Madeira - Wandering above the clouds

Hello,

welcome back to another travel blog. We just came back from an amazing trip to the Portuguese island Madeira, and long story short, we absolutely loved it. For everyone living in Europe it’s the ideal summer fix all year round. The flight from London took about 4 hours and takes you to directly to Funchal, the biggest city on the island. From there we rented a car to freely roam the island at our own pace.

Madeira is located just off the African coast, a little higher up north than the Spanish Canary Islands. Nevertheless the weather is generally very pleasant the whole year. We came here in May which was absolutely lovely as the whole island was literally in full bloom.

 

After landing and picking up the rental car we headed into Funchal to check out the farmers market for some lunch and coffee. The old-town is quite lovely and picturesque and well worth a visit. There are plenty of shops and cafes, so we strolled the streets for a little while and bought some food and supplies before moving on.

After leaving Funchal we headed west along the coast. It’s a beautiful drive along the coastline, and we stopped quite often to take pictures. Definitely stop at the Piscinas Naturais just outside of Funchal. The natural pools are really pretty and also quite safe to swim in. There’s a small admission fee but it’s totally worth it.

The first day was coming to an end quickly so we decided to watch the sunset from the hotel pool. We stayed at the Savoy Saccharum Hotel on the west side of Madeira. The infinity pool on the roof is a really nice gimmick, but also the bar on the top floor is great for food and watching the sunset.

The next day we continued the route around the island. Definitely worth a stop are the Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz in the North of Madeira. They’re free to visit and definitely quite picturesque. There are also a few cafes nearby so it’s a good place to sit, relax and watch the ocean.

Not much further away are the Piscina natural do Seixal, which is a natural pool as well but also safe to swim. It’s quite fun to swim around the natural stone arch and watch the waves from the sea swash over the edge of the pool.

Back in the car hunger started to kick in. Luckily there the was a cafe nearby called São Cristóvão Café, also in the North. And while sitting on the terrace of the cafe we spotted a little path on the opposite site of the valley, as well as a small car park. A quick look on the map revealed that there was in fact a road going down to that path (just off the ER101). The short hike from the car down to the sea was just so pretty, we were constantly surrounded by fields of flowers.

For the next day the plan was to catch the sunset on top of Pico do Arieiro, one of the highest mountains on Madeira just over 1800m above sea level. So we got up at around 5am to drive all the way almost to the top. The summit is very easy to access, there’s a spacious car park and paths are very well signed.

From the car park it’s a 20min walk to the first lookout point. And all I can say it that it’s absolutely worth getting up that early.

After we watched the sunrise we continued the path to Pico Ruivo, which is slightly higher at about 1880m. The distance for one way is about 4.5km but you’ll need to overcome about 850m elevation, it took us about 5 hours there and back. Also temperatures in the morning can be as low as 5°C and go up to about 20°C during the day, so be prepared. Once you’re at Pico Ruivo there’s a small cafe and fresh water fountains just a few meters from the summit.

It’s an incredibly beautiful hike but also quite tiring and exhausting, particularly the way back. So definitely bring enough water and supplies, and as you’re walking at high altitude don’t forget suncream.

Thankfully there is a restaurant at the carpark that sells coffee, cool drinks and snacks. After a little break and resting our feet we definitely had enough of walking, coincidentally there was a cable car not to far away. For a small admission (5£pp) it takes you all the way down to the ocean and back up.

Back at the car it was already quite late in the afternoon and we were still quite tired from the hike in the morning. So we went to our hotel for the night, Quinta Do Lorde in the far east of the island. Turned out the hotel had a really beautiful seawater pool, so we went for a quick swim and photoshoot.

Right next to the hotel is Prainha Beach. If you follow the path down from the street and keep right instead of left you will find a beautiful stone arch. All the natural pools are quite rough and and there’s definitely quite a few sea urchins around so this spot is only accessible on calm and quiet days. I’d also recommend some sort of water shoes as these will make walking on the slippery rocks a lot safer. But swimming through the stone arch was an absolutely amazing experience.

The next morning started early again at around 6am. The goal was sunrise at Ponta de São Lourenço, the most eastern point of Madeira. The hike from the carpark is about 4km to the sunrise point. Thankfully we brought flashlights as the path was still in complete darkness when we arrived. It’s a really beautiful hike, particularly in the morning, well worth getting up early. Also later in the day this route gets pretty busy as it’s quite a popular hike. When we were there at sunrise we were pretty much all alone.

The whole hike took about 4 hours, so we just made it back in time to the hotel to get breakfast. After about 4 coffees and an unreasonable amount of waffles we packed our bags and headed to the last hotel, Galo Do Mar not to far from Funchal Airport. For the last hike of the day we wanted to do the quite famous Levada Walk, a path that follows the ancient water channels along the very steep cliffs and sometimes even vertical rock faces. The hike has a reputation for being Madeira’s most picturesque hikes and I can confirm it is quite spectacular. It’s important to mention that there are a few tunnels that are not illuminated so torches or headlights are essential. Also on a warm day there are a few ponds where you can go for a refreshing swim.

