"We travel not to escape our life, but to stop life from escaping us"
I recently return for a trip and realized there were a few apps that I tend to use while away. So I though is would share them and why they were useful!
Kayak - This is good for on the go planning the night before. We can look up flight times and price and narrow the search to one company to fly with. You can also use it for hotels.
Mymaps - This app lets out download a route and add way points so you can use it off line. This i great obviously for getting around but also for making sure you aren't getting rolled around by a dodgy taxi driver.
TripAdvisor - Great for looking up things to see in unplanned stop overs. Also very good for avoiding really bad accommodation or places to eat. I like it because it's review by travellers for traveller so in general it's pretty legitimate.
Rome2Rio - This app let you put in two destinations and find you the different option and rough prices for each type of travel between them. its good for quick looking up a planning when you're winging it.
AirBNB - This app is great for finding unique accomodation. It easy to use and book just make sure you register for an account before you leave on your trip. It make life much easier.
The alarm goes off and we stretch out of bed and get dressed. Heading up to the dinning area for a snack and tea before our morning hike. The girls are still sleepy but as we load into the jeep as the sun rises they both become more alert and eagerly wait for us to start.
Our driver shows us around the area driving two and fro to pointing out macaques leaping and bounding and spotted owls sat quietly on branches.
We weave our way through the landscape and slow climb towards and small flattened out area. From here you can just see the top of the temple peeking over the hillcrest as we stop and unload from the jeep.
We all start to hike uptowards the summit, Lucy under her own steam and Tilley with some help. Stepping and hopping over rocks in no time we reach the top. Looking around we decided to sit and have a snack while we all enjoying the amazing view.
On the other side of the small plateau stands a beautifully colourful temple. Snacks finished we slowly head over, remove our shoes and are greeted by a 'priest' who lets us look inside and around.
The temple is adorned with colourful painted sculpture of Hindu gods and the smell of freshly burning incense fills the area.
We end our visit with a 'Namaste' from Lucy and head back down the rocky stair way on the other side of the temple. Down to our awaiting jeep and lunch!
Full and ready to go we hop into the jeep and head out forgot for a ride around the Bandipur Tiger Reserve to spot some wild life on our and if we are really luck a tiger. Our driver turns off the main roads and follows the dusty dirt track, slowly scanning for wildlife with the girls and I on the lookout too.
First a peacock (India national bird), then a wild boar and a bison. Down the road a kilometre he pulls up and points out elephants, one mum and one baby. Lucy and Tilley are ecstatic and move to get a better view. We drive on and loop around the reserve passing different types of deer and even a small bear.
As we see that gates and the road up ahead it's a sign that there won't be any tiger spotting a today. Lucy tells me the tigers are probably sleeping because it's to hot, and that's a good enough reason for me. With all the views and wildlife we saw it was still an amazing adventure!
We scoot along the platform looking for the station masters office as the light from sunrise peeks across the platform in mettupalayam station. Handing him our ticket its confirmed we have no reserved seats, so into the unreserved line we go and wait to be huddled into our train carriage.
We had intended to book our tickets ahead of time but lack of a stable wifi connection had made that almost impossible. So now we hit and hope with unreserved and get into the Nilgiri Mountain Train Railway (called the toy train due to the cog system used during the assent up the mountain). I place my bag on the scale as a man adds weight to see how heavy it is. Then go into the parcel office to get the bag onto the train as our seats are to tight to have it with us. Bag tagged and taken, I head back to our carriage.
The train creeks and shunts into life and we start to move. Houses give way to amazing vibrant greenery. Which in turn gives ways to long deep valleys dotted with tea, waterfalls and the odd dwelling. Slowly but steadily our train picks its way up the mountain side over bridges and through tunnels. The carriage is packed, with every seat taken and a few people standing. At every turn of the track people lean towards the windows to snap a picture or just admire the view.
We stop at stations and take 5-10 minute to stretch legs, buy snacks and look at the views. Some station are overlooking rivers, others full of monkeys and even one station seeming to balance on the edge of the valley side as it drops away behind. The train whistle sounds and everyone loads back onto the train, snacks and cameras in hand.
