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. 

 

But first of all, how do you get to the Gili Islands? There are multiple ways, starting with the very cheap (~2£) public ferry to and from Lombok. In our case we went from Bali to Nusa Penida (where we spend a day) and then took a speedboat to Nusa Lembongan from where we took a private ferry to Gili Trawangan

There are no cars on the Gili Islands. In order to get to and away from the harbor you can hire a horse wagon which will drive you all the way around the island for around 10£. Our hotel was renting out bikes for free, the quickest and most fun way to get around the island. Alternatively there are plenty of places to cheeply get a bike for a few days. 

Life on the Gilis is slow and calm. If you avoid high season apart from the main street near the harbor things are very relaxing and quiet. Enough time to enjoy the sunset on the westside of the island in one of the countless hammocks that are hanging in the trees. 

The sunsets have been some of my favorite so far. just walk along the western beach and find yourself a swing or a hammock and just lay back and enjoy. 

One of the best things you should do is rent a private boat far a few hours. Half day for the two of us cost around 30£ and you can visit the neighboring islands Gili Air or Gili Meno. Also the the locals driving the boat will show you the best spots to go snorkeling and swimming. Just remember to pack enough water, alternatively there are a few cafes on Gili Air that offer refreshments. 

Snorkeling is absolutely beautiful around the Gili Islands. There are plenty of different spots to explore, there are the famous hugging statues as well as a shipwreck, also there are plenty of colorful fish. If you're lucky you might even see a turtle.  

Something Anja was quite keen to do was going horseback riding on the beach. There are a few stables that offer sunset rides for about 40£ for around 2 hours. 

If you like this post check out the previous stops on our trip to Bali:

Also for more frequent update follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon! 

A day on Nusa Penida

Hi,

Nusa Penida, also knows as the Instagram Mecca of the 21st century. Boosted by the power of social media this particular little island became one of the most popular travel destination in the world. Nusa Penida features some of the most spectacular beaches and viewpoints in Indonesia and it's just one hour off the shore of Bali.

 

We started our trip from Bali early (check out the blog post here). The ferry operates quite frequently between Sanur Harbor and Nusa Penida. There're usually no jetties and you have to carry your luggage through the shallow water into the boat. 

First stop on our tour through the island was the famous Kelingking Beach. The iconic rock and chalk-stone formation has attracted millions of people and definitely doesn't lack in beauty. There's a path on the ridge of the cliff all the way down to the beach, sadly we didn't have enough time.

Little fun-fact, the little piece of land you can see in the pictures is also called drone graveyard by the locals. Apparently when you fly too low off shore you hit a radio dead-spot. Nevertheless, we flew our drone and it was fine, but keep that in mind.

Next stop was Broken Beach at the western side of the island. It's a natural pool connected to the ocean by an arch in the cliffs. The water is blue and quite famous for the large populations of manta rays. You can walk around the pool and over the arch and enjoy the picturesque views over the azure ocean. 

Not far from Broken Beach is Angles Billabong. It's another very shallow natural pool. It's exactly facing west so great sport for sunsets. Cliffs are pretty sharp so be carful when climbing down into the water.

Our final stop for the day was Crystal Bay. Since we were staying on Nusa Penida for the night we weren't in a rush to get on the last ferry. Hence the beach was relatively empty. We went out for a quick swim just on time to enjoy the sun setting behind the cliffs.

If you want to see the previous trips in and around Indonesia check out my previous posts:

Also for more frequent updates please follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

See you soon!

Exploring the North of Bali

Welcome back,

Hello again from Bali and welcome back to part 3 of our Indonesia itinerary. In case you haven't seen our previous trips to Singapore and Uluwatu in the south of Bali, we're currently in Ubud. We arrived here yesterday very late after an adventure packed day, it was dark already so we went straight to bed. The next morning we were woken by an absolutely spectacular sunset: 

 

Day 4

We stayed in an Airbnb called Sunrise Villa. That place definitely earned it's name, build into the east-facing slope right into the jungle, sunrises were breathtaking. There was a spacious balcony and a pool, both overlooking the jungle. 

