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Planning my first month long trip

I wanted to do something special for my 30th birthday. I thought of a birthday party, but I’m not really a party person. I’ve only had 2 birthday parties, at 18 and 21.

My 21st birthday was a success, lots of people, food and gifts. But the challenge was I couldn’t attend to everyone, let alone eat.

So this time around, I just wanted to be happy, call it selfish lol.

I thought about it, long and hard and finally I decided that it has to be a trip. A very special one. I thought of going to the best travel destination, but that doesn’t exists.

Then I visited my list of all the countries I’d like to visit, thinking that I’d just pick one. But that seemed impossible. And again I had a fear that I might get bored.

To be honest, I was very nervous having to plan a trip for 30 days. My biggest concern was the budget, will I have enough money?  and how much is enough money?

Well I did have enough leave days, so minus one problem.

The first attempt was a trip around the world, meaning visiting one country in each continent. Flights to move from one continent to the other were very expensive. First attempt FAILED .

Then I visited the Contiki  website and thought of taking one of their tours, but none of them suited me because they cover Euripean cities I’ve covered before. So then I decided to create my own Contiki tour. One thing I learnt from the Contiki tours in Europe is they just travel to neighboring countries and in most cases just the capital city. So my Contiki tour was gonna be different because Petra in Jordan was top of my list. And that meant that I’ll have to travel to 2 continents.

The  countries I decided on were Jordan, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. Four countries in 30 days sounded like a good plan.

 

So where do I start?

It made perfect sense for me to fly from Jo’burg to Jordan then Greece, then Switzerland and then Spain. It flows perfectly in an anti clock wise direction. But the flight to Jordan was very expensive. So I was back to square one again.

I’m naturally that person that won’t give up. I knew that there’s a way, I just have to find it.

Then I came up with a new strategy, to find the cheapest flight from Jordan to anywhere in the world, I have 30 days to myself so I’ll just make sure I find a way back home within time. It was at that very moment that doors began to open because my new approach was flexible.

I used Skyscanner and found that the cheapest flight to Jordan is from Athens. And the cheapest flight out of Jordan was going to Milan. Jordan was officially confirmed as part of the trip and 2 cities were added.

But the flight to Jordan wasn’t a direct flight, it had a connection in Cairo. So 3 cities were confirmed. I decided to add 4 nights in Cairo just to catchup with some  Egyptian friends.

My cheapest option from Jo’burg was to Munich with South African Airways. From there, take a flight to Thessaloniki in Greece. Greece was no stress at all because everything is cheap there. I managed to cover 3 cities, Thessaloniki, Kalambaka and Athens. I also could afford a return flight for a day visit to the romantic Greek island called Santorini.

 

The next biggest challenge was Switzerland, mainly because it’s expensive. I googled “how to visit Switzerland on a budget ” but all those sources kept on saying you can’t do it on a budget. The most expensive thing is Switzerland is transportation. I decided to purchase the Swiss travel pass  for 3 days which gives you unlimited access to use any mode of public transport from ferries, to cable cars, buses and trains included. And also bought the Jungfrau train ticket which takes you to the highest peak in Europe. Paid R5500 for both tickets, that’s REALLY expensive. I booked accommodation in Stechelberg for 3 nights and booked 2 nights in Geneva, a destination inspired by Paulo Coelho’s book “Adultery”.

From Gevena I found a really cheap flight with Vueling to Barcelona and this time I had 1 wishlist, to watch the Barcelona FC match.

All this took 5 months, daily watching flight prices and waiting for them to drop. It was stressful at times but worth it.

 

 

 

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

This was just one of those random trips one decides to take on the 11th hour. My friend whom I call the main chick always complains that I don’t spend time with her. That’s mainly due to my crazy work shifts. And on my off weekend, where most people are out and about, I’m mostly tired after my 12 day mixed shift cycle. So I sent her a text on a Friday morning, telling her that I’m off the weekend. And she replied back “Let’s go for wine tasting in Stellies tomorrow”.

The following morning, we were at the airport with our standby tickets waiting to get a seat in a flight to Cape Town. We didn’t even have to convince my bestie to come along, a simple ” we are going to Stellies tomorrow, are you coming ?” was good enough.

