Tag Archives: beach

A Bit More of Sydney Pt.2

Continued from Part 1

Vivid Sydney

IMG_20170527_202727The Vivid event takes over Sydney for a couple weeks each year, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the area at the time, it’s highly recommended. There’s lots of spots that join in, from huge projections on the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge through to a walk through of artistic visions through the botanic gardens. Some of it is better than others that for sure, the stuff in Circular Quay is very impressive, while some of the smaller exhibits are more suited to kids and families. IMG_20170526_200526Be aware that opening weekend is absolutely packed out and it’s very easy to lose your friends. One highlight is the water and light show in Darling Harbour. They project animations and scenes up on a wall of water sprayed up from the harbour accompanied by orchestral music building to an impressive crescendo.

Blue Mountains, Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls

IMG_20170529_150733While the Blue Mountains are certainly a touristy spot, they’re still worth a mention. Without a car, getting up here is a little limited, with only bus tours or the public train to choose from. The tours are fine, and with good guides most of them allow you to see the highlights including scenic world with it’s funicular railway, while the train will drop you off in Katoomba, close enough to the Three Sisters to walk, but not see much more.

With your own car you can head out and see a little more, and avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. The Three Sisters viewing point is huge, with multiple levels which means there are some quieter spots for those typical photos. It’s a reasonable walk down to cliff edge though, and with viewpoints along the way it’s easy to find a good spot away from the masses. There’s a lot of hikes in this area, and a few days up in the hills would be a good way to see a lot more. You can even walk across the bridgeway to the base of the first sister, although the visuals are somewhat reduced when you get close, as you can’t see the other sisters.

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Wentworth Falls is a short drive back towards Sydney and is well worth the stop. The right amount of infrastructure to point you in the right direction but not so much that it ruins the environment. The view points over-looking the falls are pretty impressive, but as the fall cascades down near the cliff edge theres a good spot to explore and find some interesting vistas. Just be cautious at dusk, again we found ourselves finding our way home in the dark.

Royal National Park, Bundeena, Wedding Cake Rock and Wattamolla Beach

IMG_20170531_122603This was probably my favourite location on the visit. We started our exploration of the RNP near the main road, a little lake spot which also has the info centre and a little cafe. We strolled about the lake and despite the road running through the middle found it charming and quiet, a huge departure from the Sydney traffic we’d come from. It was a good warm up for the rest of the day.

IMG_20170531_145849We stopped in Bundeena for lunch, wonderful fish and chips from a cute cafe in the town, still miles from the tourists and it really felt like the little local place it looked like. Just around the corner is the walk around to the cliffs, and along to Wedding Cake Rock. The walk along is well maintained, and plenty interesting by itself, a few dips down where brooks reached the ocean and plenty of overhanging rocks to get the adrenalin pumping. Wedding Cake rock is now protected by a large fence, enough to put off some, but it seemed as though most tourists were hopping over to get their snaps on the rock itself. We were told that they have plans to make a visitor centre for it, both to prevent accidents, but also to stop it from cracking and a falling into the sea. The rock itself is made of a beautiful white limestone, a relatively weak rock and the fence is there to stop erosion or an accident if the rock does break away. A visitor centre would probably ruin the area somewhat though and potentially reduce the amount of the visitors to the site. Perhaps with more information at the location fewer people would be willing to hop the fence. It’s an impressive rock, and certainly quite unusual but not in need of too much infrastructure.

The last stop of the day, and of the trip was the pinnacle. The simply gorgeous Wattamolla beach and headland. The beach itself is tiny, it’s more like a small cliff right into a meander of the river. About 5 metres high it’s perfect to dive from and catch some sun. While there’s the typical Aussie safety rail around the cliff it’s easy to hop over. There’s a few rocks below and a tiny beach/slipway to climb back up. The spot would be ideal with a group of friends, some food and a summer afternoon. If you follow the path around you’ll find yourself at the end of the headland, a rocky outcrop pointing out into the wild Pacific ocean. amazing views and almost total isolation, it was blissful to clamber around in such a location, and so close to Sydney city as well. If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d certainly make that spot one of my regular haunts.

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So, all the way across the planet to spend not even two weeks, but so much seen in such a short time, and so much more than most ever see in 5 times the time. Comparing to the first trip to Sydney it was a real eye-opener, there’s so much beauty surrounding the city that is missed by 90% of the tourists there. Even some locals don’t know about these spots, so please go explore!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Rhodes, Island of Castles Pt.2

So after a couple hectic days in Rhodes, I was ready for a couple more.