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That pretty much sums up our trip to Madeira. All in all we really loved it, there are tons more hikes to do and things to discover, so we really want to come back some day. Also going off season turned out to be a really affordable trip, the quality of our accommodations was constantly really fabulous.

If you have any questions please send me a message or get in touch in Instagram or Twitter.

See you soon!

Iceland Road Trip II - Vatnajökull and the Golden Circle

Hello,

welcome back to Part II of our road trip around Iceland. In the last blog posted we travelled from Keflavík all the way to the East Fjords. After 4 days in the northern parts of the country we were looking forward to seeing some of Iceland’s greener areas.

 

Day 5

After a good night’s sleep we packed the car and headed south. The roads very still very icy and slippery, but after a few hours of driving and a quick break at the Vattarnes cliffs we arrived at Hvalnes Beach. Seeing the white waves crashing onto the black beach is quite breathtaking. There’s a small carpark near the lighthouse from where you can walk down to the beach.

Just a few miles further south is the Stokksnes Peninsula located in the southeast of Iceland. The area, also known as Vestrahorn, is one of Iceland’s most photogenic places. There’s a small admission fee (~8£, cards accepted) which is totally worth it. Stunning mountains on the horizon, an azure ocean, black dunes topped with green grass, the colours are simply unbelievable. The water is generally very shallow which gives the impression your walking on the sea. Come here in the late afternoon for Golden Hour and you will get plenty of amazing pictures, the opportunities are sheer endless. A wide-angle lens and water-proof boots will be the icing on the cake.

Day 6

The next day started again very early at around 6am. The plan was to catch sunrise at Diamond Beach and then go explore Vatnajökul Glacier. We arrived at the beach just when the sun started to peak over the horizon, making all the ice that has been washed ashore from the glacier glow like diamonds. Definitely worth getting up early.

After breakfast in the car it was time for the hike on the Vatnajökul Glacier. You can’t and probably shouldn’t just walk on the glacier all by yourself as it’s quite dangerous. Our tour-guide was from a company called Local Guide of Vatnajökul which was absolutely amazing, I would highly recommend them. The groups are quite small, ours had 6 other people and the whole hike takes about 6-7 hours, so definitely pack some lunch.

The guide took us in their giant 4x4 offroader to the foot of the glacier, where we got crampons and climbing harnesses for safety. From there we hiked for about 1.5 hours until we reached the first ice cave. Walking through the caves was an unbelievable experience, the whole scene felt completely surreal.

After the cave we went down to where the glacier meets the ocean. It’s absolutely beautiful and humbling, also quiet relaxing sight. And in some ways quite sad as the guide mentioned that the ice is becoming less and less each year. It’s a true wonder of nature and pretty sad so see them melt away, maybe forever.

On our way back we stopped in one of the biggest and most famous caves. It was already late afternoon and the sun was quite low, complementing the blue ice with some golden sparkles. Again big thanks to Stephanie from LocalGuide for a fantastic day out the the icy wild of Iceland’s Glacier.

Quite tired and exhausted we left Vatnajökull National Park and drove towards Vík for some food and sleep. We were just about to call it a day when we drove past Reynisfjara Beach, which just looked to good to miss.

Day 7

When we got up in the morning the weather was changing for the worse. Hurricane like winds with gusts well above 60mph and heavy snowfall made getting around a lot harder. Without a 4x4 getting around would have been completely impossible.

The first stop of the day was the iconic Skógafoss waterfall. The advantage of the bad weather was that almost no one else was around, which is actually quite rare since it’s a very popular sight.

Later that day the snowfall was getting heavier and driving became more and more difficult. Not to far from our accommodation was a waterfall called Urriðafoss so we headed there for a lunch break and some quick pictures. The weather and light really wasn’t great, so we quickly moved on.

One destination that had been on our list list since the beginning of the trip were the Hruni Hot Springs. These springs are still a bit of a secret and not too many people find them. It’s located literally in the middle nowhere and a 4x4 is mandatory during winter.

Once you get there the water is surprisingly hot, just need to bring a towel. There’s even a little hut to get changed. This was really a fun and relaxing experience, I would absolutely recommend those one over the very busy Blue Lagoon.

Day 8

When we got up around 6am the next morning the weather had finally cleared up. But with all the snowfall from the previous day and night the roads we’re still completely snowed in. Driving to the last waterfall on out list, Gullfoss, was honestly quite a nerve wrecking experience. I expected us to get stuck in the snow every second. Thankfully the 4x4 plowed through the snow like a hot knife through butter and we arrived at the destination just when the sun came over the horizon. And turned out that not many others felt as adventurous as we this morning so we were rewarded with another solo waterfall sunrise experience.

Sadly the blue skies didn’t last very long and a few hours later it was grey and foggy again. We did one last hike to a small waterfall and some rapids called Bruarfoss. The water is considered one of the bluest in Iceland. The hike is quite easy and there are many signs but the deep snow made it quite difficult to walk in some places. Nevertheless the colours of the water quite impressive and definitely worth a visit.

