Archive Monthly Archives: April 2017

Exploring KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Exploring KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

When you think of the safari, South Africa undoubtedly comes to mind. The nation, with nine diverse provinces, has much to offer any wanderer willing to brave the wild.

Imagine getting lost in the epic wilderness of the safari, encountering wildlife creatures, surfing off the Eastern cape coast, trekking through nature reserves, and filling your belly with hearty local meals like Bobotie. Elevate the experience by understanding the nation’s tumultuous history, embracing its colourful culture and mingling with the natives.

Already craving for your South Africa holidays? If you ever have to be selective in the provinces you visit, we urge you to never pass up on KwaZulu-Natal.

“Place of the Zulu”

KwaZulu-Natal may be the third smallest province in South Africa, but it is not to be missed. Overflowing with scenic views, wildlife, historical sites, and cultural attractions, the eclectic province is an all-around great destination.

The historical battlegrounds, stunning beaches in Durban, dramatic Drakensberg mountainscape serving as a backdrop make it a truly memorable destination.

The City of Durban

Exploring KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Durban, the central hub in KwaZulu-Natal, is the third largest city in the entire South Africa. The laid back but busy city combines an eclectic mix of difference cultural backgrounds. You will meet people from all walks of life: a thriving Indian population, a community of English-speaking South Africans, and diverse travellers from all over the globe.

The city is the busiest port in Africa. With a yearlong subtropical climate, the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are especially inviting to those who crave for some sun, sand and sea.

The beachfront is endearingly called Golden Mile that shows six kilometres of golden sand along the coast. The most popular and prestigious resort in South Africa, uShaka Marine World, can be found in Durban. Beyond having one of the largest aquariums in the world, it also boasts world-class entertainment facilities.

If you are looking to enjoy Durban’s trendiest cuisine, arts and crafts, head over to the Wilson’s Wharf on the Victoria Embankment. Have fun amidst the rustic border of a boating marina.

Revisiting History

It is easy to wander around the historic city. Get to know the city by exploring structures from the past. A visit to the City Hall, the local history museum, and the Old Fort is in order. The famed Mahatma Gandhi used to work as a barrister in Durban. It is disputed that his civil rights struggle may have started here. Many travellers take a tour around the city to retrace the steps of the well-loved and prominent Indian political leader.

No visit to Durban is complete without exploring its wildlife. Two of the popular, more accessible and easy to reach reserves are the Hluhluwe Umfolozi and Tala Private Game Reserve.

The Krantz Loof Gorge Nature reserve, situated on the outskirts of the city, is widely known for its incredible waterfalls. Looking for a coastal wildlife experience? Do not miss to visit the ST Lucia Waterlands Park.

uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

Exploring KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, with its two hundred kilometres long escarpment, is easily the most impressive mountain in South Africa. Locals endearingly call the diverse wonderland the Berg. With peaks exceeding 3000 meters, the uKhahlamba or ‘barrier of spear’ in Zulu, sets a vibrant backdrop to the province.

A trip to the park is simply a perfect excursion for nature lovers. The high-altitude wetlands serve as home to a wide variety of flora and fauna as well as animal species. Additionally, it features river valleys, rugged cliffs, mountain streams and scenic hiking trails. There is no doubt why the Berg draws thousands of wanderers every year.

Did you know that you could experience chilly weather in South Africa? Plan your trip during the winter season. The slopes are will be coated in snow and are easily transformed into a haven for winter sports enthusiasts!

Do not fret if you are not a huge fan of skiing or snowboarding. There are many adventures awaiting anyone who travels to the Berg. Go kayaking, tube riding, swimming or even fly-fishing. Appreciate the landscape more by doing 4×4 trails, mountain climbing, and hiking. You can also try spelunking in hundreds of caves in the valleys and cliffs of Drakensberg. While there, do not miss the chance to appreciate the rock art paintings that San people created to record their life stories over a 4000 year period. These remarkable images dating back to the 19th are of great historical significance to the locals.

The best time to visit is during the warmer months of December through February. Not only is the weather agreeable but you can make the most out of the long days.

The Big Five

Exploring KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Many people travel to the nation to have an encounter with the ‘Big Five’. The term refers to five most difficult animals to hunt in the on foot in Africa namely the African lion, Cape buffalo, African leopard, African elephant, and rhinoceros.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal is among the largest game reserves in the country. It is a safe haven for the rare white and black rhinoceros.

Photographers and explorers have a lot to look forward to. The reserve is also home to cheetahs, hippos, hyenas, jackals, giraffes and wild dogs, which makes the reserve an ultimate wildlife escapade.

For tourists who visit the park, having a close encounter with the world’s largest animal can easily be the highlight of their visit. There are well-hidden viewing spots put in place so visitors can have a unique and unusually close experience with these beautiful creatures.

Africa Holiday Package Deals

Let us help you get unique and tailor-made experience in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Get the best the province has to offer by booking your trip through CLB Global Travel.

2 bikers riding route 66

Route 66 – The Ride

It’s all about the RIDE! And Route 66 is iconic!Acoma Pueblo

After a year of slogging through the swamps, rice paddies and jungles in Vietnam, in 1966, I was ready for a ride.  Two of my cousins met me in Chicago for our incredible journey down Route 66.

Illinois

The Route is 2400 miles of asphalt and called the American Highway. It runs from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles in California, ending up at the Santa Monica Pier. If you are into riding, this is a trip that you need to take.  After a few hours of catching up and some beers and food, we found our way to the motel to get some sleep.

Route 66 sign Chicago

Beginning of Route 66 in Chicago

Bright and early the next morning, we packed our stuff and fired up the Harley’s to get on the road. We figured to get an early start to beat the traffic and find somewhere to stop and get something to eat on the road.

Chicago faded out behind us as we headed towards Springfield, Illinois…the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. This was the 1960’s. 1966, in fact and even though, “all men are created equal”, the country was still filled with inequality.  We stopped along the way for gas, beer and something to eat in Joliet, but we wanted to keep on going.  There is a new Route 66 museum along with the Joliet Museum that you should stop and see.  It used to be the Ottawa St. Methodist church when we came through.