Mettupalayam to Coonoor offers us amazing scenic landscape then changing gears and heading to Ooty we pass through towns and villages stopping only quickly for people to hustle off the train. After a while the train eases into the station and we pour out and down to the parcel carriage to collect our bag. Lucy waves goodbye to the train driver and we pick our way through the crowd and into the station. What a fun experience and a beautiful ride.
'Sploosh' the front and rear punters plop their bamboo poles into the water and we push away from the bank. The river is quiet and the as we glide past lush green banks of palm and mangrove and past clam shell fisherman. We are on our back water tour, but we aren't in Alleppey we're in Vaikom. Around 30km south of Cochin and 30km north of Alleppey lies Vaikom. Vaikom offers the same backwater experience but without the crowds. As we glide away from the
As we glide away from the bank our guide introduces herself and talks to us about the area and the history of the 250 year old man made canals we are traveling on. We drift between the banks which are dotted with house and the odd tributary stretching into the undergrowth. After a while the canal opens up to reveal lake Vembanadu, the largest lake in Kerala. Across the water we can see boat moving in and out of Alleppey and in the distance a ferry crossing the waters. Our boat eases right and hugs the bank of the government backwater area and before to long we are slowly pulling up at the village of Chempu.
Our guide walks us around the village and explains how they make rope for soaked and dried coconut husks. We stroll through the spice plants and back towards the water where we sit in a small open sided building to have lunch. Served on a banana leaf the traditional south India lunch is going to go down a treat. We all tuck into to the meal and sit back after full and happy.
Back on the boat and we make our way through the tightest canals yet. A brush against a mangrove on one side, then slide against a palm filled bank on the other and we are back out into the main canal. Pulling back up at the bank we thank our tour guide and the hard working punters and head back to the road to jump in our van back. So, if you are going to Alleppey to name drop it as a destination the keep on going but if you want a peaceful, uncrowded and authentic backwater experience then maybe check out Vaikom, you won't be disappointed.
We pull on our jackets and hats and lace up our shoes. Stepping out of the hotel the air is cool but comfortable. We take a left and head down the round the the start of the tunnel mountain trail. Tilley is in the front carrier and Lucy is scooting along beside me. We had talked about hiking the tunnel mountain trail the night before and Lucy was adamant that she didn't need any help to get to the top. So as mum sat down to enjoy on of the programs at the film festival we took the first steps up the tunnel mountain trail hear.
The trail loops back and forward with flat, steeper, stoney and muddy sections. For the first hour Lucy runs ahead and waits for me to catch up. Then zooms ahead again. Slowly though and inevitably she starts to tire. two thirds up the trial and we stop for a rest. Lucy sits on her log snacking on a cliff bar she had stashed in her jacket pocket and we all have a sip of water. I can tell she wants to go walk down but after a little coaxing she decides that she can make it the rest of the way. We steadily make our way up the last third of the trail. Lucy now determined to get there without being carrier. She scurries over the last section of rocky trail and I find her sitting in a big red muskoka chair looking very pleased with herself.
We head up the last few meters of trail and Lucy finds another log to sit on and produces a second cliff bar. This kid has got it figured out. We eat our snack and enjoy the view and I give her a huge hug. This is the first hike she has done completely under her own steam and i can tell she is tired and it wasn't easy. she hug me back and I tell her how amaing she has done and prund I am of her. As we start to make our way down Lucy pipes up 'I think we should go down and get have ice cream tonight, is that a good plan'. 'Yes', I reply 'I think that's a great plan'.
The alarm goes off and we roll out of bed early in the morning as the sun is still rising. Loading our 2 sleepy girls into carriers and romping out to the trail head grabbing some snacks from breakfast on the way past. Today we have a goal! Head up to Pulpit rock before the crowds get there to and enjoy some snacks and peaceful scenery with Lucy and Tilley.
