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Picton

Why Picton Shouldn’t be Overlooked: How to Spend Two Perfect Days

If you’ve only got 2 days to enjoy Marlborough, there’s no where better to stay than in the beautiful town of Picton. OK the town itself isn’t exactly Paris, but it’s accessible, lively and there is plenty of accommodation to choose from.

Once you make it out of the town, you realize there is far more on offer than just an overnight stay before or after your ferry. Marlborough Sounds itself is stunning, Blenheim is only a short drive away and Picton has some great food and nightlife options.

picton

The popular Queen Charlotte’s Track is also easily accessible from Picton. With so many tour operators in and around the waterfront, bookings and inquiries are only too easy to make.

Here is a short run down on what to do and how to do it. You’ll make the most out of your time in Picton and see way beyond the transit reputation this town has been given.

Day one

Queen Charlotte Track

Pick a section of the Queen Charlotte track to hike. The most popular day walk is Ships Cove to Furneaux. The walk takes approximately 5 hours depending on how fast you walk and how many stops you take.

We had 3 or 4 10/15 minute stops, we left Ships Cove at 10am and arrived to Furneaux for 2:30pm.

Queen Charlotte Track

The beginning of the track from ships cove is fairly steep and tough going but it levels out after around 20 minutes. You’re then able to enjoy incredible views of the sounds from here on in and the track is much more easy going. Once you reach Furneaux Lodge, you can relax by the water with a nice cold beer!

There are other options for walks in and around Picton. However, choosing a section of the Queen Charlotte track, gives you a chance to board a boat and cruise through the sounds which is a highlight. If you’re lucky, you might see dolphins on your way to or from your drop off point too!

Price: $83

Duration: 6/7 hours

 

Day two

Picton Winery

It’d be a crime not to taste some local Marlborough wines when so close to Blenheim. You’ll find yourself lost in a sea of vineyards nestled in the valley as far as the eye can see. Marlborough is well known for producing some of the worlds finest Sauvignon Blanc. The warm summer days and chilly nights make this the perfect climate for producing this wine.

Many wineries ship internationally and have received many prestigious awards dating back to like 1980s. Sounds Connection will pick you up from Picton at no extra cost and take you to a selection of some of the finest wineries in the area.

Picton Winery

Our lovely tour guide Don, included a brilliant selection of wineries. Each boasted a unique history and individual inspiration making each one different from the last.

Depending on how well you like your wine you may find the discussion slightly pretentious or very informative. It’s certainly interesting and you’ll be sure to learn something new.

At the end, Don was kind enough to allow us a visit to a small cheesery and we ended our full day at a chocolate factory.

Price:$99

Duration: 7.5 hours approx

Breakfast & Dinner options

Gustos along the high street make the best coffee in town. Wave Restaurant make a killer Eggs Benny. Oxleys make great pizza and on Thursdays it’s 2 for 1.

For nightlife, Oxleys is open late as is the Irish bar Seamus’. Finally, it may not look like much but Thai Food, on the street parallel to the high street, believe it or not sells great Thai food!

Where to stay

For a friendly backpackers, Sequoia Lodge is perfect. Escape To Picton is best for a beautiful boutique option. If your camping or have your van, Top 10 is always a winner!

Thanks for reading, share if you like!

A Short Guide to Franz Josef Glacier and What to Expect on the Ice

Glacier Franz Josef

 

Glacier Country is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealands south island.  If you’re coming to Franz Josef on the West Coast, you’re probably planning to visit the glacier. And what better way to enjoy this fascinating ice world than to step foot right on the glacier itself via a heli hike.

Well we did it and it was pretty damn cool! Booked with the Franz Josef Glacier Guides, these guys are experienced, safety trained and most importantly, pretty crazy. It’s a unique opportunity to get yourself up close and personal with a glacier without going on an epic mountain trek.

Here we share:

  • All the essentials
  • The schedule
  • What to wear
  • What to bring
  • Our experience

We’ll get to the necessary stuff first:
(info as of 2017)

Glacier Franz Josef

Price

You’ve got 2 options. First is the heli hike which is what we did. This’ll cost you $459pp. Second is the ice climb. This option is a bit more challenging and will cost you $575pp.

For more information about the ice climb head over here, where they’ll provide you with loads of details.

Glacier Franz Josef

Time

Our tour lasted roughly 4 hours. We met at the center at 8:45am and returned around 1:15pm. Once you get there, it takes an hour to check you in, get you briefed and in the helicopter. Most of this time is spent getting all your gear on.

Once your all dressed it’s about a 5/10 minute walk through the bush to where the helipads are.

