Tag Archives: flight

Flying over the Blue Hole, Belize

 

Being someone who rarely splurges money when on holiday, preferring cheap or free activities, the US$200 for the 1-hr scenic flight over the Blue Hole in Belize seemed the result of a moment of madness.
Yet I had chosen this option because I had heard that as a snorkeller, and not a diver, the Blue Hole would be a disappointing experience and not worth the 2+ hour one-way boat ride. Plus, we only live once hey!

What is the Blue Hole, though? It is a giant submarine sinkhole (like a cenote in the ocean) off the coast of Belize. The hole is circular in shape, over 300m across and 125m deep. The world’s largest natural formation of its kind, the Blue Hole is part of the larger Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tour agency I had chosen for this teamed me up with two other female travellers – a minimum of three people is required for a scenic flight to be arranged and I had contacted the agency via email prior to my arrival.

The small 4-seater plane picked us up at the Caye Caulker airstrip, at the southern end of the island. The pilot, very friendly Mr Hoy, briefly ran us through the security basics and the itinerary. Twenty minutes to get to the Blue Hole, fly twice around the Hole from the left, twice from the right, twice across the middle, then return. All so exciting!

I sat in the cockpit, next to the pilot. And we took off.
The view of Caye Caulker and its reef from above was amazing but it was only when we got to the reef around the Blue Hole that my jaw dropped. The pilot kept tilting the aircraft to a 90degree angle and my stomach started suffering. But the view from above was spectacular! The Blue Hole stands out within the reef because of its dark blue colour and its circular shape. We went round it a few times, descending very close to the water at times. It felt as if we could almost touch it. Such an incredible feeling!

On the way back we circled around a shipwreck stuck in the reef. The photo opportunities certainly didn’t lack.

When I saw the straight line of the Caye Caulker airstrip appearing in the distance I was sad that the flight was over. But it had indeed been worth every cent spent on it!

Arriving in Marrakech

Standing lonely in the middle of the baggage claim area is my black trolley bag. Only two more bags around, and at a distance from mine.
I didn’t think I’d see my bag again. But it was there.

I had just spent almost an hour and a half (!!!) in the immigration checks queue at Menara airport in Marrakech.  It’s not like they didn’t have enough officers for the job: it was just incredibly slow. Painfully slow. Probably the worst I’ve ever experienced in my many years of travels. I was immensely relieved when it was over and even more so when I saw that my bag was still waiting for me.

Menara airport is incredibly modern. Fantastic and elegant main building, and now undergoing expansion with a second terminal to be completed in 2015. It blew me away!

The airport is only 5-6 Km from the Medina in Marrakech, and if you are on your first visit to this city catching a taxi to your hotel (£8-15 depending on your bargaining skills) is probably your best bet. The local airport bus is a lot cheaper but unless your hotel/hostel is located nearby one of the bus stops, chances are that you’ll get lost in the maze of alleys!

The taxi ride to the Medina takes you from the 21st century into the old part of Marrakech, characterised by old buildings, narrow alleys, colourful shops, men and women in traditional clothing. Such a contrast!

Marrakech, I am here to discover you now :-)

Escapism

What do you do when the pressure of daily life becomes too much? What do you do when you are not happy with all that is going on around you (or inside you)?

Do you treat yourself to a lovely meal in an expensive restaurant?
Do you indulge in chocolate icecream?
Do you go on a shopping spree and buy a new dress/handbag/pair of shoes/latest tech gadget (or all of them)?
Do you retreat in the arms of your loved one?

I will tell you what I do.
I book a flight.
And I go travelling for a few days.
(Well, not always. Or I would be broke)

 I have posted about my love for travels, planes, road trips, and the feeling of freedom they give me (check out Road Trip, On a plane and Boarding Gate). That is what I seek.

Last week I had enough of everything. Work was driving me mad. So I booked to have a Monday off just to give myself some space. A three-day weekend, mmmm, what’s the best use I can make of it???
I suddenly found myself staring at a map of Europe on GoogleMaps trying to identify potential destinations for a city break.
What European country have I not visited before? Where can I get a cheap flight to, at such short notice (i.e. 4 days)? Are flight times reasonable? Is there hostel availability in the centre of town? What currency would I need? Can I pack all I need as cabin baggage? Is my SLR camera ready?

An hour later I had completed my mission. Destination identified. Flight booked. Hostel accommodation booked. TripAdvisor cityguide downloaded on my phone. Bag semi-packed.

Four days later, at 3am, I was on my way to the airport for a three-day city break in Copenhagen!

On a plane

I am sitting on a plane.
Window seat.
Holding my mobile phone at eye level and shooting non-stop.
Marvelling at the scenery outside. Like someone on their first flight, like an absolute beginner. Despite the hundreds of flights already listed on my “traveller CV”, many of which long-haul.

plane window scenery
Photo 4

Then I sit back and let my mind flow.
Why does it all seem possible when you are on a plane? Dreams reappear from the back of your mind, ideas you had forgotten materialise again, and more powerful than ever. It is the clear air outside that clears the mind too? Is it that suspended feeling, when you are up in the air and look outside of the window and all you see is blue sky or fluffy clouds?

Then the pilot’s voice interrupts your stream of consciousness: “Cabin crew, prepare for landing”.

Fifteen minutes later you grab your hand luggage, switch off “flight mode” on your phone, and walk out into your next adventure.

Welcome to Con Dao!

“Cabin crew, prepare for landing”.
What?! We’ve only just taken off! Not long before reaching its cruising altitude, the 68-seater ATR42 starts its descent towards Con Dao airport. As we land, I notice that the runway is by an amazing beach. Not a bad start, I think.

Getting on board
Getting on board

The Con Dao archipelago, still unspoilt and made of sixteen islands, can be reached by a 14-hour boat ride from Vung Tau or a 45-minute flight from Saigon. What would be your travel choice?

Con Son, the main island, is the only inhabited one and used to be a penal colony during the French occupation. Nowadays it is a very quiet place with amazing scenery, lush tropical forests, and beautiful beaches. Tourist facilities are still limited but this adds to the island’s appeal. Very little English is spoken here, making it challenging at times, yet people are very friendly and always willing to help.

I am about to discover more about Con Dao, so stay tuned!