This wraps up our road trip around the Ring Road of Iceland. If you have any question about our trip please get in touch here. Also swing by our Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates and stories.

See you soon!

Iceland Road Trip - From Snæfellsjökull to the East Fjords

Hello,

welcome back to another road trip. After spending the majority of last year’s trips in southern countries we decided that it was time to spend some time closer to the Arctic Circle: Iceland. Strictly speaking Iceland just barely scrapes the Arctic, but the landscape in nonetheless stunning.

We started our trip from Keflavík in the west of the island. After picking up our rental car we headed to the nearest supermarket to stock up on food and drinks. We wanted to spend the time mostly self-catered and some parts of the island can be quite remote. Regarding the car we went for a 4x4 and in hindsight this was definitely the right decision.

 

We wanted to circle Iceland on the so called Ring Road, in clockwise direction. The whole route was about 1400km with 8 overnight stops. The roads are generally in good condition, but the Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable and can change within minutes.

Day 1

So after sorting out supplies we headed straight up north along the coast towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano in western Iceland. The remains of the volcano are still very prominent in the landscape.

After about 2 hours of driving we arrived at the Búðakirkja church, also famously known as Black Church. We continued until we reached Arnarstapi, a small fishing village in the west of the peninsula. There are some very scenic walks along the steep cliffs. Around sunset this spot looks particularly beautiful.

From Arnarstapi it’s only a few miles to the iconic Lóndrangar cliffs, a basalt rock formation that almost looks like the ruins of an abandoned caste from afar.

Just after sunset we arrived at Djúpalónssandur Beach. The beach is mostly black sand and pebbles. We stopped here for a quick break before heading to our first accommodation.

Our AirBnb for the night was right next to Kirkjufell, one of the signature mountains of Snæfellsnes National Park. Luckily there was just enough daylight left to we quickly grabbed camera and tripod and managed to get one last shot of the day.

Day 2 and 3

The second day started early since we had quite a long trip ahead of ourself. As we left the Snæfellsnes peninsula and drove further north toward the West Fjords the landscape became much more arctic, and concrete roads soon became dirt roads.

Driving along the coast with the fjords and glaciers in the background looks incredibly beautiful. It truly feels like your entering arctic zones. Due to the Iceland’s northern latitude the light and the colours of the land are incredibly pastel, almost like a painting.

After a few hours of driving we arrived at Hvitserkur, another beach made out of black sand with a unique stone arch that somewhat looks like a dragon. When the tide is low you can climb down the cliffs and walk through the rock formation.

Day 4

The fourth day started very early at around 6am. The goal was to be at the famous Goðafoss Waterfall at sunrise. Fortunately we arrived just before sunrise and as it turned out the light is much nicer just before the sun peaks over the horizon.

In that area if Iceland it really payed off to have your own supplies. We had coffee and breakfast in the car, there really weren’t many shops nearby. The landscape became more and more deserted and the roads got very icy. In that part of the country a solid 4x4 vehicle definitely was worth it.

We arrived at our accommodation in the late afternoon and we were both quite tired from the early start and the long drive, so we decided to call it a day and just jump in the hot jacuzzi.

This sums up Part 1 of our road trip around Iceland. If you liked this post please check out our Instagram and Twitter or send us a message if you have any questions or just want to get in touch.

See you soon for Part II!

10 Reasons to visit La Palma

Hi all,

Happy New Year and welcome back to the Travel Blog. This is going to be the first post this year, but it’s actually recapping a trip we did at the end of last year. The decision to visit La Palma was based on out previous trips to Lanzarote and La Graciosa in 2017. Canaries are a great winter break destination, there are very affordable flights, cheap accommodations and amazing landscapes. The canaries have gotten quite a reputation for being a mass tourist destination primarily for the elderly generation. So hopefully the next 10 paragraphs will convince you that La Palma is quite the opposite than an overcrowded old people holiday resort.

 

1. Roque de los Muchachos

Probably one of the most popular spots on the islands for sunset hunters and astro photographers. The streets climb from sea level to almost 2500m and the view is absolutely stunning. The road goes all the way to the top, so no need for extended hiking. It’s a fantastic location for sunrise, sunset and night sky photography. Just bear in mind that in order to reduce light pollution in the area the road that leads to the top closes at around 8pm (there are a lot of observatories).

2. Charco Azul

One of the most picturesque natural pools on the island. Charco Azul has a variety of natural ponds and pools that can be entered very safely. There’s also walls to protect swimmers from the ocean swell. Come here in the early morning and you’ll have the whole site for yourself.

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3. Puerto de Santo Domingo

Great place for a picnic and to watch the sunset. There’s a short climb down to the beach, however when we went there the ocean waves were far to big and scary for swimming. The view along the coast is pretty spectacular though.

4. Playa La Vetta

Charming little fishing village right at the waterfront. There are steps and a rough path for about 2 miles that will take you down the cliffs. Very few tourists know about this place and even less people can be bothered to hike all the way down. So chances are quite high you’ll get another private sunset. Careful if it’s getting dark on the way up, there are some steeper passages as well as an unlit tunnel, if you’re planning on staying late consider bringing some flashlights.