Glacier Franz Josef

What to wear

They provide you with:

  • Shoes
  • Crampons
  • Trousers
  • Socks
  • A small bag
  • Jacket
  • Gloves if needed
  • A free hat.

They recommend 2-3 warm layers under the coat they provide. I easily get hot and sweaty and found a t shirt and hoodie was way too many layers for me. On a clear sunny day, a long sleeve t shirt should be plenty.

You can take the coat off and, as long as you haven’t got way too many things in your bag,  it will just about fit inside.

Our main piece of advice is, do not wear jeans! Some comfy trousers like leggings or shorts are great. I’m pretty sure they won’t let you wear jeans anyway.

Glacier Franz Josef

What to bring

You will need:

  • Sunglasses
  • Sun cream
  • Water
  • A small snack

You can take a big camera if you want to but it’s best not to take the bag. Use the strap and hang it around your neck. You’ll be wanting to take photos all the time anyway.

There is a cafe in the lobby where you can get water and a snack. Just don’t buy something too big because it’ll need to fit into your bag!

Glacier Franz Josef

Included extras

As well as all the gear, you also get free access to the hot pools after your hike. You don’t have to use them straight away though if you don’t want to. We went back later in the evening after dinner.

The trip

Once you arrive you’ll need to sign the h&s form and get yourself weighed. They’ll give you some information and make sure what you’re wearing is suitable. It’s all pretty standard, just try and pay attention to the crampon demo.  Trust me, when you’re on the ice it’ll be loads easier to get them on.

The helicopter ride was pretty much a highlight for me. I’d never been in one before and you get such an awesome view of the glacier from up there. I was lucky and managed to get a seat in the front with another tiny person. It just depends on the weight distribution for safety reasons.

Somehow the pilot manages to land the thing in some invisible, camouflaged pad, right on the ice… pretty impressive!

Glacier Franz Josef

 

The walk itself gets pretty mundane after a while, probably 2 hours would have been enough for me. There’s plenty of photo opportunities and some great views. The rest is walking, or more like awkward shuffling, in single file with little much else going on. By the third hour, I was a little bored. Perhaps this had something to do with being on a trip with a bunch of honeymooners…  or maybe it’s just a bit crap.

On the plus side, I’m not sure where else you can experience something like this. While the walk may get tedious towards the end, the views are epic and the fact that your on a glacier? That chance probably wont ever come around again.

 

Thanks for reading, share if you like!

G Adventures through South America: Pros and Cons.

G Adventures tours can be seen as the marmite of the travelling community. Some people see them as incredible value for money while others fail to even consider the option. Before you make any decisions, it’s important to understand what your signing up for, or potentially missing out on.

I have traveled freestyle and with an G Adventures organised tour. I want to share the pros and cons of taking a tour from my perspective. Someone who’s actually experienced each. These are all my own opinions from my personal experience.

My tour was through South America, we visited Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

 

Pros

  • It’s Effortless You really don’t have to think about anything. You get taken to where you need to be, told what time to get up, and your transport is always arranged. Completely hassle free.
  • It’s Informative Your guide is a local so they know everything about your destination. You get a unique chance to learn more about the culture as you inevitably befriend your guide over the course of the tour.
  • It’s busy Everyday there are activities whether included or optional.
  • You see more in less time Your itinerary is strict so you can’t miss the bus because your hungover. You move everyday and reach more destinations than you would have if you traveled freestyle. Unless of course you’re incredibly well organised and you can keep to a strict itinerary.
  • There are limited language barriers Because your guide speaks the language, all the common communication issues that occur are taken away. In South America for example, I do not speak Spanish and English was limited. Situations like border crossings were really simple.

Cons

  • Limited free time You have some free time to explore but only what the tour has scheduled for you.
  • Lack of personal involvement This also relates to the first pro. Because you don’t have to worry about getting from A to B, you may not take much notice of where you’re actually going and the distances you’ve crossed. Looking back, I struggle to remember the itinerary.
  • It’s really fast paced This again could be a personal preference, but I found the whole experience to have gone by in a blur. We had an incredible time, but being so busy meant limited time to chill and take it all in.
  • You can’t chose your group I would say mostly this isn’t a problem. I have heard that once, someone was a single in a group with only couples. This could be a bit crappy. My group however, was awesome. We all got along from day one and I couldn’t have asked for better people.

When I eventually do make it back to South America, I will travel freestyle. In no way do I regret this tour, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I just wouldn’t choose one again in South America now that I’ve experienced travelling at my own pace.

At the time, I had never travelled alone and I had never left Europe. Safe to say, when I landed alone in Buenos Aires it was pretty scary! I was very thankful for a tour and a local guide.