 

After a refreshing swim in the pool and a breakfast served to the balcony we continued our tour with Jefta. Our first stop were the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. The rice field comprise about 5x5km, there are a few well singed hikes through the field. We went for the shortest option which is about 3km and takes about an hour. Even though it's one of Bali's most popular sights it was suprisingly quiet and peaceful, for most of the walk it was just us and the rice fields.    

Next stop was Sekumpul Waterfall. This was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of our trip so far. It's not a single waterfall but a set of 3 streams emerging out of the jungle and dropping at least 40m down into a little lake at the bottom of the valley. The climb down took about half an hour and is quite steep in parts. You have to get a local guide to bring you safely down to the waterfall.

Jefta also knew another more hidden waterfall that was a little smaller but the water was also a lot calmer which allowed us to go for a swim. Swimming under a waterfall in the middle of the jungle was an absolutely stunning experience.  

The last stop of the day was at the Ulun Danu Bratan Temple. Very quiet and peaceful experience and a great end to a perfect day.

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A great place for dinner in Ubud is The Elephant. Great vegetarian menu and very affordable prices. Five stars from us!

Day 5

Another location that was on my Bali bucket list for quite some time was the famous Ubud Ridge Walk. Best time for this is usually sunrise, so the next day we got up quite early to make our way to the entrance of the valley. The Ridge Walk starts down at a small river and quickly rises above the jungle. The way the sun was slowly climbing above the trees and the light shining through the morning mist and foliage of the jungle was a spectacular sight, absolutely worth getting up early!

We arrived back at the AirBnb with just enough time for a relaxed breakfast on the balcony before Jefta picked us up to take us to the harbor to Nusa Penida. Just want to use this opportunity to thank Jefta for an absolutely amazing tour. If your coming to Bali, you won't be disappointed. You can contact him via his website www.baliblesttours.com.

Hope you liked the pictures and found this post useful, please find me on Instagram or Twitter if you want to get in touch. 

Welcome to Bali

Hello,

Welcome back to the second part of our Indonesia itinerary. After a few days in Singapore it was time to move South. From Changi Airport it takes about 2.5 hours to fly to Denpasar In Bali. Our first accommodation was situated in the South of the island. Best way to get there from the airport was by local taxi. We booked all our rooms with AirBnb, it was super convenient and there are some amazing places, definitely worth checking out.

 

Day 1

We arrived at our accommodation in the early afternoon. After a refreshing swim in the pool and a quick lunch at the bar we took a cab to the famous Pura Luhur Temple. The temple is also quite often called monkey temple because there are lots of wild monkeys in the trees and on the terraces. Particularly for sunset hours the view from the temple and the surrounds is quite spectacular. There's a small admission (~3£pp), also be careful with your belongings as monkeys likely will attempt to steal any loose items like sunglasses or earrings. 

 
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What we noticed quite quickly was that days near the equator are a lot shorter than what we were used to. Sunset was around 6:30pm and it was almost pitch black by 7pm. So it's definitely worth getting up early and making the most of the days.

Also if you're in the South pay a visit at Single Fin Surf Club. Super quirky and vibrant atmosphere, affordable food and cocktails and a great view over the ocean. 

Day 2

We got up earl to get some picture of the sunrise. The hotel had an amazing pool that was build right on the cliff edge and overlooking the ocean. Also at that time of day we pretty much had the pool for ourself. 

After breakfast we decided to visit the nearby Balangan Beach. There are plenty of surf schools and bars at the beach to rent surfboards and buy some food and drinks. Great way to spend an afternoon

Day 3

For our third day we had booked a tour with Jefta from Bali Blest Tours. The tour was for 2 days, so for the first day we wanted to explore the South of Bali a bit more. For the first stop on the tour Jefta took us to Tukad Cepung Waterfall. Visiting waterfalls in Bali was an absolutely amazing and rewarding experience. It's felt great hiking through the jungle and climbing over boulders and through caves and finally arriving at a refreshing waterfall. 

