Category Archives: traveling

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High Tatras, Slovakia, September 2016

This gallery contains 11 photos.

My life was getting more and more turbulent once I came back from London. The whirlwind of interviews and job hunting was slowly getting to me. I just needed a little secluded moment in the mountains. Not that far away … Continue reading

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Japan, April 2016

This gallery contains 24 photos.

It was a really turbulent time in my life. I was finishing my thesis and all my travel/hiking plans were crashing as I needed to have an internet connection. Then, quite spontaneously, I booked a trip to Japan. Only me, … Continue reading

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Iceland, August 2015

This gallery contains 41 photos.

After a sudden change of plans, I was thinking of a plan B for holidays. I came up with Iceland. First time I visited sub-polar regions. And I felt in love. The nature is fantastic. The fire meets the ice… Hiking … Continue reading

Jökulsárlón shooting

There are places in this world where you know, that you’ve encountered nature’s magnum opus. Well, I believe there is one for every ecosystem. Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon is the magnum opus of glaciers. You’ve seen the pictures, you know what to expect, but no matter what, you’ll end up standing in awe. I managed to go there during a sunny morning and a gloomy evening. And I’d say the gloomy evening fits the lagoon quite nicely. The blue color of the glaciers stands up.

Of course there’s not only the lagoon, there’s also a beach. Black one, as I know from Canarias. But this one is special. As the glaciers move from the lagoon towards the ocean, some of them get jumbled around and end up on the beach, looking like gemstones. Well out of this planet experience for sure. I wish I could go and spend there couple of weeks, just watching the glaciers.

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This was the first time I processed the images using graphical tablet. Well, now the things I considered too complicated to do in Photoshop (clumsy mouse), are super accessible.  I think I’ll revisit some of my older shots. Let’s see how more complex photoshop magic will work.

Backpacking on Cabo Verde

I must admit, when I bought the flying ticket to Praia, Santiago, I didn’t think very deeply about it. I knew I wanted to get to Fogo island, as there’s a volcano, not too different from Teide. After I got the flying ticket, I started to search for information and realized, there is little if some. Which is actually the reason I’m writing this down. Maybe it’ll help somebody who has decided to do similar trip.

First of all, Cabo Verde is a tourist destination, but majority of the tourists will go to Sal or Boa Vista, if they feel adventurous, they’ll go to Santo Antao. If you decide to go to Santiago, you’re pretty much out of tourist buzz. That brings good things and bad things. You certainly get some authenticity, but you don’t get by using other language than Portuguese or Creole. Forget about English.

One of the first things you might notice is the lack of tourist guides and maps. There’s only one chapter of the Lonely planet guide to West Africa. Luckily enough they sell pdfs of the sole chapters individually, so one doesn’t have to spend unnecessary money on the whole book. The chapter has 30 pages and it’s nearly not enough. Though, you’ll get some tips out of there, considering what to see etc.

Transport between the islands

Most of the islands have airport, exception being Brava and Santo Antao. Santiago and Sal have international ones, so that might be your entry point to the country. Both of them issue visa on arrival. If you want to do little bit of island jumping, there are two options: boat and plane. I met quite a few people who went by boat to Fogo, all of them claiming that they go back by plane. Plane is not that much more expensive, if you book directly on TACV website. If you book in advance, you end up with something like 100 euro for a return trip Santiago – Fogo. According to locals, not a bad price. Boat was 70 euro. Some travel Cabo Verde pages will claim that you might have troubles with booking and offer to book for you for 10 euros. Skip that, at least with Safari and paying online by Visa, I had no problem.

Maps

I had trouble getting maps for any place in Cabo Verde.  You can get decent hiking maps for Santiago in a souvenir store in Plateau in Praia (close to the end of the main pedestrian road, the end with lyceum), for Fogo, the maps are available in Zebra travel in Sao Felipe . The towns… well, people rarely use street names there, city maps won’t get you anywhere. Deal with it, it’s hard only during the first day.

