Trip Map | Wk1 | Daintree

Trip Map | Wk1 | Daintree

Tom & Natalie got to explore the magnificent and untouched World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest, the oldest living rainforest in the world at 160 million years, with Tropical Journey’s Daintree Tours! Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation, secluded lunch site with an opportunity to swim in a fresh rainforest creek and an estuarine crocodile and wildlife river cruise exploring the Cooper Creek waterway.

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Trip Map | Wk1 | Cairns

Trip Map | Wk1 | Cairns

Tom & Natalie’s journey together began in Cairns! After picking up their Jucy Camper they caught up with Kate from Tourism Tropical North Queensland to get all the important information about the region before heading up North further to next stop Cape Tribulation! It’s the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites meet – the Wet Tropics rainforest and Great Barrier Reef!

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Trip Map | Wk1 | Ocean Safari

Trip Map | Wk1 | Ocean Safari

Tom & Natalie got to experience an exhilarating ride to snorkel the pristine untouched Great Barrier Reef off the Daintree Coast at Cape Tribulation with Ocean Safari. This half day eco tour visits two different snorkel destinations, after a fast 25 minute fun ride, they were lucky enough to snorkel two fabulous locations at Mackay and Undine Reefs, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef alongside sea turtles!

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Win a NZ Adrenaline and Adventure Pack

Win a NZ Adrenaline and Adventure Pack

HOW BIG IS YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE?

How would you like to win our NZ Adventure Pack!?

 

To enter, first download Travello if you have not done so yet, then join the Peterpans Adventure Travel Group and simply post your most memorable adventure or adrenaline filled travel moment on their feed with either a photo or video along with a short description of why its you favourite!

Join the PETERPANS ADVENTURE TRAVEL Group here to get started! 

 

Travello is the app where travellers connect from all over the world!

TERMS & CONDITIONS

Disclaimer:

This competition is in no way associated, sponsored or administered by either Apple or Google or the App Store and Google Play.

CONDITIONS OF ENTRY – “WIN A $500 NZ ADRENALINE AND ADVENTURE PACK”

  1. Information on how to enter and prizes form part of these Conditions of Entry.  Entry into this promotion is deemed acceptance of these Conditions of Entry by each entrant.
  2. Entry is open to all Travello users who are aged at least 18 years old.
  3. Employees of Peterpans Adventure Travel and Travello and their immediate families are not permitted to enter.

Duration of Promotional Period

  1. The competition commences at 5:00pm AEST Monday 22nd May, 2017.
  2. The competition closes at 5:00pm AEST Friday 16th June, 2017.

 How to Enter

  1. Eligible entrants can enter the promotion in any of the following way:
  1. Persons must join the Peterpans Adventure Travel Group page on the Travello app via. https://app.travelloapp.com/groups/peterpans/join. You’ve got to have an active account and have the Travello app downloaded in order to join the Peterpans Adventure Travel Group page.
  2. Once the entrant has joined the Peterpans Adventure Travel Travello Group page, entrant must upload their favourite or most memorable adrenaline or adventure filled travel moment with a photo or video to the group page and describe in 25 words or less why it took out the top spot.
  3. There is no limit to the number of entries per person.
  1. Entries will be deemed to be accepted at the time of receipt and not at the time of transmission. Entries received will be considered final by the Promoter. Incomplete, inaccurate, erroneous, illegible or incomprehensible entries will be deemed invalid. Entries must be received by the Promoter during the promotional period. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for late, lost or misdirected entries.
  2. Any costs associated with accessing the Promotional Websites remain the responsibility of each entrant and are dependent on the Internet Service Provider used.

Draw Details

  1. The competition will be drawn by Peterpans Adventure Travel.
  2. There will be one (1) Prize draw with one (1) Major Prize Winner at random from all eligible entries received.
  3. The major prize draw will take place at 3:00pm AEST Monday 12th June, 2017 at Peterpans Adventure Travel Head Office, Byron Bay, QLD.
  4. The Major Prize Winners will be notified by a comment on their winning entry at 5:00pm AEST Monday 12th June 2017 and the result will be published on Travello on both the Peterpans Group feed and the Travello Feed 5:00pm AEST Monday 12th June, 2017.
  5. The Major Prize Winners have until 5:00pm AEST Monday 10th July, 2017 to claim the prize. Although every effort will be made to contact the prize winners, should an unclaimed prize draw be necessary, in the event that the winner has not been able to be contacted or replied another draw will take place by Peterpans to select the next winner.

Prize Details

  1. There will be one (1) major prize consisting of the following components:

– A$500 Peterpans Adventure Pack with supplier AJ Hackett Auckland.

– Adventure Pack includes an Auckland Bridge Climb, Sky Walk & Sky Jump.

– Prize is valid for a period of 24 months from the date of issue.

