Tag Archives: travel

Rock climbing in Bolivia

Sucre – climbing with new friends in Bolivia

IMG_20170505_081921
Carlos and Ingrid

We desperately wanted to go climbing in Bolivia as we had not managed to do any climbing at all in Peru. When we were in Peru the catastrophic floods and landslides made it impossible to reach many climbing areas and unsafe to climb in many places. It had been 4 months since our last outdoor climb in Cat Ba Vietnam and we were itching to get back on the rock. At the same time I was wondering if I still would have enough climbing fitness in me to really enjoy it.

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1275.
Beautiful Ha Long bay Vietnam back in December 2016.

Once we got to Sucre from Potosi and started looking at things to do there, we immediately realised that there is plenty of rock climbing in the Sucre area. Happy days! There are 2 main climbing companies that operate in Sucre and through a friend of climbing friend that met in Lima 2 months earlier, I got in touch with Carlos at ClimbingSucre to se if he could help us out.

IMG_8269
Climbing at base camp Lima

By the time Carlos and I got talking we only had 2 days left in Sucre before our flight to Santa Cruz. Luckily Carlos offered to take us out climbing that same afternoon so that we could fit 2 climbing sessions in before leaving. Perfect! With such a long time since our last climb, to fully enjoy it we would need a proper warmup session before trying any harder climbs. We agreed on 2 half days of climbing at BS1000 and headed off out to Sica Sica crag just a few hours later.

Rock climbing at Sica Sica Crag, Bolivia

With only a handful of climbs in the last year in China, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand x 2, and Vietnam. Ingrid and I were lacking our usual climbing strength, especially in our fingers so we were both hoping to  enjoy climbing some lower grades than usual.

IMG_20170504_132405
View over Sucre from Sica Sica crag

Carlos met us at our hostel and a taxi buddy of his picked us all up and drove 10min to the crag at the edge of town. How amazing to have such a big wall to climb right on your door step at almost walking distance from the centre of Sucre. No wonder foreigners have settled here to run climbing businesses.

IMG_20170504_144005
Bolivia, Sucre, Sica Sica crag set in a tranquil eucalyptus forest

Getting back on the rock after 4 months break

Ingrid was soo excited she was almost hyper. She was skipping along the steep path up the 20 min ascent from the road to the crag and singing non stop. We soon arrived at the gorgeous crag and enjoyed the great view over Sucre right behind us. The 25m wall has a steep path up one side, perfect for setting up top ropes. Carlos went to set up the ropes, while Ingrid and I got our gear out.

IMG_20170504_150823
Ready to climb

As he came back down he was keen to point out that there are a lot of unsafe routes set up by amateurs in Bolivia. 2 routes he pointed out on this wall were set up with unsafe bolts and unless you come here with a guide, you would not know this and perhaps have an accident as a result.  Bolts and drills are hard to come by in Bolivia, and although climb Bolivia pay for some of the routes there guys set up, Carlos also explained he and other climbers have invested a lot of money in bolting routes and buying gear that is more expensive in Bolivia than in most European countries.

IMG_20170505_111536
Sore toes

I was not looking forward to unwrapping our smelly shoes that had been hiding in layers of plastic bags in the bottom of Ingrid backpack for months. Happy to find that they were ok and good to use…my feet however were not as pleased. I got another little bag out with what i thought was chalk, only to discover it was a bag of pasta! What a plonker, a days climbing without chalk as Carlos had not brought his either! At least the crag was in the shade so we would hopefully not be climbing too hard or sweating enough to really need it…

IMG_20170504_153452
Lovely routes on the Sica Sica crag

We started easy on a couple of 4s on the giant slab and were happy to find that the technique was still in us. We were also pleased to start the 2 days of climbing on a slab as it meant more leg power and less reliance on our weak fingers and arms. Most of the climbs were along flakes and cracks and friction on this sharp sandstone was good all they way. We continued climbing through the 5bs and 5cs  and finished on a couple of lovely long 6as. What a lovely afternoon of climbing.

IMG_20170504_143427
Ingrid on top rope at Sica Sica crag Bolivia

Lead climbing on Garcilazo Crag, Bolivia

Day 2 we headed off at 8 and had only a 15 drive to Garcilazo crag. The driver who’s car was running on something other than petrol was struggling to get the car up the hill to our drops off point, but eventually we made it.

IMG_20170505_120448
Tricky approach to the Garcilazo crag in Bolivia

Once there I could not see the crag anywhere…turns out that we were on top of it and the approach was s steep scramble down a slippery hill to the impressive wall of exposed sandstone. Luckily Ingrid is like little mountain goat these days so we managed to get there safely in the end. The Garcilazo crag is a high quality vertical sandstone with long cracks, some tough crimpers and a distinct lack of foot holds.

IMG_20170505_091939
Typical route on Garcilazo crag in Bolivia

It is south facing so in summer, this shady spot provides great protection form the sun, but as this is winter it was very cold in the shade so I was glad we had brought our hats and puffers. Yann (one of Ingrid climbing coaches back in London) says cold is good for friction said Ingrid with a smile.

IMG_20170505_095339

No hanging about, I has asked to lead and that is what I got. I set up the first 5a route and Ingrid second it after me. We were both really suffering with cold fingers, especially the 1st third of every route. It was total agony and  sharp rock on our cold weak fingers made for an uncomfortable start.

Fingers apart, I felt really confident leading this route as it had many options for hands and feet. As the crag is approached from the top, all the ropes can be cleaned from the top as we were leaving, meaning could spend more time climbing and less time cleaning routes.

IMG_20170505_103756~2
Excited and happy to be lead climbing again
IMG_20170505_110733
Ingrid working her way up this 6a+

We moved on to top a few other routes of the same line and started to feel the pain building up in our relatively weak finders and feet after months of no climbing. I loved this crag, such a perfectly clean and sharp vertical rock towering up above you and a great mix of comfortable and hared moves. There are also many different routes to climb in a great range of grades from 4 all the way up to 7b+.

IMG_20170505_093108
Having a rest before topping out on this long crack

The first few moves on all the route were quite reachy and hard so Ingrid opted to second me while I led. Even I struggled to get the first 2 clips in on all routes and was secretly pleased she opted out of leading today. With more recent climbs in the bags I’m sure she could have led these routes with confidence, but lack of regular climbing does quickly take your top performance and climbing confidence out of you.

 

IMG_4363
Sore fingers after 2 days of climbing

After 4 leads and 2 top ropes my feet were absolutely killing me and Ingrid was getting hungry. Time to head back into Sucre to meet up with Scott and Paul who had been out to se the dinosaur footprints and park.

IMG_9516
Over 5000 dinosaur foot print on this wall
IMG_9537
Having fun in the dinosaur park

 

 

A week of adventures in the Atacama desert

Our house at the end of a dusty road – Cabana Volcano

IMG_8286
Minibus ride from the airport in Calama to San Pedro de Atacama

It was a 2.5 hr flight from Santiago to Calama then a 1.5 hr bus ride from Calama, in the north east part of Chile on the Bolivian border, to San Pedro de Atacama. At the end of a dusty bumpy road, 20 min walk from the centre of San Pedro de Atacama we finally arrived at our little cabana for the week. Cabana Volcano!

IMG_20170421_171616
Cabana Volcano

Cabana Volcano was a very small but cute little house with 2 tiny bedrooms and a fold out bed in the kitchenette/sitting room, bathroom with a hot shower and best of all a terrace with a large BBQ, table and chairs.

IMG_20170424_113529
Not very big inside, but ok for a few days

This is where we spent most of our time enjoying the with views over snowcapped volcanoes with nothing else to distract us. The cabana was ours for the next week and the kids felt excited about not going anywhere for a while and so did I to be honest. The previous week of exploring towns in Chile had meant a lot of travelling and eating out so we were all ready to settle down in one place for a while and cook our own food.

IMG_8333
Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the mountains

For Granny Olive and Uncle Adam who had come all the way to Chile from Scotland to see us, this was the main destination of their trip and by far the most exciting part of tour time together. While the kids had some well needed rest mornings and afternoons adapting to the high altitude of 2400m, Granny and Ad went on a coupe of trips on their own.

IMG_8582
Scott riding a bike we found along the dusty road leading up to our house

We spent 6 days here mixing lazy morning with early starts for sunrise excursions and late evening stargazing sessions with strolls into San Pedro de Atacama for food and play in one of the playgrounds.

IMG_8387
There are some great playgrounds for the kids to enjoy in San Pedro

San Pedro de Atacama is quite a busy little town with tourists in mini busses coming and going everyday as they head out on one of many exciting desert adventures on offer in the many tour offices. Dirt streets are lined with little shops, hostels, restaurants and bars that mainly spring to life after dark. We were glad not to stay in the centre of things and enjoyed the peace and quiet in our cabana 20 min walk from town.

IMG_20170424_163953
Main road, a little dirt road that runs through the little town of San Pedro de Atacama
IMG_20170424_151143
Heard of llamas on the way from our cabana to town

While at the cabana we didn’t do much except cook, eat, play games and enjoy the views on the terrace. We found 2 little bikes round the back of the house that Ingrid and Scott loved whizzing round on in the dust. There was also a friendly builder close by with a dog called Ozzie and a stray puppy that Scotty of course fell in love with.

IMG_8355
The end of the road and the view from our cabana, looks like the Savannah
IMG_8674
Scott and Ozzy the dog

Exciting Atacama adventures

The sights and excursions we did here were some of the best on our round the world trip so far and with Granny and Uncle Ad here we did more of them than we would have done on our own. It was just the excuse we needed to push the budget a bit to make some magical lifetime memories. Here below is a summary our favourite Atacama desert adventures.