Accommodation

Santiago is not prepared for tourists. Yes they do have quite a few fancy hotels, occupied mostly during volcanologists conferences, but the budget options are scarce and probably will be.  I found my accommodation in Praia through AirBnB, Brothers & Barros Hostel, newly opened hostel with nicely clean rooms for 20 euro/night. If you happen to get the tip from here, say hi to Danilson, the owner, from Jana from Czech republic. The hostel is not located on Plateau, but you can get there easily by public bus (they have quite convenient system of buses in Praia, once you figure which number goes where).  Plus, you cannot get more authentic than this. Don’t forget to get a fish on a street corner grill. It’s the best one I had, and costs only 2 euros.

The situation on Fogo is slightly better, still there are not many places to choose from. I went for Pensao Las Vegas as it was the cheapest option (20 euro/night), but if the next time, I’d go for Casa Beiramar, slighly more pricey, but worth it (read further). Both are located in the old town, so you’re pretty much in the center of everything, close to the markets etc.

Hiking and sightseeing on Santiago

If you decide to hike on Santiago, you’ll likely be the only hiker on the path. There are two hiking areas, national park Serra Malagueta and Rui Vaz, above Sao Domingues. In Serra Malagueta, you can even pick up very non- accurate map, but the guys from the local visitor’s center will show you the way and let you pay couple of ECV for the entrance. Not a big deal, but you’ll have to guess big part of the hike. Luckily enough, it’s circular. But the surroundings are stunning. Area around Rui Vaz is also really nice. You can just get of the bus in Sao Domingues, hike up to Rui Vaz (road) and from there, go to Sao Jorge, where is a small botanical garden. It’s a stunning hike amongst beautiful rock formation, but check out WikiLoc (I marked the path there). There are few path markers, but don’t rely on them. The botanical garden is free.  You’ll be able to catch a bus in Sao Lorenzo, on the main road, otherwise taxi it is. Buses from praia cost about 3.5/4.5 euro one way.

Serra Malagueta, Santiago

Serra Malagueta, Santiago

There’s also a nice walk from Cidade Velha to Fortaleza above the city. All in all, Cidade Velha is worth visiting, it takes just 15 minutes from Praia to get there. But bear in mind, the bus doesn’t go from the main ‘bus station’ in Sucupira market, but from Terra Branca. The bus costs approximately 1 euro.

Hiking around Fogo

Fogo is easily a hikers paradise. But, there’s but… In November 2014, the volcano exploded and buried two villages, which served often as a base camp for hikers, under the lava. Sad for locals, sad for hikers. The prices for a simple hike therefore rocketed up because of the cost of transport. You sure can rent a car there, but at 80 euros/day you just don’t want too. Hiring a driver for the whole day will cost you the same. Besides he know where to go and knows  how to drive on those stony roads. If you want to arrange a trip, your bet is Casa Beiramar, Mustafa, the owner is a climber/mountainer and loves Fogo. He can help you arrange a hike or climb anywhere on the island. He’s got some accomodation up in Cha de Caildeiras… well, rebuilding now, so even the trip to the peak will be doable with him again. He arranged a drive around the island for me, with a stop  for a hike amongst the coffee plantations in Moisteros, 80 euros for the whole day. Transport to Caldeiras, without the facilities can be also arranged there. Without guide, 50 euros.

Sulphur, Fogo

Sulphur, Fogo

Needless to say, it’s not cheap, but if you don’t know your way around (you most likely don’t as the inaccuracies are big), it might easily be an only option. I did the hike above the new explosion, which was memorable, but little bit short. A recommendable hike might be Bandeiras, hiking along the rim of the big caldera.  Sadly at the current prices, it’s 140 euros, which for me alone was way over my budget.

Safety

It’s sub-saharian Africa and you should act accordingly. While on Fogo, every crime rises attention, in Praia, petty crime is arising. I wouldn’t go around alone at night, but otherwise the country felt reasonably safe.