Sheena and I are both fans of active holidays and more often than not come back more tired than we left from a trip. So being in Norway with the chance, and time to hike up to pulpit rock it was a no brainer. Tilley riding in the front carrier with Sheena and Lucy in the back carrier with me. W have learnt from other hikes that whatever your plan be flexible when hiking with toddlers. Lucy has spurts where she want to walk (or usually climb) section. Tilley just as spurts and need her nappie changed. Whether its one or the other it slows down progress but in doing so i've realized that it also adds to experience. Watching Lucy scale a section of rocky steps and see how proud she is when she get to the top. I wouldn't give that up to be 30 minutes earlier.
So on a beautiful sunny Norwegian day we meander our way up the trail to pulpit rock, stopping for nappies and snacks. The hike is fairly easy a couple hours and we are rounding the corner and opening up to a beautiful vista. You can see all the way down each side to the valley and pulpit rock juts out, as a prominent, and amazing as all the pictures we had seen in our research before we left. Lucy being the daredevil fearless and most 2 year old's instantly wants to run over to the edge and look over. We set down our carriers near the back wall and walk over to the edge then lay in out tummies and wriggle so our head lean over and we can see all the way down (The tummy scoot is the technique we practice for everything that she could fall into or over. It serves me well at heights and the edge of water and I haven't lost her yet). We all take our obligatory pictures and then sit down away from the edge and watch the three or four other people do the same.
We spend an hour of so exploring the area and as more people arrive and it starts to fill up with tour groups, we are beginning our way back down. We turn the corner and Lucy make the observation that that was very high followed by the sentence ' that was beautiful daddy'. There it is, why I love taking my daughter to places like this and let them experience new places. As we hike down Tilley falls limp in Sheena's carrier and not long after Lucy head butts me in the back of the neck. Two girls completely exhausted after a day of awesome exploration.
I love going on grand adventures to far off places. Spending months planning and researching then setting off on a plane for new horizons. However after a lot of traveling I've realized that I get just as much joy and pleasure out of adventures closer to home. These mini adventures can be easy to organize, packed full of great fun and for us are a great way of breaking up the routine and exploring where we live.
Some of our mini adventure take us to other parts of Canada. A 2 day tour of breweries in Saskachwen, a long weekend at the Banff mountain film festival or canoeing in Kenora. In some cases it only take us a few hours from home. Stand up paddle boarding at Grand Beach, camping in Minedosa or Fat tire biking in riding mountain national park. Even just around the corner there are mini adventures to be taken hold of. Cross country skiing, mountain biking around the trails, geocaching pretty much anywhere or kayaking on the lake.
The more of these small adventure we weave into our family life, the more I see that maybe, yes, the big trips are amazing, but these mini bouts of exploration as a family might just create more memories and gift us more quality together. So, my suggestion. Try to plan your mini adventure asap. An afternoon hiking in a forest, a night camping under the stars or an hour bike ride in a neighborhood you have never been to. No matter where you go or what you do, there is a little adventure everywhere just waiting for you to find it.
As we slowly pull up to the curb, both girls napping in the back, Sheena and I breath a sign of relief, we're here. I head inside to check in with Kelly, the happy bartender/receptionist. We then headed through the lodge style lobby/cafe out under the rows of hanging light to our room.
After working most of the day, the 3 hour drive from our house to Clear Lake, in Riding Mountain National Park seemed long but was a good chance to decompress a little. We had decided to take an overnight adventure for some fat tire biking and possibly cross country skiing! But for this evening we wandered into the lake house ready for a glass wine and a relaxing dip in the hot tub.
As we opened the door to the room we are greeted with a happy mix of modern and rustic. Ikea furniture mixed in with barn wood bed surrounds and accent wall. A simple kitchen, perfect to give us a place to make some soup and s'mores later and store a few snacks and beverages. Two comfy queen beds sit on the left with a large TV mounted on the wall across. Lucy instantly darts in to explore the bathroom and is thrilled to find some lipstick (actually lip chap but its all the same to her) sitting next to the handmade lavender soap beside the sink. She obviously tries it out immediately and after which we all, jump into our swim costumes and headed down to the hot tub. What a great way to start our little overnighter.