Heading down the road to Wilmington, Illinois, we check out the Gemini Giant at the Launching Pad diner.  He is one of the most photographed “people” in the world.

Gemini Giant

We stop at the Standard Oil gas station in Odell to fill up the tanks and grab a quick drink.   Today, that station serves as a
museum/monument to the days when gas stations stayed open day and night and actually had attendants that checked your tires, oil and water for you.Odell Standard Oil Company

Saint Louis, Missouri

From Odell, we head towards St. Louis, Missouri.  The first thing we see is the Gateway Arch, which is the beginning of the American West.  It sits on the bank of the Mississippi River, and we decide to take a little while checking it out. This is where Lewis and Clark set out to discover the American West. Looks like it may be an exciting day.

St. Louis Arch and paddleboat

We then drop in at Ted Drewes frozen custard stand on Chippewa Street.  The place has been a landmark since 1929 on Route 66. Plenty of things to do in St. Louis, so we decide to spend another day there.  Went to see the St. Louis Cardinals play a game of baseball. After the game we cruise over to C&K Barbeque restaurant on Jennings Station Road for some St. Louis style barbeque. To finish off the evening we stop at a couple of the blues clubs.

Ted Drewes Custard Shop

Ted Drewes Custard shop

You can also do a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery (free beer tasting) or even take a trip down the Mighty Mississippi on a replica of an original paddle wheel boat. Lots to see and do, but we need to get back on the road.

The Devil’s Elbow

Out of Rolla, the roads are winding through some great scenery and are a dream to ride.  We come up on the Devil’s Elbow, named after a bend in the nearby river.  Great place to stop is the biker bar called the Elbow Inn and Barbeque.  Good atmosphere, good food, campground in the back and women tend to leave their bras nailed to the ceiling!  Really!  This used to be a sandwich shop when we came through.

 

Elbow inn BBQ

The Elbow Inn and BBQ

Leaving the “Devil”, we head out of the valley on Route 66.  When Route 66 was in constant use, there were all kinds of businesses offering food, drink and lodging to the vast amount of people travelling towards Los Angeles.  Although some remain, most have closed up shop.  When we came through Paris Springs Junction, we pass by the burned out remains of a Sinclair gas station.  The original one burned down in 1955, but it has been recreated now as a tourist attraction, called Gary’s Gay Parita Sinclair.  From here we head over to Joplin, Missouri to get some sleep.  If you have the time and inclination, you could always detour to Branson, Missouri, the new Nashville, for a show at one of the country western star’s theatres.

Gay Parita Sinclair Station

Gay Parita Sinclair Station

Oklahoma

Heading out of Missouri and into Oklahoma, where the idea of Route 66 started, you can stop in Clinton, Oklahoma to see the Route 66 Museum.  The folks that left the “Dust Bowl” of Oklahoma, travelled the “Mother Road”, as they called it, looking for a better life.  The museum shares the history of the road from the 1920’s to present day.  It has a 1950’s style diner or pick up some memorabilia in the gift shop.  Although the museum wasn’t here when we came through, it is worth a stop.  Riding on, we find a lot of the old Googie style architecture. Googie is a style of “Modern” architecture designed in a futuristic style heavily influenced by car culture, jets, space age and atomic age and was popular in designs for motels, coffee shops and gas stations. We see this all along the way.

Googie Style Architecture

Googie Archtecture 2

Googie Archtecture 2

Used Car SIgn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Oklahoma behind us, we head off to Texas. Passing miles of cactus, we get close to the “panhandle” and continue to the small town of Shamrock. We gas up at one of the original gas stations of the old Route 66, the U-Drop Inn and grab some food, before heading off to McLean.  From McLean, we ride up to Amarillo in the northern panhandle. Amarillo seems to be cut off from the rest of Texas, but it is at the crossroads of one of the greatest American cross country roadways.

The U Drop Inn

The U Drop Inn

Amarillo, Texas

Although we are in the northern part of the state, it is still a long journey to get across.  Passing the rolling meadows, filled with green grass and the famous Texas cattle ranches, you soon see what Texas is all about.  We head into Amarillo and decide to stop at the Big Texan Steakhouse for dinner.  At the time, you could get a steak dinner for a couple of dollars and both of my cousins are BIG men!  You can stop in there now and try to finish the 72 ounce Rib Eye steak with all the usual trimmings. That is 4.5 pounds of MEAT.  If you can finish it all within an hour, it is free.

Big Texan Steak House Sign

We leave the restaurant filled up and decide to take a short detour to the Palo Duro Canyon, a few miles south of Amarillo.  Fantastic sandstone sculptures created by the wind and water, make this one of the nicest views in Texas.  This is a State Park and we decide to camp out here for the night.  Something about being out in the wide open spaces really creates a special feeling of singularity with the universe and nature.

Palo Duro Canyon

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Heading into New Mexico, we leave Oklahoma and Texas behind.  We are now officially in the West!  First stop is one of the most beautiful cities, Santa Fe.  It is one of the oldest capital cities in the US and the oldest city in New Mexico.  Founded in 1610 by the Spanish, the city is full of architecture from days long past. The town is high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which get their name from the red colours of the mountains at sunrise and sunset.  The blend of Native American and Spanish cultures is evident anywhere you look.  We decide to try some local restaurants and cantinas in Old Town, before finding a motel to spend the night.

sante fe architecture

Santa Fe architecture

Heading south towards Albuquerque, we watch the scenery change from the mountains to the high desert.  We are now riding towards red plateaus and seeing the cactus in bloom.  And we wonder what it was like in centuries past when only the Native Americans inhabited the land.  Here, we see some more examples of the old adobe buildings and decide to stop and have a look around at the unique structures.  Heading out of Albuquerque, we travel on towards Gallup. On the way, we pass Sky City on the Acoma Pueblo. This is the longest inhabited city in the US.