TOTAL PRIZE VALUE TO $500 AUD

  1. The following are not included as part of the prizes: all other out of pocket expenses including travel insurance, additional meals, beverages, laundry services, spending money, transfers, optional excursions, tipping, passports, visas and all other ancillary costs not expressly provided, as well as the costs of obtaining any of these. These are the responsibility of the Prize Winner.
  2. Winners must take the prizes as offered. Prizes are non-transferable, non-refundable, cannot be sold or exchanged for cash, credit or foreign exchange and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, discount or promotion. Negotiation with Peterpans Travel will not be entered into.
  3. Any passes and tickets issued as part of the prize are subject to prevailing terms and conditions of use and any tickets or passes are only valid for use within the stated duration on the passes or tickets issued or the duration of the chosen prize, whichever is earlier.
  4. The Prize Winner consents to the use of their name, suburb of residence and image for promotional and marketing purposes.
  5. To the extent permitted by law, the Promoter is not responsible or liable for: inaccurate/incorrect transcription of entry information; purported entries that are not received for any reason, including because they are lost, misdirected or stolen, or that are received, but are late, illegible, incomplete, sent with insufficient postage (where entry is by post), or sent other than as directed in the entry instructions; any problems or technical failures of any kind, including malfunction of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems or network, servers or providers, computer equipment, or software; the unavailability or inaccessibility of any service whether or not caused by traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website; unauthorised human intervention in any part of the competition; electronic or human error which may occur in the administration of the competition; any loss suffered or sustained, to person or property and including, but not limited to, consequential (including economic) loss by reason of any act or omission, deliberate or negligent, by the Promoter, or its servants or agents, in connection with the arrangement for supply, or the supply, of any goods or services by any person to a prize winner and, where applicable, to any family/persons accompanying a winner; or any injury or damage to persons or property, including to the participant’s or any other person’s computer related to, or resulting from, participation or downloading any materials in this competition.
  6. Neither the Promoter nor the operators of the Event will be liable for personal injury suffered during prize winnings.
  7. This condition does not affect, and is not intended to affect, any rights a consumer might have, which cannot be excluded under applicable consumer protection laws. To the fullest extent permitted by law, any liability of the Promoter or its servant or agents for breach of any such rights is limited to the payment of the cost of having the prize supplied again.
  8. The Promoter is Peterpans Adventure Travel  trading as PETER PAN’S BACKPACKER ADVENTURE TRAVEL PTY LTD ABN 50 097 725 329 The personal information of entrants will be collected to enable the Promoter to administer and promote this competition. The Prize Winner may be used to market the Promoter’s services to the entrant. The personal information of the entrants will be held and used in accordance with the Promoter’s privacy policy which is available at https://peterpans.com/privacy-and-security-policy. The personal information of winners may be provided to others assisting, including prize suppliers and deliverers, and to authorities that regulate this competition. If an entrant does not truthfully provide all requested personal information, the Promoter may determine that they are not eligible to win the prize
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Travelling in a Tour

Travelling in a Tour

Travelling on a tour offers an unforgettable palate of experiences to the intrepid souls that sign up. It’s about seeing all the bucket list sites with no fuss logistics. Or having expert road crew that makes it more of an adventure. Most say our namesake is the raison d’être, to meet a bunch of like-minded travellers and make friends for life.

We all have our reservations about joining a group tour, but our global team at Tour Amigo have come up with a hit list of the top 7 of the most inspired reasons on why people like to tour:

1. The hard work is done for you

Top of the pile is taking the stress out of travel. The tour mechanics drill all the nuts and bolts of travelling abroad. Accommodation, itinerary, excursions, and most usefully, transport, is all arranged for you. Getting logistics right are a massive part of the travelling experience that can frustrate lone travellers. Forget scouring the internet each night for a half-decent hotel, or tackling the matrix of public bus timetables to get to the next town. Tours are the epitome of organisation, and even if things go wrong, they have a reliable network and backup to put things right.

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2. Meeting new tour amigos

It’s what our company is all about – making lifetime mates on tour. Touring is like a giant social experiment – a group of travellers and a tour coach/boat/train as the elements, in a foreign country petri dish, mixed together by wild, knowledgeable scientists of the crew. Many fear about the people they will meet on tour, but this equation always triggers to a chain reaction of social success. Like-minded people with the same goals are all out to have a fantastic time and making it a trip to remember. You’ll soon be calling them your ‘tour family’. Eureka!

3. Seeing new places

Riding high is – the inevitable – to travel and to see new destinations. The touring world is so diverse now, you could be strolling through Europe’s ancient cities, trucking across African savannahs, or tuk-tukking around Asia’s hottest islands. Touring companies offer the best of the lot, iconic monuments mixed with the insider hidden spots. UNESCO world heritage sites one morning, local restaurant feast by afternoon. You can also be sure to see the most important sites plus places you’ve never heard of, thus the tour offering a smorgasbord of new places you can brag about.

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4. Follow the leader

Time and time again you tell us, ‘it’s the crew that makes it”. Tour leaders, tour drivers and even tour cooks are the team that guide, inform, host, direct, teach, organise, help, and entertain your way around the world. Tour companies are strict on recruitment to always ensure you only have the most dedicated leaders taking pole position. It’s always good to have some help when travelling, and as passionate professionals, they will be the best source of local advice you’re ever likely to get. And you will never get lost.

5. Free time

Does free time exist on an organised tour we hear you cry? Well we’ve listed it as a reason you come on tour, because contrary to some bizarre popular belief, tours insist you have free time when travelling. Tours know that it’s important to their travellers and having all the main logistics organised for you, takes away all the time-consuming planning that can make a tour a bore. Now you can choose to have all the time you like between destinations. You always have the choice too and tours will provide maps, advice and pick ups for your free days to make it as time efficient as possible.

