Ella

For me, Ella is one of those happy places that when you discover them you know you were meant to arrive there sooner or later. Perhaps the previous sentence sounds a bit vague, but I just felt so at peace and happy there that it’s hard to even describe the feeling.

I didn’t have too much time in Ella, but I really enjoyed all the hiking I did there and the town’s atmosphere. I think it will be the best if I show you a bunch of photos rather than try to put everything into words. Here are some from the hike up to Little Adam’s Peak.

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I was lucky to find a very peaceful accommodation just outside Ella. I loved chilling there in the evenings and watching fireflies at night.

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Another hike I did was up to Ella Rock. We set out early in the morning and had to walk along the train tracks for the first hour or so. I have to admit, there were couple of sections where I really didn’t want to meet the train, since it would had passed me a few centimeters away. Someone told me I would be able to hear the train coming from far away, but I have to say, it wasn’t he case.

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I loved the fact that there were so many friendly dogs everywhere, even on top of Ella Rock!

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As I said, I didn’t have a lot of time in Ella, but it was enough to fall in love with the place!

It was time to leave the mountain people, tea plantations and happy dogs and head to the coast. More about it next time 🙂

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Adam’s Peak

Feel almost bad saying this, but I couldn’t wait to leave Kandy. It’s not because I didn’t like Kandy, but I just couldn’t wait to get up Adam’s Peak. Whenever I’m going on holiday and have some hiking planned for the part of it, I have very itchy feet until all hiking is out of my system. I really can’t help it, I hove hiking!

We jumped into Kandy – Ella train, known for one of the most magnificent train journeys in the world.  We couldn’t get a seat since the train was packed, so ended up sitting on the floor near the door. It turned out to be an ideal spot since the train doors were always open and we could enjoy the views and the wind in the hair while hanging out of the train. It’s a shame because soon a lot of people decided they needed to get some photos with them hanging out of the train so all the photo shoots really became a nuisance.

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The train journey wasn’t too long since we jumped out in Hatton, where we got into an extremely packed bus to Dalhousie. That bus journey felt like it was never going to end. It was hot, sweaty and I was nearly getting motion sickness. I kept glancing at somebody’s watch and the time just didn’t seem to move! Then I realised why – the watch was broken…

When we finally arrived in Dalhousie we had all evening to relax, get some food supplies for the walk and enjoyed an incredible meal that our host cooked for all the guests staying in their guesthouse.

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The first view of Adam’s Peak

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Locals

Can’t remember when exactly we set off but it was roughly 1 or 2 in the morning. It was dark and relatively quiet when we left but soon started overtaking more and more people. I say “overtaking” not because I’m over confident in my fitness, but because there was such a variety of people going up that I couldn’t believe it was even possible. Anyone from really young to really old who couldn’t even walk (they were being carried by their relatives!) were making their way up. It was the full moon night celebrated by Buddhists and Adam’s Peak is a holy place, so the trail was absolutely packed with people. It got much worse just before the peak since the stairs got so narrow that it was impossible to overtake and there was a lot of standing and waiting involved.

When we finally got to the top, we went to ring the bell. It is part of the ritual and you have to ring the bell as many times as you visited Adam’s Peak. I was jealous of some doing it several times! Afterwards we managed to squeeze in with the crowd on the steps and waited for a sunrise. It was cold, but definitely worth the wait. It was such a magic atmosphere when we saw the first beams of the sun and shared that moment with so many strangers.

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Adam’s Peak is also famous for its shadow that you can see just after the sunrise. I’m sharing the photo below so you can see what I mean. Let me know if you can’t spot it 🙂

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The way down wasn’t extremely eventful, it was more like flowing with the crowd. It got really hot too and I was ready for the breakfast. But what a way to start the day!

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That magic sunrise is still in my heart today.

Mount Batur

When I heard about Mount Batur it wasn’t even a question whether we were going up there or not, I always wanted to have breakfast on an active volcano!

Let’s start from the beginning. We left Ubud in the morning and headed up north. The ride was absolutely fantastic – it wasn’t very long and mostly on quiet roads. We stopped in a random spot for a coffee with a view and met a very sweet host lady. Chatting to her was a pleasure that morning and I really wish I could remember where we found her!

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The journey was great and very scenic, so we were really disappointed to arrive at our destination so quick. We stayed in Black Lava hostel between Mount Batur and Lake Batur, which was a beautiful and relaxing spot.

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The hostel also arranged a guide for us for our hike next morning. You can’t do the sunrise hike without one and I wouldn’t recommend trying since you’ll be stopped on the way by one of the many locals hanging out on the hill at night (I know, sounds creepy!).