One thing we had all forgotten is that, flying on standby tickets during peak season is a pain, and this happened during the festive season. But the thing with the girls is the fun starts at the airport. So the wait wasn’t too bad.

We flew in 3 separate flights, so basically day one looked like this… sit, sit, sit at O R Tambo international airport, 2 hour flight and sit sit sit at Cape Town international airport. So we only got to Stellies in the afternoon.

 

There wasn’t much we could do since we spent the whole day travelling. After check-in we decided to go for dinner in town.

The town is pretty small and it will took us less than an hour to explore.  There is a variety of restaurants and bars and the food is very cheap compared to Cape Town. I had an oxtail meal for R110.00 and a glass of wine is just R20.00. Apparently a glass of wine costs three times that price in Jo’burg.

 

The plan for the following day was to go hiking in the morning and spent the rest of the day at the wine farm. But we woke up at 9am and my friends prepared breakfast while I took a shower benefits of being the youngest  . The main chick said it’s too late to go hiking and she went straight to the wine farm while my bestie insisted on hiking.

As we went out of the gate, across the street was a strawberry farm. Then there was a change of plan, we decided to go strawberry picking and filled our bowls with big, fresh and sweet strawberries.

After an hour of strawberry  picking in the sun, I was exhausted. Then I decided to go sit by the pool and I dozed off. The main chick called and called with no luck. My bestie had decided to go to the spa. I saw nothing wrong with the whole setup, I guess I’m just used to traveling solo and doing what my body tells me to do. But the main chick was furious.

I eventually woke up after 2 hours and made my way to Lanzerac wine estate .

I did no research about Lanzerac wine estate but upon arrival I could tell that I’m in for a really good treat. I was welcomed at the door by a gentleman in a black trousers, white shirt and black bowtie and he ushered me to a table where the main chick was. Then I ordered a sammie filled with cold meat and cheese.

Pictures don’t lie, it was so delicious.

Then the tutorial started.

We were told about the history of wine, how they plant their grapes and how they make some of their wines. This was just mind blowing how a simple fruit can be fermented in different ways to produced different tastes .

Where the magic happens

The cheese platter is optional

 

You also have the option to use the pool area and all the other restaurants when visiting Lanzerac. But we couldn’t since we got there late.

Oh! by the way, they have a 5 star hotel as well.

 Later that evening we enjoyed dinner at one of the restaurants. The meal was worth every penny, though the portion was really small, lol.

I dined  like a pro…

*Swirl

*Smell

*Taste your wine

So my overall experience was really pleasant and I’m looking forward to spending a few nights at Lanzerac hotel.

Special thanks to the main chick for suggesting the trip.

30 Fun things to do before you turn 30

1. Visit Cape Town, South Africa

Your South African visit is not complete until you visit the Mother City.

 

2. Gondola ride in Venice

In my opinion, Venice is the most romantic city in the world.

3. Go Snorkeling in Zanzibar

In the warm, crystal blue waters.

4. Paragliding on Lion’s head Cape Town

What better way of seeing the Mother City than from the bird’s eye view.

5. Shopping in Times Square, Manhattan

Shop till you drop at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, New York.

6. Black River tubing in Tsitsikama

4 Hours of tubing and rock jumping in the flowing waters of the Black River

7. Ziplining in Thailand

This was the longest zip line I’ve ever been to.

8. Skiing in Lesotho

Opt for the opening or closing season festival.

9. Go backpacking in Europe

With countries so close to each other, you can have breakfast in the Netherlands, lunch in Belgium and dinner in Germany.

10. Climb to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town

Whether it is covered in a blanket of moody clouds or showing off against a crisp cloudless blue sky, Table mountain  is always spectacular.

11. Drive along the Garden Route, South Africa

12. Go see the Rockefeller Tree in New York

This is the biggest Christmas tree you will ever see in your life. It is situated in the Rockeffeler center in New York during the festive season.

13. Cabo da Roca

This is the most western part of Europe. It’s where the land ends and the water begins.