Acoma Pueblo at Sun City

Acoma Pueblo at Sun City

Acoma Pueblo

Populated by the Anasazi (the Old Ones) for thousands of years, the Pueblo was founded in the 13th century. We have to stop and have a look.  We are travelling through the Navaho Nation, known as Shiprock, the largest Native American reservation.  Then we pass roadside stands where the Navaho sell their turquoise jewellery, so we stop and buy some nice rings and I pick up a squash blossom piece.  It is a lot cheaper than buying in Gallup, but Gallup will have some good bargains as well.

We didn’t waste a lot of time getting through Gallup and headed for the Arizona Border and Holbrook.  As we head onwards, we start to see more rocks.  A closer look shows that these are actually petrified trees!  We are near the Petrified Forest National Park and decide to stop to check it out.  The visitor centre has the info about how and why all the trees are petrified.  The trees actually lived about 225 Million years ago and were pushed up to the surface about 60 million years ago, during volcanic activity.

The Petrified Forest

petrified trees

Stopping in Holbrook, it seems that our ride is just getting better and better each day. We stop at the Teepee motel to spend the night. The rooms are made to look like Teepees but made of concrete and steel.  I used to see some of these where I grew up in Orlando on the South Orange Blossom Trail.

teepee motel holbrook

Winslow, Arizona

In the morning we head towards Flagstaff, Arizona. Stopping in Winslow for gas and something we eat, we take a quick look around town.  I am sure that everyone has heard the song by the Eagles, “Take it Easy”, “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see” The Eagles must have passed through Winslow, Arizona and didn’t have anything else to do, but write a song!

Winslow Arizona route 66

Continuing on to Flagstaff, we start back up into the mountains. The miles of road just before Flagstaff are great riding. We stop in Flagstaff and check out the local life. Flagstaff is a neat town that I wouldn’t mind living in.  Lots of Route 66 mementos still around.  Next stop: The Grand Canyon. Although it is north of Flagstaff on route 180, we have to go and see it, as my cousins have never been there. We turn up on the North Rim at Grand Canyon Village.

Nothing can describe the sense of nature at work here.  We decide to spend some more time here and take a donkey ride down the canyon.  Nowadays, you can also do a helicopter ride for a truly great experience. After all, how many of the 7 wonders of the world do you think you will get to see in your life?.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Leaving the Grand Canyon, we travel south, back to Route 66 in Williams.  Once we are back on the 66, we make stops in Seligman, Peach Springs and Hackberry, on the way to Kingman. Once in Kingman, we decide to stop for the night.  Tomorrow is another day and the cousins decided that they want to go to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, Nevada

In the morning, we grab some breakfast and mount up to get on highway 93 and head north to Vegas.  Anything you want is available in Vegas, dining, gambling, shows and entertainment.  It is an adult playground and beside the life on the strip, there are lots of sights to see like the Hoover Dam, the deserts and the night sky.  Like they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, so I won’t bore you with what we got up to.

The Strip in Las Vegas

Two days in Vegas and we are ready to get back on the road.  We plan on getting to Pasadena today.  Out of Vegas, the Mojave desert beckons. The stillness and colours are something that most people ignore.  On a bike, it is easier to discover the joys of the ride and the sense of freedom that the scenery offers.  Just keeping one hand on the throttle, we relax and cruise on, enjoying the ride.

We pick up Route 66 in Barstow, California and stop at a diner for some lunch.  Lunch over with, we fire up the bikes and head towards Pasadena.  Getting closer to my old stomping grounds in L.A.  We take the road towards San Bernadino or Berdoo as we call it, to see another cousin that I haven’t seen in a few years.  He decides to come along with us for the last bit of the ride.

Los Angeles, California – The City of Angels

Almost home now as we ride into one of the world’s most famous cities. From Pasadena, we pass Dodger Stadium and head into Chinatown.  Now we are downtown, Los Angeles.  Continuing on through Culver City, we are getting near the end of the journey.  Crossing the 405, we head for the Santa Monica Pier and the end of Route 66.  Arriving at our destination, we can smell the ocean air and see the palm trees.  The Ferris Wheel is turning and it hits home…we are done with the ride.

Sign for end of Route 66

The end of Route 66 at Santa Monica Pier

For your opportunity to ride the Famous Route 66, just contact us.  We can arrange transportation, bikes, tour guides, hotels and everything else to make the trip the most memorable ride of your life.  Go to www.clbglobaltravel.com and fill out the form to inquire about how we can get your trip going.

The Scenic Hiking Trail from from Fira to Oia

The Scenic Hiking Trail from Fira to Oia

The mountainous terrain of Greece easily makes it a hiker’s paradise. With scenic trails, picturesque roads, and ancient pathways, the peninsular country is a dream for those who enjoy exploring by foot. Travellers are spoilt with options from climbing the mountain of the gods, Mount Olympus, to walking on shepherd’s trails to trekking in unmarked trails to finding their way in small islands with cobbled paths that date back to the Byzantine times.

The island capital, Santorini, is bursting with mesmerising natural beauty that it may as well be a life-size painting. With a mix of picturesque cliffs, turquoise seas, and charismatic towns, it is a dream destination for travellers all over the world. This is true especially for wanderers with a knack for hiking.

On the western part of Santorini is a cliff that gazes into a partly sunken caldera. Each town on the side of the caldera has something special to offer. Fira is considered the island’s hub as it hosts the most shops, cafes, restaurants and clubs. Firostefani, just a stone’s throw away from Fira, is a quieter town. Imerovigli features the best views in Santorini. And lastly, the dreamy Oia, which is reputed to have the most stunning sunset in the world.

Walking along the caldera can easily make one appreciate how incredibly scenic the island of Santorini is. The hiking path from Fira all the way up to Oia rewards travellers with a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the volcano and the Aegean Sea. For this magical experience, the ten-kilometer hike that could take up to four hours is definitely worth taking.