Hot air balloon ride at sunrise

IMG_20170424_075706
Watching the hot air balloon being inflated

The Atacama is probably the best place in the world to go on a hot air balloon ride..according to our pilot who had been flying balloons all his life in over 25 countries. Unfortunately for Scott you had to be 8 to go, to be able to see out of the basked unaided, so he stayed at home with Paul for a morning of sleep and mine craft. 7.30 pick up from our house then a 20 min ride out into the desert landscape where we were met by the balloon pilot and his crew.

IMG_20170424_080950
All fired up and ready to go

After a thorough safety briefing we go served hot coffee, hot chocolate and croissants while watching the team inflate the balloon. We even got to climb inside it for a quick photo before getting ready to go.

IMG_20170424_075931
Inside the Hot air balloon with our pilot

The basket was divided into 4 compartments round the centre compartment with the pilot and gas canisters. Ingrid and I climbed into one compartment next to Granny Olive and Adam. One the other side was a German contingent photographing designer suits. We rose up 300m very fast avoiding the breeze lower down while enjoying the view of the desert as we and the sun rose ever higher in the sky.

IMG_20170424_092152
View of the landscape and our shadow from the balloon
IMG_20170424_082717
Having a great time up high
IMG_20170424_082513
View of the sunrise over the mountains from the Hot air balloon

From 1000m up we could see our cabana and San Pedro in the desert landscape far below and a few oasis scattered along the dry riverbed. After 1 hr of drifting in the gentle breeze it was time to go down. The basked descended slowly with us sitting down in brace position hoping the basket would not drag along the ground as we landed. Suddenly the basket was standing still on the gourd and we were safely down greeted by champagne and orange juice. What a lovely morning!

IMG_20170424_095531

Touching Mother Earth at the Meteorite Museum

IMG_8338
Outside the little Meteorite Museum in San Pedro de Atacama

The little Meteorite museum in San Pedro de Atacama does not look like much from the outside but what a great afternoon we had here. All the magic takes place inside the little dome where a large collection of real meteorites are exhibited along the the wall of the dome shaped tent. Entry of £3 includes a guided tour in English with headphones and some hands on activities at the end. Its well worth the price!

Each meteorite has an exciting story to tell which is explained on little screens next to each meteorite. The language is very scientific, but we all could understand enough to make out how planet earth was formed in the big bang of meteorites 450Bn years ago, how a giant meteorite killed the dinosaurs and how they may impact planet earth and us in the future. All meteors on display here have been found in the Atacama desert by the two brothers who set up the museum ..not because there are more meteorites here but because they are much easier to find here in the stable desert environment than in other places in the world.

IMG_8342
Enjoying our guided tour in the meteorite museum

The session ended with a lady showing us, and letting us touch a 450Bn years old mother earth meteorite. Mother Earth meteorites are the oldest rock on earth, they are leftovers from the meteorite crash, the big bang that formed planet Earth 450 Bn years ago. The lady also explained how to find and identify a meteorites from a normal stones. The kids especially loved this part and were were all excited to go out and look for our own meteorites to take with us home.

Stargazing and hot chocolate

Perhaps not the easiest activity to do with little children due to the late time and the relatively long time you spend standing around, but we all loved it nonetheless. We went stargazing in an observatory in Australia back in October but this was even better. The english speaking bus from Atacama desert stargazing left San Pedro at 7.30 and arrived at the observatory 20 min later. We all gathered round our extremely knowledgable Canadian guide who was telling us about the star constellations, planets and solar system using a laster beam to point it all out. The light pollution is close to zero here and so the night sky is simply stunning. After 40 min gazing at the stars it was time to see the most interesting planets, stars and galaxies up close on a permanent set up of 11 telescopes, 1 of which is the largest public telescope in all of South America. There were enough telescopes to go round avoiding any queues. Ingrid and Scott loved walking round looking at all the stars and planets, excited about those they could recognise from our session in Australia. It was getting cold and so after 45min of telescopes we were invited into a a little hut for questions and a hot chocolate. Home in bed by 10, what a great evening! Sorry not to post any photos here but it was pitch back and impossible to photograph.

Horse riding in the desert

IMG_20170425_160428
Rancho Cactus outside San Pedro de Atacama

As Scott was too little to go in the hot air balloons a few days earlier, the two of us went horse riding one late afternoon to make up for it. It was something I had been longing to do and so was very happy to organise our 2 hr desert horseback ride with Rancho Cactus. The actual ranch was just 10 min drive from the centre of San Pedro and offered more stunning views of the landscape with snowcapped volcanoes in the background.

IMG_20170425_171553
Scott and I loved our 2 hr desert horse ride

Pablo, Scott and I packed our saddlebags with water and set off. I was worried Scott would get tired or bored but he was such a star, loving every moment.  We spend 30 min heading out of town towards the riverbed. I was surprised at how confident and relaxed he was as he had only just had a coupe of 5 min pony rides in London before. Even when packs of wild dogs came running barking at us he stayed cool as a cucumber and so did the horses. We rode along the riverbed for 1 hr letting the horses stop for a drink and a break then spent 30 min getting back to the ranch. After 2 hrs on the back of the horse my bum and I were both ready for a break.

From -8 degrees celcius to +38 at Tatio Geysers

Scott and I did not go to Tatio Geysers as it was a 5am start and a trip up to 4200m altitude. We had a lazy morning doing play-doh instead. Below is an extract out of Ingrid diary from the trip to the Geysers with Paul, Granny and Uncle Ad.

IMG_8512“Toady we woke up early to go to geysers El Tati. We got into the minivan and because the english speaking guide didn’t show up Granny became the guide. When we stopped for the tickets it was freezing outside, it was -8degrees celsius.A t first it didn’t feel that cold but suddenly it was freezing. We forgot to bring my puffer jacket so I was wearing daddays fleece instead.

 

IMG_8500
Lovely soak in the water heated by Geyser Tatio

We got back into the bus and drove to the Geysers. First we had breakfast consisting mostly of hot chocolate and then we went to look at the geysers. It had to be quick otherwise my feet would have frozen completely. We saw one geyser erupting. Back in the car daddy warmed up my feet then it was time for the volcanic hot springs. You could only swim in it for 30 min because of all the minerals from the geyser. Me and daddy got changed and when we walked outside to the water the coldness of the stones burned into my feet. We got into the water and it wasn’t that warm so we swam closer to the geyser and it was amazing. We were next to some Australian and Irish ladies.

IMG_8537
Llama skewers taste great

After the swim we got dressed and got into the van. We drove for a while until we came to a little village where we had delicious llama skewers and goats cheese empanadas. I loved both of the but my favourite were the empanadas.”

Colourful and empty cities in Chile

Family reunion in Santiago

After 6 weeks in Peru we were all excited to be heading into Chile to meet up with Granny Olive and Uncle Adam who were travelling all the way from Scotland to spend 2 weeks with us here. Fantastic to be with family again but less so in the capital Santiago.

IMG_8005
Empty streets in Santiago during Easter

We spent 2 days wandering round the huge and quiet city realising that most of Santiagos tourist attractions closes over the Easter weekend unfortunately leaving  tourists without much to do.

IMG_7946
Art installation at the Centro Cultural part of which was open over Easter.

We found a couple of great playgrounds, wandered to the modern art collection, walked up the central hill and had lunch and dinner in a couple of small eateries. A shock to the system to pay for anything here and eating out was so much more expensive compered to all other places we have been on our trip so far. Thailand still comes up the cheapest still while Chile is similar to London prises.

IMG_7981
Plaza Brasil playground in Santiago
IMG_7957
Scotty loved this one man puppet show

The best part of Santiago was simply being together with family. Both Scott and Ingrid were so excited at having some of their favourite people to hang out with after months of just the 4 of us. The boutique hostel we stay in was also very good, with a large, well set up roof terrace where we chilled out and had coffee, dinner and snacks, played games and lego while enjoying the view and the sunset over the city.

IMG_7961
Lovely roof terrace at our hostel in Santiago

I did not enjoy Santiago that much. It did not feel like a happy friendly place and after being robbed of my backpack while having lunch and another 2 attempted robberies just walking down the street I felt vulnerable and unsafe for the first time on our round the world trip. I could not wait to leave for Valparaiso. the next city on our list.

Valparaiso – a city full of art and dirt

IMG_1610
Stunning street art in Valparaiso
IMG_8226
Graffiti and dirt on the streets of Valparaiso
IMG_8214
Sunset in Valparaiso

IMG_8075

Valparaiso is a cool costal city a couple of hours bus ride north of Santiago. It is famous for its bohemian  culture, colourful street art and stunning views of the sea from the many hills that make up the city. Our hostel Acuarela at the top of a hill was right in the heart of the art district and offered stunning views from the roof as well as short walking distance to many little cafes and restaurants.

IMG_8047
Cool slide at Anibal Pinto Square. We all had a few goes and loved it! 
IMG_8029
Great lunch spot at one of many cafes in Valparaiso

The colourful street art makes the city interesting and happy when nor over run by awful graffiti and dirty, run down streets full of stray dogs. The best thing we did here was the Wheres Wally tour, walking and bussing through interesting parts of town with a very knowledgeable guide. We also found a great little walkway through the hills many stairways with a slide right next to a bar with great views and Pisco sours.

IMG_8084
Wheres Wally walking tour that even the kids enjoyed
IMG_1601
Lovely views and drinks at Fauna Valparaiso

Algarrobo – the seaside and largest pool in the world

The last stop before heading to our main Chilean destination the Atacama desert, was a small fishing town 2 hrs down the cost from Valparaiso Algarrobo. A seaside get away for many Santiagians during their summer months. As it was getting into winter when we were there the town was totally deserted.

IMG_8238
Evening walk on the beach in Algarrobo
IMG_8283
Dip in the pool – not as warm as it looks!

Over our 2 night stay there we went for long walks on the beach, cooked fresh fish for our dinner and the kids had a cool dip in the pool where we were staying. Unfortunately the pool Paul had his eyes on, the largest swimming pool in the world, the main reason we were here in the first place, was a residence pool only and not available for anyone else …bit more research next time perhaps. Next stop the Atacama desert!