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img_20160829_114812380My hotel was definitely average, but nice and cheap, and provided a pretty decent breakfast. Enough to get me back on my quad and on the road again, this time heading south to the very end of the island. Prasonisi is an island connected by a huge sand bridge, which doubled as a huge beach area, popular with many water sports. The opposing directions of the two shore lines meant that one side was much choppier than the other, giving the myriad of kite surfers and windsurfers a nice progression on their door step. The island is bare except for a small lighthouse on the far side. The main path across is pretty busy with tourists, but it’s easy enough to stray around the outer paths and find some tranquility.

img_20160829_135549918_hdrAnother castle was next on the list, again free and pretty cool to explore. There’s no information, no security and no cleaning, so expect it rough and ready. Asklipeiou castle sits on a hill a few miles inland and commands an impressive view over the countryside. You can really get a feel of what it might have been like in the times it was built, with the Lords controlling the landscape from their fort, either protecting, or dominating the locals.

img_20160829_135631677_hdrRain stopped play when it came to exploring Vouno Kalathos, along with the complete lack of signs and infrastructure. It seemed like the kind of place you’d need to go with a local who can show you how to get down to the lake without too much diffeculty. Certainly google maps wasn’t going to suffice and the rain inland while riding a quad didn’t go so well. Heading back to the coast (and the sun) the southern peninsula was navigated to get around to Lindos.

img_20160829_161236896Lindos is the end of the tourist strip that stretches from Rhodes town along the south coast, and it shows. The prices for most things are almost double and every building is either a shop or a reastaurant, all cashing in on the locations popularity. A popularity derived entirely from the grand castle on the cliff. It’s an impressive building, far larger than the others but also the first to charge entry. Some serious reading up later we discovered that the inside was a recreation and had very little original on display, that along with the 12EUR price tag was enough to make it a no thanks.img_20160829_150012390The cliff path around the outside of the castle is one for those of sure footing only, and even then not recommended, steep drops and loose rocks made it very dangerous – although if you are going to adventure around, take your camera. The beaches nearby are crowded, but very picturesque, especially Agios Pavlos nestled into a secluded little bay, well protected from the sea, and ideal for swimming.

img_20160829_173428210With plenty more driving to do, the next target was the castle in the town with our accommodation, Archangelos. Again this castle was free, but un-cared for, and compared to the others was really unspectacular, just a simple fort not special. The town was split into two, the main part on the hill overlooking the coast, and the other at the bottom actually on the beach. The beach side was nicer than the touristy areas surrounding it, but still had a vibe of tackyness, there to make money out of the summer trade rather than a real town. Archangelos main town was the exact opposite, only ever driven through by tourists, and even then rarely. Which made food options a rather interesting choice. The room was basic but comfortable, and with the limited Wi-Fi the only restaurant nearby was Mamas Pizza. It turned out to be pretty good, and seriously good value as well.

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The last day involved a very early morning, the journey back to Rhodes Town, leaving at 6am to make it to the port for an 8.30am ferry to Kos. Driving along the bypasses of the party beaches, seeing the odd straggler still drunkenly fumbling their way home was a delightful distraction from the road, and it made us very glad to have not been spending any time on those tourist traps.

Overall Rhodes was very impressive, so many castles and interesting and beautiful sights to see if only you take the time to explore. If you’re there for a flop and drop beach holiday I can highly recommend renting a car (much more comfortable than a quad) for a day or two and having an adventure. Especially to Monolithos – that place is something truly sensational.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Rhodes, Islands of Castles Pt.1

Using a bit of time off from the Busabout Greek Island Hopper I visited Rhodes, one of the largest of the Greek islands, closer to the Turkish mainland than Greece but only a short (and cheap) flight away from Athens.