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6. Save money

At first glance tours can seem more expensive, yet look more closely and you’ll save more dollar than they ever could doing it independently. Most tour costs cover the majority of the trip, such as transport, accommodation, some food and even some sightseeing. Once that is paid you can carefully budget for anything else without surprises such as optional excursions, the occasional dinner out, or for souvenirs. Independent travel can be a minefield for shock costs such as taxi rides, pricey restaurants or local excursions that simply don’t have the same discounts that organised tours do.

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7. Safety

Travellers have no need to be scared when galloping to an unknown country, but even the most courageous prefers peace of mind when going to a new place. Tours bring safety and security to the forefront. Getting from A to B, friends to accompany you or advice against scams that regular tourists have no idea about. Tours have a reputation to be protective, so all hotels, excursions, and transport are routinely vetted. Rest assured you are in safe hands so you can focus on enjoying yourself. Of course, personal safety is nothing to ignore whilst with a tour, there is still much of an adventure to be had. At least the scary unknowns are dealt with. Yet tours will make you realise that the world isn’t that scary a place at all.

ABOUT: check our Tour Amigo for all your tour needs and independent reviews from other travellers: www.touramigo.com

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It’s summertime

It’s summertime

It’s summertime, so that means I’m lacing up my hiking boots and hitting the trail. Since I’m training for my trek to Half Dome , I’m putting in more miles and exploring a lot of new spots in the Bay Area.

If you plan to visit northern California and are looking for superb coastal views, cliff drop-offs, seal sightings, and getting lost in the redwood forest, read on for some of my favorite hikes.

Rodeo Beach Trails

If pressed for time and looking for a quick jaunt out of San Francisco, head over the Golden Gate Bridge to the first exit, Alexander Valley, and head towards the parking lot at Rodeo Beach.

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Hiking South:

For a rewarding journey and destination, hike south to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.  After parking along the road, just before the main Rodeo Beach parking lot, you’ll cross a bridge where you can watch birds scouting for food in the lagoon.

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Or you can linger on the beach to ponder at the surfers braving the cold Pacific Ocean waters. Brrr! Then head left down the beach to reach the trailhead. You’ll start on a dirt path and wind up for awhile until you are treated with some spectacular views of the coast and rocky outcrop formations.

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Then continue south until you meet up with the main trail  signs for Point Bonita Lighthouse. From here, it’s a short, but steep, 0.5 mile down.

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Make sure you check the lighthouse hours, as I arrived too early on a Saturday morning and discovered that the tunnel to access the bridge didn’t open until noon.

Hello, anybody home?? Knock, knock?

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That didn’t discourage me though.  I explored nearby coastal side trails and stumbled upon old military batteries covered in street art and deer grazing on grass.

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Hiking North:

IMG_6901Starting at the Rodeo Beach parking lot, take a right up the hill and follow the signs for the Coastal Trail. There are a few trails that split off from each other, so you can choose how far you want to go. For a good 7 mile loop, you can connect the Coastal Trail, Tennessee Valley Trail, Old Springs Trail, and Miwok Trail.

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My friend and I took the Coastal Trail north and paused at a wide opening with cliff views running north and south.  As we approached the edge, we were treated to a surprise.

 

 

A fisherman was dangling his line to a staggering distance below. I didn’t think he’d have a chance in heck to catch a fish from that height. But soon enough, we saw him straining against the line and furiously trying to reel something in. As I squinted far down, it appeared he had snagged something on his hook — a big clump of seaweed? But no, as he brought it higher up the cliff face, I could see something flapping and flailing in the air. When he finally reeled it all the way up to the top, he proudly posed with his bounty: a rockfish.

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I leaned in a little too close to take a picture and almost got smacked in the face as the little guy swayed on the fishing pole struggling to be set free.

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After our fish adventure, we hiked up the Coastal Trail to some wooden steps (great workout for the backside) to discover more military structures covered in street art.

We then circled back down the hill to explore the Marine Mammal Center, a rescue and rehabilitation hospital for marine mammals.  It’s a treat to watch the animals up-close as they glide in their pools and get fed by the staff. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing number of sea lions dying on the California coast, so the center has been busy nursing starving pups back to health. On the day we visited, almost 300 California sea lions and elephant seal pups were onsite.

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After our hike, we headed back to the parking lot to retrieve our car. But you can enjoy a picnic on the beach or go to nearby Farley Bar for a post-hike beverage.

Pantoll Station to Muir Woods

The parking lot at Pantoll Station is a hub for many trailheads. That said, it gets very busy very early, so if you want to find a parking spot, don’t get there after 9am on a Saturday! Pick up a free map at the ranger kiosk to guide you on your hike, as the many criss-crossing trails can get confusing.

To start your journey among the redwoods, begin at the Alpine Trail, at the north end of Pantoll Station.  Enjoy the shady tree coverage and the mostly downhill trek as you make your way towards the Muir Woods visitor center. You’ll cross over many wooden bridges, but water might not be flowing depending on the season and drought conditions.

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When you reach the main entrance to Muir Woods, stop there for lunch, browse through the visitor center shop, and ask a docent questions about the majestic trees. Then wander along the Main Trail wooded boardwalk and whisper in hushed voices in Cathedral Grove.Family-Spring-Break-2009-082-2

Then it’s time to gather your strength, as the way back is mostly up hill. Hello buns of steel!