Next stop was the Tirta Gangga Water Temple. There are plenty of fountains and ponds with fish. You can buy food to feed the fish and there is a pool for swimming. Within the temple area is a quite nice restaurant that overlooks the temple, great for lunch or a coffee break. 

The last stop for the day was Lempuyang Temple. It's build into the slop of the summit of Mount Lempuyang and the view particularly at sunset is simply spectacular. Quite often it's also referred to as Gates of Heaven.

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Stay tuned for many more pictures. If you like our pictures please swing by our Instagram and Twitter

5 things to do on a layover in Singapore

Hello,

welcome back everyone. Singapore was the first stop in our Indonesia itinerary. Why Singapore? you might ask. When travelling from London there are no direct flights Indonesia that were convenient, also neither of us had visited Singapore before. The connecting flights from Changi Airport are also quite short and frequent, so Singapore was a great place to overcome the jetlag, get used to the equatorial climate and start the trip to Indonesia.

Singapore feels like a melting pot of cultures, religions, food and lifestyle. With futuristic architecture on one side of the town and traditional markets on the other it truly feels like a place of contrasts. When taking the underground metro from The Quays to Chinatown it seems like going back in time. There's Orchard Road with huge shopping malls and shops like Hugo Boss or Louis Vuitton and then there's Little India where people trade fish and vegetables in crammed and noisy market halls. 

Singapore isn't cheap. Compared to its neighbor Indonesia it's actually quite expensive. Average price for lunch is about 8-10£, coffee costs around 3£. If you want to save some money most shopping malls have some decent food courts that offer a large variety of local and international street food. 

 

We only stayed a total of 3 nights, two at the start of our trip and one at the end. Here are a few sights that you shouldn't miss and that are definitely worth your time:

1. Gardens by the Bay

The Gardens by the Bay is probably one of Singapore's most photographed site. The highlight of the park are undoubtedly the massive artificial metal tree structures that rise above all other plants in the area. The trees are illuminated in different colours at night (themed light-shows take place at 7.45pm and 8.45pm), best times to visit is probably very early in the morning or late evenings.

For about 15£ per person you can also visit the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Particularly the Cloud Forest was quite interesting, also refreshingly cooler than the rest of the park. The gardens itself are free, so you can visit multiple times if you like. 

2. Southern Ridges

The walk along the Southern Ridges was one of my favorite things to do in Singapore. It took about 2-3 hours, but we stopped many times for photos and coffee breaks. There were a few steep stairs along the path but the view over the city from the peaks are quite stunning. Even thou you're still in the middle of the city it feels more like walking through a jungle. There is also a tree top walk from where you can enjoy a unique view over the trees and foliage, sometimes there are even wild monkeys. The whole walk felt very quiet, we rarely saw any other people. Compared to the hot and hectic city this was a very relaxing experience.

Also there's a very chilled cafe at the top of Mt. Faber, which is quite amazing for an iced coffee and an great view over the harbour. 

3. Marina Bay Sands

The big question you'll probably ask yourself: Is it worth it? Rooms in Singapore's fanciest hotel don't come cheap, but the infinity pool on the 57th floor is really quite breathtaking. The hotel is a big tourist attraction and the pool gets very busy at peak times, particularly around sunset. The best times for a relaxed swim is early mornings and late nights (pool opens at 6am until 11pm). There are 2 types of rooms, one with view over the Gardens by the Bay and one over the city. Our room had city view which was quite spectacular, I would definitely recommend this side. Also hotel guests have free access to the observation deck, from where you have an almost 360° view over the city.

4. Botanic Gardens

Another entirely free thing to explore is the Singapore Botanic Garden. Very quiet and relaxing, I found it to be a much welcome break from the city life. There are many walks and trails through the gardens, the rain forest part is probably the most impressive. 

