South of India: the unbeaten circuit of Andaman islands.

Dear explorers,

I finally have the chance to post something new about a brand-new destination focused on the archipelago of Andaman islands.

Andamans islands belong to India although are much closer to Thailand, it might sound a joke but it is so 🙂 When I planned it out, my general criteria was to try a more off-beaten area than any other island or group of island situated in the SE of Asia, by this I am not saying that all the islands I visited earlier were all beaten. However, after performing an accurate research, appeared that on Andaman’s the tourism is mostly made by Indians and very few foreigners are willing to travel there.

In addition to that, it has to be taken into account that Andaman&Nicobar archipelago is considered to be a RESTRICTED AREA, therefore only some of the Andaman side islands are open for tourism, these are: 

  1. Main land of Andaman (in which Port-Blair is situated)
  2. Havelock island
  3. Neil island    

Apart from those three, all the other islands are either private, tribal communities live there or are military bases.

Overview map of Andman’s

Having said that, you are good to plan your exploration within the restricted circuit which offers more than enough for exploring then especially on the main land.

Being biased with SE Asia, my first impact with India&Andaman’s was by no means the best one,

the reason of that?

Unlike in the SE Asia, in India is normal to find spread-ed garbage and rubbish aside the roads, wasted plastic material by the seaside  and so on. Sadly and disappointing as it may sound, that is a real fact of Indian environment, moreover, get used to the fact that will always encounter wild-free loitering goats, cows and dogs! They are really everywhere.

Apart from that, in here, more specifically on Havelock and Neil island there lots of mangroves beaches which on a way look nice but on the other hand it is annoying then especially when you want to enjoy a swim and to cap it all at certain time of the day the mangroves are completely dried, in other words they get emptied of water!

I personally tried to enjoy a walk around the mangroves when they were filled by water, however be aware that wear the water shoes is a MUST and last but not least carefully watch your steps since you might suddenly either end up approaching a not-so-visible sharp rocks or walking through some broken corals, either way they can trigger you to fall down! Moreover, I personally saw a yellow-black striped coral snakes which was sliding away, as a first impact it was not such a great feeling overall, however at least now I am aware of a real danger in walking through shallow mangroves sea surface, this is just to give a warning alert that nothing in here is really safe by the sea!

However, on Andaman’s you can find the hugest amount of colorful shells
by the sandy beaches , you can actually end up collecting hundreds by yourself without buying them at the markets, just give a try for believing.

When it comes to the sunset, fortunately both the two islands offer a gorgeous spot to enjoy a great sunset shooting/recording, the achieved scenery with the rocks watered by the sea is breathtaking, for your reference you can refer to this screenshot from Google maps:

Link to Google maps: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Sunset+Point,+Lakshmanpur+Beach/@11.8334078,93.0211909,14z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x3088d911c345f42f:0x7c35865380f4221f!2sSunset+Beach!8m2!3d11.8151731!4d93.0441074!3m4!1s0x3088da221d4f089f:0xefb8840f4c25e5c8!8m2!3d11.8496796!4d93.0125177

Just to impress you with an idea here below I have uploaded two scenic picture over the sunset at Neil island:

In conclusion, if it were not for the tons of spread-ed garbage everywhere, wasted plastic and glass, it could really be defined as a ‘Paradise’ like Indians proudly advertise it. Unfortunately the so-called ‘Paradise’ is shadowed by quite some environmental issues and this is something which Indian state should really take every effort to cut off any ecologic issues, someone might dispute on this point by affirming that it is easy to say than actual implementing a serious ecologic plan for the environment.

What could the main issue be in making it happen? Lack of funds perhaps?

Well, if that is the case, I could advance a hint: India as a state could introduce the payment of a tax at the arrival on each island, like they do in some islands in Thailand, Malaysia and in Indonesia; in addition to that, the state could instruct the owners of the resorts on how-to gather the wasted plastic and glass materials, perhaps this all might help in creating an awareness campaign among the entrepreneur on the island(s) as well as the visitors in order to be respectful with the surrounding environment. Naturally, that is not the only one issue there are many others, but at least I hope that one day this could be one of the solution to improve the quality of the environment on such an unofficial paradise 🙂

Last but not the least, it is about the time zone GMT+5:30 which is equals like anywhere in India as land, just Andman’s are far in the east, as a result this time zone is a huge imbalance for the sunrise and sunset time, do you imagine that it is already dark at 5:30pm? I personally think that Indian government should grant a different time-zone for Andaman’s.