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I arrived in the morning, and immediately jumped on the bus into Rhodos, or Rhodes town. Not much to see out the windows but fairly average looking beaches, but once I hit the town thinks started to look up, it’s not hard to find the incredible old town here, it encompasses about 50% of the area. My hostel was only a short walk from the bus stop, but I got distracted by the nearby sights and started exploring.

img_20160827_111807627The old town is surrounded by Byzantine city walls, two layers of thick brick structure used to defend the town throughout various periods, through the Christian Crusades and Turkish Invasion as well as during the time it was built. Inside the walls is a maze of alleyways, blissfully free of cars and surprisingly few nagging salesmen desperate to have you look at their wares. It’s clean and tidy, while still holding it’s ancient stylings. The Road of Knights is a popular stop, the curving street that arcs gently up to the Grand Masters Palace.img_20160827_114452347_hdr My highlight inside was the Roloi Tower, for 5EUR you can climb inside, and you get a drink included as well, I think it’s a rather hopeful attempt to encourage people to use their bar, but it’s not a bad place at all, and the tower offers some great views of the city.

img_20160827_124425180Surrounding the central section, between the two walls is the Tavros, the moat that attackers would have had to climb into before reaching the main castle walls. It’s impossible to imagine the loss of life in that huge manmade canyon, but taking a walk through is both poignant and beautiful. It’s possible to walk the entire length, or just parts of it, and it’s well worth doing. Surprisingly quiet despite between sandwiched between the two parts of the city.

img_20160827_161144616Mandraki Port is worth walking through, further fortifications can be found here and explored for free, but also the port entrance has some nice statues framing it which make for a good snap. From there you can explore around the sea front to the beaches. While I was there I found that the wind was blowing from the north, making the southern beaches much more pleasant. On the North-Eastern tip of the island is the Aquarium, fairly highly rated, but not on my list of things to do.

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After dropping my bags at the very pleasant STAY hostel, I decided to make the trip up to the acropolis. It’s clear when you get there why it’s not as famous as the one in Athens.img_20160827_170444189The stadium is impressive, but the temple is all but gone, with just four pillars remaining along with a lot of scaffolding. Perhaps in a couple years when whatever work they’re doing is complete it’ll look a little better, but for now it’s not worth the walk up the hill.

I enjoyed a nice evening at the hostel, they hosted a Greek night, which was a little redundant for me having been in Greece for the last couple of months, but it was good to meet some fellow travellers and experience the whole backpacker vibe again properly. The hosts certainly did a good job and provided plenty of food.

img_20160828_104718076Day two involved jumping on my rented quad and heading out for the first of my many pinpoints along the North coast of the island. Filerimos was the first stop, a monastery at the top of a hill overlooking the coastline, and plenty of the inland as well. A huge cross was accessible for free, and making an impressive photo point, but was also placed at a great lookout.img_20160828_105055829_hdrWorth the drive up for that alone, but for only 6EUR I entered the Monastery site as well. Relatively small, and clearly not used any more the Monastery was pretty, but not overwhelming, however on the far side was another Byzantine remnant, a small fort built up on one of the higher cliff faces. Again, great views from here, and some interesting architecture but nothing that would blow your mind.

img_20160828_135002542Next location was a little more inland, and as it was through a valley I decided to take the scenic route, heading further south and nipping up to it. The Valley of Butterflies can be entered from a couple of places, I would recommend starting at the bottom so it’s downhill on the way home, of course I started at the top and had a long climb to get back to my vehicle. The Valley was 5EUR entry, but is very peaceful once you enter, the path winds it’s way down through the lush forest, although it may take a little while to realise why it has it’s name. There’s only the one type of butterfly in there, however once you spot one, you’ll recognise it’s camouflage and start to see them everywhere. They rest on the floor and on trees, and blend in so well with the dirt and bark.

img_20160828_134807389It creates quite a lovely atmosphere with so many of them flying past here and there, and the occasion mass movement from a hideyhole where they explode like a slow-mo party popper. There are some spots which were really overwhelmed with the creatures, trees and rocks covered so thickly that you couldn’t see what the bugs were sitting on. There is a little stream that flows through the valley as well, and in a couple spots where it was more rock than mud, you can spot some fresh water crabs, standing is still as possible, clearly waiting for the chance to snatch a butterfly from the air. I watched for a little while, but of the five crabs I could see, not one even moved, let alone caught some food.img_20160828_141436419_hdrAt the main entrance is a little cafe and info booth, although there’s really not much info there at all, and if you continue further down it’s much of the same, with less people. The walkways are well built and family friendly, although I wouldn’t trust someone too old to make the walk back up.