It comes down to personal preference, you can always travel freestyle then choose to do a tour for some of the time you have. You’ll still travel alone but you’ll get to see a bit more of a country that otherwise you might not have seen.

Hope this helps! Thanks for reading share if you like!

 

Biking the Worlds Most Dangerous Road: Death Road in Bolivia

Indeed you did read correctly, we’re talking about death road. It’s official name is Yungas Road. It’s a real tourist attraction fairly popular in Bolivia, and if you’re ever in this part of the world, do it!

Back in 2015, me and a mate went on a life changing trip to South America and made our way through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. In Bolivia, one of the activities we signed ourselves up for was mountain biking down the infamous death road. It’s a high altitude gravel road precariously nestled on the very edge of a cliff. Most of the road is single lane and there are barely any barriers to stop cars or bikes from flying straight off the edge.

 

View of Death Road
View of Death Road

We climbed into the van in the early hours of the morning to make our way to the start of the road. At this point, I’m an anxious mess and wondering what the hell am I doing?! I haven’t ridden a bike for years and I’m in a van with professional mountain bikers, on my way to the most dangerous road in the world.

Death road
View from the tarmac road

Thankfully, we weren’t taken straight to Death Road, we were given a few kilometers to cruise on tarmac and get used to our bikes. The views from this road are really impressive and the practice helped to calm some of my anxiety.

Fully equipped with helmets, trousers, jackets and gloves, we were off!

deth road clothes
Us in our gear ready to go!

It immediately becomes apparent why the road has been given its name. The road side is littered with crosses and the day before our ride, someone flew off the cliff trying to take a selfie. So, leave your selfie stick in the hotel! (Or at home. Or, even better, just throw it away).

We each have the freedom to go at our own pace. The guides keep us together with regular pit stops that are no doubt designed to make sure they dont have a death on their hands. I am hardly an experienced mountain biker and my fitness level = Zero. Safe to say, for each rest stop I was the last to meet up with the rest of the group.

Death Road

The views from up here are truly breath taking. The road twists around the mountains though the thick rainforest providing uninterrupted views.

Some parts of the road are really wide and comfortable, you can pick up speed, and its truly exhilarating! Then out of nowhere, it’s 3 meters wide and your speeding into a tight corner you only just noticed and crashing to the floor one meter from the edge. With my heart in my throat, I casually climbed back on my bike and proceeded at a slightly more controlled pace.

Many sections have become damaged due to relentless waterfalls that cascade down the mountains and spill onto the road. This makes for more obstacles for try and avoid, this time in the form of road workers.

The road begins to level out after some time which makes for really hard work! At least it was for me. The road is just loose stones and the odd big rock you have to avoid (or try to). It takes some muscle power which I was seriously lacking. But I made it!

Death Road
Quick stop for a photo by the edge

There’s plenty of stops for photos as it’s strongly discouraged to take them whilst riding, for obvious reasons. The guides ride along side everyone and get snaps in all your sweaty, biking glory. This is awesome, but they ride one handed looking backwards! They haven’t even got their eyes on this road of death!  Crazy.

The last stretch of the road, we veer off and go down a side track that doesn’t follow a sheer cliff drop. Here you can really pick up some speed! It’s quite a worn trail so much easier to navigate not to mention miles safer.

Death road
Hanging off the edge because… why not?

Apart from a couple of hiccups and the odd van to avoid, we didn’t come too close to becoming another Death Road statistic. Ill share some of these stats here:

  • The road reaches an altitude of 4,650 meters at its highest point.
  • To see the edge of the road better when passing other vehicles, people drive on the left unlike the rest of the country.
  • An estimate of 300 people were killed annually before the upgrade in 2006.
  • At least 18 cyclists/tourists have died on the road.

This whole experience was completely insane and filled with adrenalin. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or not, it’s something everyone should experience and totally out of the ordinary.

So,what you waiting for?

 

Thanks for reading, share if you like!

Our First Award!

 

What a week it has been over here at The Carefree Couple HQ (A tiny caravan in the corner of a car park). This week we’ve celebrated our 2 year ‘leaving home’ anniversary, promotions at work and last but not least our first award! Very exciting times indeed.

Thank you so much Jill-Joy Landburg who founded victuals.me blog. It’s an innovative one stop shop for culinary news and a digital version of a magazine based in South America:

“Victuals.me is the digital news version of the Culinary Magazine: Victuals. The magazine is bilingual with recipes from Chefs in Suriname, articles about culinary etiquettes, health, restaurants, food cultures and more.”

Here’s one of their latest posts about a Thai Restaurant that’s a really great read!

Sanuk – Fun Way of Life

We feel your nomination has given us an extra boost to achieve our goals and really made us feel like our endless late nights typing and editing are beginning to pay off!

