After our mind-blowing trip in Madagascar, we flew to Ethiopia and spent a full day of sightseeing in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia will have a separate blog post once I visited more of the country. The next day we arrived at Cape Town, where live music welcomes people at the airport. Wifi everywhere, Uber, paying by card…we were back in civilisation.

It was much easier than Madagascar, and the variety of activities that Cape Town has to offer was endless…

We stayed in an Airbnb at Sea Point, really good location, Camps Bay (my favourite part of town) was a 10 min Uber ride, and we could walk on the promenade without any problems, even at night.

It was the penultimate day of the decade..we were looking forward so much to celebrating NYE in Cape Town that we wanted to look fabulous! So the first couple of days we spent near the V&A shopping centre by the Waterfront. Obviously not only shopping but discovering the area.

And here we were on the 31st December..makeup done, outfit chosen, aaaand…I broke my nearly 6 months non drinking but I felt good about it. It was time to have a glass or two. (ended up having a 4 consecutive day of drinking, which made me sick again so back to no alcohol, this time it’s much easier and i won’t be counting the days. I accepted that my body can’t handle alcohol anymore and that’s it.)

We celebrated the last day of 2019 in Cafe Caprice in Camps bay.

Home

 

The music was fantastic, but the crowd was a bit pretentious, so we waiting until midnight, then walked (without shoes – English style) to the next place where we encountered the real NYE! Dizzy’s bar is just off the main road, lively, awesome staff and crowd, great pizza. Got home around 4.30am 🙂

On the first day of 2020 we needed a bit of a rest, so we went to the closest beach and spent the day there sunbathing, eating lolly, chatting and being appreciative of how great of a trip we were having!

We also got used to eating almost every day poke bowls…sooo healthy and delicious!

And those amazing sunsets….that everyone admires..

The next day we walked from Sea Point to Bo Kaap. The BoKaap (“above the Cape” in Afrikaans) is an area of Cape Town- probably the most photographed one, formerly known as the Malay Quarter. … Bo-Kaap is known for its brightly coloured homes and cobble stoned streets. The area is traditionally a multicultural neighbourhood, and most of its population is Muslim. In the 1700s, political exiles, slaves and convicts were sent to the Cape by the Dutch from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Indonesian Archipelago. Although not technically correct, these individuals and their descendants became known as Cape Malays. Many of them eventually settled in the Bo Kaap. In the mid-twentieth century, the Apartheid government, under the Group Areas Act of 1950, declared the Bo Kaap a Muslims-only area and forced people of other religions and ethnicity to leave the area. This case was unique because, during this time, most working class (and non-white) people in South Africa were being moved away from the cities.

We also visited one of the must see museums, the Slave Lodge. There are aspects of history which we would prefer to forget, but that would be doing everyone a disservice. This museum portrays an aspect of South African history which deserves to be highlighted so that such things never happen again; it shows the effects it has had on individuals at the time (some of the stories are truly horrifying), but it also shows how there is so much resilience.

Cape Town is a dream for shoppers who like flamboyant home decorations including paintings, animal print carpets, ceramic dishes etc…Negotiation is a MUST.

Richard arrived on the 2nd January, whilst we did Bo Kaap, Slave Lodge and the markets, he had a nap and then joined us for a rooftop cocktail and dinner at Mojo Market, which I would highly recommend to everyone. It’s a bit like the TimeOut Market in Lisbon. Lots of food stalls, an indoor market with live music, seats and great vibe.

Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3rd January…Table Mountain! I have always wanted to hike this Mountain instead of taking the cable car. If you really want to appreciate the views and have a great workout (can take between 3-6 hours) I would highly recommend to book a tour and do it on foot. I had all the routes written down in Lonely Planet, and when I booked the tour I didn’t know which route we were going to do..They asked for our fitness levels when booking and I confidently said that we were closer to the 10 on the 1-10 scale where 10 was described as WonderWoman 🙂 No harm in having a bit of a confidence…

Based on this, I received the route name from the company, which was India Venster, the only one described in Lonely Planet as ‘DIFFICULT’ and was recommended to experienced climbers…oops.

We were the four of us with 2 girls from Saudi Arabia. Our guide Kyle was fabulous..very encouraging…at times telling us a few white lies to keep that mindset focused but I kinda knew all these tricks from my job..

The views were breathtaking all along the way.. I also learnt the word ‘scramble’.

After the hike Judit went home and I went to Camps bay beach to make the most of the day. It was windy, buzzing, some sellers came along like this lady. I wanted to support them so I bought this top which I love ever since!

In the evening we managed to get a table in the super popular Mama Africa on Long street where we tried crocodile steak, springbok and other typical South African specialities. There was live music and fabulous atmosphere.

The next day we started with a neighbourhood walk recommended by Lonely Planet called the Foreshore Public Art Walk. It was about an hour, then we headed to District Six Museum, which was unfortunately still closed because of the Christmas holidays. So we found a nice arty cafe, and we headed to the Observatory Market, which is held every Saturday..If you want to buy original arty clothes, jewellery, home decor, eat amazing food, it’s the place to be. It can be pretty expensive though and negotiation is not widely accepted here.

And our lunch was something….that I have never seen before. It was called Bunga Bunga..and it was worth just watching the show on how the man prepared it!! Although it’s a salad…it was minimum 1500 calories!:)

We had a trip booked that afternoon to Robben island, at 5pm, but for some reason it was delayed so it turned into an evening trip, it was a bit rushed, but we got the history through ex convicts telling us their routine whilst they were imprisoned.

Robben Island is known for being the place Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 of his 27 years, but the Island was the home of prisoners from outside South Africa, notably Namibia. The island is the unique symbol of “the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice” with a rich 500 year old multi-layered history.

After the tour of the prison you get on a bus and do a tour of the island. We didn’t have a guide because of some organisation issues, therefore the bus driver told us the history.

Upon arrival back to Cape Town Richard was waiting for us for a lovely seafood meal on the WaterFront.

For the 5th January we booked a personalised private day tour with Kabura Travel to Cape of Good Hope visiting Hout Bay- Chapmans Peak Drive- Noordhoek beach- Cape Point- Boulders Beach- Simons Town- Muizenberg and back to Cape Town.

Sadly we picked the wrong day for this, it was hammering down rain, greyness, and just generally not the right day to do this trip. Our driver was good but we would have expected him to tell us based on the weather in Cape Town that this trip wasn’t going to be good in the most exposed part of the country. We started with a trip to the Seal Island, which was fantastic. But the smell…wow. I also didn’t agree with the behaviour of some of the aggressive south africans trying to make money from the tourists by feeding (and hitting) seals.. If you are waiting on the boat in Haut bay to go to the seal island don’t fall for their trap when they try to put on a show to attract tourists. Once you are in, and take photos, you will have to pay.

We also went to an Ostrich farm, where we could feed the ostrich and buy extremely overpriced Ostrich eggs. I have to say they were beautiful. We also learnt that ostriches are not the smartest animals. Their eyes weigh 60g and their brain only 30g. Therefore when they are in the wild, and they see a lion approaching they put their head in the bush and go by the view of ‘If i can’t see you, you can’t see me either’ whilst their rather large backside is hanging out of the bush.

Upon arrival to the Cape of Good Hope National Park, we were meant to do a 40 minute hike which didn’t happen in the end do to the really bad weather. It was windy and raining. Our mood was pretty low because this was meant to be so beautiful. You also tend to pay 4 times the price as a tourist than South Africans…

In the National park we saw ostriches with babies, baboons, bonteboks..

We then headed to see the penguins at Boulders Beach..

We also saw lots of Rock Dassies (or Rock hyrax as they called officially)…super cute little animals! They can also be found in the Middle East not only Africa and they live on rocks to escape their predators.

A little story about a statue of a famous dog- Just Nuisance- in Simon’s Town..

Just Nuisance, a Great Dane, is the only dog ever to have been officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. During World War Two between 1939 and 1944 he served with HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy naval base in Simon’s Town, a pretty seaside town in South Africa.

In 1939, he was brought as a pup to Simon’s Town by his owner, Benjamin Chaney, who ran the United Service Institute which was a favourite hangout for sailors from the Royal Navy.