Anyway, we had some time to kill until our hike so decided to go to the village nearby to grab some food. We ordered a lot of fish and I had an unfortunate incident with the fish bone. I choked on one and it hurt my throat so bad that I could feel it for the next couple of days.

I was a bit traumatized so we decided to go back to Black Lava, which was a great decision.

The accommodation was superb – beautiful huts with hammocks and they also had an amazing hot spring pool. I have to say that sitting in the pool during the day was a bit too hot, but it was such a treat at night when the temperature dropped (and it dropped a lot!)’

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Oh and for the first time, I saw how pineapples grow! I spotted one on the path to our hut and I could not be more excited. All these first times!

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We tried to get a few hours of sleep before the 3am start. When the alarm rang I just wanted to stay in bed, but eventually managed to get out and I have to say it was worth it.

We met our guide (who turned out to be a good storyteller and an amazing photographer) and three of us set out in the dark. There were loads of people going up (judging from the amount of head torches) and it felt like everyone was quite excited about it. We soon were asked whether we wanted to take a hard or an easy path and of course we picked the easy one not realising that it was used by the motorbikes to get the lazy people up the hill. It was a bit of the shame that those motorbikes were allowed to go up and we later learned that the path was built for them a few months ago. Every time the bike went past, it would leave a cloud of dust for you to breathe. Not exactly an exciting experience, but the hike was over in no time and we arrived to the top just in time for a sunrise.

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It really was spectacular. The colours were changing fast and with the smoke coming out from the ground (hey it’s an active volcano!), it felt quite a surreal. It was freezing and I didn’t I have enough layers on me, so had to jump around to warm up. We then had a breakfast with a coffee while enjoying the views. Once the sun went a bit higher, it got hot pretty quick and I had start losing some layers. Loads of people started leaving and the magic was over.

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It was a nice and quick walk down and we got served some nice breakfast at Black Lava hostel. We couldn’t fall asleep after breakfast so decided to pack up and head to our next destination – Amed coast. We took a shortcut and I can say that it was the most stressful ride I ever did on the scooter and I nearly ran over a local lady! I’ll tell you more in the next post… 🙂

Adventures in Iceland

Two hours after I landed in Iceland I was swimming in the Blue Lagoon not able to believe how amazing the place was. I never imagined that anything like that existed in real life.OK I’ve seen the photos before, but it still felt so surreal to be there. Swimming outdoors in -5C and not feeling cold was awesome.

Once we got out of the blue lagoon, there was still quite a few miles to cover to get to our hotel in Selfoss and we were rushing to make it before check in closed. We were sitting in the car and talking about the northern lights when some weird ‘clouds’ appeared. We stopped the car and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to spot the aurora! The northern lights weren’t extremely bright, but they were there. It was my first time seeing them and I was jumping around like a little girl from all the excitement. Didn’t take very good photos but that doesn’t matter anyway!

The next day we got up early and went to do a Golden Circle. The first stop was Kerið crater lake that did look quite interesting but nothing too exciting for the money we had to pay.

Then we got to Geysir which is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The land all over the place was steaming and the actual geyser was so mesmerising that I watched it going several times before I agreed to leave. So much power!

The next stop was Gulfoss which is one of the greatest waterfalls I’ve ever been to. No matter how cold it was, watching and listening to that waterfall was an absolutely amazing experience. It’s so relaxing and beautiful even if you can’t see all of that in the photo.

There was a lot of driving involved that day and we eventually got to Þingvellir National Park which would probably be your first stop if you did the Golden Circle from Reykjavik. This national park is Iceland’s first of the three and also a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s situated directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates which makes the place really special.

When we got back to Selfoss, northern lights hunt continued. Driving around and looking for northern lights kind of became a habit every night which was also great for another reason – kept alcohol costs to zero.

My favourite thing in Iceland was Reykjadalur hot springs. You have to drive to Hveragerði and then hike for about an hour through the hills until you see the steam coming out from the ground. You have to continue further down until the river appears and you can pick a spot you like to chill for the next few hours or so.

The hardest bit is taking your clothes off and jumping in. Would also advise to leave your stuff further away from the river since all the steam gets your clothes wet! Also trying to dress yourself after chilling in the river is quite a challenge since the river banks are muddy and if you try to stand in the snow you get cold quickly. But it’s totally worth it!

The next day we were heading to see one of the glaciers (won’t even try to spell it) in the south of Iceland. We stopped to look at Skogafoss waterfall which is extremely cool with all the rainbows, but quite touristy due to the fact it’s so close to the road.

