Map View of my next Adventure – East & South Africa

With just over 4 more weeks to go, from 5th Nov, for about 3 months, I will be on to my next adventure, exploring East & South Africa. From Nairobi to Johannesburg I will be travelling over 10 countries including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa etc. Some of the highlights will be safari in stunning game parks such as the Serengeti, Etosha and Ngorongoro Crater, trekking to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda, swimming with dolphins around Zanzibar, walking with lions near Victoria falls, relaxing on sandy tropical beaches with a few adrenaline activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting, gorge swings, scuba diving etc…. Omg! I can’t believe its really happening 🙂

East and South Africa Adventure Map View

East and South Africa Adventure Map View

 

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Best Currency Exchange Deal

Currency exchange

Since I have been travelling alot lately, one of the most important thing I have come across is how to get the best deal with currency exchange. Obviously its very easy nowdays and there are number of ways including credit cards, debit cards, exchange on the counter at airport, high street brands, banks and other independent outlets. I have used all of these but the most annoying thing is the commission they charge on every single transaction. And you end up wasting so much time just to figure out what is the best available deal, plus it does your head in.

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For me the solution is Halifax Clarity Card. With this card you can withdraw cash from ATM without any charge anywhere in the world. No annual fee, nothing and you get the actual MASTER card exchange rate i.e. no additional bank commission. Sounds too good to be true :)…well there is always a catch. First of all you can only have this card if you live in UK. Secondly you have to be Halifax customer. Lastly they charge a very tiny amount of interest which is next to nothing though (about £1/month for each £100 withdrawn) if you pay back the balance full at the end of the month. Nonetheless I think its the best deal out there… atleast for me. No hassel of thinking about getting currency exchange, rates etc. Wherever there is a cashpoint abroad, you are getting the best exhange rate. By the way you can also use this card for purchases on the counter. Just always remember to pay in local currency and never ever in GBP (this applies to every card).

I have been using this card for the last few months and its amazing. I never worry about exchanging currency before going or while abroad, taking cash abroad or getting best exchange rate deal etc. anymore. Almost every airport has a cash machine and I just get the cash at the arrivals. However for emergency reason I would still recommend to take may be £50 worth of local currency…  you never know, infact at Geneva airport the cash points do not dispense euros and if you are taking a short ride via shuttle to France, you have to pay in euros and the shuttle company don’t take card payment 😦 silly!

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Kungsleden Day 6 – Kebnekaise to Nikkaluokta

Today I had mix feelings a bit of sadness realisiong that the time is approaching when we had to say farewell to the birds, flowers and mountains. After having a hearty buffet breakfast of cereal, yogurt, juices, cheeses, boiled eggs, breads and millions of other bits, we all head to Nikkaluokta about 19km away. It was a flat and the most easiest walk of all without any rocks or boulders. We were at  Nikkaluokta in a flash. We did 19 km in about 4-5 hrs i think. A couple of ppl decided to make it more dramatic by taking a 6 min helicopter ride all the way. I saw the video and it was really cool. To ease the pain, a few ppl mistakenly took the 30 min boat ride over lake Ladtjojaure hoping that it will take it to the end but funny enough they still had to walk another remaining 8 km to Nikkaluokta from the drop off point 🙂 … basically it was a rip off,  300 crowns really ! 🙂

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I will never forget Nikkolouta though. This is where I dicovered yoga. Von gave us a class of yoga and it felt amazing. I think yoga should be must after every hike.

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Von and Alice at Nikkloukta cafe.

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Waiting for the bus back to Kiruna

After settling in at Kiruna hostel, we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. I had a reindeer pizza and the feeling of having pizza after having expedition food for ages…aahhh it felt so good… nothing can beat that. After the dinner we head back to hostel as Kiruna is basically a ghost town.

