Walking Tours

Fethiye: Escape to the Old Town

It was a last minute, spur of the moment holiday to Turkey, a bargain package deal so I was expecting to end up somewhere really touristy and just spending my days lazing on the beach and eating lots of delicious local food, which I did do in good measure. But at heart I’m not really that much of a beach lounger and after a day or two I start to fidget and the need to explore takes over. So I headed out from our beach resort near Fethiye, in the well-known tourist region of Dalaman, with the famous resort of Oludeniz just down the road, and took a short ride by dolmus (shared taxi or minibus) to explore the Old Town.

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A great place to relax and watch the world go by sipping a strong turkish coffee or a deliciously fresh juice in a small cafe… Stroll along the harbour, haggle in the markets looking for bargains… Take a slow walk around the old town, with its little cobbled streets, traditional buildings and white-washed mosques.

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And don’t forget to visit the Fish Market (on Tuesdays), you can buy a fish of your choice from the middle of the Market and then get it filleted and cooked to your liking by any of the surrounding cafes. As we visited early in the holiday season in mid June, the locals welcomed us eagerly and I noticed at this time of year the majority of the tourists were Turkish and Lebanese holidaymakers.

A mix of the traditional and the touristy, but that’s fairly normal all over the world nowadays, there are some great finds here.

And a great place to just walk around with my camera, so here it is in pictures…

 

Costa Rica: Pura Vida!

I’ve always been drawn to Costa Rica as it just seems so alive, with so much natural beauty packed into such a small region, I felt there would be so much to see and explore. A vibrant and colourful country of volcanoes, cloud forests and waterfalls! And then there is all the exotic wildlife all around you too, beautiful birds, monkeys, frogs and insects. So when the chance came up though my work,
I just knew I had to go.

I don’t think I can tell you just how beautiful this country is just in words.
So here are some highlights from my time in Costa Rica in pictures…
or 30 reasons why you must go!

If you’d like to read more about Costa Rica, please check out my series of posts on exploring this gorgeous country, video coming soon too!

Costa Rica – Walking in Paradise

I enjoy walking, I’m not a hardcore hiker (not yet!) but just thought it would really be the best way to experience a place like Costa Rica. So I booked myself on to an 8 day walking tour to explore this beautiful country! Here are some of my most memorable and rewarding hikes from my trip, which I hope will inspire anyone who wants to get out there and explore this wonderful country.

“EL Coloso”
Irazu Volcano National Park to the town of Pocayas

Thrown in at the deep end on the first day we were dropped at the summit of the mighty Irazu Volcano or “El Coloso” (The Colossus) the highest active volcano in Costa Rica.  The view of the Central Valley are best earlier in the day, so I would recommend visiting in the morning and hiking down.

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So we hiked 15km down to the town of Pocayas. We left the cool climate of the dusty crater at 3,432m and made our way through the misty, fertile fields that flank the slopes of the volcano.

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I’ve heard the slopes of Irazu often described as a ‘salad bowl’ and they totally are, everything grows here! We passed through fields of onions, cabbages, carrots and potatoes forming beautful patterns in the countryside.

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Our route was windy and steep and although the path was often firm the incline took its toll on my legs, by three-quarters of the way down they were turning to jelly! Fields turned to small villages and then to the relief of my legs the pretty little town of Pocayas!

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We spent a little time exploring the town with its traditional family run stores before a well-earned lunch and a rest for my legs! This is where I had my first Casado, a traditional Costa Rican dish of rice, black beans and fried plantain accompanied by a salad and usually a meat of your choice or fish.

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After a fresh pineapple juice from a local fruit stall, we left the town replenished and headed back to San José.

“Hike to the Emerald Crater”
Cerro Chato Volcano hike in Arenal National Park

The most enjoyable hike for me, was actually the one I found the most challenging. We hiked to the crater on Cerro Chatto (1,140m) which is a dormant sister volcano to the Arenal volcano, its hollow crater is now filled with an emerald lagoon of water.

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We began our hike from the Arenal Observatory Lodge hiking up the western slope through the dense rainforest up to the crater. The hike was muddy and steep at times and I really had to take it at my own pace. I often found I had to use my hands as well as my feet to get a good grip on the slippery and tangled surfaces of the forest.