The walk on the glacier was cool, we had ice grippers and didn’t go too far so that was safe enough to do it without a guide and save loads of money. It was extremely windy so there was loads of volcanic ash in the air (black stuff in the photos below).

After the glacier we headed towards the beautiful Reynisfjara black sand beach and if you are crazy about geology, there are some really cool basalt columns to check out in that part of the world. I love contrasts and Reynisfjara in March was a perfect place for seeing contracts in nature.

Our hotel that night was close to Seljavallalaug swimming pool, which is probably awesome in summer but a bit too cold for March. It was fun to check it out anyway.

On the final day we headed to Reykjavik and stopped at Seljalandsfoss waterfall which is also extremely accessible.

Once we reached Reykjavik, I enjoyed walking around, exploring little streets, beautiful Harpa building and the famous church. I even tried the whale steak even if I know a lot of people would disapprove this. It was delicious by the way.

Iceland will always be a place where I want to go back and I’m sure I will return one day to do some hiking.

Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek in Himalayas

It’s been so long since I came back from Nepal that the whole journey now almost feels surreal, but a little scar on my wrist will always remind me that the trip really happened.

Trekking was not on my to do list before I left for Nepal. I didn’t have too much time and the monsoon season helped me to make up my mind. However, I was sitting in a cafe, listening to one of the volunteers talking about their trekking experience and I realised I can’t miss it while I’m in Nepal.

My boyfriend at a time, had a professor who was always going to Nepal for trekking holidays so he was able to recommend a guide. I wouldn’t worry about arranging the guide before coming to Nepal – there are always plenty who are eager to get out to the mountains and it’s cheaper to arrange something from Pokhara (if you’re doing a trek in Annapurna Himalaya range). The trek I did was called Ghorepani Poon Hill trek and it normally takes 5 days to complete. You can easily do it without a guide and it will save you a bit of money, but being alone and not having a chance to do a proper research,  I decided to go with a guide.

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I met my guide Palu in Pokhara a day before the hike for some tea. Palu was over 40 and didn’t look like a super fit guy from the first sight, but he seemed like a nice person so I thought let’s do this. It did later turn out that I was much fitter than him (something to consider if you’re impatient like me), but he had a big heart and kept repeating that he was the luckiest man in the world to be able to do the job he loves.

We started from the village called Nayapul early next day. The path was passing through beautiful forests and some tiny colourful villages. There were plenty of tea houses to stop at, rest and have some food. The whole trek that day lasted about 5 hours after which we stopped in one of the villages along the road.

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The second day was pretty much the same, but the path got steeper. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t find it too challenging. We settled in Ghorephani for the night, hoping to get to the Poon Hill in the morning. Unfortunately, the clouds were rolling low and when I woke up the next morning it was raining. There was no point in going to the Poon hill viewpoint. We continued towards Gandruk, even though the weather wasn’t great. Oh well, it was a gamble to go trekking in a rainy season.

We didn’t reach Gandruk that day (just weren’t rushing anywhere and the weather wasn’t great) and decided to stay in a place with the total of three houses. There were only two people in the village, a couple who got married when the guy was 13 and a lady who was then 20. We were chatting about life in the mountains and emigration, since the man spent a few years working abroad (very common story for loads of Nepalese families). The also showed and explained to me how they make their local alcohol Raksi, which I even got to try.

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When trekking you get used to getting up early and sometimes it really pays off. Happened to me on the 4th day of the trek when I got to see bits of the snowy peaks hanging between the clouds. I could only see small patches but got really excited since it was the first day I could actually see something. Other days were just all about walking through the beautiful forests and villages. That’s when I slipped, fell and got injured my wrist badly enough for it to scar. No regrets, life felt pretty amazing that morning.

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We got to Gandruk and spent a bit of time exploring this beautiful village. There were some really steep sections down and up that day and got caught in a strong rain, but I was quite happy to be out in the mountains and got to eat probably the nicest dhal bhat in Nepal, so the challenges didn’t matter too much. We stopped in a random village along the way for the night. There were loads of tiny clouds hanging around the mountains and I was excited to be going to bed after seeing that view.

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I woke up early again (4.30am or so) the next morning and realised that the clouds lifted! They were moving away and finally the first time in five days I could see one of the peaks! It was magical. I was extremely happy and struggled to walk away from that view. Later in the morning the clouds took away the beauty again.