IMG_20170424_151143
In the Atacama with llamas

Hikes on your doorstep in beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas

Finally in the Peruvian mountains

Travelling on the local bus for 1.5hr from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo I was getting excited about the beautiful mountainous landscape. Such a contrast from the deserts by the coast where we had spent the past 4 weeks. The fresh cooler air I had so longed for since Nicaragua here as well, finally! The local bus from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo cost S10 per person and was very comfortable so we were happy we didn’t pay more to go on one of the big tourist busses.

IMG_9271
Mountain view in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

The route to Ollayntayambo is on good roads across mountain passes and along fields with a view of amazing snowcapped and rugged peaks along the way. We were dropped off on the little town square and walked 2 blocks on ancient cobbled Inca streets to our hostel. The town itself is the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas nestled in the beautiful valley among hillside ruins and streams.

IMG_7049
Ollantaytambo main square
IMG_7233
Pooh sticks
IMG_9512
Cobbled streed in the oldest active Inca settlement in the Americas

A great place for Scott to rest

Scott was ill since 2 days with diarrhoea and a high temperature and getting worse so we spent our first few days there just resting trying to get him better and adjusting to the high altitude of 3000m watching films on the laptop and reading stories on the kindles.

IMG_7032
Scotty very ill while travelling

After our 1st night in a quite expensive hostel I went looking for the best possible place for us to stay for the next 4 nights. To our delight I found a great little family run hostel Hostal Killari for half the price we were paying through booking.com! The winning formula as we know by now is a big room with beds for 4, communal space and a kitchen we can use and this place ticked all the boxes and had a bonus dog and a cat as well! Happy days!

IMG_9521
Common space at our hostel

Happiness in the hills with Ingrid

IMG_7093
Happiness on the mountain

While Scott was resting Paul and I took turns going for walks up the hills with Ingrid, exploring the town and the many ruins scattered down the side of the mountains. I totally fell in love with this place and felt so happy to finally be in the mountains. Streets with traditionally clad woman with wide brimmed hats, carrying children and heavy loads in colourful blankets on their backs under the long black plaits.

IMG_9337
One of many Peruvian lady carrying a heavy load
IMG_9346
Ingrid having a chat with the ladies
IMG_9518
Elena 4 in traditional Peruvian clothes

Small shops and cafes mixed with houses and hostels. No big hotels or other intrusive buildings here just a food market for the locals and a small handicrafts market for tourists but best of all lots and lots of hiking trails and ruins to explore right on your door step.

IMG_9274
View of Pinkullyuna from our hoslel

On one side of the valley on Pinkullyuna are ruins you can explore for free. There are a few trails up the side of the mountain taking some 400m up to ruins of ancient Incan storehouses overlooking some of the most spectacular views of the Ollantaytambo ruins on the hills on the other side of the valley and town and the whole of the Sacred Valley.

IMG_9327
Pinkullyuna ruins
IMG_7061
View from Pinkullyuna over the town and the Ollantaytambo ruins on the other side

To enter the main ruins of Ollantaytambo on the other side of the valley you have to pay an entrance fee of S70. The structures from the old inca town truly are amazing and definitely worth paying for. At the very back of the ruins Ingrid and I found a hidden trail leading up the mountain. We hiked up for an hour or so tis the trail ended halfway up to the top and headed back down again after a quick rest.

IMG_9408
Ruins of Ollantaytambo

Ingrid was soo in her element while hiking she was skipping along singing and talking about her plans for the future and about the amazing adventures we have had on our trip so far. I love reliving our fantastic hikes in the mountains in Nepal, China, Australia in Thailand and feel excited to add Peru to the list of amazing hikes.

Finally we all go hiking together

After 3 days of illness Scott was still not getting better and with only 2 days left before our train to Machu Picchu we decided to get Scott some antibiotics. The next morning he woke up demanding pancakes! I took him for his first walk in 4 days to the little local market to buy flour and eggs and ended up with some corn on the cob as a special pre-breakfast snack.

IMG_9473
Scotty demanding food – a clear sign he was getting better

Once back at the house we spent a raining morning cooking pancakes in the traditional Inca kitchen belonging to the hostel family. With food in his belly Scott was keen to go out exploring. We all went out for lunch and an afternoon stroll to test the waters. Paul and Scott exploring the ruins at the bottom of the valley while Ingrid took me up high on the other side to show me the secret cave she’d found on her morning hike with Paul. The sun came out and we had such a lovely walk.

IMG_9321
Enjoying my hike with Ingrid

The best walk though was on our last day here. Scott was feeling better so after packing for Machu Picchu we all walked up to the top of the trail on Pinkullyuna. Ingrid ran ahed leading the way while Paul and I took turns encouraging Scott to keep going.

IMG_9555
Scott did so well walking up the long trial
IMG_7134
A rest on the way up to Pinkullyuna

Scott made it to the top all by himself and so we all enjoyed the packed lunch we had brought with us marvelling at the views over this very special and Scared Valley. This was the warm up hike and perfect day on the mountain that we all needed before our big hike up to Machu Picchu the following day.

IMG_7220
At the top of Pinkullyuna

Wildlife and rest in Paracas, Peru

We escaped the floods – where to next?

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 22.05.23

Once safe in Lima we had to decide where to go next. All roads into the mountains, our preferred destination, were still closed due to recent landslides and continuous flood risks so we had to stay by the coast.

One of the few places not to have been flooded was the small coastal village of Paracas, 4 hrs south of Lima. We met a French couple in our hostel in Lima who recommended it and confirmed it was free from floods. Perfect! The next day we were there.

IMG_8940

The main attraction in Paracas is the beautiful desert coastline that is the Nature reserve of Paracas and its close location to other interesting towns, ICA, Nasca, and a few km up the coast the larger fishing town of Pisco.

IMG_6370IMG_9126IMG_6462

After spending 1 night in in a rubbish little hostel I went looking for a more spacious place to stay. After walking round for half an hour I found a nice cheap little hostel with great communal space, a clean kitchen and fridge, a cat, a dog, a kitten and a little girl called Cielo. Perfect for Scott! Also a little park close by where the local kids hangout with a great set of monkey bars. Perfect for Ingrid. All in all a perfect place to chill out for a few days.

IMG_6390IMG_6620IMG_9174IMG_9257

Time to do nothing much

Schoolwork every morning or afternoon, followed by long walks on the beach, cooking together, playing in the park and going on little excursions.

IMG_8978IMG_6694IMG_6760

There is an area in Paracas filled with luxury houses and hotels, so eating out is not very cheap but with not much in our schedule here we liked spending time buying ingredients and cooking. Ingrid got her mojo back after her tummy bug and was keen to help me cook. Scott as always loves helping with any meal. A huge batch of Chile con carne got everyone back in great sprits!

The beach in Paracas is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary but not great for swimming as there is quite a lot of seaweed in the water. Instead we loved long walks to the kite surf club and back among flamingos, pelicans, sea lions and many other beautiful wild birds.

IMG_6414IMG_6992

Deserts and wildlife while waiting for the mountains

We had a great day swimming in one of the best beaches in Peru, a 15 min drive through the desert from Paracas at Mina beach.

IMG_9196IMG_6914

We went there early in the morning after at stop  to admire the red beach in the desert landscape along the way. Once at Mina, we climbed down the stairs to the sandy beach tucked away between 2 big sandy hills. Fresh, clear  and sparkling clean water, what a great little place for a swim. We paid S70 (£15) for a private car to take us there and wait 3 hrs to then the us back plus S 40 to enter the national park.IMG_9221

We  also did the mandatory boat trip to see the amazing wildlife our on the Islas Ballistas. The tickets cost S35 per person, but then just before boarding the boat they tell you to pay the national park tax as well S15 per person. 2 hrs of sea lions, pelicans, penguins and boobies with a great guide in a quiet and comfortable speedboat is well worth the money. The roaring herds of Sealions made the most amazing sound as we bobbed along the cliffs in the boat.

IMG_6509

IMG_6546

IMG_9134IMG_9071

So even though we enjoyed our time here, some days hiding for the blowing sand in our room, we would not have stayed here more than a few days under normal circumstance. Given the trauma and illness over the past 2 week in Trujillo and Huanchaco, this was a good place for us to rest and recharge our batteries, just be together and not do too much. We are all ready and excited to finally go into the mountains in Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

Emergency call to the British Embassy

Stranded in the floods of Northern Peru

fullsizeoutput_4a21
 Enjoying a bit of surfing our 1st day in Huanchaco 

IMG_5789

fullsizeoutput_4bd4
Kids playing in the park by the beach

We had 2 days on the beach in Huanchaco and a morning of wandering around town before the floods hit us in this town as well! We had tried to follow the unfolding Peru floods on the news, but its amazing how difficult it is to get information without access to the internet.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 21.29.09
Trujillo under water – residents being evacuated

Through the owners of the hotel we found out that Trujillo, where the roof of our hostel caved in just 2 days earlier, had been badly hit with the first of 7 floods the day we left our hostel there. Everyone we met in Huanchaco were concerned about the floods but not expecting it to be a problem in Huanchaco a few km up the coast from Trujillo.

Worst floods in 30 years hit us in Huanchaco

fullsizeoutput_4bc7
The river in Huanchaco burst its banks

When the river bursts its bank at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, all the houses and business were caught unprepared. As muddy sludge started making its way down the main street, all we could do was to seek refuge on the roof and watch as the water continued to rise. In the distance we could see the sea turning brown from the outlet of the swollen river.

IMG_8641
Watching the events unfold from the roof of our hotel

Mud and sludge filled the streets and the ground floor of our hotel and all the other houses along the water front wiping out electricity, water systems and all the local phone and internet networks.