img_20160828_153804383Kameiros was everything that I had wanted from the acropolis but hadn’t got. The site was large, well presented and showed a settlement of impressive size that provided remarkable facilities to it’s residents considering the age of the place. Fresh running water was provided to all homes, and a clear hierarchy within the town is still visible, with the larger richer houses along what would have been the main roads, while others were tucked behind.img_20160828_155216443_hdrIt’s fascinating to walk through homes so old and to really begin to understand the lives of these people. The remains of the temple at the bottom of the hill was a centre point for the town, while a second at the top added another altar. It’s possible to note the era that certain parts were built, and to explore the baths that used to running water, along with a surprisingly technical series of pipes to provide hot water and steam to cleanse the locals.

img_20160828_170751927_hdrNext up was the first of the little castles I was due to visit over the next few days. With a pleasant cafe, and a well kept path leading in, Kritinia was one of the more complete structures. Most of the main walls were standing, but a few collapses had been tidied up and made safe, without any major reconstruction work spoiling the aesthetic. The views from here were amazing, many an instagram photo to boost the likes and gain a few extra follows as you gaze out over the winding coastline and the distant islands fading into the mists.

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img_20160828_184758730_hdrThe last stop for the day, after dropping my bag and quad off at the hotel was the castle of Monolithos. Not much of a castle, but it makes up for it with it’s location, perched on a cliff with sheer drops on three sides. Only accessible through a short path up from the road, which locals and tourists alike have decorated with hundreds of small cairns, piles of rocks built from the loose stone all around. Makes for a rather pretty walk through, and then on reaching the pinnacle there were many many more. The location reminded me stronger of the monasteries at Meteora, although this just had a small church and some fortified walls which were well crumbled away. The best thing about it, as the point on the north west of the island, was the sunset. I reached there with about half an hour to spare so had enough time to explore and snap away, then as the sun actually set just sit and appreciate the pure beauty of it all. The colours in the sky, and the fact that the sun was setting over pure ocean (something that Santorini can’t claim) along with the incredible setting made it an excellent end to a busy day.

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Festival Season Pt.2 Music Festivals in Spain – BBK and Benicassim

It’s a bit lazy of me to roll both these in together, but for every difference, there’s a similarity. While BBK is in the town of Bilbao in the north of Spain, and Benicassim (or FIB as it’s known officially and by locals) is in Benicassim on the south coast both run with a similar attitude of easy going enjoyment of music, a relaxed atmosphere and late nights.

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img_20160707_222802619I’m not talking late nights like British or Australian festivals where the headliner will wrap up around midnight or 1am, after which the noise curfew kicks in and it all goes quiet, I’m talking headliners starting after 2am, and the music going through until 6. It actually makes for an interestingly diverse event, with more of the bands playing before midnight and the DJs on afterwards, so while the headliners are the peak, it doesn’t drop off instantly leaving several thousand pumped up (and drunk) festival goers with nowhere to go. Instead those that have reached their limit can head to bed, while those who are just getting started have plenty of time to blow off their steam.

img_20160708_213713054_hdrBBK, up in the hills above Bilbao focuses more on the indie rock for it’s main headliners, and this year hosted some great acts including, Foals, The Pixies, Editors, Aussie favourites Tame Impala, New Order and plenty more. Quite a small arena with two main stages which alternated acts meant it was easy to catch all the big names, while a third ‘band’ stage had a few more obscure acts and the forest hosted trance DJs late into the wee hours. The setting is very cool, the top of the hill, overlooking the city, with rocky outcrops and patches of woodlandOver the course of three days I saw a good few bands, highlights certainly were Foals, and the newly popular punk band Slaves, impressive performances from The Pixies, Hot Chip and Arcade Fire as well.

img_20160716_244919273Bilbao town has one major attraction, the Guggenheim museum. A spectacle from inside and out, it is a masterpiece of modern architecture, covered in shiny titanium tiles it gleams in the sun. The collection of artwork inside is very impressive as well, having been made available to view for the public by Peggy Guggenheim, the heiress that had received the vast collection, so much artwork there are several Guggenheim museums around the world. That’s not all there is though, a fascinating old building has been converted to contain three, free standing modern buildings on pillars, but that’s not all, there’s a swimming pool on the roof, with a glass bottom. So while you’re wandering through the main hall you may notice some odd shaded shadows drifting by. The old city offers some lovely walks, and probably the best food in the city, with pintxos on offer in every other building. There’s a great park there as well, on the side of the hill, a good climb, although I wouldn’t recommend it at the peak of the midday heat. The city has just enough to keep you interested during the day, if you’re not too busy sleeping off the previous nights fun.