Luckily, you can grab a beer on tap, listen to live music, eat an authentic British pub meal, or just laze about on the grass at the nearby Pelican Inn. Shhh…this is one of my favorite hidden gems in the area. But just between you and me, you should really check it out.

Pantoll Station to Stinson Beach

The Matt Davis & Steep Ravine trail is probably my favorite hike in the area, and I’ve done it several times. I usually start at Pantoll, hike down to Stinson, then take a break to grab lunch at one of the cute eateries or pack a picnic lunch for the beach. Then I head back uphill to Pantoll to finish the hike. Many people like to start at Stinson so they end the hike on a downhill, and then do a victory meal in Stinson.

The great thing about this hike is that it gives you a taste of all of the micro-climates and beauty of the surrounding area. You don’t have to choose between the redwoods, the beach, waterfalls, jaw-dropping views, or exposed grasslands — you get them all wrapped up in one perfect 7-mile loop! And if you’re looking for a bit of a kick-in-the-pants-get-your-heart-pumping workout, then this is your trail.

Sadly, I lost my pictures from the most recent hike I did here, so you’ll have to trust me that this provides truly some of the prettiest scenery around. So I guess that means I’ll have to hike this loop again sometime soon to update the post with photos (oh, darn!).

Cushing Memorial Theater to Mill Valley

If you’re looking for something unique to do in the Bay Area during the summer, you must see a play at the outdoor Cushing Memorial Theater. You can incorporate some exercise into the day by taking a free shuttle up the mountain, and then hiking down to Mill Valley after the play is over, like I did. Or if you’re really ambitious, you can hike both ways, but just make sure to plan your time accordingly.

This summer, the play in production was Peter Pan. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done to date in San Francisco. Nestled high up near Mount Tamalpais, you can bring your own picnic or buy food from the festival booths, and then set up camp in the circular stone amphitheater to enjoy the show. Get there early to get a good shaded spot with a view, or pay for the more expensive ticket, otherwise you will melt.

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After the play, it feels good to stretch your legs on the hike down to Mill Valley. You’ll pass the historic West Point Inn, with far-reaching views of the mountains and the city. Next you’ll go past the picturesque Throckmorton Ridge Fire Station and Mountain Home Inn. Then the trail takes you through the trees and down the many steps of the Dipsea Trail, where you can ogle at the homes woven into the forest surroundings.

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Do you have a favorite hike in Northern California that I *must* know about? Please share!

ABOUT: Nikki is an official Outbound Ambassador. She’s an outdoorsy adventurer who marvels at natural wonders, world cultures, and really old stuff. She’s talented at climbing mountains, making crafts, and eating cheese and chocolate. When she’s not off exploring the world, she’s uncovering off-the-beaten path adventures in California. What to read more from Nikki? Visit her website here: www.NikkiNearAndFar.com

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How To Travel As A Baller On A Budget

How To Travel As A Baller On A Budget

One of the few questions any long-term traveler gets is “How do you afford it?” While I find it truly abrasive and personal, I tend to overlook the brashness and look at it more like intense curiosity. I mean, I don’t comment on my friends’ baby pictures and say “How on earth do you afford that?!” Yet, alas, on almost any of my travel-related posts I get asked the same question over and over again.

It may shock a few of you to know that 1.) I’m not royalty, 2.) I don’t have a trust fund and 3.) I didn’t win the lottery. Yet, I’ve traveled to over 30 countries, lived in Australia for a year and now live in Thailand – all on my own money. I just worked really hard, allocated my money towards different priorities, and made that dollar sign stretch as far as it can go. You don’t have to have too much cash to have a great time in cities such as Budapest, where you and your friends can party like an animal on a shoestring budget. Plus, in Budapest, you can find an array of fun activities for you and your friends to enjoy, such as shooting – which you can find out more about at somewhere like https://stagmadness.com/blog/shooting-budapest if you’re interested in Budapest as a location for a bachelor party or stag night.

And here’s how you can stretch your money while travelling too:

Sleep on a couch

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Couchsurfing friends in Barcelona, Spain

Some of my all time favourite memories of travelling through Europe were the ones with my couchsurfing friends. It may sound a bit creepy, but it’s totally not. In exchange for a couch or sometimes even a room to sleep in, the hosts just want to hang out with you, learn about new cultures and make new friends. I couchsurfed in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, Budapest and others. I made great friends and saved a few bucks.

Make your own tours

It may be really enticing to just take a day trip and not have to worry about maps, how to get to certain landmarks, language barriers, etc. Usually, these tours run three or four times higher than if you do it yourself. What we usually do is find a tour we like, take a picture of the itinerary, and go find a local taxi driver or longtail boat driver and see what price they can give us for the exact same tour. Sure, it may be minus the lunch and super informative guide, but we’ve saved hundreds of dollars by doing this over the years and it gives back to the local economy.

Eat local

While the street food may not always look the safest, I can guarantee you it’s the cheapest and the tastiest. If you’re looking for an authentic meal, street food is always the way to go. Many times on long train rides, we bought a loaf of bread, some salami and cheese and a bottle of wine, and split it amongst ourselves for dinner. In Austria, we bought giant pretzels for 3 Euros daily. In Berlin, we bought curry-wurst for 2 Euros. In Thailand, we can buy pretty much any type of food we want for less than $3 USD. Not always looking for the shiniest or most “Western” restaurant is your best bet on saving money on food in a foreign country.

