Surf Camp Sri Lanka

P1000265

After just a couple of days here we feel well settled in at Villa Alkira, Ahngama. Except for the surfing the days are spent quite lazily at the beach and the pool, doing yoga, playing board games and reading books.

 

In the early evenings we head out to the nearby towns and cities for dinner and a couple of drinks. Yesterday we also went over to a shack at the end of the beach where we were served coconuts and all kinds of Sri Lankan meals, almost like tapas, sharing the plates and letting everyone taste everything.

 

Some day trips are possible as well, such as a visit to a nearby snakefarm, seeing waterfalls and going on safari in Yala National Park. We are just still a bit too jet lagged to do much and the surfing gets us even more tired, so until now we have just managed to stay up until nine, making us fully rested for the surfing sessions in the mornings.

Skiing Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

whistler2

The reason for visiting Canada this weekend was not to see Vancouver, but to visit the Worlds best Ski Town, Whistler and to try out the massive slopes that the mountain has to offer.

 

Instead of staying at the expensive lodges in the valley we stayed in Vancouver and chose to go on day trips with the Snowbus instead. This option gave us the chance of skiing from the lifts opened in the morning (at 8am) until we were tired (at 3-4pm), just to get a couple of afterskiing until the bus left (at 4.45pm) and then a couple of hours sleep on the bus before arriving Vancouver at 7pm.

 

The prices were a bit steep at around 200USD per day including ride, gear and lift ticket but were a cheap price to pay considering that we had gotten free flights and accommodation for the trip.

 

The slopes were pretty much what I had expected, being huge but not much more than the ones you can find in the Austrian and French Alps. They say that once every four years there is a season with little snow, and even though we had come early in February there was not much snow left- with warm temperatures as if it was during easter times in April. The afterskiing was good though, with big burgers and lots of local beer to chose from.

 

Whistler Blackcomb has a great reputation and I wish that it would be something far out of the ordinary, but I must say I am a little disappointed. Next time I decide to take a long weekend off to go skiing I think it will be somewhere more close, like the Alps or the many ski resorts in Norway and Sweeden as the grass was not that much greener on the other side as I had hoped it to be. It was still a heck of a trip though!

 

 

whistler

whistler3

One of the massive jumps at one of the Nintendo Fun Parks

 

Ulan Bataar, the Worlds Coldest Capital

Arriving in the Worlds coldest capital at 5 o’clock in the morning, we had plenty of time to check out what the city had to offer on our first day there.

First off was a walk through the city center, which probably took us around half an hour, as the city (even though it has around 1,5 million inhabitants) seemed pretty small for such a big country. The citys main square, even though really small fitted skyscrapers, fashonable clothing stores, government buildings and statues (of a fat sitting Genghis Khan and others) with cars driving right next on the streets. It must have required some great city planning, which should have gathered more tourists there, but there were actually noone but us around! That, together with the Mongolians being the most friendly people I have ever met has given us a impression of Mongolia as a genuinely awesome country.

Our local honcho also rented us a minivan to see a kashmere factory, the famous city viewpoint and the so called “black market”/ local market where we were told that prices would be much cheaper that what we would find in China, as the Chinese will at all times try to rip you of, whereas you in Mongolia always will be given standard price, that also the locals would pay.

After having spent some days on the countryside we also got to spend out last day in Mongolia in its capital city, where we went straight to the ski resort, located between ten to fifteen minutes outside the city center. Prices were even cheaper than in Russia, with skipass, skirental, locker and taxi to and from the ski resort costing around 100 Norwegian Krones. We were pretty much the only ones there, and with the sunny weather it was a quality experience that I would reccomend anyone going to the Mongolian capital. The evening was spent watching a show with traditional dancing, contortionist performance and throatsinging and then going out for karaoke and disco the last night before leaving Mongolia to travel through the Gobi desert and into China.

 

Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

We arrived Irkutsk early in the morning and our local guide was already waiting for us at the station. Like every other city in Russia, you have to complete a registration when you arrive to confirm that your itinerary fits the one on your visa invitation. Once we had that done we jumped on a bus that would take us to Listvyanka, a small village right at Lake Baikal where we would spend the next three days.

