The High Atlas – Trek day 3

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Dear Mum,

Well today started with the crowing of not one but many cocks. Joel remarked they were having a cock-off. Sadly the night had brought no respite for Joel and it was a downcast face that met me. I ate breakfast alone and we fast established that Joel was in no state to tackle a 6hr hike. Soberly we made plans to return to Imlil and the pharmacy. Lasson was sweet and empathetic and he and Ahmed did not hesitate to change the plans. Nothing is straightforward in Morocco, yet everything is simple. The simple fact that there is a bus that runs along the nearby (thankfully) road. Yet the not-so-straight forward part is that every bus/taxi is RAMMED…..like people hanging out the door type of rammed!

Joel bravely decided to attempt the walk to Imlil, however didn’t make if far until being placed by Ahmed high and lofty upon Harriet. Joel and his bowels bounced up and down, whilst I turned my eyes to the local life by the winding river. We have learnt from Lasson so much about how the Berbers live, and it really is beautiful. I watched women in colourful shawls bending over the reeds by the river, collecting feed for the animals. They gather it together into a parcel three times their size, and trudge back to their closest village. Not a man to be seen, except for when the ground needs to be ploughed – they come out of the woodwork for the manual labour. There is usually a smile, a wave and a ‘bonjour’ as you pass – unless of course you are trying to take a photo, then the guard comes up. We have become experts of discreet photography. Continue reading “The High Atlas – Trek day 3”

The High Atlas – Trek day 2

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Dear Susan,

Etched into my mind is the 4:50 call to prayer. The ‘etching’ is due to moments that shall not be contained in this book. Unfortunately, the vividness is trapped inside of my mind. Let’s just say that  I spent more time with the bathroom than with Lauren on this particular night. With that past, we awoke to our ever friendly guides who had prepared a lovely breakfast. With stomachs full (mine not so much) we ventured off on our day of trekking.
The landscape constantly changed throughout today; firstly, we were treated to a cliff-view of the lush valley below. The river is the main artery that connects all of the Berber villages; it is their life-source. Crops for humans and animals alike are all grown along the river. To the children it is their equivalent of a theme park – the best ride is a water fight followed by a weekly hair washing ritual in the icy snow melt. Continue reading “The High Atlas – Trek day 2”

Marrakech

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Our journey to Morocco is particularly special to us. Unlike other trips, were we tend to reflect after the event – this time we kept a daily journal and were able to reflect as events were unfolding. The reason for this was because my mum (Susan) was due to join us for the trip and at the last minute wasn’t able to travel due to dad’s declining health. It was our way of including her in our journey, with special focus on the moments she would have loved. Joel and I took in in turns writing at the end of each day on a scrappy old children’s workbook we found in one of the villages. Later on we added pictures and presented it to mum who laughed and cried her way through the pages.

(Writer: Joel) Dear Susan,

Here is the plight of our day in Marrakech. I will start the journey from arriving at our Riad. We were treated to a delectable breakfast, served on the roof terrace, which allowed for a 360 degree view of the stalks nesting upon neighbouring T.V antennas. The sun was waking up, and with it, came its heated venom. The sun also awoke the megaphone ‘yala’ singers and the first call to prayer blared out over the sleepy city. Our breakfast was fastidiously cleared using a 10point methodical plan by Julian and we set about tackling the minefield of Marrakech. Continue reading “Marrakech”

Lisbon

Portugal Lisbon

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone ever utter a negative word about the Portugese. Within one hour of being in Portugal I understood why.

The Portugese are the most effusive, warm-hearted, humble and generous people we have met thus far in our travels. We found ourselves spilling out of the bus into the main square with glee, watching the mummas congregating for a bit of local gossip with their bebês in tow. Immediately we felt like we were in a country who had their arms wide open. We were about to find this to quite literally be true as we were swept into an encompassing embrace by our lovely host Susana. Before we could steady ourselves we had a fresh portugese tart in hand, and we were ushered down the narrow cobblestoned lanes of Alfama to meet the neighbourhood locals. Susana enthusiastically introduced us to the baker, her best friend, the owner of the local cafeteria, and anyone else she met along the way! Suffice to say, we felt like we were part of the furniture in no time. I don’t think I have been on any trip since where I have found myself walking back to accommodation waving to all the locals like we have shared a long and deep history.

Welcome to Portugal! Continue reading “Lisbon”

Stockholm

Stockholm Sweden

No matter where you are exploring in the world, it cannot be better tackled than with a local. This made Stockholm, land of the Ikea flatpack and Nudie jeans, an appealing destination for our long-weekend jaunt in May 2012. Bless the golden heart of Chris Neilson – who patiently met us in the frosty hours of a Spring evening and whisked us back to their uber trendy student pad. Exhausted though we were, it did not deter us from a lovely catchup with Chris and his gorgeous wife Eme (swedish goddess extrodinaire)! We laughed our way into the next day at Chris’s fabulous attempts at the Swedish language, and I probably fell asleep at the point where the boys embarked upon their favourite topic….coffee.

Those of you who know Chris will be well familiar with his expertise in all things bean-related. You can bet where we ended up first thing the next morning…. yup, the coffee shop where he was working. We were welcomed to Stockholm with some stunning latte art (see below) and tour guide Neilson gave us an introduction to the 5 islands that intersect – becoming the capital of Sweden. We gawked at the high scandanavian prices, but as cool as the fashion was, and as hip and trendy as the people were – we kept our wallets firmly reserved for all things Nudie (I shall return to this)! Continue reading “Stockholm”

Soča River II

Soca river Slovenia

Sad as we were to be leaving our wooden hut in Ukanc and Lake Bohinj, the mighty Soča River was calling – and when it calls, you respond.