Click here for ALL details regarding the Liebster Award.

Fun to know:

Liebster translated into Dutch (our native tongue) & Sranan (our street language – the Surinamese Language):

  • Dutch: liefste, mooiste, geliefde, heerlijk, aardig, aangenaam, gewaardeerd, schattig, liefdevol
  • Sranan: Moro moy wan, moro lobi wan, lobiwan, switi , switi maniri, switi, kisi lespeki, nanga furu lobi

 

So, having been nominated, bellow are the list of questions designed for us by Jill-Joy, and our answers!

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world whom would you want as a breakfast/lunch/dinner guest and why? Right now, family and friends without a doubt. I’s been 2 years since we left home and to have a meal with these guys would be like winning the lottery.
  2. Onions or Shallots? Shallots of course! We make our specialty pickled shallots for Christmas presents to family and they go down a treat.
  3. Give a tip for other bloggers or potential blog starters: Don’t wait too long to go live. Once you go live the rest will follow. There’ll always be improvements so don’t wait for it to be perfect.
  4. What is your favorite dish? Good ol’ Full English breakfast.
  5. Which recipe do you think is the most difficult to make and have you tried it? (add a picture) Gravy! It’s always lumpy 🙁
  6. If you can take someone with you in your travels, who would it be? Again, we must refer back to Question 1 and choose Mum’s and Dad’s. To pick just one would be an impossibility.
  7. Give a travel tip for Foodie travelers: Try everything you see! The proof is in the pudding.
  8. What is the best restaurant to visit in your city/country? (one restaurant only) This has to be The Fat Duck. Voted the best restaurant in the WORLD, we really couldn’t pick any other. Regrettably we’ve never eaten there ourselves, one day though!
  9. Do you think fine dining is too expensive? For us budget travelers it is. However, here in New Zealand we found a great website called First Table, pay $10 and get 50% off the entire bill!
  10. Whole Foods or any kind of food? We love our whole foods!
  11. Have you ever visited a restaurant just because you saw it in a book/magazine/online/series/movie? What was that place? We’d read about a secret bar in Thailand and just had to pay it a visit. Accessed only by entering a secret pass code in a fake phone box, the Havana Social is a quirky bar found down a dirty back alley of Bangkok which plays Latin Music… of course!

Who we are nominating:

  1. Jim Jones, writer of travelstoriesandimages. Jim writes a travel blog and has some great articles on Africa and travel tips. He also has great eye for photography.
  2. Patrik Lord founder of lord.se. A photographer and traveler who’s also speaking about minimalism which is awesome 🙂
  3. Megan, the creator of theweewanderlost blog. Having lived in a lot of the featured destinations, Megan gives a unique insight into the the ‘little things, full of big ideas’ and where you can find ‘the everyday magic’.
  4. Fellow couple travelers Kula and Christian who have  created acoupleonabudget. Featuring articles about various destinations, travel tips and great information on conscious travel which is brilliant.
  5. Wonu Johnson from lostndelirious.com. As well as awesome Harry Potter references, the blog is well written and includes some interesting media like a poem and video to match!
  6. Rowena from anomadontheloose. Featuring an emotional article about a personal encounter with a woman from North Korea, along with great photography and interesting destinations.
  7. Josh from cartographyandcloture. Another travelling couple featuring witty travel guides and even better photos.
  8. Shruti from mewanderlost who writes about India and shares thoughtful insights into tourism there. Some great travel advice can be found also, for example, how to travel Bhutan and how to get more from you time in Goa which is similar to our own experience.
  9. Phil & Nathalie from marquestra, another excellent travel blog written from the perspective of a free spirited midlife couple. This blog is packed full of practical  information, stories and itineraries.
  10. Liz from coasterportfolio. Liz writes quality posts about the US with emphasis on the East and West coats. A quote I love from her blog … “The scenic route, although usually longer, is always the better route to take” and has inspired our 7th question.

Here is what to do when you get nominated for a Liebster award.

 

Our questions to you should you chose to accept this award:

  1. If you could only eat 1 cuisine for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
  2. What was the most exhilarating thing you’ve ever done?
  3. Whats your favorite off the beaten path destination?
  4. What inspired you to start blogging?
  5. Whats your favorite book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen so far this year and why?
  6. Name a guilty pleasure.
  7. Would you rather take a First Class flight or the rough scenic route?
  8. Whats your next destination going to be and why?
  9. What advice would you give to starting bloggers?
  10. And finally, tea or coffee?

So congratulations everyone! We can’t wait to read your blog posts 🙂

Thank you so much once again Jill-Joy Landburg for nominating us for this awesome award. We’re truly thrilled!

Good luck everyone and happy blogging 🙂