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So five days later, the trek was over and I said bye to Palu. I think I got lucky, because during the rainy season it’s really hard to see anything, so I expected nothing at all, but got rewarded with some stunning views. It was amazing to be out walking for five days, walk past these beautiful villages, eat really tasty dhal bhat and try out my poor Nepalese with the locals. It was good to go with a guide, because he arranged all the accommodation and permits etc. and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It wasn’t a popular time of the year to go trekking so the mountains were quiet and I absolutely loved the time I could spend with my thoughts or listening to Palu’s stories. The only major downside were the leeches – they were bad, hanging on the grass, jumping on you as soon as you stopped and sucking the blood like there was no tomorrow. Not going into details on that, but having a guide who is slower than you plus the leeches who can’t wait to get on you, is a bad combo.

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I just want to finish with something positive – if you get a chance to go trekking in Himalayas, then go! No matter what time of the year it is, you will find beauty, freedom and loads of smiles along the way and it will be an experience of a lifetime 🙂

Hiking in Mallorca

When I told some of my friends I was going to do some hiking in Mallorca almost every single one of them looked at me strangely, some of them asked if it is possible to go hiking there in the first place, some of them thought that was the new way to call “drinking” and even after my explanation that Mallorca was perfect for hiking nobody seemed to believe me.

While two thirds of the plane probably didn’t make it further than El Arenal (Party area in Mallorca), we tried to be a bit more adventurous. We spent the first night in Palma, took some photos of their amazing cathedral and had the best paella ever (no photos as it was too good)!

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The first destination on the list was Banyalbufar. It is a small picturesque village on the west coast less than an hour drive from Palma. It’s popular among hikers and wine lovers – Banyalbufar is famous for its Malvasia wine.

After some stressful parking experience (the streets in the village are really narrow!), we started our hike to Port des Canonge. It was a nice, though not really challenging hike. The path was going through the forest and you could enjoy the views of the sea. We ended up in a stony beach and had a nice lunch in the sun.

 

We left Banyalbufar in the late afternoon and headed towards Port de Soller. The town was really pretty and we got a hotel just at the beach. Having breakfast outside in front of the beach every morning, enjoying the sun, was probably one of my favourite things to do.

Port de Soller also has a tram which is over a 100 years old! I saw it a few times, but didn’t get a chance to take a photo. It looked really cool though 🙂

The second day we decided to drive to Port de Sa Calobra – the town famous for its beach. The drive there was an absolute pleasure. The road was zigzagging through the mountains and the views were terrific.

The place was nice, but the beach was a bit of the disappointment, as I imagined it to be much bigger.

However, we were not really beach type of people anyway, thus we decided to do a Torrent de Pareis hike which started at the same place. Well, if you imagine it is some ordinary hike then you are completely wrong. It is said to be one of the most impressive gorge walks in Mediterranean. I kind of knew what to expect, however I got more than I could ever want from a hike and the canyon was a real pleasant surprise. The hike was mostly jumping and climbing from one rock to the other and it was extremely fulfilling. We only did a part of the hike and only the “easy” bit, but it was still a great fun. If you want a full experience of Torrent de Pareis – start from Escorca and finish at Sa Calobra.

 

The third and the last hike that we did was around Valldemossa. We started in this little town and walked a nice circle on some mountain peaks. The views were absolutely amazing and the later it got, the less people we saw on the way. It was so nice and peaceful and it was great to enjoy the silence.

It was hard to leave Mallorca. The weather was really nice all the time and we still felt like we did not manage to do a lot of things we planned. The dinners we had all the evening were absolutely amazing as well – fresh seafood, nice tapas and some quality local wine, so it was hard to come back to chips, haggis and irn bru. Will go back! 😉

Cairngorms National Park

I feel like I’m repeating myself, but I’ll say it: Scotland always surprises me! Especially when I get lucky with the weather. Last summer my parents came for my graduation and I decided that I had to take them somewhere else in Scotland, so they wouldn’t just spend an entire week in Edinburgh.

I’ve heard a lot of good about Cairngorms, so I thought it’d be a great place to go to. So we exchanged Edinburgh to Glenmore for a few days. We stayed in Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel and it was an absolutely perfect place! I added a photo below of the view from the bench near the hostel 🙂

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It turned out that Glenmore had everything we wanted for our holiday. There was plenty to do in the area. Loch Morlich and its beautiful beach were just a few hundred meters away from the hostel, so we spent a few afternoons just relaxing there.

We also visited Cairngorms Reindeer Center and got to play with the reindeers for a bit. They were super friendly!

Glenmore was also perfect for doing some active stuff – Cairngorm mountain is really close, so you can go hiking, or if you’re too lazy for that you could choose a funicular railway to get to the top.