The Ultimate Santorini Hike: Fira to Oia

The Scenic Hiking Trail from from Fira to Oia

Fira

The journey begins from the capital of the island, Thira. Heading north, travellers will come across the Orthodox Metropolitan Church and the central shopping street of Fira. The beautiful cathedral, built in 1827 and later on renovated in 1956, has a wonderful mosaic and impressive bell tower that can be seen on its exterior. The walk along Fira provides an impressive view of the vast sea. This makes it a great spot for taking photographs or simply enjoying the view.

Firostefani

The next village, Firostefani, almost appears connected to Fira with its houses and hotels seemingly attached. Many hikers stop at this point. But those who push forward reap the rewards of gorgeous spots along the way.

Trudge on the inland road through Firostefani and you will pass by the Monastery of Saint Nicolas. The church, established in the 17th century, serves as home to significant icons from the Byzantine period.

Imerovigli

Moving forward, you will reach the picturesque and quiet village of Imerovigli. Adventurers at heart may choose to do a quick detour and hike up the well-known Skaros Rock for a priceless view of the island.

Continuing to the north, there are two churches that are worth stopping by for. The Church of Agios Antonios and the Church of Prophet Elias feature Cycladic architecture style. Both ancient structures offer a magnificent view of the Thirassia Island as well as the caldera cliff.

Oia

Not far from these churches is Oia. This enchanting village is arguably the most picture-perfect in Santorini with its traditional whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches, old-fashioned windmills, and verandas bathed in sunshine. Walking its paved pathways, hikers will find quaint art galleries, taverns, souvenir shops, and boutique hotels. They may also spot talented artists busy drawing portraits on street sides that all the more adds to the Oia’s charm. The hike culminates at the old Castle of Oia where one can take in the magical view of Santorini and experience one of the best sunsets in the world.

When To Hike In Santorini

An ideal time to travel in Santorini for hiking is during the months of March to June and September to October. These months are conducive for hiking as the weather is just right for long hikers—neither too hot nor too cold. If you are taking this scenic, it is best to start early in the afternoon so you can arrive in time for the glorious sunset in Oia.

Greece Holidays All-Inclusive 2017

Do you want to visit Santorini this year? CLB Global Travel can plan your all-inclusive trip to the island. You may call us at +44(0) 748 470 3647 or email us at [email protected]

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Beguiling Bequia: The Charming Caribbean Island

Bequia is like a moving, breathing screen saver. The picturesque Caribbean island features palm-fringed beaches, turquoise waters, lush landscape, rugged hills, stunning sunrises, dramatic sunsets—nearly everything you can ask for in a picture perfect paradise.

But Bequia is far from typical Caribbean destinations. Positioned in the more off beaten track in an array of already remote Grenadines islands, Bequia, while not entirely unknown, remains untouched by mass tourism. There are no shopping centres, casinos, high-rise structures, or large glitzy hotels here.

The island, quiet and peaceful, is an idyllic place for travellers looking to unwind and relax. Make no mistake; it has a lot to offer those who seek adventure too. Make the most out of your busy mornings and enjoy the warm tropical nights under a starry sky while an orchestra of nature sounds serenades you.

Small Island, Big Heart

One of the eight islands in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines nation, Bequia is considered the second largest island after the mainland. The charming destination, measuring only seven square miles, serves as home to a small population of over four thousand people.

The heart of this charismatic little island is its people. The friendly and welcoming natives are a diverse mix of African, Caribbean Indian, and Scottish people.

As you wander around, you may notice people acknowledging each other with polite nods or little waves. The locals are kindhearted and willing to mingle with outsiders.

There is also a small but thriving community of artists and writers who call the island home. This does not come as a surprise as the colourful isle is a great source of creative inspiration.

The Port Elizabeth

Seafarers have long been drawn to the island of Bequia for its striking beaches, busy port that is filled with yachting supplies, great bars and restaurants that make it a perfect shore leave.

Port Elizabeth, the vibrant main town, is busiest during the annual Easter Regatta. During this time, it may be difficult to find lodging around the area.

For people vacationing and living in the island, the port has the essential shops for everything they need.

From the port, the national ferry service can take visitors to the other scenic and stunning islands of the Grenadines. There are also exceptional restaurants for diners to choose from. Those who would like to go on boating trips can organise it in the port. Diving equipment can also be rented here.

Here, you may also find a number of operators that offer charter boats. You may arrange private boat excursions and choose from a wide array of day trips. Local water taxis operating in the port also offer trips between beaches and trips to nearby islands.

During the peak season, the Caribbean Sea is filled with yachts and sailing boats. For years, the easiest way to visit the island was through a yacht or one ferry a day. Today, large public ferries are now able to link Bequia with Saint Vincent. Meanwhile, commuter airlines transport guests from Barbados.

What To Do In Bequia

Bequia Maritime Museum

The Bequia Maritime Museum is located on the road from Port Elizabeth to Hamilton. Here you can take a guided tour to find out more about the island’s maritime tradition. A visit here will help you understand why Bequia is regarded as the model sailboat capital of the world.

Meandering in the museum, you will be able to appreciate how Scottish ancestors of the island introduced the art of boat building. You may also see a collection of intricately created model boats that includes detailed replicas of historic vessels. Nearby, you can visit boat shops in the area that display locally crafted model boats.

Additionally, take the time to find out when the tradition of whaling began. This is more than a century old tradition that continues up to this day. The island is one of the few places in the world permitted by the International Whaling Commission to carry out limited whaling. Each year, the natives are allowed to capture up to four humpback whales as long as they use traditional hunting methods. This involves hand-thrown harpoons in tiny sailboats.

Breathtaking Beaches and Secluded Bays

Relax and unwind in Bequia’s beautiful beaches and secluded bays. Soak up some sun, walk on fine white sand, and swim in the clear turquoise sea. The choices are bountiful including Princess Margaret Beach, Friendship Bay Beach, Lower Bay Beach, Industry Bay Beach, and Spring Bay Beach.