Pricing

All in all the general cost of things

  • flight between the islands 100 euros
  • Accomodation 20 euro/night cheapest
  • taxi praia intl – city center 10 eur
  • public transport in Praia 40 cents/ride
  • Local transport half the Santiago island for 5 euros
  • moderate restaurant 6 euro/dinner
  • cup of coffee around 1 euro

 

Armenia, October 2013

It took me more than a year to go through this pictures, but when I came back to go through them, it brought beautiful memories. I attended a conference in Yerevan. Included were two trips, one to Lake Sevan and the other one to Khor Virap and Carahunge (Karahunj) – the armenian Stonehenge. Both of them were intense; Lake Sevan because we expected warm indian summer, yet it was snowing and Khor Virap & Carahunge because we had to cross the whole country, which is very challenging if you have only one day. All in all, I wish to come back as a regular tourist and have a lot of time to explore. Such a beautiful country…

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Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan, July 2014

This gallery contains 19 photos.

Saying that you’re spending your holidays traveling through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan usually raises one question: ‘Why?’ Let this gallery be a perfect answer to it. You go to Kyrgyzstan for the gorgeous mountains and to Uzbekistan to see beautiful ancient … Continue reading

La Palma Sky

Okay, life was going crazy fast lately and still is, but I just wanted to share some images I’ve taken not-so recently, during the trip to La Palma (September 2013). The daily ones are still to come, but the mission was to take pictures of the night sky of La Palma, one of the best ones in the world (yes, I mean comparable with Chile and Hawaii).

I’ve actually learned quite a few things during that trip: apparently I don’t mind heavy backpack, as long as it’s full of my photo stuff and I can freeze down for a picture. Anyway, one of the more painful things I’ve learned is that I’ve hit the limitations of my camera. If I take my Canon 7D & 15 mm Fisheye lens, the result will never reach the quality of Canon 5D Mark III with essentially the same settings. Hence whomever wants to send me the note saying ‘your image’s noisy’, buy me a better camera and I’ll prove you I can do better.

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So picture above, from Roque de Los Muchachos observatory. It’s a single shot, 20s exposure @f/2.8 and ISO 4000. Which I think is pretty impressive. The yellow spot on the lower left side is lights from Santa Cruz, the bright spot over the horizon, casting shadow on the water is Venus. Actually you can even see  Zodiacal light going through Venus, pointing to the Milky way (brighter area going above the horizon). The red and green glow is a natural glow of our atmosphere, called airglow. And the bright bridge is the Milky way… looking into the galactic center in Scorpius.

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Since combining the images with a foreground is tricky, I’ve combined only one image of the milky way with no foreground (that’s to come in the future). It’s a combination of 15 images, ISO 4000 and using dark frame. As in the previous pic, the red glow is our own atmosphere.

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Okay, with this picture, I’ve learned how ‘bad’ is my camera compared to the 5D MIII, since we were shooting from the same spot and guess what, I have the noise… But anyway MAGIC telescope and Milky way is a cool combination, worth of almost spraining my ankle in the dark :)

I also got into experimenting with time-lapse. So if you want to check my super short one, go fot it on vimeo.

How to travel to Maldives backpack style

Okay, Maldives are considered as a super posh and expensive location and I cannot disagree. But getting there is actually not impossible, since from 2011, locals got opportunity to build also ‘low-cost’ hostels on islands inhabited by them. That comes with couple of pros and cons. Pro is: a night in the hotel, including breakfast is around 60$. Cheap for Maldivian standards, where the price per night in the cheapest resort usually starts at 150$. Cons: well, for once, if you want to have beautiful reef of pristine beach nearby, the Maafushi island (pretty much only one with hostels) is not perfect, so you’re spending money on trips anyway (approx. 50$ per trip per person).

There is also one more thing to consider. If you’re traveling to Maafushi, have in mind that locals are Muslims. They’re very tolerant and won’t tell you anything bad, but you shouldn’t run around in bikini. If you go to the beach, cover yourself and undress at the beach. I’ve seen people (unfortunately also czech) who were waaay out of line in terms of clothes. Nobody told them anything, but the amount of skin and everything else visible was just okay maybe for the nudist beach. This also means that you won’t get alcohol anywhere on the islands.