14. Sleep in a cave hotel in  Cappadocia

 

15. Photoshoot in Maboneg, Johannesburg

Thanks to Chrizotography for the wonderful work.

16. Eat at Hard Rock Cafe

They have venues in  74 countries around the world.

17. Celebrate your birthday with strangers in a foreign country

18. Watch the Maasai Dance live

20. Go on a cruise

Something you need to do with a larger group, it’s more fun.

21. Make a traveler’s scrap book

 

22. Try the Tample of Courage in Sun City

 

23. See the Northern light

In any one of the north pole countries.

24. Visit the Mandela house in Soweto

The Hector Pieterson trail and Apartheid museum as well.

25. Visit the Pyramids of Giza in Ciaro

26. Visit the La Sagrada Familia

It is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona. It’s a giant church that has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be finish any time soon.

27. German Alps

Take a train to Garmisch from Munich to go view the German Alps.

28. Visit Ephesus

And learn about the Roman and Christianity history .

29.See the Eiffel Tower in Paris

I don’t know about guys, but it’s every girl’s dream to go to Paris

30. Bangla Road in Phuket.

 

My first giant step – Turkey

This was the most courageous trip I’ve taken so far. Firstly, this was my first international solo trip. Not only was I very young, but I was an inexperienced traveler as well.

Secondly, Turkey had some political issues which resulted in the Grand Bazaar being bombed a week before my departure and by the way, my hotel was only a 15 minutes walk from the Grand Bazaar.

Friends, colleagues and family kept calling me, asking if I’m aware of what’s going on in Turkey, warning me not to go.

I was scared, like REALLY scared. But above that, a cloud of disappointment overshadowed me, “this could be my only chance to Europe”‘, I thought to myself. My flights are booked, hotels fully paid and tours booked as well.

It wasn’t the money that I was gonna loose that made me sad, but the experience. Loosing the experience of visiting a foreign country, meeting its people and learning about their culture,  man! that’s broke my heart.

So one of my friends who is an Economist  , told me that it was the best time to visit Turkey because their currency had lost a bit of its value, therefore, things will be cheaper,  now comes a person who tells me exactly what I wanna hear.

So I packed my bags and told myself that ” if death comes, then I’m ready”

It’s 5am and we just landed in Ataturk airport in Istanbul . As I walked out of the aircraft door, I couldn’t hold myself but shed a tear, “Lord, I am in Europe”. This was a big deal for me 

Then I took a connecting flight to Izmir, then guess what? I was in Asia. You don’t understand, it’s okay I’ll explain.

Turkey is one of the few countries that lie between 2 continents, Europe and Asia. Its capital city Istanbul, is the only city in the world that is partly Europe and partly Asia, separated by the Bosphorus strait.

Arriving to the hotel was finally a relief, and the first thing I did was to go for the Turkish bath.

 

This is how the Turkish bath is done…

I was told to start with a few minutes in the sauna. This allows you to relax and loosen up for a while.

Then I entered the bathing room which was a big dome covered with impressive marble, had several basins and a central raised platform above the heating source. It’s a public bath by the way

The masseur started by washing me with warm water and soap. Then followed by scrubbing and rinsing. And lastly he put a huge layer of foam and allowed me to rest for a while.

Then he brought me dry towels and I ended up the session with a cup of Turkish tea.

After this I slept like a baby…

Taking a walk after the nap felt so refreshing, the weather was just so perfectly warm.

Seeing the beautiful quite city of Izmir, enjoying the sea breeze, feeding pigeons, that just completed me.

Everything made sense, I knew that there was more to life and I was finally experiencing it.

 

Izmir clock tower

Then it was time to feast, eating is always better with a view, the food tastes nicer, don’t you think?

The few people that I met in Izmir spoke very little or no English at all.

I met 2  Turkish guys of which 1 couldn’t understand English at all. But surprisingly, the 3 of us had an awesome time. Like the Alchemist says, there is a language of the world.

I spent the next few days doing guided tours to Ephesus, which were very informative.

Then I flew back to Istanbul to spend one more night. You see,  the thing with Turkey is , every province has a completely different vibe all together. Izmir is a very quiet and chilled city with Turkish men that will give you a good 5 minute stare right in the center of your eye, yes they literally do that , while Istanbul is just one big, busy city.