 

 

I felt completely helpless and yet somehow strangely calm as we watch the water fowling and the sun setting over the flooded streets. Time to get our head torches out, cook some spaghetti on the gas cooker and play a game of cards. We went to bed hoping to get some sleep but sirens, rain and worry kept me awake while the kids slept an unsettled sleep and Paul resting but with a high temperature and in pain day 3 of his tummy bug illness.

Stocking up on water and food

The morning after the floods Paul was feeling worse, I was exhausted and the kids naturally stressed about the flooding and situation all around us. Most of the water had subsided and in the hotel, staff and the owners had spent most of the night trying to clear the ground floor of  the mud and water. No electricity, no water in the taps but at least we had a gas cooker that worked. I set out to find and stock up on supplies. 

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 21.41.57
People buying what they can carry
Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 21.38.14
Empty shelves in the big supermarket as people stock up and no new deliveries are made

With many shops affected by the floods those that were still open were limiting the what you could buy to make sure everyone could get something. I took our big back pack and went round looking for open shops stocking up on water and dry food to last us a few days. Spaghetti, tuna, tomato sauce, biscuits and crackers. I also got some eggs, flour, sugar and milk hey presto pancakes of breakfast to lighten the mood!

After the floods the real nightmare begins

…20-30 cm thick sludge and mud was covering everything where the water had flooded and then subsided…piles of dead fish, plastics, trees and rubble washed up on the beach and streets along with many damaged houses and buildings, some still under water.

fullsizeoutput_4ba0
Mud after the flood
IMG_8704
Main street still under water the next day
fullsizeoutput_4ba7
Beach filled with rubbish and dead fish
IMG_8834
Once the mud is dry everything is caked in dirt and dust

Watching the news in a little shop I could see that Trujillo and nearby Chiclayo and many other places were still inundated and that all roads in and out of Trujillo and all of Northern Peru remained closed due to landslides and ongoing floods.

IMG_8675
Roads still under water

I realised our plans to go further into the mountains Cajamarca and Chachapoyas would not be realised. Disappointed of course as we had all been looking forward to exploring the less touristy mountains and ruins of northern Peru…but what can you do?

Help! – Emergency call to the British Embassy

While the streets remained unsafe filled with dirt and water, Paul was getting worse, no electricity to help the kids pass time reading on the kindles, watch TV or a film…and as boredom kicks in.the kids decide to spend the morning making and running a beauty salon! I just love my kids!

With no means of leaving the flooded area or ability to check our options to fly out I took a taxi to the local little Airport to see if we could somehow buy tickets to fly out somewhere safe. No such luck….

fullsizeoutput_4bcd
Only people with tickets and or ID were allowed to enter the Airport area

Military planes were evacuating people, locals and gringos had been waiting at the tiny airport for up to 36 hrs to get on a plane to get out. With the airport in chaos and no information or help to be found.

fullsizeoutput_4bcc
Line for the military evacuation plane

 I returned to Huanchaco disheartened and even more worried. Flights could only be bought on line or through a travel agent, but Internet was not working and all travel agents closed due to the floods….

fullsizeoutput_4bd0
7 days without food

When Paul started vomiting and shaking with 40 degrees temp, the following morning and with only $20 left in cash, no way of getting medicine or money and no where we could go I made a call to our travel agent in London on the hotel owners phone to see if they could help us buy some flights to get out …4 tickets suddenly became available to fly out the next day but Paul was way too ill to travel. Next available tickets were for 6 days later and costing us a small fortune….With the thought of 6 more days in the flood zone I feel panic kick in and decide to make contact with the British Embassy in Lima, to ask for advice and medical help in case Paul would get even worse.They tell me there is a place in Trujillo where ATMs are still working and a functioning private clinic we can go in case of an emergency….

After I made it to a shopping centre where there was still cash, Travel Nation confirmed our flights out 6 days later and I managed to find antibiotics for Paul I was feeling a bit better…that only lasted 1 day until Ingrid suddenly turned really ill as well.

IMG_8580
Keeping the mood up and the kids relaxed

This time I could get antibiotics quickly but was still worried sick about Ingrid who was vomiting and had diarrhoea for 2 days not being able to keep liquids down….I was counting down the days till we could leave…..

Unforgettable lessons in life

fullsizeoutput_4ba5

Since we started travelling we have, and especially me, practiced being in the moment and not worrying about things that could or might happen. During our 2 weeks in flooded Peru I had to work really hard to keep calm and not get worked up, agitated or frustrated about the situation is which we accidentally found ourselves. The kids are very resilient and adaptable but they take their queue from me and Paul on how to act ad react. Keeping calm and positive was essential for their wellbeing and peace of mind in this very stressful situation.

We got a first hand experience of a huge natural disaster, it is not something I would wish on anyone but its part of life for many people and something we will never forget.

fullsizeoutput_4bf0

We were never in a life threatening situation even though some moments felt dangerous and scary. We have talked about it a lot with the kids, made drawings and write ups about it to help process the experience. It has also given us an amazing opportunity to talk about global warming, water flow and rivers, about flooding and city planning, plumbing, recycling, water, volume and the devastating effects of floods.

IMG_8852

We wanted to explore and experience the word, show the kids that life in different parts of the world have different challenges. Ingrid and Scott have learned so much from this experience and felt first hand the fear it causes but also the importance of community and solidarity while helping clear up after the floods. I am glad we have managed to finally leave and sad that we didn’t get to see the beautiful north in its full glory, but looking back, its an experience I wouldn’t change.

Magical moments among Nicaraguas volcanoes

Nicaragua is the land of volcanoes and lakes so while we enjoyed not doing many touristy things during our stay here, some things are simply unmissable.

Swimming in Laguna de Apoyo – the crater lake

In the centre of the Pacific strip of Nicaraguan territory, along the long volcanic chain that crosses the country from north to south, is a large and extinct crater. In the centre is one of the most beautiful lagoons in Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo.

img_7344
Ingrid loves swimming and Scott has found a stick as usual

We went to one of a handful of hostels located here for a day pass to their “beach club”. The entrance fee to spend the day is 6.00 dollars per person and 3.00 dollars for children from 6 to 12 years old. We spent the day relaxing in a sun bed overlooking the lake on one of the spacious terraces. We went kayaking, swimming played ping pong and petanque, all which is included in the entrance fee. Getting here is easy from Granada by chicken bus and taxi or shuttle service that takes you all they way there.

img_7322
Ingrid paddle boarding
img_3724
Me paddle boarding and Ingrid hitching a ride
img_7788
Playing games at the Laguna Beach club

Watching bubbling lava at the awesome Masaya volcano

img_3939
You can see the lava churning in the crater

We went with Erick tours out of Granada for a night viewing of the volcano. We spent a few hours exploring Massaya town before heading up the actual volcano just before sunset. There is a bit of a wait to get up to the volcano as they only allow 50 people at a time, but our guide, Alberto, was excellent. He spent the waiting time giving us information on  Nicaragua volcanoes & Masaya and the general history of Nicaragua.

img_3945
Lava!! at Masaya Volcano

Once at the top, the lava lights up the whole sky in a magical orange glow! Amazing view of the bubbling lava but strong sulphur fumes means you can only stay 15 min at the top. We were all seriously coughing by then and glad to get off the top of the volcano.

Rooftop ride to swim in the cool waters of Aguas Agrias

img_7961
Cool mammas on the roof on our way to the lagoon

In the rural community of Aguas Agrias, located south of the Mombacho Volcano , is a stunning natural lagoon where the locals go to cool off.  Together with friends we took a pick up truck there and enjoyed an epic ride on the roof. We spent a few hours swimming in the cool waters watching the monkeys overhead. Simply wonderful!

img_4221
Beautiful natural lagoon in the jungle
img_4229
Howler monkeys in the canopy while we were swimming
img_4040
The locals come here too
img_4070
Scott and Gekko having fun
img_4121
Me and Scott enjoying the sunshine

Sunset at the Treehouse

On the way from Aguas Argias we went to the Treehouse for an amazing dinner at sunset. The Treehouse is located half an hours drive from Granada, 200m up in the jungle. 

img_4200
Canopy bridge with treehouse on the right

Its is a wonderful place to bring he kids, although some  might think its perhaps a bit dangerous for little ones. The actual house is built into the side of volcano Mombacho, surrounded by howler monkeys, complete with a  fire mans pole, some swings and a 60 metre canopy bridge connecting the main house where you eat to a smaller house where you can sleep in hammocks. The kids have never climbed up 200m so fast before in their life. We stayed for drinks, a communal meal and a truly beautiful sunset.

img_4189
Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
img_4207
Sunset from the Treehouse

Other things we enjoyed in Granada

Pottery practice

Pottery class making our own eggcups out of red clay from are area of san Juan de Oriente. We all had a go under the instruction of the watchful eye of the master, Carlos. We were not very successful, but persuaded him to sell us the little creations we made. Eggcups!

Watching the annual parade at the global poetry festival

The International Poetry Festival celebrates poets from around the world (and is also the largest poetry festival in the world).  We didn’t go to any of the poetry readings but enjoyed the many events that took place in Granada’s open plazas, parks, churches, and markets. The highlight for us was the Carneval which made its way trough the centre of Granada stopping at every street corner for a poetry reading.

Feeling at home in Nicaragua

…and now we have to pack up Casa Ranita & leave

Our time in Granada, Nicaragua is soon coming to an end. Right now we are all really settled in and not looking forward to leaving our little house and all our new friends. Its been amazing to see how quickly Ingrid and Scott both got into their new school life and the normality and familiarity of it all. In many ways it feels just like home.

img_3137
Our lovely little 2 bed house in Granada Nicaragua, Casa Ranita

Our Typical day in Granada, Nicaragua

A typical weekday here is not that dissimilar to a day back in the UK.

img_3676
Early morning run up to Laguna de Apoyo

Paul and I typically wake up at sunrise around 5.30-6 am. I have a coffee while reading emails and do some travel research while Paul goes for a run before the sun is up and it gets too hot. At 6.30 I wake the kids then we all have breakfast and leave the house about 7.30 for the 2km walk to school which starts at 8.