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Tasty street food in Budapest

Barter

If you’re in a country where haggling or bartering is appropriate, then by all means go for it! I’m naturally terrible at bargaining, but I’ve learned that the price can drop drastically (sometimes even in half) if you’re persistent and also respectful. This can go for anything – from clothes to taxis to massages. As long as you’ve done your research and know what is the normal rate, as opposed to the foreigner rate, then you’ll have the power to lower your costs.

There are many ways you can stretch your money while travelling. You just have to be on the lookout. You may not eat at the beautiful restaurant on the beach, but you’ll have the most authentic eating experience. Sure, sleeping on a couch isn’t nearly as comfortable as a fluffy king-sized bed, but you made great friends in a new city. Travelling isn’t a budget-breaking lifestyle if you don’t want it to be. Frugality is always out there, and it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on the fun.

ABOUT: KP is an official Outbound Ambassador. Florida-born, Thailand-based. KP has travelled to 31 countries, studied in 3 and lived in 3 – all before turning 23. In between trips, KP likes to practice yoga, write, run on the beach and plan the next big adventure.

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RyanHow To Travel As A Baller On A Budget
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MEMORIES FROM MOROCCO: CHEFCHAOUEN TO FEZ

MEMORIES FROM MOROCCO: CHEFCHAOUEN TO FEZ

“I am Berber. My home is south Morocco – the Sahara. After school I became a camel trekking guide, then I worked in a hotel reception and as a waiter. Next I trained as a four-wheel driving guide on desert tours. Today I am a driver.” Ali, our personal host from Your Morocco Tour, was happy to see us when we finally walked through the sliding doors at Tangier Med’s extensive commercial port. It was the first time we’d opted for a private tour, yet loading our backpacks into Ali’s silver 4WD Prado, I’d never felt more at ease arriving to a foreign country – in Africa no less.

We’d left our sailing boat finally my darling safely moored in La Linea, Spain and boarded a two hour ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar – the narrow, jaw-like opening to the enclosed Mediterranean Sea. We’d been yearning to visit Morocco for years, so we intended to do it justice. With little notice, Your Morocco Tour efficiently tailored a diverse 10-day itinerary to fit our timeframe and interests. And in Ali’s hands, we were gifted the perfect host.

CHEFCHAOUEN: THE BLUE CITY

Nestled amongst the Rif Mountains in Morocco’s northeast, Chefchaouen has carved a unique identity thanks to the legacy of its past Jewish residents. During the 1930s, in honour of their religion and spiritual homeland Israel, the medina (old town) was painted a charming blue-wash: Judaism’s colour of the sky and heavens.

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With the onset of winter, it was damp and cool when we arrived. Though in return, tourists were thin on the ground. Wandering the working village amongst its peaceful non-assuming locals, we immediately felt immersed in the essence of Morocco.

As if having walked straight out of a Star Wars sequel, local men were cloaked in woollen, pointy-hooded djellabas and gathered in simple cafes sipping sugary mint tea. Muslim ladies, veiled in colourful silk hijabs, carried soft bags filled with produce or chatted quietly together in laneways.

We peered inside miniature workshops of painters and fabric weavers, watched warm loaves collected from communal bakeries and sidestepped loaded donkeys delivering supplies to tiny shopfronts. After hiking to the Spanish mosque for a “panoramic view” (a favourite reference of our guide Ali) the sun broke through the clouds and on returning to the mesmerising medina, it was awash with a dozen new shades of blue.

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Our 10-day itinerary allowed for two nights and one full day to explore the enchanting mountain town. Hidden down a quiet blue lane, toward the top of the medina, was welcoming Dar Meziana – the first of several characterful accommodations pre-arranged by Your Morocco Tour. Intricately painted doors, mosaic tiles, ornamental lamps, tasselled cushions, well-worn rugs, silver teapots and a swath of other textures and colours decorated the small property.

Up several flights of narrow stairs, the view from our large room was over Chefchaouen’s flat rooftops where elderly women tended to their aerating laundry or chicken pens. Awaking to the spellbinding Islamic call to prayer, we devoured our first of many Moroccan breakfasts: a multi-plate collection of spreads, sweet and savoury breads, eggs, olives, soft cheese, dates, strong coffee, mint tea and juice.

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MOUNTAINS, VALLEYS AND MUD-BRICK

Any extended tour of Morocco will include a lot of driving. Fortunately, I found the journey to be just as intriguing as each destination. We drove through working townships and observed locals go about everyday life, untainted by the influence of tourism or many Western conveniences.

We passed countless people commuting on donkeys and mules; farmers tending fields with horse and plow; women hauling water pails from communal wells; trucks piled precariously high with cargo and nomadic Berbers herding sheep across desolate rock tablelands. In villages, markets were bursting with activity; Muslim ladies strolled together cloaked in flowing black niqabs; men spilled onto mosque sidewalks, knelt in Friday prayer; dusty-kneed teenagers played soccer on rocky fields and smiling children walked each other to school.

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The landscape too was constantly changing. From the rolling Rif Mountains, to endless fertile-soil farming fields on approach to Fez and the snow-strewn Middle Atlas Mountains – where temperatures dipped to six degrees, before reaching mid-20s later that evening in Morocco’s Sahara Desert. The diversity was enthralling. Film-worthy backdrops unveiled around every bend (not surprisingly many have been shot there) including regal kasbahs and intriguing mud brick villages swathed with palmeries (oasis-like date palm plantations) cast against a red rock panorama.