Spring Bay and Industry Bay, on the windward side of the island, are perfect spots for snorkelling and scuba diving. Travellers can take a short diving course from professional divers, rent equipment, and arrange a snorkelling trip or book a scheduled boat dive in Port Elizabeth.

Sea Turtle Sanctuary

Explore your eco side, as you get up close and personal with sea turtles. A visit to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary offers travellers with an enjoyable and educational experience rolled into one. Here, you can view young sea turtles and find out more about how to protect these gentle giants of the sea.

Local Market

And if you simply want a look into the local way of life, head to the busy marketplace whether you are buying anything or not. See the tables upon tables heaped with colourful and fresh produce. And if you already took the time to wake up early and visit the local market, better treat yourself to fresh coconut water straight from the coconut. You are in a tropical paradise after all.

 

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Navigating Farewell Spit in New Zealand

Navigating Farewell Spit in New Zealand

A natural beauty stretching more than 30 kilometres into the Tasman Sea, Farewell Spit truly is a beauty to behold. The dramatic coastal cliffs lend a spectacular view of the island, its shoreline, and stunning landforms. The windblown sand creates remarkable patterns—from contoured ripples to crests—that become more picturesque as the colour changes during sunrise and sunset.

Longest spit in New Zealand

Farewell Spit is positioned at the northernmost tip of the Golden Bay, South Island. Running eastward from Cape Farewell, it is twenty-six kilometres above sea level whilst the remaining six kilometres are underwater. The spit, made from fine golden sand, is considered to be the longest sandspit in the entire country. The narrow sandbar is also known in Maori as Onetahua, which means ‘heaped up sand’.

But equally impressive is the spit’s climate, alluring birds and diverse wildlife. Travellers from all over the globe can immerse themselves in the exploration of both the open sea and the sheltered waters.

A Nature Experience 

The spit, a bird sanctuary since the early 1930s, serves as home to thousands of birds and as a vital staging area for migratory shorebirds. An impressive total of 90 bird species has been recorded in this extraordinary ecosystem. These include herons, red-billed gull, wrybill, golden plover, black swan and whimbrels, among others. If you are lucky, you may have a close encounter with the birds inhabiting the spit. There is also a gannet colony which nests in colonies above the high tide line.

If, however, you are more fascinated with marine life forms, then you must head towards the crystal clear shores where seals and whale sightings, especially the Long-Finned Pilot Whales, are very common. Unfortunately, the area is also known for whale strandings that usually happen when whales become stuck in shallow waters.

Considered as a wetland of international importance, the spit is strictly protected by the New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. With great emphasis on preserving the seabird sanctuary and natural reserve, the department has only opened a small area that could be accessible to the visitors through organised tours.

Touring Farewell Spit

 

As such, anyone who wants to visit will only be given access if they go through the two approved tour operators. Taking a trip organised local and friendly guides that are passionate and knowledge about the ecology of Farewell spit is your best bet in experiencing everything the place has to offer.

Venture into a journey of discovery in the seabird and wildlife reserves. At the base of the spit is the Fossil Point—a popular hauling out spot for New Zealand fur seals. Here, you can observe fossilised shells and worm casts emerge from mudstone found at the base of the cliffs. Nearby, you can see an abundance of sea life thriving in exposed rock pools.

Ascend the Farewell Spit lighthouse located thirty kilometres along the ocean beach. Take the opportunity to discover the Maori legends of the spit. Or have a peek at the spit’s local history. You may also view the wood carvings and enjoy some refreshments in the century-old lighthouse keepers’ cottage.

Remember to bring a pair of binoculars, arm your skin with sunscreen, and stay hydrated so you can enjoy your journey.

 

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The Modern Rise of Matera: Italy's City of Stone

The Modern Rise of Matera: Italy’s City of Stone

Travel has the immense power to transform people. Seeing the world gives one invaluable insights and learnings that may not have been possible to gain in the confines of a classroom. It transports you not only to places but also to the past.

If you ever happen to find yourself in Southern Italy, you will be remiss not to schedule a visit to an old town that stands upon layers and layers of rich history. Do not miss the unique opportunity of taking a glimpse into the historical town of Matera. A place that boasts nine millenniums of constant human habitation.

Situated in the Basilicata region, Matera is globally recognised for its ancient town ‘Sassi di Matera.’ A designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sassi features cave dwellings dating back to the Palaeolithic era, a prehistoric period of human history.

Meandering in Matera allows one to retrace the steps of the inhabitants that graced the cave dwellings. To say Matera is timeless is an understatement.

The ancient town features two sections— Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. The cave dwellings are separated by a ridge where Matera’s ancient cathedral sits.

The dwellings are primaeval natural caves that were excavated by hand out of tufo or calcarenite rock by hand. The cave dwellings have improved over time and featured more rooms and more sophisticated exteriors.

Top 3 Things To Do in Matera

Discover the centrepiece: Sassi of Matera

The Modern Rise of Matera: Italy's City of Stone

Stand in a spot that lends a panoramic view of Matera and you will instantly be treated to an almost cinematic scene in Holy Land. The ancient village on the side of Gravina village displays a breathtaking landscape that has drawn both curious travellers and inspired filmmakers. In fact, the town served as the backdrop for the international film The Passion of Christ, a biblical film that depicts the final twelve hours in Jesus life.

According to the UNESCO, the cave dwellings are the finest example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean. But while this natural settlement proved to be perfect in the Palaeolithic era, they have become less acceptable in modern times. Imagine the poorest of the region are crammed into the sassi. By all means, the people live without access to basic needs such as heat, light or sanitation. Since space is lacking, residents live with animals. There is no surprise that the town had very low illiteracy and mortality rate. The unsanitary place also has high susceptibility to malnutrition, cholera, malaria and other diseases. The sassi surpasses any other standard of any other poverty-stricken province in the south.