img_20160714_200223343Benicassim, a lot warmer, and in tents rather than the comfort of a hostel, meant this felt more like the kind of festival I was used to. The hard dusty ground made me very grateful for Busabouts air mattresses, if only there was a way to install A/C in a tent. The festival was a full 4 days and I had arrived a couple days early to set up and prepare, so I knew the area reasonably well. The old town provided us with excellent tapas restaurants, while a waterpark and the beach nearby meant there was plenty to do during the day. The arena was about twice the size of BBK, but it was nice to see some of the same food trucks there, Spain certainly does good festival food, with a range of options, including asian, mexican and argentinian cuisine, there was even an Aussie place, for all those odd things that Australians never actually eat.

img_20160716_124643118_hdrThe layout of stages meant there was no noise pollution and it was never more than a few minutes to where you needed to be. Some big names performed, the biggest was of course Muse on the Saturday night. For them the crowd was huge, with the arena completely sold out, and plenty people around the outskirts, outside the fence listening in as well. There were plenty more though, Kendrick Lamar, Biffy Clyro, Massive Attack to name a few. It was some of the smaller acts that really impressed me though, the surf/punk/rock FIDLAR really appealed to me giving me the kick I love about music, Rat Boy from the UK were highly entertaining, with a very drunk frontman rap/rambling his way through lively indie rock tunes, but it was Reykjavikurdaetur who put on the most memorable set.img_20160717_201025974With completely incomprehensible songs (my Icelandic is lacking), supposedly about heartbreak, love and feminist freedom the 15 member strong, all female rap troupe ruled the stage with quirky hip-hop tunes and a healthy sprinkling of nudity.

Both festivals were amazing experiences, similar, but different as I said before. If you’re a fan of music and want to experience something truly cultural, you wouldn’t be far wrong from heading to these festivals, especially when Busabout makes it so easy for you.

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Aegina – Quiet Greek Island

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This island sits only a short ferry from Athens, and if you’re looking for a break from the big city, you’ll struggle to find a better destination for a couple days.

IMG_20160802_142624229IMG_20160802_144524691I decided to explore the island after a shining recommendation from a friend, and I’m grateful for it. It’s easy to get to from Piraeus (Athens main port) with the fast hydrofoil ferry (16EUR each way, 20mins) or the slow one (12EUR return, 1hr30mins) leaving approximately hourly. Once on the island I found myself a nice lunch – there’s some great places just one street back from the seafront that are excellent value. You must try a Aegina Salad, similar to a Greek one, but with pistachios, the islands speciality crop.

With a full belly I set out to explore, renting a moped from one of the only two places in town I took the coastal road around to the north side, dipping through pretty little harbour towns, past stunning quiet beaches and over gorgeous headlands. The breeze thanks to the bike kept me cool, although I was on and off the bike plenty of times, grabbing some snaps or just having a quick stroll through a village.IMG_20160803_120258065There are a few points well worth investigating while on Aegina, a collection of old churches scattered on a hillside overlooking the main valley in the centre of the island, but when scaled to the top offers views down to the northern shores as well. Despite the heat the climb wasn’t hard, and gave me the adventurous kick I love so much. Each church had recent dedications, although as I reached higher it was clear that people preferred the lower ones for their visits, not wanting to over exert themselves.

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Next on the list, and only a minute down the hill is the Monastery and Cathedral, while the monastery is a rather sensible settlement, the cathedral is quite impressive, with a large dome framed on either side by impressive towers. The eastern influence is truly apparent with the architecture in these holy buildings XXXX. My last stop before I found my accommodation was the ancient site of the Temple of Apollo. A decent amount still remains, with enough ruined that it looks well used as well. The majority of the coloumbs are still standing, along with much of the roof structure. You can see where much of the base structure was built, and the useful signage means it’s possible to build up a pretty decent picture of what it would looked like when still functional

IMG_20160802_202921184_HDRI was staying in the town of Aegina Marina, on the eastern side of the island. Usually I don’t name the hostel/hotel I stay in, but the lady that runs the Flora Rooms was so lovely they deserve a mention. A top floor room with good views of the bay, plus homemade lemonade and cookies on arrival made me feel very welcome indeed. The village is rather basic, mostly tourist restaurants and shops, but nothing here was overly expensive. The vibe was more family friendly than the better known islands further south, no late bars, and certainly no clubs in that part of the island. I asked about a good place to watch the sun set, but the only option was to drive back to the main town (the big city as the Marina locals call it). But after some research I found that the highest mountain on the island was climbable, and would take about a half hour from the base, which was a half hour drive away. I had nearly two hours until sunset, so after a quick shower I got a shuffle on and headed south.