A very friendly dog, he soon became a familiar figure around the town, taken for walkies and treated to pies, biscuits and even beer by the sailors, to whom he became a kind of mascot. Naturally, the dog in turn became very fond of sailors – all sailors – and followed them everywhere, to the naval base, the dockyards and even on to the ships. Not a small dog – he was large even for a Great Dane – when he took to lounging about at the top of the gangplank, he blocked the way and that is how he got his name, ‘Nuisance’.

Next stop: Muizenberg

Surf rules in Muizenberg, or “Muizies” as it’s affectionately known to locals. For many locals though, it’s more than just a Summer destination where shallow waters offer great family fun and learning to surf has become the number one activity on the jam-packed beachfront. If you move away from the beach you will discover some quirky characters in this distinctly bohemian seaside village.

So this tour, partially because of the weather and also because of the lack of enthusiasm of our driver was pretty average. The story about the dog for example came known to us after the trip having read about it and not from our private guide which i thought was pretty poor.

It was quite expensive so we felt we didn’t really get the value, so I emailed the company and told them about our experience, and asked if they could offer for the next day some sort of tour as a gesture of compensation. I had to push a little but in the end we got a free wine tour..where we only had to pay for our tasting in each estate and our purchases but not the transport. I thought this was nice of them to understand the importance of compensating a tourist because now I would highly recommend the company. (https://www.facebook.com/KaburaTravelAndTours/ )

In the evening after the tour we were meant to be having dinner with Richard at Bungalow, but as he got sick and decided to rest at home and also the wifi wasn’t working well we decided to find something else. It was a lovely place though and would go back and try. Perfect to watch the sunset with a glass of bubbly!

So we walked to my favourite area, Camps Bay- wasn’t too far, and had a whole plate of ribs…ended up being a great night with Judit!

And here we go, one of the best days of the SA trip.. Wine tasting in Stellenbosh and Franschhoek. 8am, the minibus arrived in front of our Airbnb, and the party began..A couple from Brazil, Barbara and Guilherme, they got engaged recently and were FUN! Then, my all time favourite English cricket fans Chris and Rick. We had a group of german people too but I think Brazil-England-Hungary was the real connection here!

We started in Stellenbosch, a quick 30 minute stroll in town then headed to  a fabulous wine estate, my personal favourite, De Morgenzon. What’s so special about this estate? Beyond being absolutely stunning in terms of garden, surroundings, elegant, sophisticated, classy…they play classical music to their grapes to grow better and sweeter! As if our tour guide knew that I am sooo fond of classical music and play the violin!! Here is a link to it and some photos..

The Music

After the lovely DeMorgenzon estate we went to Marianne Wine Estate for a Wine and Biltong pairing experience.

http://www.mariannewines.com/our-winery/tasting-room

It was very nice too, a bit less personal but we could enjoy some aesthetic views and authentic dried meat made from Springbok, Kudu and Beef. We also tried the wine that was served on Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday.

Last but not least we visited Richard Branson’s Wine Estate called Mont Rochelle, but before we had lunch in Franschhoek, did some active wear shopping whilst waiting for the pizza and tasted some of the best chocolates in the world!

In the evening we met Barbara and Guil for dinner, but we were way too drunk and tired to stay out for a long night so we had a big sleep and the next (and last) day in Cape Town we went to the beach with Judit, then visited District Six Museum and the last wonderful experience was Lesley’s amazing Christmas present to us, a luxurious afternoon tea in the extraordinary five-star hotel in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Silo Hotel.

After this wonderful experience we went to shop some ceramics that I fell in love with:

And we had our last dinner at Mojo Market. This was the last glass of alcohol I had before stop completely again..

Next day we said goodbye with Judit..which felt weird. We lived this experience together, laughed so so much together, learnt from each other and we will definitely travel together again! She is one of a kind!

This is when my holiday with Richard started, the cricket finished, England won, we hired a car and hit the Garden Route! It took a day for him to adjust to my ‘don’t worry about booking accommodation in advance’ philosophy but we got there!

First day we headed to Hermanus. On the way baboons were crossing the road, we stopped for photos as every 100m there was a breathtaking view to the ocean! We stopped for lunch at a great seafood restaurant in Kleinmond.

Hermanus is a fantastic whale watching town from June-December when in season. The town stretches over a long main road but the centre is easily navigable on foot. There is a superb cliff walk patch around the town, which we did in the afternoon and next morning (in the sun) to the other direction.

The road itself was stunning as well. We stopped at a Biltong factory on the way.

 

Next stop: Mossel bay. We arrived here at lunch time and went to the highly recommended and rated restaurant called Kaai 4. This low key restaurant has picnic tables on the sand overlooking the ocean. Most of the dishes -including stews, burgers, boerewors (farmer’s sausage) and some seafood- are cooked on massive fire pits.

After lunch we headed to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve for a 2 hour horse back safari which I enjoyed a lot!

We then headed to Wilderness and spent the night in a lovely B&B. Wilderness Beach was probably the nicest on the Garden Route..insane clouds and skies, like a painting..

The beach was only a short walk from our B&B, and in the morning light it looked even more wonderful than the night before!

Beaches like the ones in South Arica are my favourite because it’s just so ideal for running. One day I will live on the beach and run a fitness/dive hotel..this has been my dream for a long time, and i will continue working towards this..!

We then went to Wilderness National Park to do a hike (Kingfisher trail). Great place for outdoors lovers, offers canoeing, windsurfing, sailing and paddle boarding. We only did the hike with pontoon crossing which we loved.

After our adventure in the woods we drove to Plettenberg bay where we spent the next two nights. We got there around lunch time and we enjoyed a fantastic pizza at Enrico’s offering wonderful views over the ocean, great atmosphere…a bit like a mini Italy in Africa!

We booked a real splurge (on the day) at Periwinkle Lodge Guest House just beside Robber Beach. Stunning room and views. The best breakfast and infinity pool!

The next day I did a dive, which beat the 8 dives together I did in Madagascar.

In the afternoon we went to Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre that provides recuperation facilities to injured or abandoned wildlife so that they are given a second chance to be returned to the wild where they belong.

We did a fantastic tour with Okhule, we saw African Wild Cats, Serval, Caracal, Cheetah, Leopard and Lions including the rare White Lion ❤ The tour included a picnic in the same place where we walked a cheetah.

Connecting with nature and animals gives you this incredible happiness. I love cats and all I wanted is just to hug them! I would recommend to visit these wild animal sanctuaries and game reserves in the afternoon, close to feeding time around 4pm to be able to see the animals in action! Otherwise you will have lots of lazy cat pictures (mostly showing you their back whilst lazing around).

In the evening we went to Nguni, award winning steak restaurant. By far one of the best meals in SA!

https://nguni-restaurant.co.za

And this was our last evening…the end of my 6 week trip..which could not have been better!

Next morning…at 5am I woke up, looked out of the window and it almost blew my mind what I saw! Dolphins, schools of dolphins swimming, playing, jumping..and I knew…

This was my last gift from Africa! I woke Richard up, and we watched the show together from our balcony ❤ I then went for a run on the beach to see them closer, we had breakfast and drove to Port Elizabeth. On the way we stopped at Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary to see some more cats, stopped for lunch at Jeffrey’s Bay, stopped also where Richard did Bungee Jumping 10 years ago! Wow..I would never in a million year I would jump off that bridge..but I think he wouldn’t do it again either!:)

Upon arrival to PE we took a picture of the cricket ground, handed back the car at the airport and departed….

This trip was a closure of the previous decade and the opening of the new one. I never come back as the same person from a trip like this.

‘Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small, and in return life- and travel- leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks -on your body or on your heart-are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.’ Anthony Bordain

 

With its 26.2 million population (bigger than Australia), this wonderful island is a paradise for wildlife lovers. It’s mega diverse. It has been discovered relatively late (500AD) and thanks largely to being undisturbed by humans for so very long, it possesses a vast number of different species. Among its resident animals are more than half the world’s chameleons and dozens of species of lemur.

Unlike the film Madagascar, however, you won’t see any tigers, giraffes or hippo. It is also a bird watchers’ paradise.

Why did I choose this country as my travel destination?

The main reason was because of its dive sites. I found a liveaboard online and started reading about the rest of the country which made me curious. And I am so so happy I visited Madagascar! It’s a country where I will definitely go back to in future, especially because of the friendships I developed with people living there. (Vazah -a slang the people of Madagascar use for white foreigners- and Malagasy).