The Modern Rennaisance of Matera

In 1952, the local government finally took action. This gave way to the rehousing of some 20,000 residents into modern homes. Since then, the sassi remained derelict, abandoned and bricked up.

Later on, hippies moved in and tried to live in the caves. These illegal settlers, ironically, have jumpstarted the resurgence of Matera. The council made them legal residents and connected them to utility services. Then the gentrification began—small businesses started opening starting from a café, a gallery here, and a shop there.

The Modern Rise of Matera: Italy's City of Stone

Meanwhile, the international film shot in Matera brought the place to the limelight. It was only a matter of time before chic hotels, bars, and restaurants started to rise in the area as the atmospheric ancient town welcome more tourists.

Right now, travellers are able to choose from different accommodations in the area including hotels, cottages, bed and breakfasts, apartments and luxury hotels. Some of the structures are at the heart of the sassi, which lends an amazing view of the ancient city. While some are in the modern part of the area.

Visit Matera’s Cathedral

Perched on top of Civitas hill is cathedral that offers visitors with a phenomenal bird’s eye view of the Sasso Barisano. The cathedral, featuring a Romanesque-Apulian style, was built during the 13th century. In 1967, the structure was dedicated to the protectors of the city—Madonna della Bruna and Sant’Eustachio.

The structure is impressive not only in its resilience to time but also in the treasures it houses. From the intricately decorated portal, the statue of Madona della Bruna stands proudly alongside an impressive rose window and a statue of Michael the archangel.

The monastery also features a bell tower that stands tall at an immense 52-meter height. The interior, which has seen some restoration in the Baroque period, is a sight to behold. Here, you can gaze at the popular stone crib made by Altobello Persio in 1534, a Byzantine fresco of the “Madonna della Bruna and Child”, fragments of a cycle of paintings, a stunning wooden choir carved by John Wee in 1453, and “Virgin and Child with Saints” from the artist Fabrizio Santafede in 1580.

 

Explore the Matera’s natural areas

The Basilicata region is characterised by an amalgam of nature, history, and culture. Wherever you look, the flora and fauna are diverse, the natural reserves and parks have boundless cultural value, and the wildlife sanctuaries are inviting.

Matera is home to natural areas such as the Reserve San Giuliano, the Colle Timmar, and the Park of the Murgia. In the Timmari hill, you will find a residential village which is a well-known significant archaeological site. Here, you can observe objects from prehistoric time. If you are exploring around San Guiliano Lake, you can also pass time by observing birds from over 140 species from designated sighting huts.

In the same way, the upland area will give you the gift of discovery. Walking to the area will help you discover remnants of ancient Neolithic villages. 

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Omodos Village: The keeper of Cyprus’ Tradition

Omodos Village: The keeper of Cyprus’ Tradition

Cyprus has long been an enthralling destination for generations of wanderers globally. With a rich history, compelling culture, tantalising cuisine, captivating art scene, and extraordinary sights, Cyprus has something special in store for anyone regardless of age, interest or budget.

The island country notably features a perfect pairing of the ancient and modern. On one hand, the birthplace of Aphrodite is known for its legendary historic gems. Remnants of the past are preserved in archaeological sites, multifaceted museums, Roman ruins, catacombs, as well as ancient Greek temples. On another hand, it is home to vividly modern towns and cities.

The alluring promise of sand, sun, and sea all year long may make it seem like the Jewel of the Mediterranean is just a beach destination.

Omodos Village: The keeper of Cyprus’ Tradition

 

Keeper of Culture and Tradition

But Cyprus has a lot more to offer. Its long, winding and tumultuous history provide the gift of discovery and wonderment. And its endless stretches of fine golden sand, turquoise waters, secluded bays, and magnificent mountains offer an exquisite escape from the demands of everyday life.

If you are truly looking to uncover the heart of the island—its people, culture and traditions—a trip to the villages is in order.

Time seems to stand still in these villages. Here, the Cypriot people still design elaborate silverware, weave lace with their bare hands, make traditional Halloumi cheese, and maintain wineries tucked on the sides of picturesque rocky hills.

In the foothills of Troodos Mountain, the largest mountain range in Cyprus, is the Omodos village.

The charming traditional village is situated in the region of Limassol District some 80 kilometres from the capital city Nicosia. Well known for its tradition and heritage, it is home to one of the most significant religious structures in the region.

The Wine Village

The village is also popular for its wineries where Zivania, the strong spirit made from grape skin and Commandaria, a sweet dessert wine hail from. During the month of August, the locals hold an annual wine festival to celebrate the wine production in the region.

Timios Stavros Monastery

The Monastery of the Holy Cross is a meaningful part of the Cypriot people’s cultural heritage. The ancient cobbled church houses notable of relics including the Great Cross with the Holy Rope, The Cross of the “Panateros”, and a fragment of a stone from the horrid Golgotha, to name a few.

The striking 17-century monastery is easily accessible by strolling through the main street of Omodos. The setting is peaceful and quiet, a perfect spot if you are looking for a slice of solitude.

The Holy Cross monastery bears great significance to the history of Cyprus. With this in mind, dressing appropriately is a must to show a sign of respect.

The Village Square

The picturesque plaza is the heart and soul of the wine-producing village. Walking through the plaza is the most idyllic way to acquaint yourself with Omodos and its people.

Among the largest plazas in Cyprus, the Omodos plaza, which dates back to 1910, ranges around 3000 square meters. It is right in front of the majestic monastery. Alongside are beautiful traditional houses where locals reside.

There is beauty in the way locals go about their daily life and how it intertwines with the exploring travellers. Here, you may find residents playing backgammon, bridge or chess in the hospitable coffee houses as you stroll about the village.

There are traditional cafés, souvenir shops, recreational centres, small taverns and restaurants where travellers can while away their time.

The Museums of Omodos

Wherever you are, museums are a great way to find out more about what matters most to its people. Omodos has a number of museums.