IMG_20160802_200355822Google estimated a 30min drive, but I feel Googles vehicle is not an underpowered, elderly moped, so I arrived with barely 25mins to make the climb. The way was rocky for sure, loose pebbles, shingle but nothing too steep. I hustled up as fast as I could, soon making my shower somewhat redundant thanks to the sheer amount of sweat I shed. I climbed, constantly watching the worlds finest countdown over my shoulder, hoping that I would make it to the top in time. 14 minutes after I started on the trail, I reached the summit.IMG_20160802_144524691That gave me nearly 10 mins to grab as many snaps as I could, and enjoy the view in all directions. It was a glorious sunset, made so much better by my solitary climb, I savoured it as long as I could, but knew it would start getting dark soon, so had to make my way back down again. Biking back home with two headlights pointing way out to the sides is definitely not recommended, but finding an appropriate challenge and completing it is the most rewarded experience I know.

IMG_20160802_160553183I congratulated myself with fresh swordfish steak at one of the restaurants opposite my hotel, not worrying about eating alone, surrounded by families and couples. Retiring to my room, I slept very soundly that night.

IMG_20160803_121847563The next day I set off to explore the little island off the southwestern corner, Moni. Checking out early I said goodbye and hit the road over to Aegina town, before cutting off down to Perika. I found a nice spot for breakfast as I’d heard the beach bar on Moni was somewhat overpriced – although this isn’t surprising as the island is totally uninhabited. The beach you arrive into is busy with tourists, with plenty boats in the bay, but it’s not hard to get away from them all. 5 minutes away is beach after beach, untouched and unpopulated, perfect for a truly relaxing experience on the island.IMG_20160803_122944581Moni is an uninhabited island, but there are some local residents worth finding. Peacocks and deer both thrive, but the peacocks are certainly much easier to find. The slopes near the main beach is full of them, scratching and pecking at the dirt to find food. It seemed likely that they’d be having a feast once the last of the people had left, hoovering up all the leftovers and dropped crumbs. I didn’t see any deer, but I hope to head back one night and camp out, hopefully then we can see a little more, and maybe climb the mountain there as well.

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Back from Moni it was a simple case of finding some lunch, returning the ped and jumping back on the ferry home. Two islands, well explored and I was ready to face the city again.

Cambodia Pt4: Sihanoukville Pt1

On to Sihanoukville, another bus, but clearly not a bad one as I remember nothing of it.

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DCIM100GOPROI did leave Jess behind here, but was re-united with Nico who I’d travelled Laos with and a few old good friends. The first place in Sin-Ville, as it’s jokingly known as, we stayed was possibly the cheapest hostel I’d been to, but it was understandably cheap, thin mattresses on big shelves with plenty of other people, no locks if there was even a door, nights spent cuddling your bag and sweating. Still at only $2 a night, it was almost ok to wait an hour for one of the two showers to come free. Don’r recall the name, but it’s right on the inside of the main corner in town.

DCIM100GOPROWe were only there a short while though, quickly heading over to Koh Rong Samloem for a full moon party. Not quite the scale of the Thai version, but the island had a little restaurant and plenty of friendly people on it. It would have been nicer without the lengthy boat ride either way, I did feel bad for all those suffering with hangovers on the way home. Back on the mainland we moved over to Led Zephyr for nicer rooms and a better bar. Much the same as the Thai equivalent Sihanoukville has it’s share of awful bars, promo girls and guys, buckets of dubious quality, hookers and crime. If you stay away from the main beach it’s generally pretty pleasant, but the sea front is pretty nasty. Away from the touristy beach the main town has a nice ex-pat community, often happy to have a chat with some snails (backpackers) the newly-locals share some wisdom and give some good tips on where to go for some incredible western food. The first roast dinner in a long time, and very nice it was.