At this time of day the sun is still low in the sky and the streets are pretty empty. We all really enjoy the the walk along the Calzada and across the main square to get there.

img_7283
Our house is at the end of the Calzada in Granada so this is where our walk to school starts
img_7285
The Parque central is quiet at this time in the morinng
img_7818
We love walking past all the colourful houses on the way to school
img_7825
Scott and Ingrids schools are right next to Iglesia Xalteva

Usually I part with Paul and the kids halfway there to head off for a quick coffee before I go to Casa Nica for my 2hr Spanish class.

img_7809
Cafe Bristol makes the cheapest and best hot of iced latte in Granada
img_7437
Catching up on homework before class
img_7435
This is my Spanish school

A lovely school experience in Nicaragua

Already on day one Scott was excited about going to school and making new friends and he has enjoyed going there every day since. The school is bilingual and half the class is made up of Nica children and the other half expat kids who mainly speak English. Its been wonderful for all of us to have the school experience for a month and to meet and get to know the teachers, children and and parents who have been travelling like us and those live here. It was hard to find a school that would accept us for 1 months only, which I wrote about in a previous post, but it one of the best things we have done on this trip so far.

img_7246
Sancuanjoche International School – Pre-school

Scotts typical school day in Nicaragua

Scotts school day starts with circle time and Spanish, followed by motor skills, snack & play in the park. After a play outside they focus on social development in Spanish then maths. School lunch is served at 11.30 and Scott loves it!  At the end of the day they do science and play.

img_7829
Typical daily schedule for Scott

Scott really enjoys school here and have made so many new friends both with Nica and English speaking children. There are 12 to a class and they all mix  the Spanish & English speakers during breaks to encourage them to practice the other language. His best friends are 2 girls, Brissa a local Nica girl and Gekko, an American girl from Texas.

They hang out every day playing mums and dads, zombies, tag and lots of other crazy games. Last week he went to his first Nica birthday party complete with piñata, clowns, cakes, ice cream and the best party bags ever!

Ingrid also loves school in Nicaragua

img_7279
Ingrid happily heading intoschool

Ingrid has made some great friends too, but I think she enjoys access to the school library more than anything else. Every day she gets through 2-3 new books which she reads at home and in reading class and any other free moment at school.

img_7238
Ingrids schedule

She is doing great it both English and Maths and is studying both of these with the older children in year 4-5. Spanish is the hard one as she is far behind the rest of the class. However, they have a great system where the other children in her class takes turns helping her translate, read and write in Spanish class so although its a bit more difficult, she is picking it up slowly and its still something she enjoys.

Science is taught with much debate and discussion here, right up Ingrid street. She comes home everyday with new ideas, telling us about all the fun discussions they have had in science class that day. Best of all, she got to see all other kids present their science projects at the school science fair, which she loved. We usually see Ingrids class head back from the park after lunch when we pick Scotty up at 1.

My typical day and Nicaraguan routine

img_7411

While the kids are in school, I am in school too enjoying 1-1 lesson with a young Nica girl called Rebecca. The lessons are a mix of slow conversations, grammar run throughs, quiz games and picture cards to practice vocabulary and conversation.

I am by no means fluent yet but have come a long way with a wider vocabulary and the basic grammar and conversations with Rebecca. On the way home I get fresh fruit, vegetables and chiceron from the market.

img_7441img_7880

Pauls typical day

Meanwhile Paul is deep into catching up on all our admin, planning our next stage of travel and our return to the UK in July. He also goes to the big supermarket at the edge of town to buy the basic groceries.

img_3392

Sometimes we have some lunch in one of our favourite spots before picking up Scott at 1. Most of the time though we cook lunch at home after collecting Scott from school. Our favourite food to cook for lunch here is plantain with cheese, nachos and guacamole.

The 2km walk home from school with Scott usually takes up to 1 hour and I love it. There is no stress no reason to hurry him along, we just wander together take in the sights and chat about the day.

img_7844
Walking home from school with Scott

After school…lazy afternoons avoiding the heat

After picking Ingrid up at 3, we spend the afternoons in a similar way to what we would do at home. Ingrid typically gets a book out and chills on the bed while Scott plays with his toys or helps me prepare dinner.

img_7666
LEGO!
img_3371
We  cook all the food from scratch and get the ingredients from the local market

One of his favourite past time these days is helping round he house, either cooking, mopping the floors or doing the washing up. At mealtimes we all help out either setting up and cooking or washing up and tidying up. After some initial resistance, now it all happens without complaints at every meal time.

img_7695
Washing up after dinner, Scott loves it and Ingrid hates it

Occasionally we have a playdate after school either at our house or at friends and sometimes later in the afternoon once the temperature starts to drop we go for a walk on the Calzada or head down to the park for a play.

One of the things we love about staying here is all the friends we have made. After 8 months of mostly playing with each other Scott & Ingrid both enjoy the break from each other.In fact we all do!

img_7594
Scott and Geco playing lego after school
img_3593
Evening stroll

In addition to helping with meals, Scott has to read a book everyday and Ingrid does touch typing and updates her diary. Once all of that it done, the kids watch something on the laptop or play mine craft with Paul, while I do some work on the iPad. Early bed for an early start.

img_3159
Ingrid and Scott playing minecraft

After sunset all the locals sit in the cooler air on the street outside their houses enjoying the free light (electricity is very expensive here) and animated conversation. Our neighbour Freddy often invites me to sit down and join them for a chat. A great way to practice my newly acquires Spanish and to get to know the people and the community a bit better. Its a lovely way to spend the evening.

Weekends in Granada, volcanoes and play

The weekends are also very much like our weekends at home. Paul goes out at 5am with a running group while the kids and I have a lazy morning. Ingrid makes pancakes then we do bits and bobs round the house, lego, a creative project, some mine craft.

img_7692
Ingrids delicious pancakes

In the afternoon we go exploring, head to the park down by the lake or go for an ice cream.

img_7208
There are lots of climbing frames down by the lake, this one has the best monkey bars

img_3045

img_3054
Sunday lunchtime down by lake Nicaragua is full of music and local families hanging out

Sundays are our typical day trip days with visits to volcanoes, museums etc. Our favourite spot so far is Laguna de Apoyo, the volcano crater lake, we you can go swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding in lovely clean and fresh water.

img_3724
Paddle boarding with Ingrid at Laguna de Apoyo
img_4189
Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
img_3945
Amazing lava at Masaya Volcano!! So close you can feel the heat!
img_4054
Fresh water swimming pool, by Mombacho volcano

Just like home….enjoying the simple things

So, with the exception of adapting the time of our activities to the hot climate here, our days are very similar to many days back home in London. After 8 months of being together 24/7 it is nice to have some time without the kids where we can get on with our plans and think about our return to the UK. Usually this is something we can only really do before the kids wake up or after they go to bed.  When travelling is quite hard to find enough time to get it all done.

img_7643
Sunset over Catedral de Granada
img_7613
Evening at Iglesia Guadalupe, right next to our house.

We would all be happy to stay here longer, in fact we have talked about it. The town, the country and people are very easy to get on with and to enjoy. Its been nice having the space to be able to do separate things. So far on our travels we have spent most nights together in 1 little room all going to bed and waking up at the same time. The simple pleasure of being able to go to bed and get up at different times, cook if and whenever we want to and even do separate things during the day is not to be take for granted.

img_7890
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world where horse and cart is most often used for transport and work.

There is a great local and expat community with plenty of opportunity to make a real impact in Nicaragua together with the locals. In the end, we have decided to continue to the coast for a few days of surfing before a quick stop with friends in Miami then onwards and upwards to Peru.

We’re thinking that we could always come back to Nicaragua sometime after our round the world trip!

School for a month in Nicaragua

Swapping expensive Costa Rica for a more affordable stay in Nicaragua

It was only in the last few weeks of our time in Asia that we actually started looking at the next phase of our travel in Central and South America. As we got more into the details of travel blogs and websites we realised that the initial plan of spending a long time in Cost Rica would be difficult for us as the cost of food, accommodation  of and travel is pretty much on par with Western Europe. Too expensive for us!

img_7195
Catedral de Granada one of many beautiful churches here

Searching for ways to make or time cheaper we started looking at Nicaragua as a potentially cheaper option.  In the end, we decided we would go either to Costa Rica or Nicaragua as long as we could find a self catering place to stay in close to somewhere all 4 of us could learn Spanish. We had always planned to do a Spanish course at the beginning of our 6 months in Central and South America, to help us get around more easily, to fully enjoy our time in this part of the world and to be able to talk to people beyond Hello and Thank you.

img_7270
Leaving our house for school

Finding a school for Ingrid and Scott

The 2 weeks of rest in Koh Chang was invaluable for us in researching Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I spent many hours trawling through blogs and FB groups to find some contacts that could help us with affordable AirBnB or other self catering place where we could settle in and lay low for a few weeks. How hard can it be to find an appropriate school that can take the kids in for month and to help them learn Spanish. VERY!!

Ingrid and Scott are too little to benefit form 1-1 classes in Spanish and just throwing them into a local school for a few weeks is simply not giving them the time to learn enough Spanish to make friends and understand anything the teachers say.

img_6785
Ingrid and Scott in Koh Chang – still so little!

I contacted lots of bi-lingual schools (English & Spanish) in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and eventually got some leads through a closed FB group for travelling families and some closed Expat groups for people living in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I contacted one of the schools recommended and finally found a little school willing to accept both children, for 1-2 months at a cost. As luck would have it, the school was located in the heart of Granada, the first town we were planning to go to in Nicaragua.