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Our guides were amazing though and kept me going. When we got to the top, it was quite misty so we couldn’t see the crater very clearly at all, but I was just so happy to have made it to the top! Hiking around the crater was just as challenging but quite fun, as the terrain was soft, muddy and quite swamp-like in places, so one false step and you were ankle deep in mud.

The downhill was just as challenging as the uphill but by then as a group we were in high spirits! It was about a 5 hour hike in total, I was exhausted by the end but felt so proud of myself!

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That evening we treated ourselves and our legs to a well-earned visit to a natural volcanic hot springs, Eco Termales in the nearby town of La Fortuna, the perfect end to an amazing day!

“Walking in Paradise”
Hike to waterfalls in Rincón de la Vieja

I didn’t know quite what to expect this day but was pretty excited when our guides suggested we bring a packed lunch and our swimwear! This was a lovely days hike through lush forests, crossing hanging bridges, babbling streams, encountering some beautiful wildlife, plants and  two different species of monkeys. I had found my hiking legs now, walking with confidence I could enjoy and take in the beauty of my surroundings.

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Our reward today was a beautiful secluded waterfall, where we spent a few hours swimming, relaxing and eating our picnic lunch. This was one of my happiest memories of Costa Rica, it was like our own little paradise, we only encountered four other people during the whole hike and pretty much had the waterfalls to ourselves for a few hours.

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“Las Pailas Trail”
The Mud pots of Rincón de la Vieja

Later the same day, feeling rejuvenated from our swim and picnic, we took a shorter circular hike through “Las Pailas” or mud pots of Rincón de la Vieja, still an active volcano, since it has had some small eruptions around its crater as recently as 2011, its no longer possible. In complete contrast to the morning’s lush rainforest and inviting waters, we were now in a dry, volatile landscape, even the vegetation seemed hostile.

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We found ourselves walking through the volcanic elements. I’ll never forget the steam and sulphur fumes rising up from the ground, the frothing mud pots, the bubbling brown waters and of course the smell! This volcano was alive!

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Costa Rica has so much to offer, that I don’t feel I can cover it all in just one post! It’s bio-diversity and natural beauty make it a wildlife lover and photographers dream, its varied landscapes and climates make it a great hiking and adventure destination too.

So look out for future posts on my adventures in this amazing country!

Pura Vida!

Shoreditch Unseen

Street Art & Street Cred

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I’ve lived most of my life in London and there are some parts I think I know pretty well, yet there are still so many places that I don’t know that much about at all. So if I have free time on a weekend I love to go for a wander with my camera, often trying to find a new part of the city to explore and learn about.

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One weekend a friend of mine suggested we do a walking tour in Shoreditch and I realised that although I’ve been there many times for a bite or meet up with friends I’d never really stopped to look around or explore.

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This was going to be a tour with a difference, as our guide had a unique understanding and experience of the area, which he was going to share with us on the tour.

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So we met Henri outside Old Street Station on a Saturday afternoon, a lively, friendly character and our guide from Unseen Tours – alternative walking tours of London led by people who are or have recently been homeless. Being a guide gives them the opportunity to talk about the areas they know from their own unique perspective, as well as earning some money (they are paid 60% of the cost of the tour).

Henri gave us a brief introduction and history of the local area outside the station, having lived homeless there for a number of years. As we continued he pointed out both historical sites, such as William Blake’s grave in the Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds, or the secret location of a MI5 ‘detention’ centre, along with sites of personal significance to him. Sharing some parts of his own life, his stories and people he had encountered, made the tour so personal, like walking around with an old friend.

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Our tour took us from Old Street through to the streets of the hip and trendy Shoreditch. Once off the main streets Henri guided us through a labyrinth of side streets covered with some wonderful street art.

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This is where Henri was in his element, coming from an artistic background having studied sculpture at Art College himself, he spoke very animatedly about the artworks we were seeing and his own personal memories and encounters with some of the artists that made them.

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The tour was fantastic, I felt Henri gave us a good mix of history, local culture and his personal stories gave us an insight into a side of Shoreditch we wouldn’t normally see. Also the street art was incredible and some of the best I’ve seen in London.

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If you are thinking about doing an Unseen Tour I would definitely say go for it! I think I’ll be back to do the London bridge and Covent Garden tours myself soon!

If you would like to read more about Henri’s story or find out more about Unseen Tours and the great work they are doing visit: sockmobevents.org.uk