Before we reached the call of the Soča river, we stumbled upon an incredible find. Scattered all around the Soča region are open war museums. I like to call them ‘boy-museums’ as they don’t have any laborious placards of information, yet instead you are allowed to roam a space and experience what it would have been like for a soldier during the War. It is littered with secret underground tunnels, trenches, ditches, rusted metal pieces and it has even been rumoured that if you search for long enough you might just find a ‘shell casing’ from one of the guns used during warfare. It really brought home the reality of war and how close the combat was up in the hills. The trenches were all connected and at times Lauren, Susan and I would lose each other and have to call out to locate one another.

Now, you will never guess what they were mainly fighting over in this region? Yep, the mighty Soča river. The Soča valley was the stage of major military operations including the twelve battles of the Isonzo on the Italian front in World War I between May 1915 and November 1917, in which over 300,000 Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers lost their lives. At the top of this mountain pass you can see over into Italy as you are literally a stone’s throw away from the border. Everyone marvelled at the history that we had just experienced and collectively we decided to make a bee-line for what these countries were all fighting over. Continue reading “Soča River II”

Bled & Bohinj II

Bled and Bohinj Slovenia With so many places to explore in Europe you would think it is crazy that within the space of a calendar year we were treading over the same ground. However, if you believe that, you have obviously never stepped foot in Slovenia. Lauren’s mum Susan was yet to encounter this little natural gem and we were both keen to revisit.

It is all about the lakes in this region – Bohinjsko Jezero and Bled. It would be fair to say that Susan was chomping at the bit to see this part of the world for her own eyes as it has been on her radar since the very first Instagram we posted around a year ago.

Bled is well known for its small island in the middle; an inviting medieval turret perched on a leafy mound and only accessible via row boat. As time was running out and our stop for the night (Bohinj) was calling our name, Susan opted for a rich verbal description of the island and we set off to walk a section of the lake on foot. Bled was just a stop off on the way to the main course – Bohinj. This is a special special part of the world. If Bled and Bohinj are lake cousins, then Bohinj is the better looking one. We couldn’t wait to get there. Continue reading “Bled & Bohinj II”

Ljubljana II

Ljubljana view

As our train chugged into Ljubljana’s central station I was determined to show mum the best this fairytale city had to offer. Joel and I had spent a lovely two days last June lingering by the banks of the Ljubljanica, and it had well and truly cast its spell on us. We had but a day to soak in the lively cafe culture, jade-green river, imposing castle, vibrant townhouses, cobblestone streets and local markets.

Joel was due to join us that afternoon and we were both soaring high with anticipation. We checked in to our airbnb apartment and spent a fascinating hour speaking to the lovely owner – a young chap with a passion for his city. Mum duly interrogated him about the history of Slovenia and the socio-economic situation of the country as we sipped tea together. Of course in return we educated him about the little known island country of ‘Australia’. Continue reading “Ljubljana II”

Cycling the Wachau Valley

Biking up to Durnstein

When I think of these blissful three days in April 2012 I do not conjure up scenes of colourful villages, misty vineyards, and spring orchards… although they were all well and truly present. No, I see my mum’s beaming face, with a grin that could have touched the sun itself as she cycled alongside the Danube river. I picture her with her head thrown back, squealing with joy, exclaiming at all the “negative ions” in the misty air that were nourishing her very being. Now, my mum has many moments where she shines – but travelling she is in her absolute element. I think I must have inherited this contagious love of discovery and adventure. I truly couldn’t visit too many places, or have too many experiences to ever be fulfilled enough to call it a day on my wanderlust. We are the perfect travel companions through and through.

So in saying that, I think I may have to let the pictures do most of the talking.
For me, the shared joy, wonder, and the freedom of a bicycle characterised this beautiful time together. I will forever treasure it alongside the image of my mum so delighted and enthralled with life. Together we explored little villages, cycled through abandoned vineyards, climbed ancient castle ruins, listened to the gushing river, and discussed what is important in life. We browsed charming shops, met intrepid europeans who invited us for fresh fish by the river, swayed to clanging clock towers, explored sacred Abbeys, and admired the spring flowers. As we were ahead of the tourist season, we had this most scenic of paths to ourselves. Usually filled with hundreds of cyclists a day – we did not see a single soul and were free to roam the village streets with the locals. Continue reading “Cycling the Wachau Valley”

Vienna

Side alley walking towards St Stephen's Cathedral and it's beautiful roof

We had one of those travel disasters trying to reach Vienna (well maybe not technically classified as a disaster, but I digress). Oh, by the way, this was April 2012, we are very behind on the blog!

Apparently the central station in Budapest hasn’t quite caught up with the times. There was one ticket office for the throngs of impatient crowds clamouring for their much needed train, and the most inefficient system to deal with the punters. Despite masterminding our car rental return outside the station with an hour and a half to spare, we were waiting with gritted teeth and white knuckles in the queue of all queues until there was just one person left in front of us. The problem was by then our train left in five ‘evil’ minutes. Of course the person in front of us seemed to occupy all the time between now and eternity, and we missed our train by a whisker.

I sulked in the corner and swore under my breath for a substantial amount of time before we lugged our suitcases on a two-hour grand tour back in to Budapest whilst we waited for the next train. In hindsight, perhaps that two-hour lugg-a-thon was not a complete waste of time, as during my pit of misery, my self esteem was low enough to make my first birkenstock purchase – a life-changing move. So maybe I should thank that dodgy ticket counter. Continue reading “Vienna”