Preparing for school in Granada

We arrived in Granada on Friday night and Ingrid and Scott would spend their first day in school on the following Tuesday. A quick visit to the school on Monday to see Miss Beth, the Head mistress and director who helped me getting the children into the school via FB and email, to get all the paper work sorted. Ingrid and Scott also got a chance to see some of the children who go there, helping them mentally prepare for the official school start the following day.

img_7223
Beautiful colours on our way to see the school in Granada

Sancuanjoche is a small but perfectly shaped school with class rooms on 2 levels around a shaded courtyard where the children have lunch and hang out during recess.

The pre-school where Scott is going is spacious and creative with 4 classrooms set up for the different ages and needs. It also has a big open room for  play during break time and a little park just across the road for a run around when the weather is not too hot.

Completely bilingual school and curriculum

The school has about 80 students in classes 1-7 from the age of 6 and up and the adjacent pre-school  run groups with children aged 3 to 6. Classes have a maximum of 16 students with a great mix of native English and Spanish speakers and all teachers are bilingual too.

img_7279
Happy to be back in school again

English, Maths, Science and Social studies are taught in English and Spanish. All students have Spanish class every day and in addition, English or Spanish as a second language depending on which native language they speak. The school day runs from 8 till 3, an hour longer than school in the Uk.

img_7238
Ingrids school day is full of Spanish – exciting!

In pre-school all classes are also bilingual but with more focus more on learning through play and social interaction. Here there is also Spanish class for the English speakers and vice versa every day. Scott’s school day is slightly shorter than Ingrids and finishes at 1 .

Miss Beth and her staff were super friendly and welcoming. Ingrid and Scott were both excited and nervous about starting school the following day.

First day in Nicaraguan school – one month to go

img_3149
Looking for school uniforms at the local market

I picked up the school uniforms at the local market after visiting the school. When I saw the kids putting them on the next morning, getting excited my heart simply melt and filled with pride at their ability to take it all in a stride. Scotts nervousness made him worried and upset he wasn’t looking cool enough and Ingrid was very quiet…..Pancakes for breakfast much earlier than we’re used to and then we were ready to go.

img_7230
First walk to school

After a 20 min walk in the warm sunshine we arrived at school. At the sight of his teacher, Lauren, who reminded him very much of Miss Lavander, his first teacher back in England, he happily went in and waved good bye.

img_7246
Scott happily heading into school
img_7260
First piece of writing in Spanish

As we approached Ingrids school round the corner she went all serious, looked at us and said, ” You are not coming in. I am not related to you!”. This was the first but definitely not the last time she was worried about her parents embarrassing her!

img_3118
Ingrid heading off -too cool for mum and dad these days

Im excited to find out at the end of the week what school is really like and how the kids get on. Im sure their Spanish will be better than mine and Pauls by the time we leave Nicaragua!

 

 

 

..

Family time in White Sands, Koh Chang

Change of plans – from floods in Prachuap Kirikahn to sunshine in Koh Chang

Great to see my dad again after 6 months since we last saw each other in Sweden.

img_2186

After an afternoon together in Bangkok we were planning to go to Prachuap Kirikan on the south east coast, in a non touristy area that my dad had visited before to chill out for a couple of weeks. img_2136

On the morning of our train, the news headlines were full of reports from flooded southern Thailand with the expectation of 280 mm rain on the one day we would arrive! Quick change of plans as we were about to leave for the train went to the bus station and got tickets to Koh Chang instead.Great to be able to be so flexible!

img_2161

Long journey to Koh Chang

Dad took us to a perfect hotel in White Sands beach, Koh Chang where he has stayed before. The only hassle was the length of time it took to get there. Our initial destination was a simple 5 hr train ride away whereas the journey to Koh Chang was much longer. 6 hr bus, 1hr minibus & tuktuk to the ferry, 1 hr waiting about, 1 hr on the ferry then another 30 min to get to the hotel.

We left at 8 in the morning and arrived just before 7 at night. Needless to say we were all tired and grumpy on arrival, but at the same time excited to be with my dad and  have 12 days on the beach together here.

img_2648

A perfect spot for well deserved travel break

Alina Grand Hotel is situated at the southern end of White Sands beach, just above the main road, 1 min walk from the beach. We woke up tired but relaxed in a big double room with a view of the great pool at the back of the hotel. Finally a chance to unpack our bags, something we had not done since Australia back in October.

Just the thought of not going anywhere for almost 2 weeks was enough to get us all in the right mood again after a long day of travelling.

A typical day in Koh Chang White Sands beach

A morning stroll followed by breakfast at Monkeys or milk and cereal on the balcony. The room in Alina had a full size fridge in the room, which we used a lot for  our breakfast milk & cereal, drinks and fruits. After breakfast around 9, we had some pool time with Grandpa with swimming, playing on the swings, building lego on the sun beds and reading. 11-13 school time then lunch.img_6814

img_5666

We usually hit the beach in the afternoon around 3 when the temperature started to cool down. You get a lovely sunset here which you can enjoy in the calm and beautiful sea or with and ice coffee or beer in the Reagge bar. We found a couple of favourite restaurants where we went for dinner. Paul and I also had our first sunset and dinner without the kids in 6 months here and enjoyed watching the sunset just the 2 of us with a cocktail at Thors.

img_2624

img_6796

Here are some of favourite places to eat and drink in White Sands beach Koh Chang

Best coffee Marin coffee – hot Latte for 70 Thb

Best breakfast in Monkeys, full english for 95 Thb

img_2170

Beast lunch Sun and Soul Scott loved the satay here for 90 Thb ( very slow service at dinner time unfortunately)

Best Thai food Nong Bua sea food

Best take away lunch Kai Mun Boogie chicken

Best smoothies & waffles at the White Sands beach night market

Best ice cream Sundays Rock & Sand beach resort

Best bear and Ice coffee on the beach Reagge bar

img_6746

Best Bbq dinner at Sea bar on the beach

The  prices of food and drink here was higher than what we had paid anywhere else in Thailand. We typically paid 600-900 Thb for a dinner/lunch for the 4 of us £12-£18, but then again White Sands is a more upmarket area than the places we usually stay. And since the hotel stay was very nice Christmas treat from my dad,  we were more than happy to pay slightly more for the food.

Koh Chang activities beyond White Sands beach

We did 1/2 day snorkelling with hunter 3 island in half a day. 700 Thb per adult and 350 for a child.

img_6953

The trip is good value for a nice day out on a boat but do not expect to see many fish. The price includes, transfer from hotel to Bao Bang, lunch and snorkelling masks. The snorkelling spots are quite far out so half the time between 9 and 2 was spent on the boat going out and between the islands.

Compared to other snorkelling we have done the water was not as clear and there were not many fish about. We still had a lovely day out on the boat and would recommend it for a day trip anyway.

img_6951

We also took a Songtang trip to Khlong Phlu waterfalls where we had a great time. It is also well worth a visit. We went there on a  cloudy morning padi 400 Thb return trip for the 5 of us from our hotel.

Its a 500 m walk to the waterfall which the kids really enjoyed. Once there you can get into the pool at the bottom and swim with the fish who live there. I took the opportunity to get my hands cleaned from climbing skin by the nibbling fish. A bit freaky but a lot of fun.

img_2377

.After almost 2 weeks here we had totally recharged our batteries and were ready to travel to the other side of the world for more adventures.

A magical week with kids in Cambodia exploring Ankor Wat

Short but sweet times in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We only had a week to spend in Cambodia before meeting my dad in Bangkok and wanted to spend most of it in Ankor Wat to explore the ruined temples. With that in mind we only had 1 day to spend in Phnom Penh. Had we had more time, we would have loved to stay in Cambodia longer and in Phnom Penh at least for another night or 2 to explore the many streets, markets and little cool shop here.

img_6346
Street food in Phnom penh

We liked the relative child friendliness of Phnom Penh with play grounds for the kids, outdoor gym by the river where families hung out and the open and friendliness of the Cambodian people. As it is the capital, outside the main tourist drag there are also many quirky little shops and cafes where the locals go.

We enjoyed the cheap street food, got some bargains in the central market and spent time playing about with the kids. Everyone travels by tuktuk here which is a very cheap, quick and comfortable way to get around. You pay for everything here in dollars in cash and her change back in Cambodian real.

img_1204

Heading into Siem Reap for an Ankor Wat adventure

After a day here we got the 6 hr bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.  We had 5 nights booked here in Jasmin home stay . A tiny room made up for by a good sized pool and good breakfast.  After a full day of recovering from the past few days of travelling by the pool we were ready for 3 days exploring Ankor Wat.

img_6667
Scott playing in the pool with a lego ship he built

3 days exploring magical Ankor Wat

Once in Siem Reap we found that here are many ways of getting to and round Ankor Wat. You can go by tuktuk, bicycle, scooter, bus tour etc. On our first day around Ankor Wat we opted for a private tuktuk to take us to some of the smaller temples.

img_6409
Poolside at Jasmin homestay Siem Reap

We left at 9 and were back for lunch at 1 with a dip in the pool afterwards. This worked out beautifully.

First day in Ankor Wat exploring Ta Prohm and one of the worlds largest swimming pools

Our first stop if the day was Banteay Kdel, a smaller and moderately interesting temple with some stones to climb on. Pretty quiet with few hawkers, stalls and tourists so a good place to go if you want to avoid the really touristy ones. Outside this temple is the Kings swimming pool, a good spot for a sit down and a drink before continuing to the next stop.


Next we went to Ta Prohm , definitely one of my favourites. Beautiful light makes the ruins overgrown by ancient trees look almost magical, like a real life fairytale. It is not very big, but pretty busy with people queuing up to take photos by the main sights. We spent around an hour here marvelling at the amazing trees snaking their way over the ruined temple high up in the sky. Its good to be here in the early morning or late afternoon to catch the best light.

