Tag Archives: climb

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.

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Cambodia Pt6: Kampot Pt2

Continued from here

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DCIM100GOPROThe casino, the only part of the Chinese plan that seems to have been built, sits on it’s own looking rather weather worn and dated. It’s the only place that we found that sold food, so we had a little bite and marvelled at the bad interior design. The next is a part built hotel, a concrete shell that never saw any fixtures or fittings, rather ugly, but good fun to explore, and the views down to the sea are even better than from the Buddha. After finishing off the concreting so well, it’s so strange to have just left it there. There’s some more roads that head around the mountain top, open and quiet, so good for a little burn about, even on the little scooter I had. Finally there is a waterfall in a little dip, along with typical touristy gift shop. It was very dry while we were there, but judging by the size of it, a good amount of water would be flowing over the rocks when raining. Riding back down we got to enjoy the view all the way down, and with the engine off it was remarkably peaceful.

DSCN6712The last day in Kampot was spent with a Belgian guy and a British family climbing some of the Karst cliffs not far from the town. I highly recommend checking this out if you’re staying in Kampot, Climbodia was a great day out, and one of the best activities we did in the country Following the directions was good fun, but we did find the place (definitely got lost on the way home though). David, our lead guide was excellent, with some impressive knowledge both of the local area and the mountain we were climbing. Along with the rest of the Climbodia guides we had the complete package, with lunch, snacks and drinks included. The day starts with a nice easy climb leading to the Via Ferrata (assisted climbing) then an awesome abseil through a hole and down into a chute of rock.

DSCN6723The tour then heads right inside the hill, through some of the more picturesque sections, winding through tunnels and caves before working our way way up again. A cool section allows you to crawl through a tight gap then peer over the edge into a 100m deep chasm. After seeing that, wiggling away again was something of a relief. The final part after lunch allowed us to climb as we wished, taking on some of the traditional style climbing options, some that were pretty normal, although still challenging, and one up through the chute we had abseiled earlier which meant bracing your back against one wall then walking up the opposite, then juggling up and so on, certainly a new challenge and one that defeated us.

DCIM100GOPROKampot was a very cool place to visit and a great surprise. It would have been easy to spend more time there if only we hadn’t got to get into Vietnam before our Visas ran out.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

South Africa Part8 – The Drakensberg

The last and final leg of my journey leads up from the South Coast and Durban, north towards Johannesburg, stopping only once at the excellent Drakensberg mountain range.

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AmphitheatreThe Amphitheatre is in the Northern Drakensberg, a huge bowl shaped area of valleys, canyons and cliffs which stretch up to some of the highest peaks in South Africa. A incredible area of natural beauty this region could easily have been the back drop to parts of Lord Of The Rings, losing nothing to the New Zealand mountain ranges used, which is saying a lot, as I am a very big fan of the NZ hills.

DownhillThe Amphitheatre Backpackers was a comfortable and and friendly stop, if a little unsuitable for the typical idea of backpackers. While the rooms were comfy and spacious, they had no facilities for buying your own food, just a vague map with some unreliable bus times to get into the nearest town. They offered meals during the day which were fairly reasonable, but the evening set meals were practically Australian in price. After practically begging them to drive us to get something to eat that we could cook ourselves, we jumped a backie (Ute in Aus, or Pick-up in the UK) with a bribe to the driver who took us to a campsite nearby. He also took us to a local lady, who raided her own fridge to sell us some very fresh and delicious meat – perfect for the brai that evening. The hostel had some interesting facilities, included a freezing cold outside pool, bar, tv room, hot tub and, my favourite, a bouldering wall inside the bar.

AmphitheatreThe hostel ran transfers and tours to the mountains, the one I took was just a transfer to the base, from where we hiked up through the valleys and foothills, trying to get as close to the epic cliffs of the peaks as I could. The walk was a good challenge, constantly offering awe inspiring vistas, both up and down the gradient. Along the river bed the rocks made going slow, but as the path only went so far it was the only option. This was followed by chain ladders up sheer rocks to get around the semi subterranean rivers (which offered some very interesting sights). The further I walked, the closer I got, the steeper the river bed got, but the views were constantly impressive.

SunUnfortunately the inflated prices of the transfers and tours meant the second day was spent relaxing and exploring around the plains the hostel was set on, rather than heading to the top of the range. Coming to the end of a trip is always a tight time for those on budgets, but as this accommodation had realised it’s monopoly on it’s guests, they had clearly maximised their prices. The plains lead down to a pretty little river though, where myself and a couple others relaxed for the day before having seconds of brai’d beef.

PlainsFrom it here it was one more jump onto the Bazbus, straight to Johannesburg airport. Having seen the city on arrival, a second look wasn’t necessary, in fact the budget barely would have stretched to another night of accommodation. The same day I left the stunning Drakensberg I was flying back to the UK (after a rather long stop in Abu Dhabi (don’t sleep in airports unless you’re sure which time-zone you’re in).

 

Indoor Adventures – Bouldering and Trampolining – Blog for Isaacs.ie

Sometimes the Irish weather can get the best of us – but with these Indoor Adventures you’ll be getting your adrenalin fix in no time!

Just chilling - Versestravel.wordpress.com

Bouldering is very similar to Rock Climbing, you still climb up walls, but these walls are a maximum of 4.5 meters high, and there’s some lovely big cushions at the bottom as well. Which means there’s no ropes and shorter climbs. This makes it much more accessible than normal climbing, where you need a partner, knowledge of knots and more expensive gear. Bouldering is easy to get into and highly addictive.

Easy or Hard? - Versestravel.wordpress.comGravity Climbing Centre is a short walk from the Blackhorse stop on the LUAS red line about 20 minutes from the hostel. The friendly staff will get you kitted up and clued in with a few minutes and before you know it you’ll be jumping down to the pad after your first climb. Go with a few mates and hang out, taking it in turns climbing the same sections or just go alone and make some new friends. The staff and customers there are all approachable and always willing to give advice on how to tackle the next obstacle. Depending on your fitness the 90 minute intro session should wear you out, but if you want you can become a member and stay there all day.

Dodgeball! - Versestravel.wordpress.comJumpzone trampoline park is a little more casual, no special skills needed here, just lots of enthusiasm. A short bus ride north of the city, the site is the biggest in Europe. It’s a huge room, filled with trampolines, simple as that. Whether you fancy a bounce around or you want to practice those backflips this is a great place to be. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make within one session, and with the foam pit you try those tricks you were too scared to try before.  And for those of you with a competitive edge, there’s a couple of dodgeball courts to get into as well. Team up, or just go one on one with a buddy, there’s plenty of ways to have fun with trampolines and balls!

Jumpzone HQ - Versestravel.wordpress.com

Benjamin Duff – Versestravel