5. Quays at Night

The perfect end-of-day-walk! Start at Read Bridge and keep walking east on either side of the river. There are plenty of places to grab food or drinks. Once you reach the Merlion, a half lion half fish stature you'll have a fantastic view over the Singaporean skyline and the Marina Bay Sands. You can walk all the way around the bay, there's some pretty amazingly designed bridges and colourful buildings. 

Bonus Breakfast Tip: My Awesome Cafe

We had a great breakfast at "My Awesome Cafe". Great coffee and scrambled eggs and some pretty awesome shakes. If you're in the area that's definitely worth a visit:

202 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore, 068639
9:00 morning till 12:00 midnight

 

The Canaries Diary Part II: La Graciosa

Hello again,

welcome back to Part II of the Canaries Diary. Here's a link to Part I and all the things we did on Lanzarote

We spend the night in Orzola on Lanzarote before getting up at sunrise to take the ferry to La Graciosa. It's one of the northern islands of the Canaries and also one of the smallest inhabited part of the archipelago. Only about 700 people live permanently on the island, most live from tourism. There are no roads on La Graciosa, the only way to get around is by foot or to hire one of the 4x4 taxis. 

 

The first thing we noticed when we got of the ferry was the wind. Particularly around the harbour the wind blows violently through the little village. Since we didn't have time for breakfast we went to the first cafe which happened to be the only cafe in town. The entire town is pretty small, you can easily walk from on end to the other in less than 10 minutes. There's a little supermarket, a few restaurants and shops. 

After checking into our AirBnb ("Quiet apartment in La Graciosa Island") for the night we decided to take a tour around the island. Tours are offered by locals and usually start at the harbour and const about 50€. We shared the tour with a few others so it ended up being less that 10€ per person. The tour takes you pretty much all around the whole island, stopping at all the most popular sights. 

The highlight of the tour is definitely Playa De Las Conchas on the southern side of the island. It's very remote and hence not many people get there. It was probably one of the best experiences of the entire trip, we even came back later to watch the sunset.

The next day started a little less windy, so after breakfast and coffee we decided to hike up one of the volcanic mountains close to Playa De Las Conchas. They're not very high, but steep and the ground is very slippery. The view on top is absolutely worth it. 

To sum up the experience on La Graciosa, it feels a lot further away from Europe than Lanzarote. There are no tour busses or hotels, most of the tourists are backpackers. Especially after 5pm when the last ferry to Lanzarote left the island turns quiet. The weather and landscape is a lot rougher, the waves bigger and the currents stronger. The whole islands feels a lot more african than european. For me La Graciosa was definitely the highlight of the whole trip. 

If you liked this post make sure you also check out my post about Lanzarote. Also swing by my Instagram and Twitter for more regular pictures and updates. 

See you soon,

Tobi

The Canaries Diary Part I: Lanzarote

Hi all,

if you do an online search for the most popular and "hip" travel destinations of 2017 Lanzarote most likely wouldn't be on top of the results. And honestly I was in the same mindset. The only people I know who have been to the Canaries are my grandparents few years back. The reason we went there was mostly the lack of time and options, also the flights from London are a bargain in November. 

Today I've been back for about 3 weeks and I'm glad I went on this trip and overcame my prejudices.  Lanzarote has so many amazing and seemingly untouched gems waiting to be discovered, far away from mainstream tourism and tour busses. So don't get fooled by online reviews, Lanzarote is a unique and exiting place, only a few hours away from London.

The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago just off the northern coast of Africa. The most popular ones are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and finally Lanzarote, the most eastern island of the Canaries. According to Wikipedia they are among the outermost regions of the EU. And indeed this becomes very apparent once you start leaving the main cities: All Islands are the reminisces of a volcanic eruption hundreds of years ago. The landscape literally turns into fields of hardened lava. 

 

Walking on lava

Lanzarote's violent past becomes already quite visible when you approach the island's airport. From the air you can clearly see craters and broken up slopes, relicts of massive eruptions in the past. The landscapes are vast and deserted, only under closer inspections revealing signs of nature slowly fighting its way back up through the solidified fields of lava. 