Early morning we took flight to stockholm and back in london. Our bodies felt fit after all the physical activity every day, and mentally we were recharged ready to take on the challenges of everyday life with renewed energy 🙂

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The 4 Kibnekaise climbers at stockholm airport (From left: Elman, Sean, Myself and Lissett)

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Map View of our trail from Abisko to Nikkaluokta

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Kungsleden Day 5 – Conquering Kebnekaise

Today was the day when some of the people didn’t even bother to hike, well it was the day to conquer the highest mountain in Sweden. Kebnekaise is the most popular destination in swedish mountains and the aim of most of the people coming here is to make it to the peak. It might be nothing much compared with many other places in the world, but with it’s 2111 meters it is the highest peak in Sweden and therefore entitled to some extra attention. But because we had already walked over 100km in the last 3 days, some of us were absolutely knackered. It was going to take 6 hrs to go to the top and 5 hours back…oh yes it was going to be a very long day.So the plan was to leave as early as possible in the morning. I spoke to some of the people while in sauna the night before and at the information center. According to them there was some snow at the top but it was walkable. there was no need of using crampons or ice axe. However due to harsh weather at the top, very few people went all the way up to the summit. The night before I was also a bit worried as my right calf was totally stiff and my left knee was in pain. However when you are with like minded people who are determined to do the the same thing as you then it automatically boost your confidence. I had dinner with Elman and although his knees were in pain he was determined. We talked about climbing mountains and he had climbed lots of mountains up to 5000m including Mont Blanc, for him Kebnekaise was a piece of cake. So if he was going up there, I was too :).

The weather forecast wasn’t looking that good and when we woke up it was raining, it was probably the worst day to go up to the summit. But today was our only chance. We didn’t have the luxury to chill for a day and climb mountain the next day. In the morning I also realized I forgot to bring my water proof trousers. Until then I didn’t need it as it only drizzled few times here and there. I borrowed water proof trouser from Sera and her poles too as she decided to spend the day chilling at the lodge (not a bad idea) along with Stephanie and few others. I also decided not to take camera to keep my pack light and use my iphone instead.

There were 3 routes to the summit, western, eastern and some other difficult route. I think we took the western route that leads over scree slopes and the intermediate peak Vierranvárri to the glaciated summit. Most of this route to the top is pure hiking, but there is a short exposed part that I will count as scrambling.

After walking for about a couple of hours we reached the base, where we finally start climbing up.

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After walking for about an hour up hill we reached flat ground and came across a stream.

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Crossing this stream was a bit challenging. Nobody wanted to take risk of hiking with wet feet for the next 7-8 hours. Somehow we manage to cross it

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After crossing the stream, it was an everlasting steep ascend with some scrambling.

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When we reach the top until this point i didn’t knew there were two peaks South and North, nearly the same height. According to everyone we were on the North peak but i am sure it was some other intermediate peak. At this point most of the people in our group decided to head back as it was cold, there was snow and they were tired. I also met some swedish people along the way and most of them turned back from this point. I am still not sure why. As we were more than half way through. I guess they didn’t have Elman. I was wondering where Elman was, probably very close to the summit as he was way ahead of us. I felt a bit nervous as I didn’t wanted to carry on alone. But then Sean and Lissette decided to come along. It was like a blessing, I was so glad. From there on Sean was leading me and Lissette. We had to go 600m down from the top and then back up to the Southern peak. It was like a  saddle.

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About 300 altitude meters below the top, we reached the peak cabins. I actually thought we reached the summit 🙂

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We had some rest but when we come out of the cabin we were amazed that  it was all sunny. The views were getting clearer, the mist was moving away and I felt so blessed.

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After the cabins, the trail continues through a rocky landscape and the slope progressively ceases

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we came across another deserted cabin

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We were so excited that we decided to take lot of pictures as we didn’t know how long these views will last. But then we saw Elman coming back and he told us that it was another half an hour. We decided not to waste any time and hiked up quickly to get the best views of the summit before the weather changes. That half an hour went by quickly in our excitement. When we reached the top, it was all flat and we could see the peak glacier. It is a small top, merely tens of meters high yet it was majestic.

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We got to the glacier peak around 13:15 and after spending 15 minutes, we decided to head back.