Any comments and remarks is warmly welcomed!

Giuseppe

YOGYAKARTA: gorgeous landscapes by the sea.

I have had the chance to dedicate two and half intensive days in this city of central Java to check quite some Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as exploring some breathtaking landscapes inside the land and by the seaside.

As I approached Yogyakarta commonly known as ‘Jogja’, my first concern was to rent a motorbike instead booking rides by GO-JEK over and over again, however I state that it is not such an easy challenge to juggle by scooter then especially when stumbling into several traffic jams in the city of Yogyakarta, it is pretty tiring instead and my impression so far about Indonesian cities is that they might be ones of the most polluted in the entire globe, as a result not a few riders wear a mask for the mouth, most probably you would not see anywhere else outside the SE Asia such a huge number of bikers which are more than cars.

Having said that, keep calm and carefully plan your itinerary: when it comes to the temples just avoid over-planning because the more you plan the fewer will be the chances for you to achieve your target. I personally dedicate one day for visiting the temples and the last day top explore the landscapes on the way to the sea and of course by the seaside too 🙂 If you plan to go for a similar challenge by riding your motorbike, be aware of the fact that the roads in Indonesia (like everywhere in SE Asia) are very convoluted and often seem like labyrinths.

Yogyakarta route

So, if for example you plan to explore four beaches, often there will not be any straightforward connecting road along the sea but instead you will have to ride through hills inside the land to reach the next beach.

Here below a small photographic overview of some landscapes by the sea:

Here a summary of beaches I have explored:

  1. Pantai parangtritis
  2. Pantai baron
  3. Pantai kukup
  4. Pantai krakal

Naturally, the list of the beaches is much longer, however not all of them are worthy to be checked on the purpose of a great photo-shooting.

What I feel to recommend as first is to start riding between am 8and 9am from Jogja so that you will ensure yourselves that you will have enough buffer of time to explore four beaches at least and then be back by the sunset time which is around 5:30pm, during that day I count that I had ridden for about 150km through altogether and on the way back to Jogja I took a different route since I first rode to the closest beach which is pantai parangtritis and from that point I kept riding much further so that it made sense to return over a different road.

Second thing, if you are not knowledgeable of the routes and you don’t want to fully rely on mapping application then hire a local guy, for 100k Rupiah he will be very willing to drive you without any map navigation which could mislead you from time to time, besides that he will show you what are the key-spots 😉

Last but not the least, be mentally relaxed with the fact that for every parking at the beaches you will always be asked for the parking fee which is between 2.000 and rupiahs (not a big deal), be aware that if you park your motorbike out of the dedicated areas it might be removed: a local guy warned me that to have it back then you may end up paying a huge fine like 15 millions of rupiahs.

Having said that, now its up to you what and how you want to plan it, meanwhile I am keeping to exploring further the Java region, new posts will follow soon, just stay tuned!

Everybody is welcomed to comment!

Giuseppe

ICELAND: Golden circle vs wild nature of the long Icelandic perimeter

It was the year 2011 when I and my Italian friend Walter made the decision to go for the amazing wild nature challenge in Iceland, even though my friend had in mind to travel somewhere in Asia, I felt I wanted to complete my geographical overview of the Scandinavian Europe, so as soon as I proposed him such an amazing Country he got soon convinced and excited without thinking twice since neither him nor me had never explored Iceland.

After doing some research, we first figured out that the most comfortable as well as not-so-touristy month would have been June, so we didn’t hesitate to book our flight tickets; as a second thing, we decided to rent a car with which we benefited a lot since we wanted to explore the nature along all the entire perimeter of Iceland by starting from Reykjavik and by heading first through the south and then to the north like a counterclockwise. When our journey time came close we found by a Couchsurfing group that an Indian traveler was by coincidence flying by the same air-line from Oslo as we did, so we met with him at Oslo airport and we all gave the chance to share our Icelandic experience all together, Yes, three is better than two!