5. Prois de Candelaria

Romantic little fishing village carved into the cliffs, feels very much like a secret pirate shelter. Most of the houses were empty and there were almost no people there. Very cool afternoon hike (~1.5miles one way), there are also some natural pools to go for a swim.

6. Playa de Nogales

One of the famous black sand beaches. It’s about 1 mile down from the car park. Great for sunrise and early mornings. Not busy at all.

7. Playa Echentive

Playa Echentive is a reminder of La Palma’s volcanic past. The beach is only a few decades old and a reminiscence of a volcanic eruption in 1971. It’s entirely covered in black sand and surrounded by fields of sharply hardened lava. Great spot for swimming and sunsets.

8. Mirador de Los Brechitos & Cascada de Los Colores

There are many ways to see the Mirador de Los Brechitos and the Cascada de Los Colores, but here’s how we did it:

We arrived at the parking at the bottom of Mirador de Los Brechitos at about 11am. From there taxis will drive you to the top of the mountain, which is also the starting point for the hike. Taxis charge around 50€ for 4 people and the drive takes about 20min. (No need to book, there are usually a few taxis waiting)

From the top of Mirador de Los Brechitos it’s around 9miles back down to the car park, including the detour to the Cascada de Los Colores. The path is very well signed but goes through quite steep terrain so you should definitely bring good hiking shoes. There’s a campground at the halfway point with some facilities and a little shop. Including a few brakes the whole hike took us about 4hrs, so remember to bring enough water and food.

9. Ruta de los Volcanes 

Ruta de los Volcanes is a network of paths and treks in the Cumbre Vieja National Park in the south of the island. Some of the routes have a rise of more than 1000m, with the summit at an impressive altitude of almost 2000m above sea level. It’s a slightly more difficult hike through natural terrain but the view from the crater is definitely worth the effort.

10. Cascada de Los Tilos

The gorge through the Cascada de Los Tilos exhibits a completely different side of La Palma. Lush green rain forest hanging from steep cliffs, refreshing waterfalls and shallow rivers are very different to what you would generally expect from the Canaries. You can hike through the canyon and its riverbed for around 1.5 miles, depending on the rainfall and weather conditions the water levels might vary. Great fun an very picturesque.

A few general tips for La Palma:

  • A car really helps, you’re going to be much more flexible. Particularly the beaches are very difficult to access and the roads quite steep, so a car will make your life a lot easier. There are buses but these mostly connect the more touristy spots.

  • Also some of the mountains are quite high in altitude and nights up there can get pretty chilly, so make sure to bring some warm jackets.

  • Paths are usually quite safe and well signed, but can get quite steep sometimes. So I would recommend to always bring appropriate shoes. And don’t forget enough water.

  • We went to La Palma in November, which is absolute off season. Therefore most spots and sites are quite empty, also you will get very good deals for flights and accommodations.

Hope you found these tips and suggestions helpful. If you have any questions please get in touch. If you want to find out more about our previous trips to the Canaries check out my posts about Lanzarote and La Graciosa.

For more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!

California Road Trip III - Yosemite to San Francisco

Hello,

welcome back to the last part of our California road trip. We started almost two weeks ago in Los Angeles, drove along the coast on the famous Highway One all the way up to Nevada, danced in the desert at Burning Man and jumped into the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Before heading back to San Francisco there was one last stop we were really looking forward to: Yosemite National Park.

 

Driving down from the North we first passed Washoe Lake and Mono Lake shortly after. The land was still very dry and the water was pretty low. We stopped at the lake for a quick lunch-break, but water levels were way to low to swim and we still had a long way ahead of us so we decided to move on.

Our entry point for Yosemite was Tioga Pass in the east of the Valley. It’s California’s highest highway peaking at almost 10.000ft. The road went on for about 30 miles along steep cliffs and cold and black lakes, until we finally reached Tenaya Lake. The sun was already starting to set so we set up camp for the night.

Next morning we got up early to watch the sunrise at Olmsted Point. From Olmsted Point you have a fantastic view over the slightly less frequently seen east side of Half Dome. As the sun slowly started to rise the cold of the night quickly vanished. Since we were so early we pretty much were the only people around, very peaceful start of the day.

Before heading down into Yosemite Valley we took a detour to Smith Peak and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Hetch Hetchy is sometimes referred to as the “Small Yosemite”, however it doesn’t lack any of its beauty. The scale of the dam that divides the valley is quite impressive, surrounded by sharp cliffs and forests.

Even though the nights were pretty cold with temperatures dropping to less than 10°C the days were still very hot. So after the trip to the reservoir we took a break at the creek, went swimming and had some lunch. Most of the surround area of Yosemite was surprisingly empty, for most of the day we didn’t encounter a lot of people.