The black beaches

One of the most beautiful phenomena happened when over decades the solid lava got washed into the ocean and formed beaches with black sand. The blue ocean, the breaking waves and the black sand create some stunning colours.

Climb the cliffs

It's hard to miss the cliffs overlooking Famara Beach at the most norther end of Lanzarote. Roads are steep and mostly gravel at the ends, but the view is way worth it. Park your car at the Park El Bosquecillo and search for Cueva de Las Cabras, you won't be dissapointed!

Go Surfing

One of the best ways to experience the waves of the Atlantic Ocean it to go surfing. The most popular spot is Famara Beach in the north of Lanzarote. The beach is very safe with moderate waves, lifeguards and surf schools. We rented boards and wetsuits at lanzarotekite just a few hundred meters from the shore, prices are really cheap and staff friendly.

Take a bath

The natural pools are probably one of Lanzarote's best kept secrets, and it took us quite a while to find them. Located at the south of the islands, follow a pretty bumpy dirt road until you see an abandoned building. This used to be a hotel back in the 60s and 70s, there are very few sources on what this place actually is. Today it largely seems like a place for homeless and graffiti artists. We parked our car just outside the building.

We walked through a few holes in the fences and ignored the "Do not enter" warning signs. There's an undeniably weird vibe in the air, and the structure definitely didn't feel safe. So we left on the rear side of the hotel through what used to be courtyard, climbed through another fence and went towards the cliffs.        

The pools on the other side are just gorgeous. Carefully climb down the cliffs and make sure the tide is pretty low. Unfortunately when we arrived the tide was already rising again and big waves started to roll over the pools. So we only took a quick bath and snapped a few pictures before climbing back up. The currents are incredibly powerful, so please be careful and always have someone watching the incoming waves. 

 
 

This concludes Part I of our trip to the Canaries, hope you enjoyed the pictures. If you want to get a sneak peak of what's coming next, check out my Instagram and Twitter for daily updates and travel pictures. Click here to jump straight to Part II: La Graciosa.

Tobi

A day trip to Sintra

Hi all,

when we were staying in Lisbon a few weeks ago we decided to go to Sintra for a day. It's not to far, we took an Uber and it took about 45min. On weekends definitely start your day early to avoid the crowds. Our first destination was the National Place of Pena which is situated on top a little hill in a national park. It's a beautiful and colourful building with a stunning view over the surrounding forest. And if you're early you can have it pretty much all by yourself.

Also definitely explore the surrounding gardens. There are some hidden viewpoints that have a stellar view over the national park. 

From the exit of the palace it's just a short walk to the remains of an old castle. (You can get combi-tickets for both palace and castle) It's generally pretty steep to make sure you bring good shoes. Once you leave the castle just follow the path down the hill where you'll arrive in the old town of Sintra, just in time for lunch.

After a rejuvenating lunch at one of the local bakeries, we took another Uber to Azenhas do Mar, a sleepy little seaside town right at the ocean. Because of the strong waves and currents there is a seawater pool carved into the cliff walls so can safely go for a swim. A walk along the cliffs is a must, the scenery is absolutely stunning. 

Azenhas do Mar is probably one of the greatest places in Portugal to watch the sunset. It's facing almost exactly west, therefore the sun dips the ocean just in front of the beach. There are deckchairs and cocktail bars just at the seafront, making it the perfect end to a perfect day out.

I hope you enjoyed this post about our trip to Sintra. Also check out what we did in Lisbon and why you should go there too!

If you're curious and want more regular updates follow me on Twitter and Instagram

See you soon,

Tobi

Why you should visit Lisbon

Hola,

welcome back to another travel update, this time from the beautiful city of Lisbon. We stayed for 5 nights and we really had a fantastic time. Lisbon is a truly warm and welcoming place, we met a lot of really nice people and I would highly recommend to bump up Lisbon on you bucket list.