Although the Golden Circle is well-known for its tourist attendance, it is still 100% worthy to be checked as a first approach to the wild Icelandic nature, it basically consists of six key-spots:

1. Thingvellir 2. Laugarvatn 3. Geysir 4. Gullfoss (waterfall) 5. Secret lagoon 6. Selfoss

Tengd mynd

As most of us know, Iceland is famous for the Geysers, Waterfalls, Lagoon and Hot Springs, like many people we couldn’t resist to the emotion of lively enjoy the eruption of a geyser, it was told us that these HOT spots regularly erupt approximately every four minutes: (a live video is available below)

Further to that, we hiked to the Gullfoss waterfalls: the scenery itself is breathtaking, just be aware that it is often hellish windy so be equipped with a proper wind-jacket or even better with a waterproof one (with cap), the wind is such strong that you’ll get pretty watered soon by the huge splashes of the waterfalls hitting the hiking path. Apart from that, all the way through was a great scenario just a pity that on that time I wasn’t yet provided with a proper camera, next time definitely it will!

 

Moving on the next day, here the greatest of Iceland comes: we planned out the route along all the perimeter by driving through the south first, we weren’t sure how far we’d have been able to go at the end of the day, however we managed to arrive in Egillstadir around 10pm so we decided to sleep out overnight and the day after drive further through the north side. Here below there’s a summary of the key-stops we took through the south way:

  1. Selfoss
  2. Skogafoss (waterfalls)
  3. Anonymous spot with cliffs and high-waves sea with grey sand
  4. Vik
  5. Jökulsárlón (Icebergs)
  6. Egillstadir  

We started our trip at 10am, considering that the 3rd spot is pretty hidden and so we had to look for it, I’d say we had checked enough spots over the day 🙂

I will be focused from the 3rd place on: the purpose behind such an anonymous place was that we wanted to record some Puffins as we were told that there are many of them on the part of the coast which faces the small Vestmannaeyjar island, unfortunately we had no luck in catching one, probably wrong spot or wrong moment, who knows? 🙂 The only sure thing was that the wind was  such overwhelming that we had to open the car doors by strongly holding those by hand! We did struggle a lot in hiking through a cobbled path to the cliffs but we made it and we survived!

 

Of course we weren’t enough satisfied so we kept driving further to Jökulsárlón by stopping in Vik for a re-cognitive pause, the first signs of tiredness were coming up but nevertheless I kept the lead of the steering wheel and even slowly we arrived at our 4th stop 🙂 If the average temperature in the Icelandic country-side is +12°C over June, at Jökulsárlón is +2°C or less, so don’t be surprised!

 

After that, despite getting more and more tired we could never resist to stop by at some particular spots and moreover the roads in Iceland have narrow lanes and any wandering wild animal can suddenly cross the road at any moment, as a result of that, we didn’t manage to make more than 70km per hour, here the explanation why we arrived at Egillstadir around 10:30pm which actually was the worst time since every food bazar even the ones at the petrol stations were closed but still we had some food and drinks and we could re-fill the tank of the car by self-service. Our questionable point was: where to sleep?  Here our possible choices:

  1. Just in the car
  2. Outside with the sleeping bags
  3. By randomly asking somebody to be accommodated

Apart from us, nobody was around, so we felt like all we could do was either to ring some bells at the Icelandic people houses or just sleep in the car which we actually did! Our next day started very early, since we could not sleep properly we took up driving at 2:00am and we checked out the following itineraries of the Northern Iceland:

1. Myvatn

2. Akureyri

3. Glaumbauer museum

4. Kattarhryggur                                                                                                                                    

I can say that Myvatn is the least touched natural attraction, it was just a pity that by the time we checked it we were still not recovered by our tiredness but instead we had to stop again and keep sleeping what actually we did.

Finally, after three more hours of sleeping we were in a shape to enjoy the next, we drove to Akureyri where we stop for having a pleasant coffee with some sweets and walk around. I’m not going to drill down into many details about this small nice town, all I recommend you is to have a chilling visit at the Botanic park which is worthy.