Before heading back to the hotel our tuktuk driver took us to Ta Nai, a small and very secluded temple that was barely marked on the map. Completely unrestored and not as spectacular as the previous 2, but both Ingrids and Scott’s favourite as they could climb around on the rocks and ruins like little monkeys.

img_1480
Playing about in Ta Nei

A quick stop for lunch near Ankor Wat where we discovered that the very expensive prices on the menus here were actually negotiable so rather than paying $7 per dish as set out in the menus we paid a very resonance $ 3. Happy days.

Sunrise at Ankor Wat – an Ebike adventure

On day 2 we wanted to go and see Ankor Wat by bicycle. However, wandering around Siem Reap the night before we didn’t find any bikes with a packet holder seat for Scott or a good small one for Ingrid so in the end we decided to rent electric bikes instead.  First practice run in the dark back to the hotel was a bit exciting. Me with Ingrid on the back and Paul with Scott in front of him we felt ready for the ride in the dark to Ankor Wat the next morning  to catch the sunrise.

img_6548
Early morning ebike ride

On our little bikes in the dark we joined the train of  hundreds of tuktuks heading out to the ruins to see the sunrise. The road was a bit bumpy in the dark, but it was such a nice feeling riding the bike effortlessly with the breeze in my hair and Ingrid hanging on just behind me. Im glad I didn’t actually have to pedal in the end!

img_1552
Sunrise at Ankor Wat

The sunrise in itself was a bit disappointing to me. A huge crowd with iPhones in the air blocking everyone’s view and unfortunately clouds in the sky blocking the actual sunrise…. It was well worth it, we all still enjoyed it but not the spectacular sunrise we had hoped for. To avoid the sightseeing crowds lingering here after the sunrise we headed straight for Ankor Tom instead with a plan of properly visiting Ankor Wat again just be fore sunset.

img_1553
Crowded sunrise at Ankor wat

As we were at Ankor Thom and Bayon temple just as it opened it was almost empty and glowing in the magical early morning light.

img_1780
Ingrid driving the ebike at Ankor Thom

The Bayon temple is a beautiful temple full of magical faces quite similar to Ingrid and Scott.

img_1689
Many faces at Bayon temple

By 9 o’clock we were finished ready to head back to our hotel for a delicious breakfast of baguette and eggs….or so we thought.

img_6616
Jasmin homestay breakfast with fresh baguette, eggs and fruit.

The sheer wight of Paul and Scott on 1 bike meant Pauls bike ran out of battery on the way home. Luckily the bikes were equipped with charging cables so after finding a little house by the road side, we spent 30 min there with the bikes plugged into the owners garage… Once topped up we just made it back before breakfasts closed.

img_1785
Emergency stop to top up the ebikes

Ebikes around Siem Reap and Ankor Wat

We made to most of the bikes this day and so after a swim and a rest we took the bikes into central Siem Reap for a late lunch in one of the many cheap eateries around the central market. A quick change of batteries at the ebike shop and then we were off to Ankor Wat again. The afternoon was much better for Angkor Wat sightseeing. Fewer people around and a bit cooler too.  1 hr of exploring then we decided to head back to Siem reap before it got completely dark.

img_1824

Grand tour by tuktuk on our last day in Cambodia

Day 3 here was our last day in Cambodia with our fight for Bangkok leaving at 10.  As we had bought a 3 day pass to Ankor Wat we decided to spend the last day here doing the Grand Tour to the less famous.temples farthest away in the Ankor wat area.  I’m glad we did this tour as we saw one of my favourites, Preah Khan,  and a small but magical temple in a lake.

Ankor Wat – a family adventure I highly recommend

Ankor Wat is a really great place to explore as a family.  Many temples are not restored and so make interesting playgrounds where the kids can run and climb around without being told off.  Its easy to get around by tutktuk and by doing 3 half days  rather than 1 or 2 full days, you can make sure everyone are enjoying themselves not getting tired or bored.

img_1261
Ingrid and Scott enjoying the many temples in Ankot wat

It was a good decision in the end not to cycle. We met quite a few people on bikes completely exhausted by the bike ride getting there not enjoying walking around the sights as a consequence.  I also recommend the  Ebikes as a safer option than scooter if you travel with smaller children.

We were totally happy about one week in Cambodia and glad we made the effort to get here. It truly is a wonder of the world that anyone can enjoy.

Siem Reap town is not that interesting. We avoided the very busy pub street and the main tourist drags and at at our usual favourite places just outside the centre.

Very long train rides through Vietnam -from Cat Ba to Ho Chi Minh via Hoi An

Grey, rainy, polluted and not always friendly – cutting our stay in Vietnam short


We did not enjoy Vietnam as much as we did other countries in South East Asia. I think it’s a combination of suffering from travel fatigue, the grey and rainy weather, a lack of genuine friendliness and hospitality in some of the places we visited, a feeling of constantly being ripped off and perhaps also false expectations in comparing Vietnam to Thailand. Therefore, 2 weeks into our Vietnam stay, while in Cat Ba we took the decision to cut our stay here short and head back to spend our last 2 weeks in we Asia back in Thailand.

Bus, boat and train from Cat Ba to Ho Chi Minh city

img_0804
1 hr speed boat to Cat Ba

To get back to the mainland from Cat Ba you have to take a bus, a speed boat and then another 4 hr bus to Ninh Binh. Originally we had planned to stay here for a few days but as we wanted to get out of Vietnam quicker than planned, we only stayed 1 night at the Viet Nhat Hotel before continuing the train further south. Ninh Binh town has nothing to offer in terms of sights really. The main attraction people come here for is the amazing surrounding karst mountains. Due to our long train trip, we opted not to go exploring them and spent the morning doing school work before catching the 16hr night train to Hoi An.

img_0819
Catching the  N1 train in Ninh Binh

16 hr night train from Ninh Binh to Hoi An

The N1 train at 15.48 was very basic, old, small and rickety. Scott and me slept in the bottom bunks with and ingrid and Paul in the top.

img_0824
Snug as a bug in a rug on the top bunk
img_0836
Scott in his ilk liners ,  extremely useful for nights like this

There was basic food for sale on board but we know from previous night trains that it’s not very appetising so had brought our own snacks and fruit to last us the journey. Pork baguettes purchased at the hotel, biscuits with sweets for a late night snack did the trick.The worst thing about night trains is always the toilets and this one was no exception. It is dirty and smelly, but when you have to go you just have to go. Grit your teeth, hold your breath and get on with it.

3 days of rain with new friends in Hoi An

We stopped in Hoi An for 3 nights and were looking forward to warmer sunnier weather. Unfortunately it had been, and still was raining much more than usual this time of year. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left the rain did not stop.

img_0935
Hoi An market in the rain

The hotel we stayed at, Botanic Garden Villas had great airy rooms, 2 swimming pools and  a pool table. It also offered free cooking course which Ingrid and I attended.

Unfortunately we never got to try out the pool because of the poor weather. We did however discover a great little deli , Dingo Deli with a playground and play room where we spent the afternoon with our new Canadian friends and their 2 children enjoying delicious coffee while the kids played.

img_0904
Friands in town

The persistent rain and flooded streets meant that we did not really get the opportunity to properly explore this beautiful town. When the weather is nice I can imagine it’s a great place for cycling and walking, especially round the old town.  It is also a place to get tailor made clothes and shoes at rock bottom prices.

img_6264
Hoi An old town by night

We spent our 3 days here doing schoolwork in the mornings and hanging out with our Canadian friends in the afternoons. Great for the kids to have some friends to play with and for Paul and I to have some adult conversation with people other than ourselves.

img_0896-1

It was fun and useful discussing the ups and downs of travelling for a year with kids, great to get some new ideas as how to do it  and  to just talk about all the practical issues and opportunities of leaving your life behind and planning to come back with fresh eyes a year later.

On our last day in Hoi An Dec 30th we had an amazing meal together at Morning Glory and finally got a taste of how amazing the Vietnamese food really can be.

The following day we spent New Year’s Eve on the 16hr , clean and modern, train to Ho Chi Minh city followed by a 6 bus to Phenom Penh. A lot of travel in 24 hrs but  we were keen to spend the first day of the new year in Cambodia leaving a grey and wet Vietnam behind us.

After a total of 26 hr travel we finally arrived in Phenom Penh excited to be back in the warm sunshine surrounded by friendly people eager to see what this country had to offer.

img_1046
Tuktuk to our hotel in Phenom Penh 

Heads in the clouds – Family trek Poon hill, Nepal

Poon hill trek – a child friendly classic Nepal trek

Ghorepani Poon hill trek is one of the short trekking routes in the Annapurna region that can be done in 3-5 days. After some research we decided this would be the best route for us. It is long enough for Paul and me to enjoy, at 3210m, the altitude in not too high for the kids, and if done in 5 days we were hoping the daily treks would be short enough for Ingrid 8, to be able walk all they way.

img_0820
Ingrid feeling excited to start our 5 day trek in the Annapurnas

Over 5 days, this trail takes you through beautiful local villages and rhododendron forests with panoramic views of Nepal’s most famous peaks from Poon Hill – Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri and Annapurna South. The trail can be congested in high season October – February, but was almost empty when we were there in August, at the end of the monsoon season.

trek-ghorepani-poon-hill-map
Poon hill trek map

Its a 1hr drive from Pokhara to Nayapul, the starting point of the trek. From there you make a circuit over 5 days from Nayapul to Hille (near Tikhedunga), then Ghorepani and Poon Hill followed by Ghandruk and Landing before finally returning to Nayapul and Pokhara.

Basket case solved – gaffa tape saves the day!

In order for us all to enjoy this trek, the most important thing we had to consider was how to keep Scott happy and motivated to walk as much as possible. Scott is physically strong and usually happy to walk for about an hour or so most days. Unfortunately, just before starting the trek he was really ill for a week with a tummy bug and had to take 2 course of antibiotics to recover. Needless to say, we were a bit were worried about how he would cope in the hills after being so poorly.