A few days there and it was time to jump over to Koh Rong, an island of note for three reasons;

  1. Everybody smokes weed, all the time
  2. The whole island runs on one generator, so when it’s out, the island shuts down
  3. One of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen

DCIM100GOPROThe main strip is a hive of ramshackle bamboo buildings, constantly extended to cater for more and more backpackers. Getting a room is tricky as their booking systems tend to be ‘first come first served’ and as the residents wake up before the boat arrives it can be a nightmare to find the few newly located rooms before anyone else does. Once there though, you can spread out a bit, find a place you really like and either explore, or get high. Unfortunately most of the tourists seems to stick with the latter, but if you’re willing to avoid that and explore, there’s the popular and stunning beach on the other side of the island, but even more than that every section of coast is beautiful and often avoiding the two hotspots mean you’ll find somewhere even nicer. There’s plenty of trails through the forest to check out as well.

To be continued…

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Why Cambodia is our Favourite SE Asia destination

Cambodia is an amazing country surrounded by amazing countries. But what makes it our favourite?

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Simply, it’s the balance of tourism, temples, history, beaches, exploration and pure unspoiled natural beauty.

DCIM100GOPROIt has something to offer for a lot of people, with Siem Reap and Phnom Penh drawing in huge crowds for the epic temples and incredible history, the southern beaches offering late nights and lazy days for the party crowd and islands, mountains, rivers and more to be explored, the variety satisfies all tastes and allows longer term visitors enough variation to stay interested. Continue reading Why Cambodia is our Favourite SE Asia destination

Constantine and Treyarnon Bay

Cornwall is full of pretty little beaches and coves, Constantine and Treyarnon offer some nice walks for those not wanting too much.

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IMG_20150206_151951There’s a little place to park around at Constantine, a beach which is popular with surfers throughout the county (on the days when the waves are rolling in the right way of course) and one that avoids the big crowds in summer, mostly due to a total lack of parking. It’s a good sized beach with plenty of sand, although the rocks further out make learning to surf, or venturing out if you’re not too confident a bad idea. In winter the sand is deserted, while the sea has just a couple brave souls risking the chill to find some good swell.

IMG_20150206_153101Heading around the headland to the West you can reach Treyarnon bay, a narrower beach, but one more popular with the tourists. The walk along the headland is not challenging or high, making it suitable for all family members, but it does offer plenty of rocks down at the waters edge for the younger generations to clamber over. Treyarnon offers more in the way of services in the summer, drawing many more tourists in, although at this time of year there isn’t much sign of life. The local YHA offers some good winter deals, and is a great spot to stay in for anyone looking for a cheaper, more sociable option, and it’s proximity to the beach is a definite plus.

IMG_20150206_152505There’s a lot of walks to choose in Cornwall, and you can’t go too wrong with any of them. This short walk is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon in the county getting a taste of that sea air everyone says is so good for you.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Cornwall – Treen to Penberth to Porthcurno ft: The Minack Theatre

A somewhat more challenging walk than the previous excursion is the loop from the hamlet of Treen on the hill between two valleys and the beaches at the bottom of those valleys: Penberth and Porthcurno

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IMG_20150208_120602The walk starts off across typical hilly Cornish countryside down into the valley, then alongside the stream that leads out to the small fishing town of Penberth. A pretty town, where the newer houses have been kept in keeping with the style of the older original buildings. The beach is pretty but somewhat rocky, not good for a swim, but the slipway opens the transition between land a sea, with an old winch still used to pull the fishing boats ashore. There’s still a healthy trade going from this village, with line caught mackerel being the most popular catch, and fetching a good price for it’s ecological benefits along with the prestige of Cornish fishing.
IMG_20150208_124650The walk up the cliffs from here is a bit steep, but is the hardest section of the day, and looking back into the cove offers some lovely views of the uniquely rocky cliffs and the town nestled between them. Along the top of the cliffs the views out to sea are impressive. In places along this route there are areas grazed by dartmoor wild ponies which can be fun to spot. It’s important not to feed these animals as they’ve been introduced to help the environment recover. They are friendly creatures, but try not to pet them, as they are wild and may not be completely safe.