In the late afternoon we finally arrived at Yosemite Valley. The sight when driving the winding roads down into the valley is quite spectacular. The beauty of the whole place is simply unimaginable. Particularly at sunrise and sunset the entire valley gets covered a very magical warm orange light. The way the light wraps around the cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome is an unbelievable sight unlike any other place I’ve seen.

We wanted to spend sunset at the famous Half Dome View. But after dinner and seeing the sun set behind the mountains we were quite tired so we stayed there for the night. The next morning turned out to be even better, also far less people. We were pretty much the only one around, having our morning coffee overlooking the whole valley.

After pancakes down at the creek we wanted to hike to Vernal Fall in the west of the valley. In our travel guide this was supposed to be one of the easier hikes, however it turned out to be more challenging than expected. The last half mile of the 2.5 miles in total was pretty steep and the ground very slippery. Nevertheless the view was absolutely worth it. Returning to the valley in the late afternoon we went for another swim before driving to Tunnel View, another famous Yosemite viewpoint that can be seen on many postcards.

For our last day we had booked quite a treat for ourself: A flight over Yosemite Valley. We took of in a small Cessna from Mariposa Airport at 7:30am. The light was just perfect, the sun just creeping over the mountain tops of Half Dome and El Capitan and the morning haze gently covering the valley into a blue glow. Only from up there you can get a sense of the true scale of Yosemite, an absolutely incredible and humbling experience. We flew with Airborrn Aviation, which I can highly recommend. Our pilot was super helpful, showed us all the good spots and steered the plane so we could get the best possible angle for the photos. It was also just the three of us in the plane so we had plenty of space. Fantastic experience, highly recommended!

Sadly every great trip has to come to an end eventually. Our journey though California ended quite sunny in San Francisco. After returning our RV we took a cab into the city centre to our hotel. We didn’t have a lot of time to do this great city justice, just about 24 hours. So we quickly rented some e-bikes from Jump and cycled down to docks and the pier. The sun was almost setting and we had to learn the hard way that San Francisco is a lot cooler than the rest of California. Shorts and shirts were definitely far to cold so we decided to call it a day and returned to our hotel.

The next day started typically wet and foggy. We took our chances and headed to Twin Peaks, but the sight was completely zero so went back down, had breakfast and jumped back on the e-bikes. Electric bikes work like a charm on the hilly streets of San Francisco. We had them for about 6 hours and we almost cycled 25 miles all the way and back to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s been an absolutely incredible two weeks, so many experiences far outside of our comfort zones. We’ve met so many incredible welcoming and helpful people, seen so many beautiful places. RV road trips definitely moved up a lot of my bucket list. America is big and there’s lots more to see. We will be back, promise.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post, if you like to read more about our road trip through California check out our trip along the Highway One, Burning Man and Lake Tahoe. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates.

See you soon!

California Road Trip II - Lake Tahoe

Welcome back,

One word. Decompression. When we left Burning Man after four insane days out in the wild and vast desert of Nevada, we felt overwhelmed, exhausted, dusty and dirty. You can image the relief when finally Lake Tahoe peaked over the horizon. Located between steep hills and lush green pine trees it was an azure oasis of refreshing cold water, waiting just for us. At least that’s how it felt.

 

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in northern America at an elevation of more than 6000ft. It’s located right at the border of two states, California on the west and Nevada on the east shore. With more that 70 miles of shoreline there is plenty to explore, even with our RV accessibility was never an issue. There’s plenty of parking and even though it’s a very popular holiday destination for both locals and tourists, it never felt overly crowded.

We drove around the shoreline for about one hour until we found a nice little spot that overlooked the lake and from where we could easily go for a swim. The water was cold but crystal clear, the weather warm and sunny so we decided to stay there for the rest of the day.

After a rejuvenating swim we spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the rocks around the lake, sunbathing and taking pictures. One of the perks of having a RV was undoubtedly being able to stop and cook wherever we wanted. Also the comfort of having all the essential amenities in the back of your cars is really nice, so you can easily stay out the whole day without having to worry about food, drinks or toilets.

As the sun slowly started to set we prepped some of the leftovers (we also had a microwave to easily reheat food) and enjoyed dinner with another incredible sunset right at the shore.

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The next morning we got up just before sunrise. We had another long drive ahead of us so we sadly had to wave goodbye to Tahoe National Park and drove south towards Yosemite.

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Hope you enjoyed this post, please also check out the first leg of our US trip, Highway One, as well as our experience at Burning Man.

For more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!

California Road Trip I - Highway 1

Hi,

900 miles in 3 days. That was the plan, to go from Los Angeles along the Highway 1, past Sacramento and Reno all the way up north to Burning Man at Black Rock City. As it was our first time steering a RV that was longer and wider than any other vehicle I' had driven before, this was without a doubt quite an endeavour.

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So after after an 11 hour flight and a short night in a hotel near LAX we picked up our camper van which was supposed to be our home for the next two weeks. We quickly realized that a 21 feet vehicle is far from ideal for the streets of LA so we left the city of stars behind us and headed north onto the famous Highway One.

It took a little while to get the hang of this new way of travelling but once you get used to it it’s great fun. Being able to stop almost everywhere and cook, make coffee or sleep is quite amazing.