In planning or trip to Nepal, we had already considered getting a porter to help Scott round the trail and with the recent tummy bug illness we decided at the trip could only be done with a porter that could help us carry Scott all the way round the trail.

IMG_0813
Our trekking team, Trunkie, Eddi. me, Ingrid, Paul, Scott and Dpak

We booked our team consisting of 1 guide and 2 sherpas, through Funnys travel in Kathmandu. 1 sherpa would carry our big backpack and 1 would carry Scott in a traditional Nepalese basket.

As we arrived in Nayapul, ready to head off it became clear that the typical basket we had agreed that Scott would be carried in did not exist. The guide and sherpas suggested they could carry Scott on their back and shoulders for 5 days, which was not what we had agreed nor would it be safe or comfortable. We watched in disbelief as the team set about constructing a make due carrier basket, which promptly broke.  Without a safe carrier construction for Scott we would have to go back to Pokhara and try again in a few days once it had been sorted out to our satisfaction……not ideal.

img_0803
Kids carrier Nepali style that did not work

Its amazing what you can do with a pocket knife and some gaffa tape.  Paul finally took charge, bought another basket and made a safe, comfortable and strong carrier with gaffa tape, some rope and a bit of insulation material ….finally 2 hrs later we were ready to go.    

IMG_0812
Solid child carrier construction made with a traditional Nepalese basket

Day 1 – Up, up and away

We started our first walk up from Nayapul to Ghorepan on a trail initially made up of an old gravel road. Eventually we were crossing streams, passing rice paddies and teahouses on lingering stony path that slowly took us up higher in the mountains into slightly cooler and more manageable temperatures.

It was not a difficult walk but the very hot and humid weather made it hard work still. Scotty was in the basket most of the time, snoozing while Ingrid walked every step with a smile on her face. She had been looking forward to this trek for a long time and was happy to finally be on our way.

img_0819
Sherpa carried Scott in a basket when he got tired

Finally after 5hrs walking, at Ingrid pace, we were pleasantly surprised to find our accommodation for the night. A large and clean teahouse with comfortable beds in twin rooms with delicious food on  offer.

IMG_2756
Lovely teahouse for our first nights stay

After a quick dinner and some games with our sherpas we called it a night getting to get some sleep in preparation for the early start and long trek the following day.

Day 2 – Stairway to heaven,  4080 steps to be exact

IMG_0849
Donkey trail passing by as we were having breakfast

After a good night sleep and and eggs and pancakes for breakfast we set off on 8hrs relentless climbing 4080 steps, 1300m elevation. to Ghorepani. Thankfully it was overcast most of the day and we all felt strong and excited to climbing up ever higher and higher in the mountains into the cooler air and the lingering clouds.

IMG_0852
Typical bridge crossing along the Poon hill trail
img_0865
Excited to be above the clouds after climbing 4000 giant steps to get there

After enjoying a typical vegetable Thali lunch and a couple of tea breaks along the way we finally arrived at our overnight stay in Ghorepani, 500m below the peak of Poon hill. A lovely warming wood burner at the centre of the common space in this teahouse made it a lovely and cosy place to hangout and a good spot to dry damp socks and shoes. We were all exhausted after the 8hr trek and had a very early night.

Day 3 – Above the clouds at the break of dawn

Ingrid and Paul had decided to climb to the Poon hill peak to catch the sun rise over the mighty Annapurnas.

They set off at 4 pm in the dark with puffer jackets and head torches while Scott got some more sleep and rest ahead of the days longish walk. The climb to the top in the dark took about an hour.

IMG_0939
Moment of glory at the top of Poon hill
ghorepani-poon-hill-trek-nepal-1-04
Vire of fishtail in the Annapurnas from the top of Poon hill

After watching the sure rise we all had a breakfast together, chocolate pancakes and eggs.  A quick rest and then we set off on a 7 hr walk up and down on winding trails through the clouds forest.

IMG_2772
Enter a captionScott having a sleep in the basket
img_0867
One of Scotts many walks during the 5 day trek

After a tea break and then lunch in a beautiful spot along the river we had to get raincoats and umbrellas out for the last hour walk to our over night stay number 3 at Ghandruk.

img_0875
Sleeping in the rain in the comfort of his basket

Wet leaves and vegetation meant leeches were out and about. There are lots of warnings about leeches on the trails in August in the guide books and on the internet. However, we found the leeches to be few and far between, very small and pretty harmless. Once we found them on us they were easy enough to flick off without causing much pain or discomfort. Scott was actually very excited to find one inside his trousers. Must have got there during a pee break.

IMG_0979
Tanipani teahouse, our least favourite

The over night stay in Tanipani, was our least favourite.  Dirty and smelly toilets in the teahouse and a pretty rough restaurant made us all a bit uneasy. We were too tired from walking to think too much about it and enjoyed clear views on the Annapurnas when we woke up the next day.

Day 4 & 5 all downhill from here

Our first clear view of the snowcapped Annapurna range at the breakfast table at Tanipani gave us the energy we needed to walk the days trek 5 hrs downhill. Trails were wet and slippery after a rainy night but Ingrid did great and Scott walked his longest distance so far despite a big leech bite on his leg. We enjoyed a slow lunch at a beautiful village of Thadipani on the way down.

Beautiful scenery and coours along the

img_2782
beautiful scenery and colours along the Poon hill trial
img_1011
Going down hill is also hard work

Our last days walk down to Nayapul was our least favourite. Part of the trail was along the main dirt road through some larger villages with a lot more people and even cars along part of the way. Typically this was the day with the best view of the mountains. What a great way to end  this amazing 5 day trek!

img_1026
One of many streams we had to cross
img_1029
Great view on the last day of our trek

Poon Hill  – a great trek for mountain lovers with kids

IMG_0892
Yey we did it and we enjoyed it too!

The Ghorepani Poon hill trek is not the most adventurous mountain experience if on your own, but with 2 young kids in tow is a great mix of hard walks on easy trails broken up by tea and lunch breaks along the way. The walk itself is interesting as it follows part of the old Trans-Himalayan Salt Trade Route.

Most of the the trail is made up stone slabs and staircases that head from village to village and some of the time you walk on simple trails and across small streams and through rain forest like foilage.

ghorepani-poon-hill-trek-nepal-1-02img_2755

We quickly slipped into a pleasant rhythm of eating, walking, eating, playing cards, drinking tea and sleeping.

img_2799
Tiebetan bread, one of the kids favourite breakfasts

We all loved the trek, Ingrid especially and have since also done long treks in China, Thailand and rock climbing in China, Thailand and Vietnam. As we continue down to South America we have our harts set on more fantastic treks.

Good to know about Poon hill trek

IMG_1023
Our last overnight stay on out 5 day trek
  • Poon Hill trek can easily be done without a guide just following a good map. Also, in high season there are lots of other trekkers on the trail that are all going the same way. If we had done this trail without the children, we would have done it alone. As this was our first big adventure in he mountains with the kids we felt safer having a guide with us.

IMG_0828

  • Packing is simple, since you don’t need to carry tents, sleeping bags, or food but can enjoy sleeping and eating in one of many lovely teahouses along the way. We packed 1 large backpack with a change of clothes, micro towels, silk liners, games and electronic essentials that the sherpa carried and a smaller day pack with water, snacks and raincoats, which we took turns carrying. We left our big bags at our hotel in Pokhara as we would return tenth same hotel after the trek.

img_2783

  • There are plenty of teahouses along the way of Poon Hill trek where you can stop for food and drinks and to stay over night. The overnight teahouses are like simple, clean guesthouses with basic beds and food on offer. Some of the smaller teahouses along the way just offering tea, coffee, drinks and snacks.
IMG_2829
Typical Nepali lunch vegetarian Thali
IMG_0983
Typical teahouse accommodation on offer when you do the Poon hill trek
IMG_0878
Enjoying a tea break along the Poon hill trail
  • August is the end of the monsoon season in Nepal. While on the trail we had rain most nights night and 2 days with half hour long showers. We also had leeches, and some cloudy days. However, if you want enjoy the quiet time in the mountains,  walk at your own pace and if a bit of rain down not bother you then end August is a good time to go.

IMG_0997

If you like walking in the mountains and want to introduce your children to this fantastic adventure then Nepal & Poon hill is the way to go!

Holy Cow!

Holy Cow!

IMG_2845

Arriving in Nepal

Qatar air from Sweden to Nepal via Doha was quite good and kids were very excited about the over night flight but managed to sleep at least some of the way to Doha. They loved watching the latest kids movies and they got an activity bag each which helped keep them busy for a while.IMG_0239

Leaving the airplane in Doha was like stepping out from a fridge and into a hot oven. 36 at 01 o’clock in the  morning. The cold air inside the plane looked like smoke as it crashed into the hot air rushing in from outside. This was our first walk in the clouds..2nd would be in the Annapurna mountains.

IMG_0237

One interesting thing we noticed as we boarded and left the airplane in Kathmandu was that `being polite and waiting for your turn means never actually getting anywhere. Here its all sharp elbows to get ahead.

The same was true when we got out of the airport and into the car to get to the hotel. The pre arranged hotel driver, quickly told us there are no traffic lights or road signs in Nepal, you push ahead and simply beep to let people know you are coming. I was glad I was not the one driving. Its a good idea to arrange a pick up from the hotel, as it takes a lot of stress away upon arrival when everyone is tired and grumpy. We simply email the hotel through our confirmation email received from Booking.com and that has worked well so far.

Looking out of the taxi window at the dusty road, crazy traffic, hoards of people feeling hot tired and sweaty suddenly a holy cow appears and that pretty much summarises my emotions at the time. Holy Cow!

Leaving London

18 months of talking about it, 12 months of making a plan, 6 months of ticking off the long list of things to do, 12 weeks to finalise our itinerary, 6 weeks of leaving parties, 4 weeks packing up the house, 4 days packing the bags, 4 hrs until the flight from London…..

Hello world!