky ones. The ones who never seem to fit in. Our approach to travel, our gypsy heart and our life choices set us apart from most of our family and friends. Comfort doesn’t do it for us. Neither does routine. We love adventure. We love exploring. We need to push our boundaries. We love the sense of freedom. We want to experience the world and learn from it. We crave for it.

That’s why we travel. That’s why we pack our bags so often and always go somewhere new, somewhere where we haven’t been before.

And on the road we meet other travellers. Other people like us.

To all my fellow travellers, to all the friends I have made during all my travels over the years: this is for you. This is a celebration of the spirit that joins us, of our times together and the memories we’ve made. It doesn’t matter if we spent one week, one day, or just one hour together: what we shared crosses boundaries of space and time, ignores our differences in age, nationality and background, and makes us part of a large community with unbreakable bonds.fb_img_1488070750981

A Troodos mountain adventure

I had hoped to go trekking in the Troodos mountains but my hopes were soon shattered: no tours were available on my dates (no one wants to go trekking when it’s so hot, I was told).
And now?!
I decided to look online to find adventure tours that explored the area, then contacted one of them, was redirected to another one who was running a jeep tour on one of the dates I was interested in, and ended up joining a tour run by EcoTour Adventures.

Andreas (the guide and driver, and owner of the business) picked me up very early in the morning. Four more people were part of the same tour. And the jeep adventure began!

The day was spent exploring the Troodos mountain area, checking out semi-abandoned villages, waterfalls, streams, monasteries, wineries, driving off-road as often as we could, enjoying the ever changing landscape, noticing how Cyprus not only has beautiful beaches and semi-desert vegetation but also thick pine forests  that you wouldn’t expect in such climate.

Our first stop was the Asprokremmos reservoir and dam, the second largest in Cyprus. We paid attention to the surrounding barren landscape, before heading to the deep forest of the Troodos.

Cyprus Asprokremmos reservoir
Asprokremmos Reservoir

We then stopped in the village of Salamiou, where we had Greek coffee before heading to the gorgeousTzelefos Venetian bridge, which is located deep in the forest. This is only one of the medieval bridges in the area, but is meant to be the most beautiful. The whole area is quite scenic and we enjoyed going for a brief walk in the forest.

We couldn’t miss a visit to the Agios Ioannis Lambadistis monastery, located near the Kalopanayiotis village and now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This monastery is considered one of the most interesting byzantine sites in Cyprus and displays some amazing paintings dating back to different historic periods (11th to 19th century).

Cyprus Troodos "Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery"
Outside the Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery

Driving higher up the mountains we then reached Prodromos, the highest village in Cyprus at 1,380 metres above sea level. Here we stopped at a local family-run restaurant for lunch and I had souvla, one of the traditional dishes in Cyprus. Souvla is basically large pieces of meat cooked on a long skewer over a charcoal barbecue (not to be confused with the Greek souvlaki, apparently). Delicious!

How about the Chantara waterfall? Said to be the most beautiful of Cyprus, it’s located in a stunning and peaceful forest area. I cannot really comment much on the waterfall itself as water was a bit lacking at the end of September. Rain would only start later in the season.

Our last stop consisted of a visit to the Nelion winery for a quick tour of the wine-making facilities and a wine tasting session. The view from the main house was beautiful, rolling hills and vineyards everywhere around us.

The day flew by. If/when I go back to Cyprus, I will definitely plan for some trekking in the Troodos (picking the right season this time…). The area is definitely worth spending more time in it!

Around the Akamas region

If you are into the outdoors and wilderness and are looking for something more rugged than the standard touristy beaches, the Akamas region is the place for you! This beautiful and still relatively wild part of south-west Cyprus is characterised by desertlike scrubland and stores some amazing secluded beaches, nature trails, and gorges.

Public transport in this area is limited, though, and you will need your own wheels or you must join one of the many adventure tours that depart from Pafos.

Here’s a handful of places not to miss in the Akamas:

Lara Beach:
Beautiful and semi deserted beach, famous for its crystal clear waters as well as the turtle hatcheries scattered on the shore. The wind was quite strong when I visited, yet the sea was relatively calm and a pleasure to swim in.

Avakas Gorge:
This is a popular and easy hiking excursion, with lush vegetation and towering rocks all along the way. Given the time of the year of my visit there was little water in the gorge but there appears to be a real stream there.

Sea Caves:
Created in the limestone rocks, these fascinating formations cover an extensive area mainly around Peyia. Although some of the caves can be reached by land, hopping on the rocks and then descending into the caves, the best way to visit them is by sea kayak. I took a half day sea kayaking trip and really enjoyed paddling in and out of the caves, experiencing the amazing environment in what I consider the best way. Truly recommended!

Do you want more amazing beaches and sea? Next post then ;-)

Arriving in Colombo

“Once you are on the Galle road, please cross the road at the crossing and walk to your left until you reach an opening on the road with a mural on the wall adjacent to our building”.
That was the final part of the how-to-get-to-the-hostel email.
I had eventually realised that, with not long to go to my flight to Sri Lanka, I still had no idea how to reach my hostel in the capital city of Colombo. So I emailed them and they sent me a set of instructions that involved catching a local bus, asking the driver to drop me off at a specific location, identifying a couple of supposedly easy to find landmarks, and looking for a mural on a wall. The map app on my smartphone (maps.me – highly recommended) helped fill in the blanks. I was ready to go!

Five days later I landed at Bandaranaike airport, after enjoying the Dubai-Colombo flight upgraded to business class, welcome surprise when I boarded!
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Visa checked, currency exchanged (you cannot buy Sri Lankan Rupees outside of the country), then air-conditioned bus to the city (fare: variable depending on your bargaining skills. I paid R 200).

At the main Colombo bus station the unbearable heat, the colours, the noise and the smells hit my senses all in one go. Excitement kicked in: Sri Lanka, here I am!

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I eventually reached my hostel after a ride on the overcrowded local bus (fare: R 15), only foreigner on board, and with my uttermost gratitude to the Sri Lankan girl sitting next to me who answered all my newbie questions.
And now after an evening stroll around the area and my first trip to the local shops, I am sitting on my bunk bed typing this post and getting ready for more.

Hello Uruguay

As local bus DM1 takes me from Carrasco airport straight to my hostel, I look around with excitement. This is my first trip to South America and I’ve chosen Uruguay, Argentina’s less touristy cousin, for this adventure.
The fact that my suitcase has decided to remain at Heathrow Terminal 5 is only a slight nuisance…
So here I am. Montevideo, Uruguay.

Uruguay.

The second smallest country in South America, Uruguay is becoming increasingly popular with international tourists, no longer heading only towards its more famous neighbours of Argentina and Brazil. Beaches, horse riding and a few nice cities being the main drawing factors. And you don’t need a visa, if you hold a EU passport. They just give you a nice entry stamp.UruguayPhotogallery_001
I read somewhere that around 20,000 Britons visited Uruguay last year. Yet I don’t think that many choose Uruguay as sole destination of a trip to South America.
I have just done that.

Why?
Well, South America was still missing from my travel map, the weather in Uruguay in early November seemed nice enough, the photos checked online hinted at a beautiful country, crime/safety reports (remember: female solo traveller here) were not raising any more concerns than most countries I had already travelled to, and last but not least with only two weeks available I’d rather focus on a small country. I like getting to know a place.

Uruguay was also some kind of late decision (one month before departure), after realising that sitting on my travel plans any longer would mean having to settle for more affordable European destinations. That was NOT an option!

And now I am about to embark in to this new adventure…