So let’s start the journey..7th December I arrived to Antananarivo airport around midnight. There was no point for me to book a hotel for the night as I was due to fly at 6am up north to Nosy Be, where my liveaboard was due to depart at 2pm in the afternoon. It wasn’t the first time I slept on the floor of an airport..and it brought back all the memories and fun as a backpacker in 2012. Around 1am I received an email from Tsaradia (local airline) that the flight is delayed with an hour..oh well not the end of the world. I got to Nosy Be, a taxi was waiting for me that took me to Ambatoloaka beach, starting point for all cruises. As I entered the dive shop, Erik, the owner with not much emotion on his face said that the trip was cancelled due to the arrival of a cyclone. I couldn’t believe what I heard…my whole trip was planned around this dive trip…they had known it for days, just forgot to notify the customers…That was the moment when I realised that it was time to take off my London hat and put on my travelling open minded head. Every diver who was meant to be on the boat arrived..and shocked and surprised just like me. So I decided to make the most of the situation, created a WhatsApp group called “Cyclone Divers’ and the fun began…

Me and Lisa (from Canada) found a lovely hotel (Nosy Lodge) a little bit further North from Ambatoloaka beach and shared room for the next 6 days.

 

Sadly I got sick very early on. First I thought it was the side effects of the Malaria tablets, but then I realised that it was the water. My stomach is not my strongest part of my body and a slight change affects it. I had fever, cramps and all the rest. Lisa and the rest of the Cyclone Divers did a few shore dives whilst I was reading and resting. To be fair, I needed the rest. November last year was a hell of a month, an emotional rollercoaster, averaging 4-5h sleep every night so my body had enough. Wanted peace and rest. Life on the beach is so simple and nice…Malagasy ladies came by every day selling beautiful ripe fruit .. It was also nice to learn how in Madagascar people polish the wooden tables and floors! Another amazing use of the coconut!

Whilst recovering I made a plan. I just about had time to do the dive trip that was scheduled a week later, sadly the other cyclone divers didn’t have time to stay, so we maximised our time together and one of the days when the cyclone hit the island we decided to make a trip to Millot Plantation in Ambanja (mainland of Madagascar). Ha-ha. Yet another fail..but it’s in the bag with the other 5* stories!

The journey to the plantation was already an adventure. We didn’t bring our passports with us so we ended up boarding an ‘illegal’ boat with the locals, after 30 mins of semi rough ride on the sea in rain we arrived to the other side, where we took a taxi and after another 40 minutes of bumpy ride on dirt road we arrived to the residence of Madame Mado who greeted us with such an attitude….!

To be fair she was right…we left our brains home and assumed that we could visit the plantation in the rain but she made a very clear point that it was a mistake 🙂 We asked her to at least show us the vanilla and ylang-ylang plantation but she said..either full tour or nothing! Wow…but I like people who say things out right! In Lonely Planet -my bible on the road- you also had the opportunity to have lunch but as she didn’t expect visitors all she could offer was a few pieces of home made chocolate with a coffee..

After this day adventure we had a lovely dinner in the best restaurant in Nosy Be, Baobab Kafe. We ate here a few times, the chef is French and the food is heavenly.

After a few days together with these awesome people, it was time to say goodbye. They all left one by one and I had a couple of more days. In Nosy Lodge I met Etienne who has been super nice to me and we hung out a lot. He was my local friend and guide.

I changed accommodation to be more ‘in the town’, as Nosy Lodge was a bit remote. So I moved to this stunning villa:

I had 2 and a half day left until the boat, so one day I had a trip to Nosy Iranja (the nicest island around Nosy Be) and Nosy Komba the other day.

Nosy Iranja was like paradise on Earth:

Boats depart early in the morning, the trip is an hour and 20 minutes on a speedboat. When you arrive you can get lost in the maze of local boutiques selling pareos, the famous Malagasy rum, jewellery, fridge magnet, souvenirs, wood carvings, honey and other typical local products. Etienne took me up to a viewpoint, and we ate mango from the tree. It was like a dream..

The other day I went to Nosy Komba, which is a bit closer to Nosy Be, and I saw the first lemur!!

So here we are on the 14th December…day of the dive liveaboard! Spending a morning doing nothing (or preparing properly for the trip) would have been too boring so I got up like 5am, went out in the hope of finding a scooter and ride around the island, found a man washing his motorbike on the street and I talked to him with my very basic French: ‘ Je voudrais un scooter ‘

He disappeared into a web of narrow streets of Nosy Be and in 10 minutes he rocked up with a scooter. I paid 30.000 Ariary (6 Pounds), agreed on nothing in terms of bringing back the bike, I was asked no documents like passport etc. This is freedom! That’s when I fell in love with Madagascar! 😀 I went up North, did a quick 2 hour tour on Nosy Sakatia, which i highly recommend to everyone to watch turtles, smell vanilla and ylang-ylang, get to know a truly remote African lifestyle.

It was time to head back to the dive centre..and this is the only part I am not missing from my 6 week trip! Oceane’s Dream dive centre has all 4 and 5 star reviews on Tripadvisor. Therefore I had full confidence in them. Sadly what I went through with them from the beginning (Not informing us about the cyclone, then the refund/exchange process and just the general difficult communication since arrival) makes me wonder how they managed to get all these good reviews.

I was told that Joseph, a Malagasy dive instructor will be our cruise director on the liveabord and that was the reason why i took the exchange option and didn’t ask for a refund because I already felt that the French lady called Maud has been very arrogant and kind of forgot that they are a service provider and can’t just talk to/deal with the tourists the way they do. Sadly upon arrival I saw a group of 5 French people sitting on the briefing along with Maud. She set me off pretty badly with this team by talking to them about me whilst i was packing my stuff and getting ready for departure. (even if you don’t speak a language, you know when people are talking about you, plus I studied a bit of French and I speak 2 latin based languages) Sadly this hasn’t improved. It was her first trip on this liveaboard, didn’t know the dive sites and spoke 80% of the time in French, along with the group. I felt very much excluded but since i was in paradise and there were some ok moments (just not when we were eating at the table) I tried to make the most of this trip. The scenery, sunsets, sunrises, dolphins, remote islands we visited along with the kids and the crew were unforgettable. The people were very much forgettable.

 

I decided not to finish the trip. One of the reasons was the fact that they refused to speak English but also because I wouldn’t have been able to dive on the last day as i was flying in the evening to Antananarivo (Tana abbreviated), so I made my way back to Nosy Be, went straight to the dive shop, gave feedback, and on the last day in Nosy Be I met Etienne, and spent the day with him. He helped me find a lady who did my nails in her home, and we had late lunch with Etienne’s family, then they dropped me to the airport and this is where the real fun started!

Judit, my Hungarian friend who lives in Malta arrived a few hours before me, Miary, our driver and guide was waiting for me at the airport, dropped me at the hotel in Tana, and early in the morning we set off to our 10 day adventure in Central and South Madagascar.

I can honestly say that i have not laughed this much in the past 5 years as I did during this trip. We gelled so well with Miary and Judit was a joy to travel with. We were blessed 🙂

Our first destination was the Avenue of Baobabs near Morondava but you are not able to do the whole trip in one day so we spent one night in Miandrivazo. Wow this place was hot, as it was in a valley..the rooms were very basic, Judit got a little tipsy as even i was tempted to have a nice glass of Malagasy rum after a whole day of driving…but in the end I stuck with water. An interesting fact of Madagascar’s food and drink industry…Coca Cola Zero or Diet Coke or Pepsi don’t exist in Madagascar. It’s a product that has no purpose as people there NEED sugar. They don’t have problems with obesity or type 2 Diabetes..therefore you can only get full sugar Coke.

In the middle of the night we had a bit of an adrenaline rush as Judit left her bag in the hotel restaurant (we just withdrew a decent amount of money so the bag was full of cash), she woke up, ran out in pyjamas and luckily our guardian angel Miary took her bag in with him. Of course she woke him up with the night guard at 2am to double check this.:) So in Madagascar you ALWAYS have to have cash on you. You can’t pay with card nearly anywhere, even hotels, and the maximum amount you can withdraw/day is 800.000 Ariary (in 2 transaction) which is £200. And there are some cities where there is no cash machine. Miary was amazing as he always prepared us when and where to withdraw.