Lisbon is located at the Tagus river at the west coast of Portugal. Most of the year temperatures are warm and comforting during the day and refreshingly chilly at night. Although Lisbon is right at the ocean there aren't any beaches nearby the city centre but there are some beautiful waterfronts just a short minute train ride away.

 

For me a lot of the beauty come from the fact that Lisbon still has that dreamy feel like traveling back in time. Quite often we just wandered around in the old town just to stumble upon another stunning viewpoint over the city.    

I highly recommend an early morning walk, before most shops open and tourist swarm on the streets. So get up at dusk and make your way to the Elevator of Santa Justa. It's pretty much an old elevator that connects the lower streets with the higher streets of Lisbon. From the top you have an amazing view over the city. Later during the day queues get really long so definitely be there early.

Getting up before the crowds is rewarding in two ways. Firstly all the streets are empty and second- and most importantly, the light is just gentle and beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful light - If you're looking for an amazing sunset spot go to the São Jorge Castle and the top of Alfama. You'll need to get a ticket so be there at least 1 hour before sunset. The area of the caste is quite spacious so there's a lot to explore. When the sun finally sets make your way to the eastern wall of the castle for a stunning view over Lisbon and the bay. 

And there's a lot more to discover:

1. Visit the Church of São Vicente of Fora on the westside of Alfama. For a small admission you'll find a romantic, almost forgotten monastery that features some beautiful architecture and a fantastic view from the roof.

2. Take the train or tram to the district of Belém. From the station you can stroll along the waterfront until you reach the Tower of Belém. We didn't go inside the tower but went straight to the nearby Jerónimos Monastery.

3. Last but not least, if you have time visit the Cristo Rei Statue south of the river. The view over the bay, the suspension bridge and Lisbon is simply unforgettable. We took a cab from downtown Lisbon but the traffic can be pretty bad, particularly at peak hours. There's also a ferry that operates between both sides of the river.

I hope you liked our little summary about our experience in Lisbon, please swing by our Instagram or Twitter for more travel photos and updates. If you have any questions or suggestion please get in touch, we would love to hear your feedback.

See you soon :)

The New York City Digest

Hi all,

after coming back from New York City I went through the pictures and I really have to say that four days can't do justice to such a big city. I was actually pleasantly surprised how beautiful a lot of the pictures turned out. I was also the first time I took the Sony A7rii out for a field test. 

On the first day it was incredibly hot. With temperatures well above 30°C we started the day in the Central Park. We also made our first encounter with the New York City Subway. 

After a few hours of strolling around the park and at least three stops for coffee (jetlag!) we headed downtown for Grand Central Station. 

It was already late afternoon by the time we left the station, and temperatures we're still climbing, and so was the amount of people on the streets. A lunch break was well overdue so we went to the nearest park for a sandwich and (more) coffee. 

After a few hours of rest and some New York City burgers we decided to end the day on the roof of the Empire State Building. We deliberately arrived there quite late around 9.30pm to avoid the queues and get some nice shots of the New York Skyline with all the citylights on.  

Conveniently Times Square was right next door so we took some snaps and enjoyed the famous scenery. It was also almost midnight and streets were still packed. They don't call it "The city that never sleeps" for no reason.

The next day started grey and rainy. And rainy days are usually an excellent opportunity for some culture, so we decided to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. The museum itself is quite gigantic and we easily spend a few hours exploring everything from Roman Statues to Egyptian tombs.

Not to far from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts is the 9/11 Memorial. The adjacent and mostly underground museum surrounds the former foundation of the twin towers. It's quite an impressive and agitating exhibition and definitely worth a visit.

When we woke up the following day the sun was out again. The Metropolitan Museum of Arts also features a quite amazing rooftop that overlooks Central Park. 

After another stroll through Central Park we took the subway further downtown. We spent most of the morning and early afternoon exploring Lower Manhattan and the East Village. 