I started getting bored later that evening, remember I’m not used to traveling alone. And to make matters worse, I’m a very shy person, it’s difficult for me to approach people and make friends. So I stared googling  what can I do in Istanbul. One of the sites mentioned “pub crawl”. I had no idea what that meant. I know what a pub is and I know how babies crawl, so the two words next to each other made no sense at all.

But what caught my attention were the words ” meet a group of international travelers”.  I knew some of those traveler would speak English, so I’m game. As to the crawling part, that  really didn’t matter, I was gonna watch them crawl lol. As long as I will get to hear and speak English.

 That  became the night  I got bitten by the “solo traveling bug”. All the travelers who were part of the pub crawl were young professionals, who were firstly, not working in their native countries and secondly, they were all travelling solo.

So I started asking myself questions I had no answers for;

Why am I scared of travelling alone?

Why am I scared of working abroad?

What makes them different from me?

Why am I in a rush of getting married and staring a family? Is it a personal decision or a community influenced “thing”?

Can I really afford to travel the world?

 

 

How I got to experience Murphy’s Law in Tampa -Florida

Murphy”s law states” if something can go wrong, it will”.  An addition to this law reads” usually at the worst time”.

It was my very first time using the Airbnb site when  travelling solo. I chose this because it was the cheapest option ya I know that I am a cheapskate.

A week before the trip I got an email from my host giving me a briefing of my stay. Firstly, there is no reception, secondly he also doesn’t stay there and lastly, he gave me two codes, one to open the front door and the other to open the ladies bedroom which sleeps four.

After reading this email I went straight to the print icon  but then posed for a moment and asked myself “when am I gonna stop being old fashioned by carrying loose printed papers every time I travel, can’t I just store everything on my phone?”

The mouse was already on the print icon, so I clicked the icon anyway not knowing this would save my life.

The flight was extremely long, 18 hours from Johannesburg to Washington via Accra. And from Washington another 3 hours to Tampa, so you can imagine how exhausted I was.

Arriving in Tampa, I decided to have lunch at the airport so that when I get to the hostel I can just throw my luggage on the floor, take a very long hot shower and then jump into bed for nothing less than 8 hours of sleep.

So I got on to a bus from the airport to the hostel and what was nice about the bus is it had WiFi so I kept track of the route and realized that the bus stop is 3 blocks away from the hostel.

Walking out of the bus to the  blazing hot sun was finally a relief. Remember that I haven’t bathed for just over 24 hours, my carry-on bag is heavy and jet lag is killing me as well. You know the feeling that you get when you have to do the last squat of a set of 4 squats of 20 reps, that’s exactly how I felt. I only had 1 more push left in me.

So I put the bag down to take out my sunglasses and as I stood up, BOOM!  my phone fell and before I could pick it up, I knew it was over. And indeed the phone was dead.

What now? I only had 1 phone and no cash on me. I can’t request  uber to take me back to the airport and just go back home. I did not authorize my credit card for international use and I don’t have enough money on my debit card to buy a phone.

To add on my problems, this hostel is in the ghetto, there’s groups of guys in every third house whistling, greeting and blocking me as I walk to ask fro my  numbers.

Luckily when I got to the hostel, there was a guy checking out and he was kind enough to let me use his laptop to transfer funds. He then told me that this is not the safest neighborhood, I will be much safer in the house or in a car. You can imagine how nervous I was since I was the only guest in the hostel that night.

I rushed out to the nearest cellphone shop which was 2 blocks away but unfortunately they couldn’t fix my phone nor sell me a new phone since all their phones were sim locked. He offered to call a taxi for me so I can go to town.

The challenge was having to walk outside to the ATM, how am I gonna call 911 if I get taken like the movie taken? I guess that’s why we need to have faith, to give us hope that there is God who is always looking out for us. On that day, He was all that I had.

I managed to get an unlocked phone in town which was pricey. Then when I got to the hostel, BOOM! there’s no WiFi.