The Californian coast is incredibly scenic and diverse. The road takes you along waterfalls and white beaches, steep cliffs and bridges, green fields and orange plantations. The warm and dry climate is very comfortable, and once we left the LA traffic behind us the roads became quieter. It’s a very easy going highway, windows down and music on. Sadly the jet-lag was still in full swing, so we both were very pretty relieved after we reached our first campsite after around 200 miles.

The next day started early and grey. It was still dark when we left the campground but the daily target was almost 300 miles so we had to get on the road.

After around 50 miles we reached the Elephant Seal Vista Point. After coffee and breakfast at the beach including some seal watching we continued the Highway 1 towards the Big Sur.

The Big Sur is the the central coastline of California, stretching between San Simeon in the South and Carmel in the North. It is considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and it can be a very touristy area. Luckily outside of public holidays at the end of August we had the road to our-self most of the times.

Along the highway there are plenty of view points. We pretty much drove and stopped whenever we liked, most vista points have free parking and lots of space for RVs.

Just after lunch the sky cleared up and the sun came out. We wanted to stop at Carmel-By-The-Sea for an afternoon break. Carmel is a small village dedicated to arts and crafts, very pretty and quite laid-back. There are plenty of artisan shops and galleries, also there’s beautiful white sand beach.

Just outside of Carmel begins the Point Lobos State Reserve, a small national park along the coast. It costs about 17$ entry per vehicle but definitely worth the visit. As it’s located with a large section of the coast facing west it was the perfect spot for sunset.

So we fired up the stove in the camper and probably had one of the best sunset-dinners at the beach of the whole trip, including breathtaking ocean view.

The next day started warm and sunny. We heavy-heartedly left the ocean road and set course towards land-inwards Sacramento. The landscape quickly changed to a vibrant orange and the curvy highway became much steeper. After around 200 miles we reached Tahoe National Forest and lush grasslands changed to impressive mountain ranges. Some of the passes have an elevation of almost 6000ft, but our RV slowly fought his way up the roads until we eventually reached Crystal Lake.

After a lunch-break and a swim in the lake we continued west along the Eisenhower Highway, past the picturesque Donner Lake and plenty of ski resorts. We hadn’t booked a campsite so we just tried or luck at a campground at the Boca Reservoir. That area had multiple campsites and luckily all of them were pretty much empty. So we picked a nice spot for the night just by the lake.

A lot of the campsites in the National Parks operate on a first come first serve policy. Also most of them are self service, so if you find an empty spot (there’s usually a little sign that tells you if a spot is reserved already) just put the amount for the night in a little safe box at the entrance and put the receipt under the windshield.

Wild bears are still quite common and visit campsites frequently, most of the times attracted by human food. So be advised to never leave open canisters of food as well as any rubbish outside. If you’re in a tent, most campsites have dedicated food storage boxes.

Coming from a big city the night sky was particularly impressive. Far away from any light pollution the sky was filled with millions of starts, even the Milkyway was visible to the naked eye.

The next day should be a big day for us, the reason why we traveled so far in the first place. We would finally make our way to Black Rock City to attend the Burning Man. There was just another 300miles between us and the probably craziest festival in the world. You can read all about it in our blog post What it’s like at Burning Man. Also if you want to see more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!

What it's like at Burning Man

Hello,

I’m not sure what sparked the fascination for Burning Man. I think it might have been Trey Ratcliff’s pictures from 2015’s Burning Man. There is something about his pictures that was quite compelling and captivating. The idea of a festival dedicated to arts in the middle of the desert thousand of miles from home felt oddly intriguing. But then in reality things turned out slightly more complicated. Black Rock City, a temporary city and community where Burning Man takes place, is located in the Nevada desert, many hundred miles away from cities or airport.

Going to Burning Man is not your average holiday. It took us almost half a year of planning and prepping. There are many things to consider and to be aware of. I’m not going to lie, the prepping process was exhausting at times but in the end, the reward is just an unbelievable experience that might or might not change you forever.

You won’t get the Burning Man you want - You will get the Burning Man you need.

Chapter 1 - Getting to Black Rock City

We started the journey to Black Rock City from Los Angeles. After a night at a hotel near the airport we picked up our RV early in the morning hours and headed north along the Route 1. We intentionally chose the more scenic route along the coast, going past the Big Sur towards Sacramento, Reno, Gerlach and finally Black Rock City, all in all about 650 miles. Took us about 4 days, including a lot of breaks here and there.

 

Once you leave California the landscape will change noticeably, nature is getting drier and temperatures start to rise. Reno is pretty much the last bigger city before leaving out into the deserts of Nevada, so stocking up in supplies is absolutely essential. We got food for a couple of days, a lot of water, filled up the freshwater tank and refilled gas and propane (for cooking and fridge). Burning Man is very much self supply, you can’t buy anything at the festival, so having enough supplies is very important.