Next morning we're up at the crack of 9 and down for breakfast at 9:30. Lucy and Tilley chomped their way through fresh raspberries and strawberries, toast and muffins. Then wash it down with some orange juice. After a morning walk along the lake front to kick a ball around the skating rink on the lake, we are off to rent fat tire bikes from the Friends of Riding Mountain Learning Center. Forms filled out and waivers signed we get fitted for our bikes and with Tilly and Lucy riding high in their carry back packs we set off for the south lake trail.
As a side note. Although using a child carrier while biking its not the most efficient way to ride, it is, for us, the easiest way to know that we can for sure bike if we are renting. Usually its 50/50 if the rental shop has kids seats and the carriers have been our savior more than once. Just make sure you have a little practice at home before you go off-roading, it does change up your balance a little.
We peddle beside the cross country ski trail, up and down, through the trees. Lucy lets out excited laughs at the speedy down hills and Tilley is singing away in mumble and shouts like only a one and half year old can. The fresh winter air sweeps past all our faces giving us rosey pink cheeks but no-one is complaining. The riding is fairly easy, meandering left and right, up and down in a relaxed fashion. We stop every so often to snap a picture or to change up the leader until we pop out of the trail. Sheena and I warm from the ride, and both girls asleep from the morning walk and the fresh air.
Late check outs are a god send every time we get them. Today was no different. We had asked to check out at 1 instead of 11 and after riding on a cool winter day, the chance to change cloths and make a warm bowl of soup was amazing. With 1 o'clock around the corner we grab our gear, load into the car and head home. But not before stopping in at the Lake house ice cream shop for a sweet treat and delicious coffee for the drive home. What a great little adventure!
Slowly we make our way up to the counter, tickets scanned, passports checked and off down the gangway to the awaiting plane. There are already people shuffling their bags into the overhead compartments and as we make our way into the back of the plane we see the all to familiar look from surrounding seats 'They have kids, this is going to be the longest flight ever'. I'm sure if you have flown this has been a reality for you as a parent.
To be honest we are very lucky, our kids have traveled by planes, trains, and automobiles from a very young age and now they take it like champs. However we do have a few good techniques for making especially long haul plane journeys more smooth sailing.
- Our first angle of attack is to always try and fly on an overnight. This at least gives us the best chance of have some solid sleep for us, and both the girls during the flight. It also eats up the miles/ hours.
- Next we make sure we have some kids shows and movies downloaded to our IPad. This has saved me more than once on long haul flights. There is nothing like Curious George to quell a rebellion brewing in the center seat.
- We ask for extra blankets. Our oldest daughter is 3 and gets fidgety after a few hour in the seat. Now we ask for a couple of extra blankets and when she start wanting to stretch out she will make a blanket bed on the plane floor by our feet, stretch out and lay down. Yes, we get some funny looks but it seems to work and after about 20 minutes she is back up in her seat happy again.
- Noodle pots and squeeze snacks are a must. Although most airlines now serve food on long haul flights our kids eat constantly. We keep a few noodle pots and some fruit squeeze pouches in our carry on bag as well as a water bottle. The flight attendant will happily put hot water in the noodles and both snacks create little chance for mess.
- Coloring books or plain paper with a couple of pencils is another great go to. They are compact and can be a nice change up for our kids when they are tired of watch the iPad.
- Exploring the cabin is one of Lucy's pass times while flying. We will stroll up to the front and chat to the attendants then to the back to see where all the food is stored. Its a good chance to stretch legs and let our girls feel like they aren't trapped in their seats.
Lastly the biggest thing we have found about long haul flights is, in the words of Lucy's favorite Disney character, to just 'let it go'. So some guy cuts in front of you during boarding, who cares. You plug your head phones in and only one ear is working, whatever. Your flight is delayed by an hour, no problem. Just let it go. If you are stressed and anxious your kids will know and that will make them the same, which in turn will set the foundation for flight anguish. Take it in your stride, after all you're on holiday!