But then I had my global sim card and guess what? Yes, you guessed right, it had no data. I called customer service to recharge my account, guess again, my credit card declined. So now I only have my debit card, I can’t even view the balance and now I have to blindly use it to by data, I could be using my last penny you know.

It has been over 10 hours from the time I dropped the phone to now that I have a new phone that has data. I am all alone in the hostel and still nervous. All I want now is to talk to anyone from home, hopping they will reassure me that I will be fine.

I download WhatsApp but fail to login because I couldn’t receive the verification code.

After a series of misfortunes, I still managed to have lots of fun.

 

Moral of the story

I’ll leave that part to you, I honestly don’t know what to say or how I can advise you. Thinking about this experience still exhausts my soul.

Zanzibar

Normally, it takes me more than two months to plan a single trip. From looking for special offers to familiarising myself with the place.

But I didn’t get a change to do  proper planning for Zanzibar because I went  there two weeks after my birthday trip to Portugal. And as you know, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.

Since this was just a weekend trip to a resort in Jambiani, I thought that I had it all figured out.

Arriving to the hot and humid airport in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania  was finally a relief. My beach vacation was long overdue. I had spent the previous year chasing snow from the Alps mountain in Munich, Germany all the way to Iceland and even had a white Christmas in New York.

The plan was to use a ferry from the mainland to Zanzibar, but couldn’t because there was not enough time to get to the harbour. The last ferry was departing in 30 minutes time. Blunder number 1, I didn’t check the ferry timetable.

Clever me opted for a flight, but when I got to the flight counters, I was told that all flights are fully booked due to a music festival that was to begin that night in Zanzibar. Blunder number 2, I didn’t check activities happening that weekend.

So my only option was to use a charter flight, I didn’t even know what a charter flight was, I had to google it on the spot, which was departing in the next 3 hours. I bought a return flight ticket from the one agency. He told me that he doesn’t have a speed point so I had to use cash.

As I was withdrawing from the machine, my friend and I kept debating on how much money we should withdraw, then suddenly a message popped on the screen saying my ATM card has been swallowed. Blunder number 3, I only had one card with me.

I honestly have no idea what I was going to do if I was travelling solo because when I called for assistance, I was told that they can only help me on Monday, while I had to fly back home on Sunday morning .Thank God for my friend who came to my rescue.

After buying the tickets, the agent told us to take a pic of the reference number and then off we went to terminal 2 to wait for the charter flight.

We were told that the flight was going to leave at 17:30, by the way it was my first time using a charter flight. So we sat down and waited.

At 17:35 some random guy came to me and asked ” are you waiting for the chatter flight? it’s gone. Look at the time now. These guys robbed us, they didn’t even give us flight tickets”.

My body just went cold, I looked at the reference that we were given and it was only for our Sunday morning flight. I was just speechless.

The guy sitting in front of us told us that we must relax, he uses the charter flight all the time. Apparently you don’t get a flight ticket for a charter flight, strange ne!

15 minutes later we were called by name class register format, a guy came to collect our luggage and the chatter flight was finally here. I walked out of the airport building to my worst nightmare. I had a serious phobia of small aircrafts. But there was no turning back, I had to conquer my fears.

Man, these flights just fly on top of people’s houses. I couldn’t even take selfies or look out the window, all I did was pray. The flight was a very long 15 minutes flight across the Indian ocean and the thought that I still have to use the same mode of transport on Sunday morning was killing me.

We landed safely; thank God ! Now our biggest challenge was to withdraw money for the taxi to the resort. Tanzanian shilling is a bit confusing, I still haven’t figured out how it works. I think the biggest challenge was, I use ZAR and they were telling me the price in USD and I had TZS notes and no internet connection to use the currency converter.

And to make matters worse, we didn’t even know how much we withdrew since we had no internet connection in Zanzibar. So we had to ask locals to help us. Only to realise that we wanted to give the taxi driver R4000. Insane, I know.

Waking up to such beauty made up for the chatter flight experience. The weather was just so perfectly warm. Reality matched the pictures I would see on the internet.

PEACE AND TRANQUILITY

Need I say MORE?

This was exactly the kind of a vacation I have been yearning for. Just to be away from all the city noise and get that inner peace.