Granted our smiling guide Ali knew interesting back roads, vantage points for the perfect “panoramic view” and narrow-street communities that could be visited by car, but not by tour bus, as well as enthusiastically answering endless questions on everything from geography to religion, politics and local insights.

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco-5

FEZ: THE ANCIENT CAPITAL

Some may consider the only way to explore Fez is to follow your nose and concede to being hopelessly lost. But when time is limited we didn’t wish to miss the heartbeat of Fez’s beguiling and chaotically disorientating medina. With our Fassis guide Khalid – a local celebrity with friends and hand-over-heart handshakes around every corner – we walked for hours through a twisting labyrinth of narrow streets and seemingly dead-end lanes.

Originally the capital of Morocco before it was moved to Rabat in 1912, Fez el-Bali – Fez’s 1,200-year-old UNESCO protected medina – contains over 9,000 lanes, alleys and thoroughfares and is the world’s best-preserved medieval city. Living inside the impenetrable ochre walls, 150,000 Fassis are serviced by a myriad of markets and tradespeople who continue to function as they have for centuries.

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Fez, Morocco-15Fez, Morocco-16Sunlight filtered through bamboo and cedar awnings; below, Fez’s bustling bazaars were fascinating and overwhelming – a pure sensory assault. There were souks (markets) dedicated to blacksmiths toiling in charcoal-blackened workshops over red-hot steel and anvil. Nearby in Place Seffarine, a rhythmic orchestra emanated from coppersmiths hand-pummelling copper cooking pots. “They are deaf by the time they turn 18,” Khalid explained. Down the next lane cobblestones were slick with water and dye, as men re-purposed old denim and clothing, then hung to dry.

Atmospheric produce souks sold dates, almonds, olives, lychees, pomegranates, chillies, spices, cured camel meat and snail soup. We wandered souks selling colourful silk bobbins, hand-tailored djalabahs and silverware in every imaginable variety; one store simply piled high with a jumble of silver teapots. Entering a corner of the medina occupied with butcheries, halal-killed goat heads were gathered in stacks and, underfoot, cats scampered and gutters ran with blood.

Narrow streets of the medina were often dark, dank and wafted with odours, yet so incredibly raw and real. Simply put, Fez was mind-blowing and one of the most intriguing places I’ve ever visited. Nothing was manufactured for tourism and we felt transported to another era and a fascinating world that time forgot.

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Earlier in the day Khalid and Ali drove us to the ceramic district – another of Fez’s renowned handicrafts. In sheds lining the streets, men sat cross-legged on concrete floors, painting or chipping tiles for mosaics. In the visitor display compound, ceramics were hand-moulded, fired, painted or chipped up and crafted into mosaic tables, mirrors and water fountains. Morocco is an interior decorator’s dream and we left wishing we’d a room or courtyard at home waiting to be revamped.

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Nothing assaults your nostrils like the pungent odour of animal excrement. Ammonium-filled vats occupy a quarter of Fez’s 11th century Chaouwara Tannery complex where cow, sheep, goat and camel hides were soaked to remove flesh and hair. Braving the leather-shop viewing platforms without handfuls of mint leaves offered to mask the stench; the sprawling scene below was again like being transported to another time. Born into the backbreaking trade, hardened men were often barefooted and barelegged, labouring waist-deep in dye as they plodded and hand-churned the leathers for suppleness. Its filthy, grungy work and the smell wafts for blocks. Though Fez leather is world-renowned and the tannery’s location inside the medina walls is a captivating cultural treasure; functioning unchanged since medieval times.

For two weeks hides are soaked in vats filled with colourful natural dyes: cedar wood for brown, poppy flower for red, indigo for blue, henna for orange, wild mint for green, mascara for black and “very expensive” is saffron for yellow leather. Next skins are dried on the surrounding rooftops and hillsides, before again being washed and soaked, then distributed to local leatherworks and distant factories for manufacture and export.

We accessed the tannery viewing platforms via strategically positioned leather markets selling jackets, belts, handbags, shoes and babouche slippers.

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Traditional Moroccan riads (houses or palaces) are constructed around a sundrenched communal courtyard, pool or garden. Balconies, doors and shuttered-windows faced inwards where Muslim women could unveil and seek privacy.

Fez’s first tourist riad opened in the mid 1980s and in recent years increasingly more homes are being converted to these striking guesthouses. Along a chipped stucco laneway, a tiny sign and heavy brass studded door indicated our arrival to grand Riad Layali, our comfortable and peaceful two-night escape amid the maddening medina.

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WATCH: exploring Chefchaeoun and Fez’s atmospheric medinas (select 720p HD via the cog wheel and wait to buffer).

Beguiling Morocco is a vast land of contrasts: dramatic landscapes, captivating history, deeply-rooted faith, disorientating ancient medinas, chaotic markets, intriguing kasbahs and mud-brick villages; awash with a kaleidoscope of colours, music, mix-matched fabrics and textures, smells and spices.

Our tour continued to include enchanting destinations such as a desert luxury camp at Erg Chebbi and Morocco’s Sahara, Todra and Dades Gorges, Ait BenHaadou, the High Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh and sea-side Essaouira. In two weeks we barely brushed the surface though, guided through the eyes and insights of our Berber host, Ali, we departed Africa moved and culturally enriched.