Listvyanka was a really small village, being the total oposite of or previous city Moscow. The contrast being the much cheaper prices, more laid back life and the stunning nature opposed to the hectic city life of the capital.

As we arrived really early on the first day, we had enough time to walk around the lake and get familiar with the town in the morning and around noon we were already off to go dogsledding. Without getting much explanation of how everything worked, we were told to stand at the back controling the sleigh, while the guide jumped into the sled shouting “ruski huski” meaning “go dog”! Some of hills were quite steep and some of the curves sharp, so it was really important to hold on as hard as you could and push the handle to the side that you wanted the sled to go. It was a must do winter experience, that comes highly reccomended if you ever have the chance.

In the evening before dinner we also got to try a traditional Russian “Banja”, which was quite a cultural experience. A Banja is a Russian sauna, consisting of several phases, repeated as many times as you can handle:
– First step was heating up the sauna to around 80 degrees, and then staying in for around 7 minutes.
– Step two was going outside in the cold for one minute, running or rolling around in the snow.
– Third phase was sitting in a average inside/room tempered room, drinking herbal tea for around five minutes while the snow was turning to water.
– The fourth and last step was standing up, letting a grow up Russian male hit you with branches, which supposedly did wonders for the blood circulation

Doing it with someone we had never met before was a bit strange, and it all felt like a test where we got to see who was the most manly, depending on how much snow you could gather on your body the minute you were outside and how much heat whipping you could take in the sauna. A great chance for us Norwegians to score some credential points. Even how strange it was, it also felt great afterwards, feeling like our bodies had turned into jelly.

The second day was all about skiing in the day and afterskiing in the evening. Something I had never thought of before getting here, and at a price lower than I had imagined possible (500rubles/75kr for a daypass). The slopes were small, and the temperature was cold (around 25 celcius degrees below), but there was a great funpark and the view from the top was just spectacular, reaching past the lake and over to the mountains on the other side.

The last day was just spent walking on the icy lake, some taking photos, others riding snow scooters and hovercrafts, before we catched an afternoon bus to Irkutsk and the 11 o’clock train to Ulan Bataar. The city of Irkutsk was nothing special, feeling a bit more and hectic, dirty and polluted compared to the calm and quiet Lake Baikal on the country side. The departure time was perfect for some reading on the bed before once again going to sleep on the Trans Mongolian Railway.

 

 

 

 

Day Trips from Cape Town

P1010716_Snapseed
There are several day trips I would recommend from Cape Town, and with car rental in South Africa being both cheap and easy, there are many possibilities for exploring the surroundings of the city. The hardest part is usually getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, but after the first few kilometers this usually isn’t a problem. If driving sounds scary, there is always also the option of taking the train/Metrorail or just jumping on one of the many share cabs/minivans which are used instead of local buses.
2232982337904531986
P1010612
If you want to go to relax at the beach and are tired of touristy Camps Bay, or just want to catch some good waves for surfing, then Muizenberg is a good place to go. It can be reached in about a half an hour by car from Cape Town, or a bit less than an hour if you want to go by Metrorail/train. Here it is also possible to rent surf gear, plus you can buy some cheap and good ice cream by the beach. This is also where you can see the famous colorful beach houses.

P1010591

P1010545

If you are interested in hiking, Cape Town also offers some excellent trips that can be done in less than a day. Then I would recommend starting with Lions Head (easy/just a couple of hours), then go up table mountain and take the cable car or rappel down (medium/almost full day) or cross all the Twelve Apostles (hard/several days). You should be able to see all the way to Robben Island from all of these places and get a great view of Cape Town. 

P1020263

2548431124400702607

Stellenbosch and Belleville are also places I would recommend as day trips by car or train, but as these places are known for good dining and wine tasting, it might be smart to take the train. It is then important to bear in mind that traveling by train at night is not advisable, so if you are planning on returning late it might be better to spend the night or order a taxi for the way back to taxi. We had to chose the latter when going back from Belleville, and the taxi bill grew pretty large compared to the few rands we had spent on going there by train! 

But the ultimate daytrip from Cape Town is to go south to Cape Point visiting places as Fish Hoek and Simons Town/ Boulder Beach along the way. I’ll write an own post about this coming up in  a few days..

P1010450