Category: Travel (page 2 of 2)

Fort de la Redoute, La Rosiere looking towards Italy http://flic.kr/p/9ig4Ek

The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

The Perhentian Islands (Pulau Perhentian) consist of a larger (Besar) and smaller (Kecil) island. The smaller is more populated, it is the site of the Perhentian Village where many of the locals live and also is the island where most of the backpacking crew prefer – especially Long Beach which is about the only place you can find a beach party.

Quiet life

We stayed on Perhentian Besar since Jane and I were looking for a quiet escape from work rather than a miniature Full Moon Party. We chose Tuna Bay Resort, one of the only ones which seemed to have decent service when I tried calling numerous operations from England. Most of them asked me for an email address to sound all hi-tech and then didn’t bother emailing me. Others such as the highly rated (but Aussie run) Petani Beach resort were full for months ahead of our 1-week ahead last minute trip.

Unspoilt beauty, not really

On arrival it struck me that this is not really what I would call unspoilt beauty, not when I compare it to the South Seas. It is however exceedingly beautiful and offers a good level of comfort to pamper Western needs – all for a premium of Ringits though. These islands are not cheap at all, a beer is £2, fish is “market price” which should read as “white man saw you coming price”.

Tuna Bay seems very popular with The Dutch, couples and families came in their droves and kept the bar and beach beds lively round the clock. Although Tuna is in a prime location on the main beach of Besar, if you take a walk left out of the resort (heading north) to the tip of the island at Shark Point, there is a much nicer beach which you can usually have to yourself. The sunsets here are the best and there is a charming cafe which serves good Tom Yam noodles.

It is also possible to buy a camping permit (10RM/night; £2) and there are washing facilities provided – just no aircon and fan! It would be an incredibly beautiful place to camp. Shark point is so-called due to the abundance of black tipped reef shark in the turquoise ocean. We also saw huge stingray by the rocks.

Kota Bharu

Right now we are in Kota Bharu, Jane describes it as the Derby of Malaysia meaning it’s an average-Joe town. Not offensive, not impressive. Actually, Jane finds the number of rats on the streets and open festering sewers quite offensive, I quite like it.

It’s a real developing world town, people can be watched going about their funny business all day. Selling plantains on the market, ferrying water around in dirty plastic containers on a Honda moped with DIY sidecar. I like it, but only for a day or so.

Next step, the much hyped Penang. That is, via KL – the transport is dreadful in this country, nowhere is interlinked apart from by bad roads.

Rosedale Abbey to Lastingham route

P1000488

An 11-mile round-trip taking in some of the wildest and most remote scenery that the North Yorkshire Moors has to offer. Rosedale Abbey is the start and end point, and there are some charming pubs and tea shops to recuperate in at the end of this route. However, don’t expect to find the abbey anywhere as it has long since been plundered to build most of the charming cottages and homes which make up the contemporary village.

Download this route: GPX (compatible with GPS devices, iPhone and Google Earth)

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Chamonix, a short January trip

Hotel Excelsior

Hotel Excelsior, Les Tines

We stayed at Hotel Excelsior in Les Tines just up the valley from Chamonix and Les Praz. I spotted this charming hotel for it’s good value (€70 / night) and good reports on Tripadvisor. Some people on there complained about its location, but they’re amateurs because it has a fantastic location with both a railway station and a bus stop at the end of the road.

The only thing that annoyed me about this place was the fact that they had a very small ski shed and the Japanese Ski Team were staying there too and seemed to monopolise the place, not even moving aside to allow the other guests in. They just kept waxing and sharpening their edges as we tried to squeeze in to replace our kit.

The Mont Blanc Express Train

Mont Blanc Express arriving at Les Tines from Argentiere

A superb way of getting up and down the valley, hugely underrated and overlooked by most holidaymakers (another bonus!). It stops at all of the major ski stations… what about Le Tour I hear you cry? Well, if you take the little train to Vallorcine you have a very quiet gondola ride to the Tete de Balme which is the best part of Le Tour anyway. Keep going and you can get to Martigny. Go the other way and you can get down to Les Houches and St Gervais. Most versatile.

Skiing

Some heavy snow fell again in Chamonix giving excellent conditions but poor visibility. Jane and I enjoyed some piste and forest runs around Grands Montets on the first day. It was a Thursday so the lifts were good and quiet, we ate a good ski lunch in the Plan Joran restaurant, a highly recommended self-service.

On friday I took a guide, Xavier Vimal from the Compagnie des Guides in Argentiere. We skied the Argentiere Glacier along the classic left flank route, rejoining the Point de Vue piste just above the Lognan Refuge. The snow was in fine condition but the visibility was dreadful.