IMG_20150208_121215As you work towards Porthcurno you’ll pass the headland which is home to Logan Rock. The story is that two sailors decided to push this loose rock off the cliff, only to be caught and forced to take it back up. If you climb up to where the rock is sat you can see the holes they made to insert wooden bars to help them lift the stone back into position. The climb up there is not part of the walk, but is a great little detour that doesn’t take too long although the rocky bit can be a challenge to climb up.

IMG_20150208_122942From the headland you can see down into Pedn Vounder, a stunning bay with huge stretches of sand. The way the cliffs and sand banks lie mean that at high-tide the water is still very shallow, turning the deep blue ocean to a gorgeous turquoise to rival the Mediterranean. This beach is usually quite quiet for a couple reasons, the walk to it is fairly steep and tricky, certainly not suitable for young kids and due to the lie of the sand it’s easy to get trapped by an incoming tide. Thanks to this it’s made the beach a bit of an unofficial nudist hotspot. While it’s easy to see down into the bay access is tricky enough to put off most, and the distance between the cliff tops and the beach is enough to prevent any embarrassment. There weren’t any naked people out when I walked past, but given the cold February air, I wasn’t surprised. it also meant my photos were unspoilt by anyone in the bay at all.

IMG_20150208_125134From there it’s a short walk around the next head and down into Porthcurno. Another small town, but one with a lot more significance than most in Cornwall for two reasons. Porthcurno is the beach where the telegraph cables arrived in the UK. The telegraph network allowed messages to be sent trans-continentally within just a few days, rather than the weeks it took previously. The old method was simple mail, sent across on ships, but these cables stretched across the atlantic to improve communication between the colonies and London. There is a Museum a little further up the valley, but by the beach is the hut into which the cables ran, you can still look inside and see the various sources of the communications, some direct, and others via relay stations in friendly nations.

IMG_20150208_140322The second is the world famous Minack Theatre, a spectacular stage and auditorium built into the cliffs, just visible from the beach. With the Atlantic as it’s backdrop, plays held here are impressive affairs, and while there are risks of numb bums and some rather damp shows (weather depending) the show will go on. The season starts in mid-Spring, through into Autumn, to make the most use of the daylight hours. With the brisk air, you’d have to be a very enthusiastic fan to want to sit in the freezing cold of winter with the wind across those cliffs. It’s an amazing place, even just for a visit, and the matinee shows are as popular as the evening as fans enjoy the summer sun.

IMG_20150208_141205The town has a bit more to offer than just the Museum and Theatre, with a few good restaurants, boasting some excellent local fish dishes. It’s a pretty village as well, and a walk through is not unpleasant, however it does get rather busy in summer as the holiday lets and hotels fill up, and even more people come down to check out the sand.

Our walk took us up the cliffs beside the Minack and onto the headland, from where we walked inland and across the flatter land. Farmers fields and backcountry roads led the way back to Treen and home.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Cornwall – St Agnes

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IMG_20141227_144702St Anges is a hidden little treat of Cornwall. It hides away just 20 minutes from Truro, mostly eclipsed by it’s neighbour Perranporth, which leaves it naturally developed and beautiful and feeling like a true Cornish town, and not a tourist retreat.

As with many of these special little town, the cost of seclusion is not cheap, and house prices are reflected in the cars parked in driveways. But regardless of costs and socio-economic background, the locals are friendly and welcoming, as I found in all the pubs I visited.

IMG_20141227_150133The first time I visited I stopped off at a tiny little beach one bay west of St Agnes. Barely even a cove, this beach is tricky to find and get to, but worth it. It looks out westwards, the way of the setting sun the I was there, and watching it slowly descend as the handful of other people on the beach was a calming and very pleasant experience. Followed by food and drinks at one of the pubs in town. The locals ebbed and flowed in and out of the bar, very few didn’t say hello, and many introduced themselves to investigate who we might be. The barman was a treat, as the only people inside for quite a while he chatted about life hidden in these Cornish valleys and all sorts more.

IMG_20141227_144649The second time I visited with my brother and his young son, so we wandered through the town again, and down to the main beach. A larger, but not big beach, with a few people dotted about. Again, it was a peaceful and welcoming place. Folk said hello as they passed, and the dogs on the beach made it good fun to run around. The chill winter air gave it a rather desolate feel, but inside our jackets we were happy to be there, enjoying another dose of what makes Cornwall so special.

If you’re looking for a jaunt out of Truro, you could do a lot worse than a trip to St Agnes, any time of year.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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