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On the way back to the base we had clear views of the mountains and the valley  as oppose to in the morning when it was foggy.

We were so hungry and made just in time for the last order at the restaurant. I ate so much that I felt sick in the end. The food was pretty good though. Lots of seafood.

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At the dinner table in the restaurant.

By this time all the pain had disappeared and there was a feeling of awesomeness 🙂

I am so thankful to Sean and Lissette for helping me get to the summit. Without them I don’t know if I would have made it at all.

 

 

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Kungsleden Day 4 – Salka to Kebnekaise

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Leaving behind Salka cabins in the distance early morning.

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We hiked up and down small hills and mountain slopes crossing a number of small streams.

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Crossed bridges

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Reached an emergency cabin with some interesting mountain silhouettes in the distance

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Chilling in the cabin

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Deer herd splashing and crossing the stream. Although I didn’t come across any Sami people, I was glad atleast the reindeer were there 🙂

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Leaving behind another spectacular view

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After a small ascend we came across some lake

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At this point I was approaching some valleys on either side. Not sure which one was which, Kaskasavagge and Kuopervagge

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The alpine nature was with us all around.

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At the bottom of the valley on the left, we have the option to either go to Singi or Kebnekaise. Until this point we had hiked more or less towards south, but now the trail made a sharp turn left, and the course was straight east into the valley.

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As we walked through the narrow valley, the scenery gets more and more dramatic. Towering walls on both sides were slowly closing in on us, and when we got to the narrowest part, the mountains on both sides reached their peaks, probably over 1500 meters.

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(From Left: Stephanie, Ray, Zabeen, Alice)

Everything opened up again, and we had a group of high peaks to our left including the highest point in Sweden, the snowcapped peak of Kebnekaise. Although at this point i had no clue 🙂 Anyway we decided to have a  group pic.

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The last bridge before Kebnekaise mountain lodge.

From here on the trail was wide again as we hiked alongside the Laddjujohka-river, but towards the end lots of small stones started sticking up through the dirt.

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Camps around Kebnekaise

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And then we reached the Kebnekaise Mountain Lodge 🙂 It was very different from what I had come to expect of accommodation and people so far during the trip. Beds didn’t differ that much from cabins along the rest of the trail, it was the size, crowd and all the service. It was a proper busy hotel. There were families and babies landing off helicopters with luggage. There was a la carte restaurant, a shop, equipment rental, internet, bakery etc. It was like almost back to the civilization 🙂

I rushed to Sauna once again and after another pasta bolognese (not sure why i didn’t go to the restaurant, guess i wanted to get rid of pasta and can of chilli con carne that i carried all the way from Salka), I decided to call it off early to give my knees some extra rest for yet another adventure tomorrow, probably the biggest of all…. Conquering Kebnekaise 🙂

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Kungsleden Day 3 Part 2 – Tjaktja to Salka

As we head towards Salka from Tjaktja cabins, it felt like it was going to be a walk in the park but…

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the trail gradually looses its soil and all we could see was stones, rocks and boulders. Amazingly there were still signs of flora here and there and it started raining as well

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After about 4 km as we reached the Tjaktja pass, the rain stopped and the sun came out. On the top of the pass there was some kind of an emergency cabin and a toilet.

 

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The view from the top of the pass back to the Tjaktja hut.

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Walking Tjaktja pass.

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This view from Tjaktja pass towards Salka was jaw dropping. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I lied down there for about half an hour and just stared at it. It gave me goose bumps and I felt so blessed and fortunate.

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Before i left the spot I decided to take a selfie 🙂

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Down into the valley from the pass, the trail once more transformed into an an easy and slowly descending hike. It was another 6 km down to the Salka cabins.

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After about 3 km we took a break.

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And we started spotting reindeer 🙂

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Soon I was glad to see Salka cabins.

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Salka cabins were set up perfectly surrounded by mountains.

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Salka shop where i once again loaded myself with dry fruits, jelly beans and chocolates for the next day.