How we did it and how much it cost?? 
We have already been on Sri Lanka, so we decided to buy flying ticket to Maldives there. Return costs around 100 euro, which is fairly okay price. We (czechs) don’t need visa, so no additional cost there. The fun thing is: you get to Male, but from there, it’s an hour to get to Maafushi. You can either play rich and pay for speed boat ($100 per ride) or you can take local ferry ($1 per person per ride). Ferry goes once per day, so it might mean quite an overlay in Male. Which is the funniest capital every – you can go around in 30 minutes.

We stayed for three nights and paid for two trips – one to sand bank, which we had literally to ourselves and one to the picnic island Maadhoo. Maadhoo had the downside of many tourists from resorts going there for picnic, but once you walk little bit away from the elderly couples, you’re okay. Sand bank cost $50 and picnic island, including the lunch around  $95. Taking into account all the souvenirs and dinners we had, the total cost of our tree day trip to Maldivas was approx. 300 euro. So if you happen to be around, it pays of to stop by, just for the experience…

Traveling around Sri Lanka

I’ve spent two amazing weeks on Sri Lanka, visiting as many places as possible and I just want to write little feedback on the places… for the future reference I guess. Overall impression was really cool. It’s the kind of place you have to like. It reminded me of India, but of the good things from India – like good food and ridiculous ways to get around. On the other hand, people are not so pushy as in India and usually it took only one ‘no thanks’ to the tuk-tuk driver to go away. The whole island provides an unique opportunity to jump from jungle to highlands and to dry tropics in the next moment. And I loved that diversity. We also tried very diverse attractions, so if you’re interested, read ahead…

Kandy
Kandy is essentially a gate to the region called in tourist guides as the Hill country. The city itself is quite big, easily reachable from pretty much everywhere by bus (one arrives on rather chaotic bus station) or train (from Colombo or from other towns in Hill country). The lake itself is nice and the Temple of Tooth is well… I wasn’t very excited about that, since in my opinion I saw much more beautiful buddhist temples (for free) and this was simply overpriced tourist attraction (1000Rs). Plus you don’t get to see the relic anyway. Much more interesting was Peradeniya botanical garden. Lots of flowers, trees and fruit bats. Walking through there is like walking through the calm oasis, totally cut out from the world outside. But one has to take the bus there from Kandy, it’d be rather long walk along the main road, which is with local drivers skills really risky.

Sigiriya
Also called Lion’s rock. The signature place of Sri Lanka, protected by UNESCO with entrance priced accordingly. $35!!! It’s worth going in the afternoon, since by the evening, you see all the amazing colors the Sun draws on the rock. If you’re aiming for the stunning ancient ruins, you might be disappointed. The murals are very impressive though. The rock ascent is not hard, but the vertigo can be annoying. The views are simply stunning. All in all I still think it’s little bit pricey for what you see, but a place not to miss.

Polonnaruwa
Here goes the place for impressive ruins. The old city is hidden in the forest, which makes it a nice walk, I kind of don’t understand why both Rough guide and Lonely Planet suggest renting a bike. With bike you’ll have hard time access some of the cool but more hidden places. And some of the nicest views. I was deeply impressed by Gal Vihara, statues of Buddha carved into the big rock. Especially the reclining Buddha has a very serene face… and all the texture of the rocks. Simply breathtaking. Also the dagobas were impressive, mostly in size. I really liked the snow white appearnce of Kiri Vihara. While the entrance to the ruins is also quite pricey ($30), it’s totally worth it. Also, don’t forget the ruins by the lake. They’re for free and very nice too.

Adam’s peak – Sri Pada 
One advice here – don’t go out of the season. While the weather in most parts of Sri Lanka might work even out of the season, this is not the place to be during the monsoon.  When it rains, it pours. That pretty much ruined our chance of night ascent. And unfortunately we didn’t have extra day for another try and the guest house (White house) was a nightmare to stay in (don’t go there unless you’re mold lover). I hiked one third up in the morning, but the humidity was killing me. So yeah, next time in the season.