In the morning we went on a river cruise by dugout (pirogue), Miary came with us, and it was a great start to our day. It is the Malagasy way of transport along the river. It’s calm and slow with a full scenery. The colour of the water was red/brown due to the high iron content.

We then headed to Morondava, where we had a little dip in the Mozambique channel and then for sunset we went to the most iconic place in Madagascar, the Avenue of Baobabs.

After this incredible sunset photoshoot we had the best seafood in Morondava with live music! These are the moments to live for!

The next morning we went back to the Avenue for sunrise, but the sunset was by far the best. Then another 10h drive was waiting for us. On the way we hung out with some locals, ate in a traditional Malagasy restaurant, and finally we arrived to Ambositra, where we listened to live music and met Leslie, a nice French girl who moved to Madagascar from France, works in the food industry and is going to run an Ultra Marathon in Tana this year! (hats off with the 1280m elevation!)

We went for a run with Leslie in the morning then started our 8h journey to Isalo Rock Lodge, where we spent Christmas! The scenery en route was stunning, Lychee tree, fresh fruit, smiles from the locals, zebus, truck accidents …so much going on! And I even got to drive Miary’s car! It was so much fun! The pictures don’t give back all the fun we had in the car…playing games, teaching Miary some appropriate and some non appropriate English words..:)

When we arrived to our paradise, we spent the evening on our balcony, getting lost in the scenery and of course the rum (me in my favourite soursop and other exotic fruit juice).

We also had a ‘cash’ problem, Miary did tell us how much money we needed but somehow we didn’t withdraw enough, which meant that we couldn’t pay our guide for the next day…we panicked. We drove 10h without enough cash….But in Madagascar with Miary you don’t need to panic..he lent us enough money and just smiled and said..:

“it’s funny how you Europeans panic when you don’t have enough cash for 2 days..I can go a week without having any..and when i say any, without having any in the bank either!’

That sentence really hit me..we really do take our life for granted…:(

Next day we went hiking in the Isalo National Park. We were more than impressed with the natural untouched beauty of this park. No pictures can convey the awe that one feels standing in the presense of these massive rocks formations. The natural pools are pristine and getting to see ring tailed lemurs up close with their babies was a perk. We also saw the world’s smallest chameleon called Pygmy Leaf Chameleon.

After lunch we hiked to another fabulous natural piscine.

We finished our adventure by around 3pm, then luckily in a town half an hour drive away there was a cash machine and we could withdraw. I was driving again, it was a lot of fun!

Once we returned, me and Judit had a nice relaxing Christmas massage and finally we started getting ready to our Christmas dinner! It was so nice, the hotel crew did an hour show for the guests singing and playing on the djembe.

On the 25th December we drove to Fianarantsoa and visited the Anja Reserve. After Isalo, it was our favourite hike. Stunning views..rock formations…on cloud 9…

Upon arrival to our hotel we did a stroll in town, and found my favourite game EVER. Table football, or how we call it in Hungary, Csocso! What was even better that I got to play with the locals!!!

In the evening we played lots of fun games with Miary and Judit…including Spin the bottle Truth or Dare..! ha-ha

Here are a few shots of Malagasy street life…

On the 26th we visited Ranomafana National Park, a true Madagascan rainforest. It is one of the most picturesque national parks in Madagascar. Covering a mountainous area of 415 kilometres, the park is set at altitudes that range between 800 and 1,200 metres in a vast tract, comprised mainly of dense rainforest. The rare golden bamboo lemur was discovered here in 1986 by Dr. Patricia Wright, which led to the area gaining National Park status. It now provides a protected environment for these endangered animals and is one of the island’s most accessible and appealing stops on any itinerary.

At night, we went for a night walk…and we saw the Pigmy Mouse Lemur, very small and nocturnal along with lots of chameleons.

Next day was the last full day, when we drove to Antsirabe and visited the Miniature Museum, Zebu and Wood factory, where we met fellow Hungarians, led by Eddy- the Hungarian speaking Malagasy guide. I couldn’t believe this!!! We heard about him first in Isalo National Park from our guide Xavier, and voila, he happened to be in the gem store!  Here is a picture of the Hungarian squad.

And we arrived to our last night in Madagascar…well it was somewhat unforgettable…the last story out of many..Judit locked me our of my room! It was obviously an accident (one too many rums) and the way I got in was hilarious….The hotel didn’t have a spare key to the room, therefore the night guard climbed through our tiny bathroom window, knocking Judit’s make up bag on the floor which made almost as much noise as my pervious shouting ‘ Judit, Judit let me in!!!!’ but she was fast asleep..with eye mask on, and earplugs in..

Here is a little memory of the event:

Next morning, we left at 5am to be back in Tana for our 1.35pm flight to Ethiopia. In the car we had the best time…we couldn’t believe that we will be soon separated..this trio worked so so well and we had so much fun. We are so grateful to Miary for showing us his country in such a fabulous way.

If you ever plan a trip to Madagascar, he is your man!

And the last surprise that Madagascar gave me as a goodbye gift was bumping into Oliver, my previous client from NB….I could not believe that he was there on the same flight as we were to Addis Ababa! There are no accidents in life!

It is only when you travel the world that you understand how big and diverse it really is. Our connections should be invested in real people, from our neighbourhood to the world. And this is what I brought home with me.

It’s been a long time since I did a trip like this…since my last post I have been to many places that deserved a post but sadly I didn’t get around to writing about all of them..it’s on the to do list though!

So..Tanzania…a beautiful East African country that has so much to offer..its motto is ‘Uhuru na Umoja’ in Swahili translated is Freedom and Unity. Over 100 different languages are spoken in the country making it the most linguistically diverse country in East Africa. Tanzania is mountainous and densely forested in the north-east, where Mount Kilimanjaro is located. This was the main purpose of our visit…to Kill the Kili!

Having done Mount Toubkal- North Africa’s highest point in 2015- I have always wanted to reach Africa’s highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro! And as I usually do these activities with groups I had not known before I decided to do this differently and find likeminded friends/clients who are up for an adventure! And boom, before I had known it I had 10 people ready to rock & roll!

Our company Sirikwa Travel was fantastic throughout the whole process of organising the trip, flexible, great communication.

The fun started on 22nd February with Kenya airways, all of us on the same flight to Nairobi and from here we took a smaller plane to Kilimanjaro airport. The first drama started here with 2 suitcases not arriving. But JV and Anna remained calm and collected..what is the worst that can happen? They climb the mountain in a T-shirt and trainers? They wouldn’t be the first ones…sadly some of our porters had very basic clothing for themselves.

We arrived at our hotel in Moshi, and had our first briefing. Met our guides, and went for a wonderful Indian meal.

Oinoth, CEO of Sirikwa did his best to pick up the suitcases next day and bring them close to the gate so that the content can be transferred to a duffel bag and we were all ready to start our adventure. The second drama- my own personal one- was spraying 100% DEET in my right eye on the morning of the climb. Having feared Malaria (we decided with Richard not to take any anti-malaria tablets) my only prevention was mosquito repellent but sadly my aim was not the best. So after washing it a million times and not having been able to open it for 2 hours it got better in the end but not the best start!

In terms of gear for Kilimanjaro this is the recommended list:

Technical gear:

1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down
1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
2 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Waterproof Pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
2 – Hiking Pants (convertible to shorts recommended)
1 – Fleece Pants
1 – Shorts (optional)
1 – Long Underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
3 – Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
2 – Sport Bra (women)
Equipment
1 – Sleeping Bag, warm, four seasons
1 – Sleeping Bag Liner, for added warmth (optional)
1 – Trekking Poles (recommended)
1 – Head lamp, with extra batteries
1 – Duffel bag, (waterproof recommended) for porters to carry your equipment

1 – Daypack, for you to carry your personal gear
Handwear
1 – Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
1 – Glove Liners, thin, synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth (optional)
Footwear
1 – Hiking Boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in, with spare laces
1 – Gym Shoes, to wear at camp (optional)
3 – Socks, thick, wool or synthetic
3 – Sock Liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn under socks to prevent blisters (optional)
1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)
Accessories
1 – Sunglasses or Goggles
1 – Backpack Cover, waterproof (optional)
1 – Poncho, during rainy season (optional)
1 – Water Bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz. recommended)
1 – Water Bladder, Camelbak type (recommended)
1 – Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)
1 – Pee Bottle, to avoid leaving tent at night ( recommended)
Stuff Sacks or Plastic Bags, various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate
Headwear
1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
1 – Knit Hat, for warmth
1 – Balaclava, for face coverage (optional)
1 – Bandana (optional)
Other

Toiletries
Prescriptions
Sunscreen
Lip Balm
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
First Aid Kit
Hand Sanitizer
Toilet Paper
Wet Wipes (recommended)
Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
Pencil and Notebook, miniature, for trip log (optional)
Camera, with extra batteries (optional)

There are several routes available to hike but I chose the one that has the highest % of success rate, the Lemosho route. The idea here is to spend a day or two extra between 3-4000m for proper acclimatisation.