From Whitehall Street at the northern tip of Manhattan you can take the Staten Island Ferry completely free of charge for a tour around the Lower Hudson Bay. 

The last sunset we spent in good New York tradition under the Brooklyn Bridge. To sum up the experience we had and now that I'm looking at the pictures back at home I wish I have had a little more time to discover in particular New York's quieter sides, parks and cafes. 

I've you liked my pictures please follow me on Instagram or Twitter, leave a comment or message me if you want to get in touch. I would love to hear your feedback.

See you soon,

Tobi

Road trip through Snowdonia

Hi everyone,

Easter time means road trip time. This year our destination was the Snowdonia National Park in north Wales. We started our trip from London Euston where we took the train to Liverpool from where we continued our journey via car. (We rented a car from Europcar right next to the station which was pretty straight forward, would definitely recommend)

We left Liverpool heading north towards Llandudno where we had our first Airbnb for the night. We deliberately picked smaller and more scenic roads alongside the coast. This will usually be a little slower but there are plenty of great photo opportunities.

 

Unfortunately on the next day the weather forecast didn't look too promising. Nevertheless we left Llandudno heading west towards Isle of Anglesey. Our goal for the day was the lighthouse on Holy Island. It's an incredible panorama from the cliffs overlooking the the little island and definitely worth the trip. Sadly the rain caught up on us and we decided to call it a day and drive back to our accommodation. 

Waking up the next morning we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine peeking through our window. Our Airbnb had an unbeatable view overlooking Conwy Bay, and our host Anne made a fantastic breakfast. Great way to start a day!

As the weather was looking really promising we quickly packed our bags, our next B'n'b was on the southern side of Snowdonia National Park. To get there we had to cross the Welsh Highlands including the famous Mount Snowdon.

After passing the mountains the sun welcomed us on the other side. Our goal for the day was to circle the Lleyh Peninsula

After a day with plenty of sunshine it was time to get to our b'n'b for the night. Set in the small village of Dolgellau it was one of the most unique and quirkiest places we've ever stayed in. All rooms we're uniquely inspired by classic novels, Alice in Wonderland was the theme that stood out the most in my opinion. And on top of that our hosts Jayne & Mark were incredible friendly and welcoming. If you're ever in the south of Wales this is a great place to stay!

For our last day we had planned to explore the area around Dolgellau. The weather unfortunately wasn't as nice as the day before to we had to incorporate quite a few coffee breaks on the way to escape the rain. 

My five favourite things to do in Dubai

Hi all,

this journey started, like so many before, on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in March at Heathrow Airport. I was waiting in front one of the countless coffeeshops in the terminal for my friend Harry, who's joining me on this trip from Hamburg. At the time we had no idea what to expect, neither of us had been to Dubai before. We also had no idea what an amazing experience this trip was going to be.  

 

About 7 hours, one airplane green curry and a few coffees later we touched down at Dubai International Airport. We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton which is pretty central and also really well connected to Dubai's public transport. And being connected is quite important as this city hasn't been designed for walking. It's easy to underestimate distances on a map, and you don't want to get lost in almost 40°C.

In the following I've assembled my five favourite things and recommendations to do in Dubai. Our stay was about 5 days which felt like the ideal time to get a sense for the country, culture and people. Just a quick tip to make the most of your stay, we booked most of the following activities in advance and it's proofed to be quite hassle free and straight forward. 


1. Fly!

Dubai is probably the best opportunity in the world to get a seat in a helicopter. The true scale of city only really reveals itself from the air. Especially the Palm of Jumeirah looks nothing but stunning from above. If it's in your budget, it's worth every penny.

2. Go on a Desert Safari

Going on a desert safari is a great way to experience the deserts around Dubai. Most tours are pretty worry free, starting with hotel pickup, dune bashing, sand-boarding and camel riding as well as dinner under the stars, fire-eater and belly dancing. Now this might sound a bit touristy at first but I can ensure you it's perfectly fine and group sizes are manageable. And most importantly there are plenty of photo opportunities.