Lake on the way from Dalhouse to Hatton

Horton Plains
National park, hence the entrance is annoyingly expensive. Including the tuk-tuk ride from Haputale, we paid 4500Rs for the whole trip, per person. Be sure to go very early in the morning, since the weather sucks in the afternoon. The main attraction is 9 km hike, mostly on flat surface with an easily visible trail. There you encounter Baker’s falls – quite nice waterfalls, and two major viewpoints – Poor Man’s World’s End and World’s End. One smaller and one bigger. Both of them are pretty impressive. Prepare for the chilly weather and mist. The guide book said it’s a cool place for bird watching, but honestly, we were glad that the mist was not much thicker 😉 In general, very nice place which I’d recommend.

Haputale – Lipton’s seat
Essentialy a viewpoint which is not that easy to reach. You can walk, but the asphalt road is just not ‘the’ hiking surface. One can also go by tuk-tuk, I have no idea about the price, since for us, it was included in the Horton Plains trip. The views are incredible. Tea is stretching everywhere and in the distance, one can see Udawalawe lake. There’s also a small tea shop on the top. The place itself is for free, which is nice.

Haputale – Dambatenne Tea Factory
Only tea factory opened for tourists. If you go too early in the morning, you won’t see anything, if you go to late, same story… The entrance fee is moderate, 250Rs and officially one can’t take pictures inside. Well, officially. It’s really cool to see how the cup of tea I drink every morning, is made. It takes surprisingly long time. But don’t buy local tea there, buy it anywhere else, here it’s ridiculously overpriced – around 1000Rs for the same stuff which costs 100Rs in Haputale.

Bambarakanda Falls
Well, we stopped here on the way from Haputale to Udawalawe. I don’t think it’s worth the trip solely on purpose of seeing this waterfall. I mean, it’s nice and tall. You can ‘swim’ there, in the tiny lake for a moment and you can take a picture of you standing under the waterfall. And that’s it. Also they apparently started to build some stairs there which might mean that at some point, there’s gonna be an entrance fee.

Udawalawe National Park safari
Prepare to spend a lot of money here. Jeep safari costs around 6000Rs per person (all taxes included) and you can’t go in without the jeep. For a good reason – there are wild animals running around. There are a lots of elephants, so those are sure thing when you go there. Also herds of water buffalos. But don’t rise your hopes for leopard. They’re in Yala. Here in Udawalawe, there are some, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see them. But there’s a lot of bird species and crocodiles, monitor lizards… And no matter what, hire a guide. They can point out animals you would miss in a blink of an eye. I think this safari was worth the price.

Rekawa 
Rekawa is ‘the place’ for turtle watching. Well, people are usually staying in Tangalla and then pay like 2000Rs per person to go to Rekawa to watch turtles lay eggs. The deal is, if you go to Rekawa on your own, the beach is public, so are the turtles… and it’s not very hard to find them, since they’re surrounded by tourists paying to get there with the agency. The problem is, for whatever reason, the agency wants to charge you, if you just walk around. Strange huh? And from what we saw, people in big group waiting for turtle and taking pictures. Well I’d say I pass.

Galle
The Fort is the major tourist attraction in Galle. Tourists concentrate there which means high prices of everything. Though the accommodation is doable on a budget. If you aim for souvenirs, just go outside the Fort and there is Lakana (or what’s the name) store, which essentially provides goods to the stores in Fort. They have bargain prices. If you’re into shopping, one of the builings in Fort harbors factory outlet. You can get Gap, Tommy Hilfiger etc. on ridiculous prices (10 euros per pants and remember, the outlet still makes money!!!). But the outfits for chicks are scarce, guys are more likely to be lucky there. The tags on the clothes are simply cut, co nobody can really resell it in a brand store. In Galle, we found an amazing restaurant called Crepeology. We paid 4000Rs for two people, including the desert, but the place was superb. I wouldn’t stay in Galle for more than a day, since it seemed little bit boring.

And that’s it. Anybody interested in the accommodation rating from me, check Trip Advisor. Also a good advice. While moving around he coast etc, buses are nice cheap alternatives for everything. But once you go to hill country, getting from one spot to another might take the whole day, so think about renting a tuk-tuk. We got one for 7000Rs (40 euro) for two days and if you think about that, it’s not a lot of money. And you got the freedom of stopping anywhere you want…