There are some great WholeFoods stores all across the US including Reno, they have a big loose section so you can fill up your own bags and boxes. Cause remember, one of Burning Man’s most important principal is Leaving No Trace, so buying loose significantly helps to reduce the amount of waste generated in Black Rock City!

Also make sure you know the way. Once we left Reno we rarely saw any signs. The last 200 miles is pretty much just nothingness, no houses, cars or people. When you arrive at Gerlach, things get more interesting. It looks like a place straight from an old Western movie, gravel roads and wooden huts and buildings. Many Burners stop here to dust proof their vehicles. We brought masking tape and plastic bags to seal vents and windows of our RV. Just in time cause right when we left Gerlach we drove right into a big sandstorm.

There’s a good reasons why sandstorms are also called Whiteouts. Sight can drop to less that a few meters and everything gets covered in an incredibly fine layer of white dust. Whiteouts aren’t particularly stormy, they are in fact quite gentle. Sand googles and breathing masks are essential in order to protect you eyes and lungs.

Chapter 2 - The first night on the Playa

Depending on what time and day you arrive you will most likely spend quite a few hours in the queue. We arrived around 3pm and we spend a good 5 hours in line waiting to enter Black Rock City. If you bought a ticket for Will Call (which is the only option if you’re coming from abroad) you will have the time to pick it up. Also every vehicle will be searched by security.

By the time we made it to the gate it was dark already. And yes we both were pretty nervous now. Driving from the gate into Black Rock City feels like you’re entering a different world. It is an absolute sensory overload. Everything feels completely overwhelming. The way the city is organised is quite confusing in the beginning but it will start to make sense eventually. Circular streets are named from A-Z, straight roads are names according to their position on a clock, e.g. 2 o’clock or 5:30 o’clock.

We quickly set up camp and left to explore the nightlife of Burning Man. Nights are significantly colder than the days and even though you’re desert temperatures drop usually under 10 degree Celsius.

While wandering around the city at night it quickly becomes apparent that weird is the new normal here. It feels a little intimidating at first, but you will soon realise that people are incredibly open and friendly at Burning Man. Everyone is always there to help and chat, give advise and tips from previous Burns. Also everything start to feel quite liberating, there’s nothing for sale, you can just show up, participate, many times people will give away snacks or drinks. There are shows, theatres, stages, bars, all sorts of adult entertainment, all free and open and waiting for you.

Chapter 3 - Here comes the sun

Mornings at Burning Man were probably my favourite thing. It’s super calm and peaceful, a lot of people gather and welcome the first warm rays of the sun peeking over the mountains at the horizon. On the Playa it’s also the least busy period of the day. Great opportunity to explore and discover all the art installations and sculptures that are scattered all over the desert.

Chapter 4 - A day in the life of a Black Rock Citizen

After breakfast in the RV the first action of the day was getting the bikes. We had pre-booked bikes for pickup on the Playa. Bikes or any other form of transportation are very convenient and will make your life a lot easier. The city including the Playa extends for at least 5 miles in diameter, so bikes are great way to get around without getting tired

There are lots of things going on the Black Rock City during the day. Best way to find out is by heading to Center Camp right in the middle of the city. There will be maps and timetables, there are talks and shows, music gigs and performance arts. Pack plenty of water and some snacks for the day, as temperatures will rise quite significantly during the day.

Chapter 5 - Playing on the Playa

A common question you hear people asking is “What do you do the whole day?“ The playa, which is a dried out seabed of a former salt lake, extends many miles in all directions. You literally can see the Playa extend all the way past the horizon. And it is filled with all sorts of art sculptures, buildings, statues and constructions. Most of them are interactive in some sort, you can go inside them, climb them or move parts around. You’ll always meet new people hanging out in and around the art installations, sometimes it’s even the artists himself.

Then there are the art cars. Art cars are the public transport of Black Rock City. They can only operate at a maximum of 5 miles per hour but they are usually turned into a big moving piece of art. If there’s space on the vehicle most drivers will happily give you a ride. A lot of them also come with massive sounds systems, so many times there will be a spontaneous gathering of people dancing away.

You can honestly spend hours cycling across the Playa and you’ll always discover new things. One day we saw a bouncy castle in the far distance but didn’t have time to check it out. Came back later but never saw it again.

Chapter 6 - The Temple

The temple was another favourite place of ours. It’s been a very touching and moving experience. A lot of Burners that come to the temple bring photos, letters or personal items of friends or family they’ve lost. On the last day when the temple and all that’s inside gets burned, it’s the Burning Man way of saying farewell.

Lot’s of the letters and stories that decorate the walls of the temple are quite heart-warming. The first time we came to the temple a guy was playing cello. Many people are lost in thoughts or meditation, some are crying and some are just thinking. Being there was definitely a very emotional experience.

Chapter 7 - From dusk till dawn

When the sun sets over Black Rock City, the grey and dusty desert turns into an ocean of neon lights and colours. Camps, vehicles, bikes and people will put lights wherever they can and it’s a good advice to join them to avoid bumping into someone.