En route to the Sahara, Morocco

ABOUT: Brooke Darling is an Official Outbound Ambassador. While she’s been travelling on and off for the past 14 years, in 2013 she departed on the most challenging journey to date: sailing the high seas aboard the family sailboat finally my darling. Two summers were occupied exploring every nook and cranny of the European Mediterranean coastline, followed by three weeks sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to the blissful Caribbean; which is where you’ll currently find her. Brooke has captured a wealth of photographs from this Aussie family’s sailing adventures which you can see on her blog: www.finallymydarling.com, or follow via Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Twitter.

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RyanMEMORIES FROM MOROCCO: CHEFCHAOUEN TO FEZ
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Travel Photography – getting the most out of your iPhone camera

Travel Photography – getting the most out of your iPhone camera

Does every photo need to be perfect?

Let’s start off by getting a couple of things clear. The Up Sticks N Go crew have no special photographic skills and we don’t use equipment that costs an arm and a leg. We do carry an SLR camera but it seldom leaves its carry bag.  It’s heavy, bulky, conspicuous and we really don’t know how to use it properly. We did consider sending it back to Australia but the telephoto lens is useful and it’s a great camera to use on a tripod for long exposure shots. But the best camera for travel is the one you have with you. I know you have heard that before, but it’s true.

We find the iPhone is an exceptionally good camera for travelling. It’s light, quick on the draw and most importantly close by when you need it. Does the iPhone give you the best quality, highest resolution image every time? Is the exposure always correct and focus crisp? Of course not, but the iPhone is a point-and-shoot camera with an amazingly small lens.

It can’t possibly compete against the expensive, large aperture cameras on a technical or image quality level. But it’s there when you need it. You don’t have to haul it out, remove lens caps, adjust focus, check setting and then finally frame the image. You just select camera mode, aim, frame and shoot.

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So does every photo have to be perfect? For us the answer is NO, our travel photography does not have to be perfect. We are journaling our adventure so the stories are more important than the quality of photos. Our viewing audience want to know how we are going, what we are doing, the issues we face and the places we’ve visited. The images are a vehicle to convey that information quickly with only a few words.

But that’s not the whole story.

We also want more people to follow the Up Sticks N Go adventure and photographs are one of the ways we attract followers. We find better quality images do attract more people and receive better engagement. As a result we have concentrated our efforts to improve the quality of photographs we publish, by reading more on the subject and through a lot of trial and error.

I’ve compiled a series of posts detailing photographic techniques we are using to get the best out of our iPhone cameras. Michelle and I use iPhone 5s cameras and have both developed methods and techniques to achieve those special images. We want to share what we have learnt so others can capture their travel moments and proudly share them with friends and family.

We are Apple iPhone fans, no surprise there; we love the consistent quality of the iPhone 5s camera. We also love the amazing photo applications available to shoot, edit and publish our photos on the move. These will be iPhone specific tutorials, but most techniques will be transferable to all point-and-shoot cameras.

TUTORIAL ONE: The best camera for travelling is the iPhone in your pocket

The Up Sticks N Go crew are very Apple centric. We love our iPhones, iPads, MacBook Pros etc. and have carried a selection of Apples devices around the world. They work every time we turn them on and last a lot longer than similar competitor models.

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The iPhone is the device we use most, but we seldom make a call. The iPhone is our travel camera and video recorder. We’ve taken thousands of photos and published a fair percentage of those shots on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Pinterest. We attempt to create at least two videos a week, which we publish on YouTube. I had ambitions of publishing one a day but the lack of high speed internet in many places visited made a video a day rather ambitious.

So why is an iPhone the best camera for travelling?

I’d love to say it’s because of super high quality images and how easy it operates, which are all great reasons. But it’s the fact it’s close by and easy to access that truly makes it the best camera.

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It’s smaller than an SLR by a mile, with a 35 mm lens and only a fraction of the weight. In fact an iPhone is smaller and lighter than most compact cameras and I’d say many of the smartphones we see fellow travellers carrying. Its weight and size mean it fits in your pocket or nestles comfortably in your hand. So when that photo opportunity presents itself, it is right there with you.

As travellers we are aware we’ll be taking photos regularly, but we are not on a photo shoot. We don’t carry around the paraphernalia of a professional photographer and we don’t necessarily have the time to pose photos or arrange props or achieve the perfect position. We walk and sometimes run into a location, assess the photo opportunities at the time, snap what we can and then move on.

To get the best shot in these situations, we often take many images or use the iPhone’s burst mode to capture that special moment. The iPhone has an amazing amount of memory. We can capture thousands of eight megapixel images and hours of video before needing to download or back up the images. As a result we go for days travelling and recording our adventure before we need to think about memory space.

Just knowing we have a camera with us means we take pictures. If we had to get a camera from the car or out of a bag and then lug it around we probably wouldn’t bother. We know this because we have an SLR in our kit and given the choice between lugging it around on a day excursion or just pocketing an iPhone, it’s very simple. We leave the SLR at home as it’s unlikely we’ll pull it out of the case in time to make the shot.