The Struggle Museum represents the national liberation struggle of Cyprus against the British colony. The people of Omodos decide to build the museum as a reminder for the younger generation to honour and remember the national struggles.

Meanwhile, the Byzantine Icons Museum, which was established in 1960 to preserve the monastery’s ancient icons from different eras. Both museums are at the monastery.

The Centre for the Preservation of Narrow-Knit Lacing underscores the preserving Omodos traditional folkloric craft. Here, one can learn about the process of making narrow knit lace. The art deeply embedded in the souls of the women of Omodos is passed on from one generation to another. While the exhibit is simple, its significance to the locals is immeasurable.

Those who are keen on visiting the quaint village will find the weather and crowd much friendlier in months of April to May. It is a generally great time to explore Cyprus. The sun is forgiving, the nights are pleasantly cool, the hills are a vibrant green, and wildflowers are blooming.

 

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The Old Soul of Seoul: A Look At Bukchon Hanok Village

The Soul of Old Seoul: A Look At Bukchon Hanok Village

South Korea has incredibly skyrocketed from being an impoverished country to a first world economy. The country’s stellar rise as an economic powerhouse in just over half a century is an inspiring success story for other countries to emulate.

There is no doubt; South Korea has already established its place on the global stage. And right now, the world is also finding its way to the country through tourism. As a result of its tourism boom, approximately 14.2 million international tourists have visited the country in 2014 alone.

The dynamic nation offers travellers from all walks of life a diverse array of experiences. And of course, the capital city is a must visit.

The capital city: Seoul

The South Korean capital radiates with an impeccable harmony of modern and traditional life. As your plane flies into the city, a breathtaking bird’s eye view of green landscapes and turquoise seas that lead to a remarkable cityscape will welcome you.

The vibrant capital city impresses from the moment you set foot at the Incheon International Airport, one of the best airports in the world.

The clean streets are lined with contemporary structures, high-rise shopping centres, hip cafés as well as restaurants. Travelling around is efficient and easy thanks to Seoul’s well-developed subways. Therefore, even first-time visitors will not find difficulty going from one spot to another.

Despite the visible modernity of the city, it maintains its traditional taste and cultural heritage—a respectful nod to its rich albeit tumultuous history.

Bukchon Hanok Village: The soul of old Seoul

The Old Soul of Seoul: A Look At Bukchon Hanok Village

The Joseon Dynasty is the last kingdom in Korea. The reign lasted from 1932 until 1910. Today, there are five grand palaces in Seoul that still remain following the governance of Joseon Dynasty.

These grand palaces, namely Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace, Changgyeong Palace, Gyeonghui Palace, and Deoksu Palace, reflect the history and culture of Seoul. They are open for public visitation.

Another way for young South Koreans to rediscover their past and for tourists to get a glimpse of the beautiful old Seoul is by visiting hanok villages. Hanok is a term that describes traditional Korean homes.

Bukchon Hanok Village is not to be missed. Nestled between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, it carries with it six centuries of history.

Unlike other hanok villages in the vicinity that were built specifically for tourists, Bukchon Hanok Village is inhabited by Seoulites. Traditional and charming, every nook and cranny of the village show traces of its rich history which lends an authentic hanok atmosphere.

Travellers can enter the traditional residences to learn more about the Korean lifestyle.

Bukchon consists of five neighbourhoods including Wonseo-dong, Jae-dong, Gye-dong, Gahoe-dong, and Insa-dong. In the past, the area served as home to noblemen and high-ranking government officials who served in the palace along with their families.

Around the village are craft workshops, traditional restaurants, and hanok galleries. If you are keen to know more about the history of the hanok lifestyle, include these museums in your itinerary.

Bukchon Museum

The museum is a traditional Korean house converted into an exhibition hall where numerous life relics, which were utilised in the Bukchon area in the past, are displayed. The museum welcomes tourists all year long.

Han Sang Soo Embroidery Museum

The art museum, located in Gahoe-dong, features the work of the embroidery master Han Sangsoo. The museum seeks to promote the importance of Korean embroidery tradition to the public. In line with this goal, visitors can attend classes, programmes, exhibitions, seminars, activities, and demonstrations to appreciate the history and understand the meticulous process of Korean embroidery. The museum is accessible every day except Mondays.

Gahoe Museum

The Gahoe Museum is a privately owned gallery situated in Gahoe-dong. Founded in 2002, the museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of Korean shamanistic art all over the world. The museum is ultimately a reputable repository of Korean indigenous beliefs and culture. Currently, it displays over 1,500 items that include 750 amulets, 250 folk paintings, 150 classical books, and approximately 250 other items too.

When to Visit

The Old Soul of Seoul: A Look At Bukchon Hanok Village

There are four seasons in South Korea. The dry winter happens from November to March while a verdant spring runs from March until late May. Meanwhile, a humid and rainy monsoon season occurs during the summer months. Lastly, the cool, crisp autumn befalls in the months of September to November. The best time to explore South Korea is during spring and autumn. In winter, fine snow covers the streets. A myriad of winter resorts serves as a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. It is also perfect for people seeking refuge from their own countries’ summer heat. Summer in South Korea is often stifling and therefore is not an ideal time to travel the country.

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Take The Road Less Travelled in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Take The Road Less Travelled in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Many consider the north of Sri Lanka to be the country’s last frontier. Closer to southern India than it is to Colombo, the region is culturally and characteristically unique owing to a mixture of influences from both Hindu India and Buddhist Sri Lanka.

The conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan Army (SLA), a civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2009, inevitably reinforced the already tumultuous relationship of the Tamil north and Sinhalese south. For a while, a large part of the north was controlled by the LTTE where they established an actual independent state. They also controlled Jaffna and the Jaffna Peninsula until the SLA took control in 1995.

Inescapably, the decades of war, pain, and destruction have greatly affected the north and its people. Many have lost their lives, lands, and livelihood.

However, the region is slowly but surely emerging from the shadows of isolation and ruin.