There are plenty of walking trails in the forests around Glenmore as well (check out forestry commission maps).  You can also rent a bike and cycle around if you’re not too keen on walking. I would definitely recommend doing Ryvoan Trail. It’s quite challenging in some bits and it gets you to An Lochan Uaine (photo below). It’s such a beautiful and peaceful place!

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I was super glad we stayed in Glenmore. It’s small but there is plenty to do around. We also walked back to Aviemore to catch the bus back to Edinburgh and the forest path was really nice. Would definitely recommend to visit, just don’t forget the repellent spray or the midges will eat you! 🙂

The First Mountain Experience

The first time I decided to climb a mountain was couple of winters ago. I didn’t just choose the mountain, but I had to pick the highest one in Scotland – Ben Nevis. Well, having in mind that it was (almost) winter and I didn’t even know what to expect, I thought it was a decent challenge. I found a person who also loved adventures and a few days later we were in the train heading to Fort William.

It was a great time to get out of the city. The exams were coming, I was stressed and all of my friends were stressed, so I thought a wee distraction would be quite refreshing. The plan was to spend five days in the Ben Nevis Inn & Bunkhouse, do some studying for the exams, explore the area and reach the peak of Ben Nevis.

When we got there it turned out that the bunkhouse was in the middle of nowhere, barely even heated and with no internet. That was amazing! Well, it wasn’t extremely good for studying, but being in a complete silence and peace was so nice and refreshing. There was a restaurant upstairs which served amazing food, but it wasn’t cheap. Thus most of the evenings we spend drinking, eating and studying in the Weatherspoon’s in town. We had our bikes with us so it wasn’t a problem to get there.

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We didn’t tried to conquer Ben Nevis on the first day – the weather wasn’t the best and we decided to wait. Meanwhile, we were exploring the surrounding areas and took the train to Mallaig (yes, the same railway line as for Hogwarts Express). My friend used to work in Morar, which is just outside Mallaig, and she told me about the beautiful white sand beach there. We decided to cycle there and it was probably the first time in Scotland when going down the hill I had to pedal as hard as I could – that’s how strong the wind was. But it was worth it!

When the day came to try to reach the top I was super excited. We left early in the morning, as we didn’t want to be stuck on the mountain when it gets dark – days were so depressingly short… Anyway, I was almost running up the hill for the first couple of hours – that’s how excited I was. The path itself wasn’t really challenging and we were enjoying the walk. The weather was quite nice as well. But then everything started getting a bit more challenging. You could feel the temperature dropping and soon we saw the first snow. Our first snow that year! Yayyy!

Everything started becoming whiter and whiter and it felt so surreal. It seemed that nothing else excited, just this white wall with occasional piles of rocks. It’s hard to explain the feeling, especially if that’s your first time on the mountain. And it’s hard to explain that happiness when you reach the top. You don’t feel cold anymore and you can’t believe you are there as well. Of course we couldn’t see those beautiful views from the top that you get when you google Ben Nevis, as we were just standing in the cloud.

There was a little hut on the top and some ruins of previous observatory. Apparently before it was built a man called Clement Wragge volunteered to go up Ben Nevis every single day to collect meteorological data during the summer months in 1881. He continued his work for another couple of years afterwards. Imagine that! Climbing the mountain every day for a few months… We had our lunch in the little hut together with some other climbers. It was so nice to sit there, share food and the excitement of being on the top.

Getting down was relatively easy. At the very top we were sliding down on our bums, as it was easier and more fun than just walking. We were screaming something in Lithuanian and then from far away we heard “Labas” meaning hi. Well that was unexpected!

At some point getting down became quite a challenge: our the legs started shaking and we got really tired. I was extremely proud we managed to reach out goal and I guess proper clothing was the most important factor for the success.

The next day we spent cycling around the area. We covered quite a bit having in mind our sore muscles – a bit over 50km. But the places were just beautiful and worth every effort.

Well, overall, it was a good break before exams and it was a perfect way to recharge my battery. And I passed all the exams as well 🙂

I got to climb Ben Nevis again, a year and a half later, this time in summer. And you know what? Even though it was tough in winter it was so much worse in summer. It was raining so much that even the waterproofs gave up and there were too many people around… It was quite a nice warm summer day when we started, so loads of people were walking in shorts or jeans. That’s a mistake easy to make! In a cold wind and rain those people were freezing and it was disgusting to see their purple legs. Well, what I’m trying to say that the mountain is mysterious and you never know what to expect from it. Be prepared and enjoy 😉