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The cabins felt very homely

This time I decided not to waste any time and after a quick pasta dinner with a can of coke I went to sauna. I spent over 45 min in there. It was like the best sauna ever 🙂 When i got back to the cabin, it was so nice to see everyone there, chilling, talking and having a great time in the candle lights. I made a cup of tea and joined the party:) We all went to bed after an hour for yet another adventure lying ahead next day.

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Categories: Europe, Sweden | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kungsleden Day 3 Part 1 – Alesjaure to Tjaktja

Around 7am I woke up again and after having a breakfast of can of fruits, ryvita with cheese and some biscuits, we head towards Salka with a plan to skip Tjaktja…another mistake i guess 🙂

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Right at the start we had to cross Alisjavri lake (i guess) via a suspension bridge.

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Leaving behind Alesjaure.

 

After that snow covered peaks and glaciers were on both sides of the trail as we hiked on arctic meadows covered with crowberries or grass.

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Alice crossing another bridge.

 

After about 7-8 km we took a break. The views around us were just amazing.

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While Anna enjoying the views, Karl was lost in the map.

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As we carried on again for another 6km to Tjaktja, Ian once again decided to unpack and pack 🙂

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It was a comfortable hike with slow ascending trail with long stretches of flat parts.

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Nigel in search for a perfect view for his camera

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Tjaktja hut in front after hiking the only climb so far. It was very deceptive. At first glance it looked like I could simply go down the hill, cross the stream and climb back up to the hut… but guess what

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this is how it looks when you actually go down the hill and reach the stream. There was a glacier with a waterfall next to it. The rocks were very slippery and it was very difficult to cross the stream. I nearly slipped but backed out. Then I looked up and realized there was another bridge behind the water fall. I simply went back up the hill, walked few hundred meters, cross the bridge and walked round back to the hut. However while i was at the stream i saw Stephanie slipping and there were a couple of other hikers that walked all the way up to the glacier and I am sure they must have fallen while crossing.

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Caught Lisette watching and enjoying ppl slipping and getting wet in the stream 🙂

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I was at the back so when I reached the hut I figure out nearly everyone slipped and got wet into the stream. I guess that’s why nobody alerted me about the bridge while I was down there, they were just enjoying watching  ppl slipping and getting wet 🙂

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Sean decided to get on with the business… coffee 🙂

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While we enjoyed the coffee, Dorota as usual couldn’t wait to carry on. She was like a soldier on a mission 🙂

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The view of glacier and the waterfall from Tjaktja hut.

After a short break we carried on towards Salka.

 

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Map View of my next Adventure – Tour du Mont Blanc

Map - Tour Du Mont Blanc

Map – Tour Du Mont Blanc

From 6th Sept to 15th Sept.

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A more detailed map.

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Kungsleden Day 2 – Abisko to Alesjaure

I woke up around 7am and after a quick breakfast of PROPER bread sandwiches with chicken slices, yogurt etc, we were on our way into the wilderness. I decided not to carry any extra food (weight) and just buy it as needed from the shops in the huts each day. But I wish I had as at this point i had no idea that for the next 3 days I will be eating Ryvita. I think eating ryvita on its own is torture 😦 , it should be banned… its ok with cheese though …anyway more on this later.

 

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Also at this point nobody thought it’s going to be a grand 30k+ walk. Everyone hunky-dory, walking through beautiful trail and enjoying the scenery which was a mixture of flat meadows and birch forests.

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There were lots of duckboards and we came across a couple of deer.

 

The first challenge was to ford an ice cold water stream bare footed, as we couldn’t find any bridge. Most of the people in the group were quite experienced in that from their last trip to Iceland. They showed my how to tie up my boots around the neck. The water and the rocks were so cold, it felt like I was pressing my feet against needles. I nearly fell into the waters but some saviour quicky realised that and handed me a walking pole.

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while other ppl desperately looking for a bridge or some path to cross the stream, Zabeen smiling as if she knew what was coming 🙂

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A variety of flora along the way.