The funny thing was that the Comic Relief Team started their trip one day before us so we were on the mountain at the same time as them  but on different routes.

DAY 1

After the registration process started our climb steadily through the forests of the Lemosho glades to reach BigTree camp where we spent the first night.
Distance covered: 7km / 4.3mi
Approx. time taken: 4 hours
By the time we arrived at the camp, our tents were up, our dinner was cooking, we learnt how to use the toilet, and started getting to know each other better. We always gathered in a big mess tent for our meals and the excitement in our eyes when the waiters appeared with the food was indescribable.

Start group

Group hike

DAY 2

Big Tree Camp (2780m) To Shira 2 Camp (3900m)
We trekked across a plateau of grassy moorland and heather scattered with
volcanic rock formations. Our destination for today was meant to be Shira 1 Camp but our guides decided to go to Shira 2 as our pace was good. We gained a reasonable
amount of altitude on this day and parts of the route were fairly steep. As the guides called it…the elephant. Very scenic beautiful walk. This was the first time when some of us got really overwhelmed and emotional with the difficulty of the hike. This was also the time when we first saw the summit. By now we really felt the mountain..the outside world was distant..we were in the bubble. We had a little rain on this day but where there is rain there is also a rainbow!
Distance covered: 15.5km / 9.6mi
Approx. time taken: 10 hours

elephantfirst view of Kiligroup first view of Kiliemotionalrainrainbow

DAY 3

Shira 2 Camp (3900m) to Barranco Camp (3960m)
Our trek started with an ascent with far-reaching panoramic views, walking in to the
climatic zone of the upland desert and on the lava ridges beneath the glaciers of the
Western Breach. We reached the distinct pinnacle of the Lava Tower (4640 m), our
high point for the day and a great place to enjoy our lunch. In the afternoon we made
a steep descent to our camp for the night, located in the base of the Great Barranco
Valley (3960 m), sheltered by towering cliffs but with extensive views of the plains
below. Our crew was waiting for us with cheerful songs and dance which immediately made us forget the difficulty of the day.
Distance covered: 10km / 6.2mi
Approx. time taken: 7 hrs

lawa towertowards lava towergroup-lavagiranivegetation

aliz hug

group

DAY 4:

Day 6: Barranco Camp (3960m) to Karanga Camp (3963m)

When I woke up this morning I felt sick. Sadly the altitude sickness kicked in and I know exactly why. I didn’t drink 3l water the previous day as we were told to do. I had a very bad sleep during the night, woke up with a headache and felt lightheaded. As we left the camp I started to feel better and I made sure that I drank enough going forward.
Our day started by descending into the start of the Great Barranco, a huge ravine. We
then exited steeply, up the Great Barranco Wall, which divided us from the southeastern
slopes of Kibo. It’s a climb over rock, not technical but long and tiring. Passing
underneath the Heim and Kersten glaciers, we headed towards the Karanga valley. From
here we had a steep climb up from Karanga valley to our night’s camp at Karanga
camp, set at 3963m.  Upon arrival we went for acclimatisation trek up to around 4200m before descending back to camp for the night.
Distance covered: 5.5km / 3.4mi
Approx. time taken: 5 hours

Baranco wallBaranco smile

kissBaranco jumpkaranga

Day 5: Karanga Camp (3963) to Barafu Camp (4640m)
After a good night’s rest and breakfast, we set off on our walk to Barafu camp at
4640m. The climb took us across desolate scree slopes with no vegetation around
us at all. It was a tough steep walk made more difficult by the altitude. Somehow I was more energised on this day than the previous ones.

On arriving at camp we ate and spent the afternoon resting as we prepared for a long night and day ahead. I wanted to sleep in the afternoon but we just ended up resting. We had an early dinner, briefing about the summit night and then rest again. The group was divided into 2, group one left at 11pm and group 2 at 1am. We had tea and biscuits before.
Distance covered: 3km / 1.9mi
Approx. time taken: 3 hours

TO BARAFUTO BARAFU 2TO BARABFU 3TO BARAFU 4BARAFUBASECAMPBRIEFING

DAY 6:

It was hard to put 6 layers on you because as soon as you moved you felt hot and bulky. We really looked like Michelin men. Before we set off we sang our motivational song:

HIP HIP, HOP HOP

NON STOP, TO THE TOP

ONE TEAM, ONE DREAM

ONE DREAM, ONE TEAM

RAAAAAAAAAAAAA

And here it started a painful 7hour – for some people 9- ascent first to Stella Point (5756m) then to Uhuru Peak (5895m). How could I describe this night…definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Endless line of torches going up…in pitch black, step by step- or in Swahili POLE POLE.

My water froze after 2 hours..my head was exploding…I was hot then cold, then hot, then cold..I was exhausted and I just couldn’t see how I can walk hours more in these conditions. I felt nauseous, just wanted to sit down and have a little rest but we couldn’t. If you spend too much time sitting, you will never get up due to the freezing temperatures. I was on the verge of giving up..several time. But my hero, our Chief Guide Mudi did not let me. He reminded me, as a leader of this group I needed to show example. There was no other option but to get up and go. After 4 hours we reached the first group, Richard and Karen were in that group and that’s when the emotional element came in. All of us in tears..desperate to reach the top..in the end we all made it. At Stella we got a new source of energy. Our guides and summit porters were literally our foundations..the rock solid pillars carrying our bags, carrying hot tea for us and keeping us alive on this gut-wrenching mission to get to the roof of Africa. When the sun came up….that was the moment of hope.

IMG_7167pull to summitDSC_6117summitsummit 2summit 3

Throughout the whole climb we were ‘chasing’ the Comic Relief group and we ended up summiting the same time as they did 🙂 BBC crew, Red Nose Day outfits…we all went through the same feelings at the same time. Having watched their programme after arriving home…it didn’t do the climb justice. 

The descent back to base-camp was not a relief, running down in shale was not fun for already tired legs. Incredible that we made it down in just under 2.5h back to Barafu camp. I felt exhausted. Even food could not get me excited. I skipped lunch, went to my tent and slept. But not for long as on the same day we had to leave the base camp and head to Mweka Camp for a long well-earned rest.
Distance covered: 16.4km / 9.6mi
Approx. time taken: 13hours – 15hours
IMG_7196

DAY 7:

A gentle trek took us down through the rainforest to Mweka Gate, where we
completed park formalities. We played some games along the way down, and really felt a sense of achievement (it only took us 24h to finally have this feeling!!!)
Distance covered: 9.1km / 7.5miles
Approx. time taken: 6 hours

IMG_7200IMG_7201IMG_7205IMG_7230IMG_7235

On the way to the hotel…at a random petrol station…3 cars pulled in….and there they were..THE CELEBRITIES! :)) And a selfie with my ultimate favourite Dani Dyer:)

IMG_7257IMG_72526d61824b-f8f3-49e1-8ba3-661f2349e1a0

The climb for me was an incredible experience. It was so much harder than I expected due to a combination of continuous walking every day, lack of sleep, being cold and out in the wind and cold during the night in the tent along with the impact of the high altitude and lack of oxygen. It was wonderful to share the journey with our group and we became excellent friends throughout the week sharing jokes and conversations about topics we would never have raised at home.

As we finished the trek one day before planned we arranged a safari for the day after! Everyone was so enthusiastic and happy as some of us had never been on a safari before and this was a true bonus! So after the well deserved celebratory night at Masailand hotel in Arusha next day we got picked up at 5.30am and went on a fabulous day safari to Tarangiri National Park. We were super fortunate to see a pride of lions devouring a warthog and elephants eating from a tree.