With so much going on around us, the speed that we can get a camera out and capture a shot is important. The operation speed of the iPhone camera really helps. The slide to reveal camera function and its default photo setting means we can draw, activate and shoot in under a second. We don’t always capture every spontaneous shot as finger fumbles are common, but we’ve captured some amazing spur-of-the-moment images.

Adding up physical size, memory size and speed of operation means an iPhone is a great travel camera, but it’s the close proximity of our iPhone that make it the best camera for travel.

TUTORIAL TWO: How to take a better iPhone travel photo

Carry your iPhone/camera on you at all times. You can’t take a great shot if the camera is in the car, on the bus or worse, in the hotel room.

Practice make perfect. If you have a camera with you, use it. Shoot every chance you get. Just by sheer volume alone you will get one or two great photos. But if you learn by doing, you’ll eventually find more than just the odd few shots are great. Practice certainly does improve your photographic skill. We are living examples. We couldn’t take a good shot to save ourselves when we first started, some may say we still have a long way to go, but our photos are getting better and more and more people are commenting on the quality, not just the content.

Try not to develop bad habits. Stop reviewing every shot just after you take it. You’ll have plenty of time to mull over shots once back to your accommodation or once finished your holiday. Shoot the action around you; trust the camera to do its stuff. Move to capture the scene; think about light and shadow, slow down to ensure the perspective and subject matter capture the essence of the scene.

Without my reading glasses I can’t clearly see the camera’s digital screen, so quality of the last shot is undefined even if I do review the photo. So I tend to pull the camera out, get into position, frame, focus then shoot three or four photos from slightly different angles before putting the camera down; all without looking at those photos. Later in a coffee shop I can put my reading glasses on and really study the photos. As a result, if something amazing happens around me I’m not focused on the digital screen and can snap that next shot without delay.

Use the light around you. Don’t shoot with the sun directly behind you. Sun behind you causes the image to look flat and, of course, your shadow gets in the way. Shoot from either side (about 5 – 45 degrees) so the sun is over your left or right shoulder. See the light around you and use it to your advantage. Is the light interacting with the scene highlighting an area or casting interesting shadows? If so, use this to create an extraordinary photo.

Use shade during the day. Sunlight between 10 am to 3 pm can be harsh and creates deep shadows, especially on faces. During the day you’ll often find enough light in the shade to take a great photo, without harsh shadows and overexposed areas caused by midday sun. Walk in the shade as you travel, it’s better for your skin and take photos of subjects that are shaded but not in front of large expanses of sundrenched backgrounds.  If you are competing with a well-lit background, get in closer and use the camera’s flash to lighten the foreground subject.

Take photos at either end of the day. Early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, is the best time to snap full sun photos. The shadows are longer but less visible to a camera held one to two meters from the ground. The light is softer, yellower and lights up a subject more evenly. However it’s not the perfect time of day for travellers whose focus is not purely about photography. But if you want a great shot, get out of bed early and visit those special places when the sun is low in the sky and most other visitors are still in bed or eating.

Check what’s in the background. Too often we see images of people with a tree sticking out of their head, garbage bin prominent in the background or some annoying tourist messing up a photo. When you visit tourist locations you will have other people milling around in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Try getting in close and obscuring any foreign object you don’t want in the frame. Move left or right to place a wall, pole or tree so it obscures unwanted or unsightly objects in the frame.

Here we used daughter Tash to obscure a group of tourists lined up at the castle’s front door.POST 3_NO 2

Perspective. An image is more engaging when you shoot it from a different vantage point to the normal observer. Crouch down, lie down or, if you’re tall like me, stand on your tippy toes and hold the camera up high. The change in perspective will make the image different and often more pleasing. Changing your observation point in this way also enables you to remove those unwanted background elements. Get down so a foreground object fills the gap between you and the background you’re trying to capture. The object will obscure the unwanted cars, people and garbage you don’t want in the photo.

Focus on the Subject. The subject of your photo should be in the right spot to achieve an extraordinary image. So slow down and think about its placement in the field of view.

Move a few steps closer. Fill your photo with the subject you wish to capture. Move closer to the foreground subject and position it at one or two sweet spots within the photo. The “Rule of Thirds” always applies, but getting up close and personal with the subject and filling the frame will make the photo “POP”.  See how much better your photo looks without the wasted nondescript foreground and background space?

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POST 3_NO 3Rule of Thirds. If you are uncertain about the “Rule of Thirds” in photography, I suggest reading Darren Rowse’s blog post; one of thousands of photography posts on the web explaining this rule. In essence, if you divide the photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically the four intersection points form “sweet spots” of the photo where focal points of the subject matter should be aligned.

If it’s the portrait of a person, their eyes should align to the top two intersections or at least sit on the horizontal line marking the top third of the image. If it’s a subject or scene, then the subject should fill two thirds of the background with its focal point falling along either the right or left vertical line.

Framing. To further draw a viewer’s focus towards the subject, the subject can be framed by a foreground or background feature like a window, street line, door or even a shadow.

Look out for Simon’s next post in the series “iPhone apps for travelling Photographers”.

ABOUT: The family behind Up Sticks N Go are official Outbound Ambassadors. Michelle Frost and husband Simon are travelling the world with their three kids for 18 months while working online – how cool is that? They’d love to catch up with readers somewhere in the world. If you’d like to see more you can follow their adventure via their website: www.upsticksandgo.com or on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or Twitter.

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RyanTravel Photography – getting the most out of your iPhone camera
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