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We went through the Abisko National Park.

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When the trail arrives at the Abiskojaure-lake the birches occasionally take a few steps back and that leaves us with an open scenery by the lake with high mountains on both sides.

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Abiskojaure cabins were built on the opposite side, and at the other end of the lake we reach the cabins by crossing a river on a suspension bridge.

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We all had lunch by the suspension bridge with a lovely view of Abiskojaure-lake. Although we skip the Abiskojaire hut, nature called and a quick visit to the hut got me the taste of a typical mountain hut toilet. Let’s not talk about it in further details. It did the job 🙂

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After the lunch we head towards the towering peak of Garddenvarri again with lots of flora and mushrooms.

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The trail was flat all the way but it was rocky, and when I say rocky I meant real rocky, it was hurting after half way through, Few people really struggled due to overloaded backpack with tents, camping stuff and god knows what else.

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Ray, the power house, finally decided to take some rest 🙂

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The highlight was going through high altitude meadow with grassy fields and rocks, and high peaks all around us before reaching Alisjavri lake. The views were just breath taking. I just couldn’t get enough of the views 🙂

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After walking for 26km we reached the point where we have the option to take boat for the remaining 6km to Alesjaure hut. There was a small tent where a French lady was already preparing fire.

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Von resting

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Nigel in the tent having a coffee while waiting for the boat

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Sean decided to pose for a click 🙂

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The boat point.

Most of us decided to carry on for another 6 km, after taking a short rest, to Alesjaure as the boat costed 300 crowns.

Unlike most of the others I was in no pain at all and was still buzzing with the views and surroundings.

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I was please to see the huts in the distance. There was a cabin for a shop with sitting room. Separate cabins for toilets, sauna etc. We got there around 6pm i guess.

 

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The location of the hut was amazing with a great view to Alisjavri lake on either side.

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After settling in I went straight to the shop as I was starving. Everything there was either tin packed, expedition food or dry food. Even the milk was dry. I wasn’t expecting too much honestly but no bread, yogurt or fresh food, it was a bit disappointing after walking over 30 km whole day. But hey when you are hungry everything tastes good :). I got some stuff for the dinner as well as breakfast & lunch for the next day.

The sauna and washing cabins closed at 9pm. I missed it as I was too tired after having another pasta bolognese dinner.  I just sat by the hut, had my occasional fag with a cuppa and admired the views for a long time.

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Here I also find out the washing system in kitchen as there were no taps.

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Cooking pasta 🙂

I noticed that the bathrooms were quite far from the rooms but then i realized why is that way…there was no running water, flush ..you can imagine the fragrance 🙂

There was no electricity but there was a wood fire burner in each room and it was very cosy.

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All dry food supply via helicopter.

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Kungsleden Day 1 – Arriving at Abisko

After a long day of flights from London to Kiruna via Stockholm plus waiting for delayed train at Kiruna train station for ages, we finally arrived at the village of Abisko in the evening. After settling in at the hostel Abisko.net, we went to the nearby supermarket to load up with ration for the next 3-4 days. We didn’t see many ppl in the village apart from some at the supermarket. After a tasty pasta bolognese dinner prepared by Carl and Anna, although at that point I didn’t realize that this was pretty much the dinner I am going to have for the rest of the days in Lapland 😦 , some of us decided to take a short walk. Basically our group leader, Ray, wanted to get familiarize with the starting point of the trail. By 11pm we were all in bed ready for an adventure pack day ahead 🙂

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View from the train from Kiruna to Abisko

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I was surprise to see a cadillac waiting for pickup at the train station 🙂

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The hostel warden greeting us. He was so cute I felt like as he just popped out from a video game Actually the hostel was more than what I expected. There was sauna, hot water shower and wifi.

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We were greeted by a rainbow 🙂

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We were told not to waste hot water by the warden and if somebody did they will be allocated a very special place for the night 🙂

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Ray in search for the start of the trail.

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We realized there was a blue team among us 🙂  (Sean, Stephanie, myself and Elman)

 

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