Just a few picks of what we saw….

giraffelionscarelephant 2elephant 4elephant bestzebra family

In the afternoon we had a pool party in our hotel, and some drinks to celebrate our fantastic trip. Oinoth came and distributed our certificates, we said emotional goodbye to each other and some people flew home the next day, some of us went to Zanzibar and Pemba. So the next 6 days were very different, Richard and I stayed in this beautiful place, paradise on Earth called Manta resort. The journey here is worth to elaborate a little. Kilimanjaro airport- Zanzibar- normal plane, Zanzibar Pemba: a 12 seater little plane. My personal favourite..flies 4500m high and with a little wind could be the worst nightmare of your life….

IMG_7371IMG_7387

A few pictures on our paradise:

IMG_7393IMG_7395IMG_7397IMG_7398IMG_7401

We did some diving but sadly the Manta rays are avoiding Pemba as in the past the locals hunted them down…I’m still upset about this…hopefully an education programme is being prepared for this part of the world on protected sea life!

On this resort you really don’t need to worry about much, all- inclusive, spa treatments included, wonderful meals being served, top service with the local people’s charm. Our fundi was Lucas. We really bonded with him. Always smiling, always funny! Lucas is the BEST! We also met some wonderful people on this resort, an Italian couple who came here for their 25th Wedding Anniversary.

We also used an outdoor gym where the weights were made out of local products including concrete mass in sand buckets.

The real splurge of the trip was staying for one night in the resort’s underwater room. Wow. This was something special. 24h you live in a luxurious aquarium and can enjoy an underwater show! But the beauty was not just this…the sunset dinner, gazing stars at night from the sun deck,  watching the local fishermen’s everyday life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have a trip like this. Take every chance you get in life, because some things only happen once.

MANTA 1NGUVOMANTA 2MANTA 3MANTA 4MANTA 5UNDERWATER ROOMMANTA 6MANTA 7MANTA 8DINNER UNDERWATERMANTA 10MANTA 11MAAANTAMAANTA

I am organising another trip to Kilimanjaro in 2020. For more information visit:

https://www.lizstyleliving.com/climb-kilimanjaro

 

I hope that the title of this post will catch your attention and you will read it from the beginning to end because in this post, beyond my own experiences I am going to write some information that you can use to make your life better.

Let me give you a bit of a background to this holiday first. I have been regularly exercising since I was 18; yes exercising, going to the gym, dancing etc. People would say that I was always doing something, moving and therefore I have always been fit, and I was happy with my level of fitness. I could have looked better, ‘one should always put up their limits high enough and never settle lower.’ I could have had a more stable body instead of gaining weight and then losing it just because I was running more or doing more cardio but overall I was ok with myself. During my travels I became a bit more chunky than before and I was determined once I settled back into the London life that I would lose the excess fat. I started working for Gamesys and with this joined the gym where they offer corporate membership called The Third Space. I remember when I walked into it the first time I saw this super fit guy (even his name has the word FIT in, he’s called Fitz Gaynes) shouting at people on the glass floor.  It looked like he was training an army and people were still smiling. I promised myself that I would go into one of his classes and either die or come out stronger. So on the next occasion I went with my good friend Zara to his Legs Bums and Tums class. I wish I had a bit of an introduction or warning before, but sadly on that one occasion when I went to his class for the first time he did not ask if there was any ‘fresh blood’, so I was believed to be one of his’regulars’. If you have done legs bums and tums class before you would expect something like this:

Instead, we did about 300 squats in different combinations on a 45 minutes class that started with a 10 minutes dance routine.  I remembered Fitz even on the 3rd day after I did the class as coming down the stairs had become a bit of a nightmare! That was it, I knew I was working hard and would get results. I returned to the class the week after and after and I found myself becoming more and more curious to see what other classes he was  teaching. I tried his spin class, which is equally not the classic spin class that is normally taught.  The bike is just a tool that we use to do strength training to the heart.  Finally after a few months I tried one of his late Tuesday night classes, the LST weights class. This is when the whole logic behind his teaching started to come altogether, back to the simple logic, sit, stand, push and pull. That’s all you need to do.  I’ll tell you more about this through this post but if you want to check out his site and learn a bit more here it is: https://fitzlifestyletraining.com

So this January an opportunity arose to go on an LST holiday through him to Turkey.  I had pretty much booked all of my holidays for the year with the wedding and honeymoon approaching so first I thought that I couldn’t go,  although I really wanted to. So another proof that if you really want something, make it happen. I booked it.

I knew some people from the classes but mostly just by face however deep down I also knew that I loved meeting new people so knew we would get on:) Fitz flew out a couple of days before to prepare everything for us and the group flew on Sunday the 20th March.

The place we went to is called Ali Bey Manavgat and it’s in Antalya, about 1 hour and 20 mins away from the airport.

It was so nice to arrive in the summer, Fitz welcomed us, everyone checked in, unpacked and we met at the bar then went for the first dinner with champagne at the table. This was  a great bonding night. The food was lovely, everyone was chatty, already loved it. The timetable of the week was the following:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 15.08.27

I couldn’t wait to get out there early in the morning and look around, greet the sea and look into the horizon as the sun rises. I took my camera and went to explore, then to breakfast.

DSC_1372DSC_1374DSC_1378DSC_1389

Everyone went to breakfast at similar times, earlyish so that the food could go down a bit by 10am when the training starts. We had a little welcome session at the Fitness First gym, got a Fitz T-shirt and a notebook, and the fun started with an hour of weights class. I took my tripod with me so that I could record most classes, as well as my GoPro and DSLR camera.

DSC_1417DSC_1421

After the weights class we had a heart strength training (spin) class. Watch this space to get a taste:

Straight after this class we went to the pool for a Q &A session, which taught me the following.

DSC_1433DSC_1436

Conclusions:

  • High intensity interval training has nothing to do with endurance. Once it’s low intensity it becomes endurance training.
  • Diets don’t work, once you stop it the fat comes back (yo-yo) DIET: Delay Internal Extreme Termination
  • Detox? Save your money and drink water
  • Want to look good? Change your lifestyle. Long term results require long term lifestyle changes.

After the Q & As everyone was starving and looking forward to dinner time!

DSC_1456DSC_1457DSC_1459DSC_1466

Considering that we were in an all-inclusive hotel the nights were pretty short. Simply because our focus was on our training as opposed to drinking or partying. Saying that I probably stayed out the most with my partner in crime Cat, not sure why she did not get the ‘raver’ title along with me!

The next day we played an ‘exciting’ card game called Lucky Dip!

Fitz cards

It was a body conditioning class. You combine the following in this card game:

Alternate Leg Thrusts, Star Jumps, Press Ups, Crunches and Squats.

The numbers go from 2 to 20 in each section and you never know what’s the next card. Could be the joker which is 20 reps of each, that’s a 100, without any break. Good luck! 🙂

DSC_1495DSC_1507DSC_1517DSC_1519

Ok, this game is a hell! And Fitz represents the devil!

After Lucky Dip we had another seminar by the beach and listened to Fitz’s words of wisdom.

DSC_1552

Every afternoon there was a bit of time to relax and enjoy the sun and a bit of reflection…

Alizcat aliz

We still had an LST combo and active recovery left for the afternoon.  It was a tough day and Wednesday did not look any easier. However Wednesday was my favourite day for several reasons.

We started with the LST Heart/ running hour. This was a challenge for most of us.

Here is a taster:

DSC_1592DSC_1613DSC_1663DSC_1679DSC_1690DSC_1697

Food was well needed. When your body is working on 85-95% intensity you need fuel!

An LST weights class and another Q&A was left for the day..

DSC_1779DSC_1793DSC_1797

The Q& A was about food this time and what’s right and what to avoid. There is no ‘sample’ or pattern that you can copy. Everyone is different, everyone’s body and metabolism is different and everyone is on a different fitness level. This group worked so well together despite the different age/fitness capabilities. Susie shared some great experience about her food habits but she is miles away from any of our fitness levels and she is a WBFF Pro Diva Fitness Model but everything she said could be applied to anyone.

Susie has been training with Fitz for 6 years and achieved some incredible results over the years. Truly inspirational and supports the logic behind Fitz’s LST theory. She is a perfect example of the statement that Fitz says to all of us when we are about to give up and collapse: ‘What the mind don’t do, the body won’t do’. This girl has it all, control, mind power and beauty:

Susie

Some of us stayed out for a bit after dinner, but most of the people went to sleep. Great evening!