Xavier Vimal, my guide

Next, we tackled the Combe de la Pendant, from the top of the Bochard accessing it from the Chamois piste’s uppermost section. The Combe contained deep choppy snow and was enjoyable. We continued down the Combe until it reached a plateau at the tree line and then took a difficult forest descent through the Foret du Lavancher. Real combat skiing through the varosses before joining the Grand Balcon Nord trail down into Le Lavancher itself. It’s a pretty little village with some very old and authentic chalets, it’s also rather unspoilt compared to some of the other villages in this valley.

Another excellent short trip… Some more pictures

Chamonix, a cold start to the season

Jane and I headed out to Chamonix to celebrate my 30th birthday last week. I love visiting The Chamonix Valley before it all opens in December, and it has become something of a tradition in recent years.

This year the whole of Europe was blanketed in deep snow and Chamonix was experiencing perishingly cold conditions reaching -26 at the top of the Grands Montets.

Grands Montets, Tabé / Plan Joran couloirs

The first day we skied at Grands Montets in near white out conditions but to constant hard falling snow which laid thick under foot. By the time we had done a run and taken a lift back up the tracks had been covered and new powder had set down. The snow was typical for very cold conditions in that it could not be melded together into pack and was very powdery. I didn’t really have the right wax on my skis for these conditions (cold wax advised) and experienced some sticking under the skis particularly when trying to skate on flatter sections.

Some excellent fresh tracks were had in the little couloirs in this sector, these are ideal for this sort of day when the conditions are too severe to head further off the beaten track as you always have the security of bailing out onto Plan Joran or following the Tabé chairlft.

Brevent / Flégère opening day

Usually the opening day is very popular and the slopes are busy, but this year access to Chamonix was limited by the severe snowstorms across Europe, particularly hitting France and obviously preventing people from travelling since the slopes were totally empty.

Brevent

Unusually we were still hitting fresh tracks at 12:00, there was some wonderful deep fluffy powder skiing. I had a little misadventure in the Cornu sector when I lost a ski in deep snow on a 50 degree slope and fell quite a distance. The climb back up to retrieve my kit was pretty hairy.

The site of my misadventure

Brevent, climbing Brevent

We enjoyed a nice meal with Simone and Wendy from Alpybus in Le Sarpé in Bois (nr Les Praz) which is a lovely traditional little wooden mountain restaurant. It is always reassuringly full of locals with Génepy on free pour.

Le Tour / Domaine de Balme

For our final day of skiing we headed up the valley to Le Tour, I had the intention of skiing off the back of the Col de Balme down to Vallorcine to take Jane for lunch in the nice little restaurant in the train station, however there were aggressive winds damaging the snow so I opted against it, for the better.

Delicious Tartiflette Restaurant Belle Alpage

Instead we found this charming little restaurant where I had the best Tartiflette I’ve ever had, I think it was called Belle Alpage… it was on the skier’s left of the Aiguillette piste. There was also some excellent fresh snow to be found to the ascenders left of the Aiguillette drag lift (see short video).

Stuck in Geneva

We joked about not being able to get home whilst skiing, but this in fact came true. During our descent to Geneva there were heavy snowstorms laying on the roads faster than they could be cleared and Swiss sent me an SMS informing us that the flight was cancelled so we spent the night in Geneva with Simone and Wendy and had a nice pizza.

The next day we arrived at the airport at about 0915 and Swiss put us on the next flight only 45 mins later, great service.

Hintertux Glacier, Austria – early snow

Last week Jamie, Alistair and myself decided to head over to Austria for the early snow on the Hintertux Glacier in Zillertal, Austria.

We flew with Lufthansa to Munich at an insanely early hour on Thursday morning so that we could drive down to Austria and get at least a few hours of skiing on the first day. I drove so I was very tired when we finally reached 3250m at the top of Hintertux, but that wave of tiredness soon gave way to exhiliration. It was a beautiful blue sky day

We stayed in the charming Bruekenhof gasthaus in Finkenberg, down the valley. This is a lovely place run by a charming Austrian lady and her family, and very cheap at €90pp for 3 nights. Recommended. The ski bus leaves from right outside.

It snowed heavily for 24hrs straight on our second day, giving white out conditions and very hard skiing. The powder was almost sticky under the ski, I don’t think I had the right wax on to cope with the -10 conditions.

Thankfully our third day of skiing was another blue sky special, with the added bonus of all of the snowfall from the previous 24hrs.

Apres ski in Hohenhaus Tenne wasn’t half bad either, you simply cannot beat Austria for actually feeling like you are amongst the mountains.

Photo Slideshow

Jamie posted some on flickr too