Jaffna, the undisputed cultural capital of the north

At the centre of it all is Jaffna, the largest town in northern Sri Lanka. A stronghold of Hindu tradition and culture, the town features an interesting mix of colonial charm and vibrant Tamil culture.

While it is predominantly Hindu, Christianity is also strong in the area. The Muslims and Buddhist community remain a minority. The town has a unique multifaceted identity stemming from a wide array of influences including Muslim, Portuguese, British, Dutch and Sinhalese.

The town still bears scars from being at the centre of a nearly three-decade-long conflict. However, the town and its people are looking upward. Jaffna has only recently opened its doors to welcome visitors. Through this, travellers have a unique and fascinating opportunity to explore a region that is emerging from isolation and rebuilding from the rubble.

Reaching the town is straightforward. But the accessibility does not mean it will be an easy travel. The journey can be long and arduous unless you are taking a short flight but it can be immensely rewarding.

If you have been travelling around Sri Lanka, Jaffna will be a vastly different scene. The sight of Buddhist dagoba is replaced with Hindu gopuram, streets are filled with people speaking Tamil instead of Sinhala, and you can hear lively Indian music playing in cafés and shops that are uncommon elsewhere in the country.

Exploring Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Understandably, Jaffna is not a heavily touristy place. But there is much to explore and enjoy for people who visit. The architecture features a convergence of colonial and Indian influences, which make it even more eclectic.

Not far from the bustling city centre is Nallur Kovil, a beautiful Murugan temple. The devout Hindu starts and ends their day in this Hindu shrine. A place of worship, visitors must abide by the dress code. Women must cover their legs and men must take their shirts off before entering the premises.

Another place of great religious importance is the sacred Nagadipa Purana Vihara, a Buddhist temple east of Jaffna. Many people believe that Lord Gautama Buddha visited the temple during his stay in Sri Lanka. Many devotees go here for the said reason. You will need to go on a 20-minute boat ride to reach it.

One of the most remarkable structures in Jaffna is its public library. The Jaffna Public Library was built in 1933 and was once considered one of the biggest libraries in Asia. It housed over 97,000 books and manuscripts. The building was burnt down in 1981. Its rehabilitation was completed in 2001.

 

Take The Road Less Travelled in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

If you want a glimpse of the local life, wander around the colourful Jaffna shopping market to see it in action. Observe the tradesmen and shopkeeper or purchase locally grown fresh produce, homemade local treats, and handcrafted palmyrah goods.

Built by the Dutch in 1618, the Jaffna Fort is the second biggest fort in Sri Lanka. The walls are intact. However, the inside of centuries-old fort shows significant damage as a result of the civil war. Nearing four centuries old, the once formidable fort is a captivating piece of history.

Perhaps the greatest asset of the charming colonial town is its resilient people. There is something truly admirable about a populace that endured a bloody, excruciating past but finds it in them to stay optimistic, warm and welcoming. Travelling, after all, is not only about the destination. Most of the time, it is all about the experience.

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Gili Meno: The ultimate island paradise

Gili Meno: The ultimate island paradise

Do you sometimes wish you could just take a step back from the fast-paced world we live in? Are you looking for a secluded island for your honeymoon? Whether you need to unwind, disconnect or simply enjoy a romantic getaway, a trip to a remote island paradise could just be the answer you are looking for.

Indonesia, with over 18,000 islands, is a top spot for those who are looking for Far East adventure holidays. Among the most beloved islands in the country are the Gili islands—Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno.

The largest island, fondly called Gili T, is a popular destination for young budget adventurers and the party-going crowd. Considered the more upscale and exclusive island, Gili Air draws in a more mature crowd. The smallest and quietest island among the tree is Gili Meno.

Gili Meno: secluded, romantic, unspoilt

With a gorgeous stretch of fine white sands, crystal clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse flora and fauna, the island of Gili Meno is truly a slice of tropical paradise.

Less developed and less populated compared to neighbouring islands, the accommodation and restaurant options are quite sparse. Although there is an accommodation at different price points—traditional rice houses called lumbung, bungalows, boutique resorts, villas and luxury oceanfront cabanas. Motorised vehicles are prohibited in the island and the preferred transportation method is by foot, bicycle or a horse drawn carriage called cidomo. These all add to the island life experience.

Nightlife is nearly non-existent as most establishment close by 9 PM. What you get, however, are serene and laid-back nights. If you are lucky, a blanket of twinkling stars will illuminate the island and the calming sound of ebbing waves can lull you to a peaceful sleep.

What To Do in Gili Meno

While the island is an idyllic spot for relaxation, there are ample options for recreational activities.

Go on a scuba diving adventure

Gili Meno has the best diving sites in the Gili islands. Three diving spots around the island that are popular with scuba divers are Sea Point Turtle where you can encounter large groups of sea turtles, Point Coral, and Meno Wall.

Explore by biking or walking

Measuring just two kilometres long, walking around the island is an ideal activity. Break away from lounging, kick off your sandals and explore barefoot while taking in the glorious view.

On the west side of the island is an inland seawater lake that produces salt during the dry season. The salt river is a must in every visitor’s itinerary.

The island also houses a small dome-shaped bird park with an impressive 200 species of birds including flamingos, brightly coloured parrots, eagles, pelicans, and cockatoos. Viewing the diverse and beautiful feathered creatures can keep both adults and children entertained for hours.

Take a dip

All over the island are beaches that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Odds are the turtles that you encounter while swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving came from the sanctuary.

Drop by the Sea turtle sanctuary

The majority of sea turtles in Gili islands hatch within sanctuaries. This gives them a better chance of surviving their first few months. Around 500 baby sea turtles are hatched in Gili Meno sea turtle sanctuary alone. The sanctuary releases these beautiful ‘gentle giants’ when they turn a year old.  Young ones can learn about the creatures and the importance of environmental conservation.

If you run out of ideas, you can always lie down the fine soft sand and witness the sunrise or sunset with a cold beverage in hand. The island view in itself is magnificent.

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