On Thursday we started with weights/strength training at 10, then a seminar about why short dumbbells are more ‘lifestyle’ than long bars for weights training. And finished off with a heart strength training.

I think by this day most people were tired by default, but in the evening everyone was up for a game of Cards Against Humanity which contributed to the stories we left Turkey with.  Again, what a group! 🙂

Some of you might think, I don’t need to go to the gym, I play football, it’s enough. No! It’s not enough. Sport is a choice, lifestyle training is essential for everyone. Once your training is in place you can specialise in any sports because you will have the strength to do them! Remember when you get old you will regret not having built up those muscles at young age. Never too late to start! One of our group, Sakino, was 67, and kept up the pace all week and even set and example to the group on how to ‘plank’.  Get down to the gym and pick up those weights!

Friday we did an LBT class in the morning and LST combo in the afternoon.

Watch this cruelty on these guys here:

Fitz set a challenge for us for the week. A little dance routine! Now this made my week at the very beginning cause I absolutely love his music choices and the dance choreography that he teaches on the Thursday classes in London. Every day we had 30 minutes of dancing, and what have we achieved by the end? This:

And while learning it we had the best time!

On Friday we had our Gala dinner where we gave Fitz and Susie a little present for all the hard work they put in making this holiday happen and with that we are all officially the LST Pioneers!

Pioneers.jpg

On Saturday we had an LST celebration or so called TRI class. Running, conditioning, weights. 3 groups of people.

Fitz then said something of everyone’s achievements, apparently my motto on this trip was, Train Hard, Party Hard, Sleep None! 😛

DSC_1832DSC_1855

After lunch we put on our uniforms, the ‘FITz LST t-shirt’ and performed our dance in 2 different places which then resulted in the fab video that Ben put together above.

This holiday was like a drug for me.  It was hard to get back to reality and I am still getting energy from it 2 weeks later.  I made some really good friends as well and it would have been my biggest regret if I didn’t go.

DSC_1899DSC_1927DSC_1967DSC_1970DSC_1975DSC_1976DSC_1993

So people reading this blog and wanting to get involved, there is another holiday coming up in October and there are still some spaces left. Let me know if you are interested in going.  You will not regret it 😉

Pioneer hols

 

Well overdue post from November last year when I surprised my mum with a trip to the ‘Eternal City’. It has always been her big dream to visit Rome at least once in her lifetime. I have been several times when I was younger and am passionate about Italy and the Italian culture so I knew Rome quite well and what’s a better occasion to show this stunning city to Mum than for her 60th birthday.

I flew there from London, she flew from Budapest and luckily I managed to choose flights that arrived at similar times. I was there first and couldn’t wait for her to get there and be overwhelmed. I booked a flat through AirBnB, very close to the Colosseum which was very convenient as next day we could start there nice and early to avoid the crowd.

DSC_0374DSC_0388DSC_0397DSC_0421

Mum was very emotional..a dream came true. I like making people happy.

The next obvious sight was the Forum Romano. It used to be the centre of Roman public life.  We also visited the Palatine and Capitoline Hills.

DSC_0510DSC_0513DSC_0551

After the Forum we headed to the Victor Emmanuel II Monument. This is the sight that Romans respect the most, you are not allowed to sit down on the stairs or do anything that is disrespectful. We went up to the top and had a stunning view. It was very warm on those 3 days we were in Rome, about 20 degrees, which for November is great.

DSC_0566

DSC_0577DSC_0606DSC_0616DSC_0617

One of the best scenes from the Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck was by the ‘Bocca della Verità’ or Mouth of  Truth. The material  of the round medaillon is Pavonazzetto marble. This marble comes from Docimium in Frigia (today’s Turkey). The weight is 1,200kg and it’s 2,200 years old believe it or not.

The most famous characteristic of the Mouth, however, is its role as a lie detector.  Starting from the Middle Ages it was believed that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. I can confirm we both arrived back home with 2 hands:)

DSC_0647DSC_0649

After these we just got lost in the little beautiful narrow streets or ‘stradine’ of Rome.

DSC_0660

I think I made mum walk at least 15km per day, but that’s the best way to discover the city.

And of course we fuelled up with the tasty food that the Roman cuisine offers.

DSC_0786DSC_0787

In the evening we walked around Piazza Navona.

DSC_0745DSC_0765DSC_0768

The next day, all recharged, we went to the see the Vatican. I think this was the highlight for Mum.

DSC_0799DSC_0833

DSC_0857

The other beauty is the Castel Sant’Angelo, just at the end of the Passetto from the Vatican. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the Popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The Castel was once the tallest building in Rome.

DSC_0932_2DSC_0937IMG_9317IMG_9318

On the last day we visited Campo de’ Fiori (Field of Flowers). The name was first given during the Middle Ages when the area was actually a meadow. Campo de’ Fiori has never been architecturally formalised. The square has always remained a focus for commercial and street culture: the surrounding streets are named for trades—Via dei Balestrari (crossbow-makers), Via dei Baullari (coffer-makers), Via dei Cappellari (hat-makers), Via dei Chiavari (key-makers) and Via dei Giubbonari (tailors).

It’s an overpriced market now, a bit of a tourist trap but the shopping in Giubbonari is great (not Gucci and Armani type of brand shopping but affordable everyday clothes and shoe shopping).

At night, Campo de’ Fiori is a meeting place for tourists and young people coming from the whole city. In the years after 2000 it has turned into one of the most dangerous places of the city during night, with reports of repeated assaults and affrays by drunk tourists and soccer supporters.

IMG_9351IMG_9352IMG_9354IMG_9355IMG_9356

IMG_9357

As Mum was leaving in the afternoon we did another little stroll around Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, I gave her another little surprise – a Swarovski necklace and earring set that she was very happy with. The necklace chain was too short but luckily we could change it in the Swarovski store in Rome.

IMG_9367IMG_9369IMG_9378

She then left and I spent an evening shopping 🙂 In the evening I went out for a superb meal and tried the famous carciofi alla giudea at a restaurant called Ba’’ Ghetto in the Roman-Jewish Quarter.

The next day I flew to Malta for a gaming conference.

I think it was an unforgettable trip for both of us; Mum certainly remembered as her feet hurt for a few days after the marathon walking she was not used to.

Egypt

Posted: April 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

A slightly delayed post from our trip in October 2015.

Egypt was the 56th country I visited in my life. It is a very popular destination for English people, however I might change this statement to past tense and leave the present for Russians.

My main attraction to Egypt was the Red Sea and diving hence why we chose Sharm el Sheikh to visit over Cairo and the Pyramids.

We booked the trip through Regal Dive as I could not find a straight forward way to book diving, flights and hotel separately.

Since it was Richard’s first dive livaboard experience we chose a mini safari (3 day trip) over a full safari (duration: a week).

We flew with Monarch to Egypt on the 4th October and once we arrived at the airport our driver picked us up and drove us directly to the port where the SNEFRO 6 fleet waited for us.

We were looking forward to this trip and hoped that we would have a great group, which we did! The group was small which is always a bonus, 4 guests in total, Richard and I plus 2 guys, Martin and Callum.

Our divemaster Basem was Egyptian and super friendly.

Few pics of the boat:
gallery_54

king-snefro-6-bt8sharing-bathroom-cabin-liveaboard-king-snefro-6

The whole experience reminded me of my first liveaboard in Thailand around the Similan Islands. The staff were superb! The food was exceptional..we were properly spoilt.

IMG_8640IMG_8642IMG_8643IMG_8644

We sat down on the first night and tried out our equipment, then discussed the itinerary and the courses we wanted to do. Richard planned to do his Advanced course and beyond that the opportunity arose to do the Nitrox course so we both decided to do it.

The days began with very early starts, up at 6am and ready to dive by 6.30am.

We did the following dive sites on the first day

  1. Temple
  2. Stingray station
  3. Sha’ab Surur
  4. Sh’ab Ali Lagoon- night dive

We saw Lion fish, Masked Puffer fish, Giant Clam, Napoleon fish, Angel fish, Blue spotted stingray, Scorpion fish, Banner fish, Butterfly fish, Moray eel and Trigger fish.

Unfortunately my computer let me down on the first dive, the battery died which I did not expect at all and it’s not something I could check as it switches on underwater at around 2m depth. It was not a major issue though because at least I could use Basem’s Suunto computer.