 

At the final stage of our perimeter tour on the way to the North-west we realized a farm house with turf houses in which there is the Glaumbauer museum, the main characteristic of this place is that over the summer you can sleep in one these houses and as for the museum itself it is just representation about the rusty style how the farm houses are equipped, just visit it!

Before getting close to Reykjavik our attention get caught by Kattarhryggur, here there’s hiking path to the crater a volcano, yes that’s right Iceland is a volcanic island, don’t forget that! Of course we hiked till the top of the crater which was impressing the contrasting panorama between it and the rest of fabulous surrounding nature!

 

In conclusion, the total perimeter of the Iceland is about 1300km assuming you mostly follow the road no.1, but of course you can make it even longer and juicier! So unless you are in a rush with the time and you have the freedom to escape for a while from the ordinary city-life, I’d strongly recommend to plan your journey to Iceland much longer than just one week (as we did), two weeks at least, but ideally one month! Both Southern and Northern Iceland are  very demanding,  we just regretted of not having had much time to be dedicated.

Naturally, if you’re going there for a travel expedition then that’s another brilliant story!

Enjoy your future Icelandic trip!

Every comment and remark is warmly welcomed!

Bali: a day spent exploring the wild nature with a local traveler

One day during my stay in Bali of my 2017-Journey, I had a chance to meet with a local Indonesian traveler who she was willing to share a trip to some amazing waterfalls as well as not touristy, soon she identified three waterfalls situated in three different locations: Gitgit , Alang-alang and Tukad Cepung.

Considering the trip distance to reach those waterfalls, we chose to go for Tukad Cepung as the most feasible to reach by riding a motorbike from Ubud.

Despite early in the morning there were some rain-spots we managed to start the trip just after 10 o’clock, the weather was kind of humid but still not that bad. The more we were getting closer to the waterfalls the more I had the feeling that nobody was around which made me feel like in a paradise, indeed, the local female traveler had a good insight in choosing that!

As we arrived at the waterfall site, like in many other sites of Bali, there was a small Hindu temple, even it was not a touristy-appealing site still we got to pay for an entrance fee which if compared to any other touristy attraction was far less cheaper (about 0.70€), moreover, here unlike many other (touristy) sites the price was equal for everybody since normally in Indonesia if you are a foreign visitor you’re supposed to pay more for the entrance ticket, so at Tukad Cepung such a rule did not apply, no matter if you are Indonesian or foreign 🙂

Once we passed the entrance point, I could straightaway notice all the surrounding breath-taking landscape with such vivid vegetation as shown in the pictures slide below:

 

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The weather even cloudy was great enough to give us a gorgeous panorama and practice in taking plenty of proper pictures, the hiking path at some points was a bit steep but still Okay as long as you’re a bit experienced. When we came close to the waterfall spot at the bottom it was like we got in to a semi-gloomy jungle as shown below, there were some big stones spreaded everywhere and the water was flowing through, obviously as a picky European traveler I was equipped with GORE-TEX hiking shoes in order to avoid any issue but still the level of the water was high enough to get the water inside the shoes 😀 But it was okay, just a minor issue 🙂 That’s the wild nature! As opposite, my trip mate just wore a pair of flick-flock sandals for her feet like many Indonesian people do.

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At the bottom level we walked a bit further and after turning round a corner we finally arrived at the waterfall. I couldn’t wait to practice my photo-shooting skills by carefully recording the water falling down so that was a great chance to do so!

 

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You might have the feeling of being inside a cave but instead you are just inside a wetty and gloomy jungle 😉 When we took all the way around back to the top point, I observed that there was a proper canalized water stream, we all know that the water is precious good for all the living beings so we don’t want to waste it pointlessly even Bali is well-known for its hard rainy season.

 

In conclusion, the trip to Tukad Cepung is 100% worthy if you are sick and tired of checking Hindu temples, Balinese coffee makers and so on; it is really an alternative to any seaside or mountain landscape if you want to stand out of the touristy crowd as well as practicing your hiking and photo-shooting skills!

Naturally, it is only up to us to decide what is suitable for, however I venture to say that life is nice only if we know how to enjoy it!

I hope to have impressed you all with a proper idea on what great you may find out when travelling to Bali.

Every comment is welcomed!