As previously mentioned nights are also a lot cooler than the days, so long cloth and jackets are an absolute must-have. There are plenty of places that offer free drinks so always bring you own refillable cup.

Same as during the day there are many shows and events, all for free so just stop wherever you like. One important thing to mention, not just for nighttime, is consent. No matter what you’re doing, when or with whom, always make sure it’s consensual. This starts with simply taking a picture and ends wherever you want it to end. It’s one of Burning Man’s most important rules: Consent. With that in mind, my advice would be: Be as open minded as possible, let go of any preconceptions or opinions. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, just keep riding through the night. Whatever can happen at Burning Man, will eventually happen. You just need to find it.

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Chapter 8 - The man burns (finally)

Saturday is the big day. The reason behind all the effort. It’s the day the man finally burns to the ground. It’s a beautiful reminder that all material things in life are temporary. For the ceremony all the art cars gather in a circle around the wooden man statue in the centre of the Playa. Everyone sits together in a large circle and watches the man go up in flames and finally fall into pieces, followed by a huge fireworks.

Chapter 9 - Decompression

We left very early the next day. The Exodus, as experience Burners call it, can turn into a massive traffic jam in which people have been stuck for hours. So at 4:30am in the morning we decided to leave Black Rock City behind and start the 600 miles journey back to San Francisco.

It’s been a few weeks now and I’m writing this post. Decompression is what’s referred to as the time after Burning Man and returning back to reality and the real world. It’s hard to put into word what the experience was like. It’s raw, crazy, beautiful, relentless, caring, wild, hot, touching, loving, cold and heart warming at the same time. There’s a saying that a part of you will never leave the Playa, that Burning Man will change you. Of course that’s very much exaggerated. However looking back at it now, there’s definitely something special and unique about it. What stuck with me the most is the fact the everything felt very honest and genuine. There was hardly any moment that felt artificial, contrived or forced. Qualities I now realise are very rarer in the real world.

So the big question remains, should you go to Burning Man? Will we go back some day? Depends what you’re looking for. Just remember, you won’t get the Burning Man you want. You will get the Burning Man you need.

Appendix - The Burning Man FAQ

How much does it cost to go to Burning Man?

Tickets are around 400$ per person, vehicles 80$. There are no day passes, it’s one ticket for the whole week. Obviously you don’t have to stay the whole week. The closest city is Reno, about 250 miles, San Francisco is about 500 miles and Los Angeles about 600 miles. There is no public transport so if you’re driving you’ll need gas. While you’re at the festival you can either stay in a tent or you rent an RV. Renting a motorhome including all fees probably costs around 200$ per day (excluding gas).

How to get tickets?

The tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis early March. You need to set up a Burner Profile on the Burning Man website. Tickets go super fast, it sells out in literally minutes after they’re released. When buying from abroad make sure you’re ready at the right time, all the times on the website are in Pacific Standard Time.

How do you get there?

There are many ways to get to Black Rock City. We flew from London to Los Angeles, picked up the RV and drove to the festival. But that’s just one option out of many.

What do you need to bring with you?

Water. First and most importantly, bring enough water. Warm cloths for the night, lights cloths for the day that protect from the sun. In terms of supplies, remember that after you left Reno you can’t buy anything anymore. So make sure you have enough food for the time of your stay. Sand goggles and breathing mask are also quite essential, you don’t want all of that dust in you eyes and lung.

In terms of the dust, remember that it’s alkaline dust. I can be pretty harsh on skin and any sort of electronics you’re bringing to the festival. Pro-trick to protect you’re skin is white vinegar. Mix that with water to get rid of the dust on your body.

Getting rid of the dust in your cloths and in the RV was actually a lot easier than we expected. If you’re a little mindful when entering the car and brush you cloths every now and then we managed to keep everything quite clean. After we left the festival we put all our dirty and dust cloths into a sealed back and brought it to the first Dry Cleaner in Reno. All completely clean in less that 1 hour.

Protecting gear is more tricky, we brought some waterproof bags and rucksacks that worked quite well.

Can you take pictures?

Always ask. Nudity is quite an integral part of the Burning Man culture. If you ask and if it’s consensual, just shoot away.

How to protect you camera gear?

I used the Outex Underwater Pro Kit. Worked like a charm, not a single grain of dust came through. Would highly recommend, well made and super useful addition to my equipment.

Hope you enjoyed this post, if you have any more question please get in touch, I’m more that happy to answer any Burning Man or general travel related questions. For more pictures of our trips please follow us on Instagram or Twitter.

See you soon!

The Gili Islands

Hello everyone,

Welcome back to the last leg of our trip around Bali. We started from Singapore, explored the South and the North of Bali and spent a day on Nusa Penida. The Gili Islands we're the last stop on our itinerary before heading back to Singapore. We've already heart a lot about the Gili Island, a tropical backpacker paradise, no cars, just blue oceans and white beaches.

There are 3 Gili Islands – Gili TrawanganGili Air  and Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan being the largest and most densely populated island. But all Islands are tiny, you can walk around all of them in less than an hour. And since there are no cars bikes are very popular and can be rented everywhere.