The second important item that let me down was my GoPro..it kept freezing underwater which made me incredibly angry especially because I had just bought a macro red filter before the trip to enhance the quality of the video and pictures.

The next day we did the famous Thistlegorm wreck that sank on 6th October 1941. It was super impressive, with all the motorbikes still inside, rusted with corals around them, pieces of rubber tyres, guns, rifles. We did this dive with Nitrox.

There was another dive around this wreck ..just because you cannot have enough of it:)

The afternoon and night dive was at the same dive site called Beacon Rock. Now that night dive was one of my highlights ever. I saw a Spanish dancer …dancing! It’s fairly rare to see them at all let alone dancing.

spanish dancer

In the evenings we had great banter between studying EON and Richard his advanced course book.

On the third day we finished off with 2 dives only and some chilling on the boat. Then there was the time of truth; the exam. We had to sit separately with Basem marking our work. Of course Richard copied the whole EON exam off me therefore we had 2 identical mistakes! Back to school…..

The last 2 dives were at:

  1. Dunraven
  2. Shark & Yolanda Reef- 38m depth and current – very impressive dive site.

IMG_8588IMG_8598IMG_8653

After the magical 3 days living on the sea we returned to Sharm to our hotel…which was a big disappointment. Falcon Naama Star Hotel is one to avoid! Not clean, not by the sea..the staff were very nice but considering the number of options in hotels it is on the lower end of the range.

On the first evening on ‘land’ we got a little taste for Sharm’s charm..the hassle, the constant, ‘hey my friend, do you remember me?’

Therefore we quickly realised that we wanted to plan things to do for the remaining 3 full days.

The next day we booked a fantastic 4×4 safari trip to visit the Coloured Canyon and Dahab. Highly recommended!

We had a super fun guide, spoke about 15 languages! But 2 for sure, English and Russian. After racing through the desert we walked through this beautiful canyon:

IMG_8731IMG_8766IMG_8786IMG_8791

Then we made our way to Dahab and snorkelled the Blue Hole where lots of divers have died over the years. It’s a stunning crystal clear hole with colourful corals and beautiful fish.

After the snorkelling we had lunch from a restaurant with view across the Red Sea and the surrounding mountains. Fresh juice is always a must in tropical countries!

After lunch we did a 20 minutes camel ride along the sea..again..the guide was superb! We laughed so much!

IMG_8863The trip ended in a dodgy perfume shop where we had the opportunity to buy our favourite fragrance for a fraction of the original price.

Early night after the action packed day as for the next day we had booked a day trip to Jordan. We got picked up at 2am (!) from our hotel and we had a 8 hour journey waiting for us (4 h bus + 1 h boat + 3 h bus again). When we got to Petra we had about 3 hours to explore. 2 h guided and 1 h free. When I saw one of the 7th Wonders of the World it was just incredible! It was the 6th that I have seen…1 to go, the Great Wall of China, which I am planning on visiting in the next year or so.

With Petra my only issue was that in order to get to the Treasury (the main attraction) you can rent a horse with a carriage. The pavement is mainly stoned therefore the animals suffer a lot. The locals seem to ignore this and they encourage them with the whip to go even faster…my heart was breaking. People visiting Petra, please do not encourage this service by taking it!

Here is a map of Petra. It’s huge and I recommend that you leave at least a full day to explore it.

petra-map

IMG_8932IMG_8941

IMG_8959

IMG_8982IMG_8983

The penultimate day in Sharm el-Sheikh was fun:) I found an excellent snorkelling spot without needing to take a tour..well at least that’s what I thought. We packed our snorkelling gear and took a taxi to the Hyatt Regency. When we got there it was clear that this is not a common route that tourists take to go snorkelling…given that you need to go into the hotel and be on their private beach to access the reef. But I felt that I was so close  that I didn’t care:) We went through a security check before entering the hotel- like a conveyor belt and proper door men etc. first obstacle done. Then confidently walked into the hotel, through the lobby out to the pool area (removed our existing hotel bracelets and were happy to notice that in the Hyatt Regency people did not wear a bracelet). Finally we got to their amazing private beach..wow. It was great! The only problem was that we did not have matching towels to the rest of the people there so at the beginning we felt quite uncomfortable that we would be thrown out of there at any minute:) I threw myself into the water and spent most of the day there looking at the lovely Coral Garden. I saw a cuttle fish, tons of clown fish, barracuda, and an eel. It was fantastic! We had a great lunch at the hotel restaurant then back to sunbathing and snorkelling. That’s how we spent a day at a 5 star all inclusive hotel without any booking:)

Egypt3Egypt 1Egypt5

The last day we spent on the public beach, having a massage, with shisha and drinking cocktails. It was a great holiday and I truly hope that the political situation will allow us to go there soon without any threat or fear.

One week after we left ISIS took out the Russian plane so we timed our departure well.

I looked at my blog the other day and realised that the last post is from April last year! Gone are those days when I posted after every country I visited! But…better late than never.

Let me share with you my adventure last August in Morocco. First of all, this trip and update would not have been written without my dear friend Sasha, who had this amazing idea last January to do a challenge, namely a 4167m mountain, North Africa’s highest peak: Mount Toubkal.

I said without hesitation that I would like to do this with her! It was an  amazing idea, and it sounded like a mini travelling trip. Climbing a mountain with a backpack and a group!

She was surprised herself how many of her friends were interested in doing this summit with her, so we formed a little group of 9 people : Sasha and her friend Nuno, Amanda, Julia with her 18 year old son, Will, Joy with her 12 year old called Hugo, my friend Jodie and myself.

They arrived at Marrakech in the morning of the 27th August, me and Jodie arrived late afternoon. They all waited for us at the airport. As I came out of the plane that tropical heat hit me and I felt I was in paradise…

We got through immigration ok, got a nice stamp in the passport, found Sasha and the others, and drove in 2 cars to the starting point of the trek, Imlil. Imlil is a small Berber village, 1740m above sea level. The Film ‘Seven years in Tibet‘ was partly filmed in the village.

We were greeted with Berber tea in a mansion by one of our guides, Rachid. The architecture in Morocco is stunning!

We got the closest room downstairs with Jodie and Sasha and the others occupied the rest of the mansion..the real paradise opened up when I went up to the terrace at the top, and saw this:DSC_8170

DSC_8173

It was again the same pair as on my travels..the nature and I!!  Bright stars shining up there, light breeze and the smell of a new land, and soon dinner!

We had lovely first meal, lots of small dishes on the table, tagine, chicken, couscous, salads.

We spent the evening chatting to our guides and getting ready mentally for the challenge.

The next morning after breakfast we divided our belongings into 3 groups. One that we did not need for the 3 day trek, one that we did need but only when we arrive at the camp in the afternoon- this was carried by the mules- and the smallest pack was what we needed for the walk. Water, snacks, toilet paper etc.

Some people hired walking sticks. The tent was provided by Jamal’s company, I took my own sleeping bag which I specifically bought for this trip.

When I put on my walking boots I remembered all those miles that they walked on different terrains and lands…sweet memories!

So the first day was superb! Beautiful landscapes with some challenging parts. I think everyone can agree with me when I say that beyond the  scenery and the physical challenge, the ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners were the  highlights! Absolutely beautiful presentation of food and incredible tastes…and what never missed from the table, the well deserved Moroccan fresh mint tea! The name of the place where we had lunch was Tizi Mizik at 2489m. On the way to Tamsoult refuge (2250m) there were loads of goats. Nuno connected with the goats and learnt their way of communication which still haunts us..that very specific sound effect…’BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’.

DSC_8211

DSC_8299

DSC_8248

DSC_8283

DSC_8345

Now the first night’s accommodation is something I will not forget for a while. I think it’s an understatement that we had adverse weather conditions. Strong stormy wind, rain and cold!

DSC_8525DSC_8533

It was Joy’s 50th Birthday so the guides prepared a lovely cake for her and we all sang and celebrated with her. It was a very special moment.

DSC_8615DSC_8635

Nuno, Sasha and Jodie decided to take the challenge that the weather has thrown in front of them and sleep in tents instead of the room that looked rather like a horse stall with some mats on the floor.

DSC_8543DSC_8488

In the morning we shared our stories during the night. I don’t think anyone slept more than 4 hours.

After breakfast we had a morning hike to the waterfalls

DSC_8745DSC_8861