SUN KISSED

RELAXATION

PURE PLEASURE

Guess who went snorkeling, me,  undoubtedly . This was more of a lip of faith because firstly, I’m not a good swimmer and secondly this is no swimming pool where you can stand on the floor.

But there was no ways I was gonna let my poor swimming skills hinder me from seeing the beauty of the underwater world.

So brave me decided to put on a life jacket and jump into the ocean. Well,  I used the swimming board as an extra safety measure. Boy it was fun.

Spent the evening watching the Maasai dance.

The Maasai tribe are a semi-nomadic African tribe mainly residing in Tanzania and Kenya. Very friendly people and extremely tall.

So I really enjoyed watching them dance and got a chance to mingle with them and bought a few souvenirs

And ended the night playing a game with the waiters, well my friend was playing and I was just watching.

My Maasai friend that I’m still in contact with.

Well that’s the beauty of travelling, making long lasting friendships that will last a lifetime. The sad part of it is, you might not meet your friends again.

Barcelona Like a Local

 

What was supposed to be a trip to Rome ended up being a second visit to Barcelona. My last night in Iceland kinda made me change my plans. As I have mentioned on my post about Iceland that I was depressed by the darkness, I just wasn’t sure of what to expect in Rome. So I decided to play it safe call me a chicken it’s fine , and I went to Spain for the second time in 11 months.

I had so much fun during my first visit and couldn’t even do everything I had set on my itinerary. Barcelona has a lot to offer from hikes in the colorful Park Guell to the majestic Sagrada Famillia.

But since this was not a planned trip, I decided to do it like a local. I met up with a friend from Belgium who has been staying in Barcelona for some time and he took me to all the hidden gems.

I stayed at Kabul Hostel because it’s more central, just a walking distance to all the hot spots. And it’s just behind La Rambla street and a walking distance to the metro.

Started off the day by visiting the harbor

Then some beach time with local food inbetween

Feeding ducks in park Ciutadella 

 

Then finally…

  just a random city walk and I came across the Arc De Triomf which used to be the main access gate to Barcelona in the 1800

 

Iceland in Winter

Everyone kept asking me “Are you out of your mind?  Why on earth would you wanna visit Iceland in winter?” Well, I do loose my mind here and there , but this time it wasn’t that.

The thought of seeing the Northern Lights just overcame all other aspects about the trip to Iceland and as you know that you can only see them during winter.

Landing in Iceland was a complete trauma for me. The time was 10am and it was completely dark outside. I had read from another blog that Iceland has short winter days,  but I just didn’t expect complete darkness. Don’t ask me what I was expecting lol.

The darkness kinda affected me throughout the trip. I’m normally that brave girl who likes living on the edge but this time it was different. I had an awesome time during the day,  or let me rather say while there was light.  When it becomes dark then I just wanna go back to the hostel and for the first time became homesick.

On the first day, I got to the hostel at 12 midday and there was light finally, though it was a cloudy day. That was more normal and the braveness kicked in.

So I left my luggage in the luggage room and walked down to Reykjavik to the meeting spot of the Free Walking Tour. It took me 30 minutes to get down to the city center and I really enjoyed the stroll down the quiet streets of Reykjavik.

The walking tour guide was very informative and showed us the historic buildings, told us about the vikings, answered our questions and even took us to the famous hot dog stand where people like President Clinton and the Kardashians have once tasted their tasty footlong hotdog. It’s the best hotdog I’ve tasted by far.

 

The following day I went to the Golden Circle tour which was pricey but worth every penny. By the way, Iceland is very expensive.I paid about R1300 for the tour. I should have hired a car apparently it’s cheaper.

The tour started at 8am and for the next 3 hours the tour guide kept on saying ” If it was summer you could be seeing 1,2,3…” You can imagine how bored I was.

When light finally appeared, it was as if I had entered a different planet. The natural beauty of Iceland is just so heavenly. Mountains on either side of the road covered by a blanket of snow. We were driving on the moon I tell you.

The good part about Iceland is that there are no entry fees to see the attractions. So booking the tour was enough.

In some places it was very slippery, it was as if I’m walking on the ice rink. Well my tour guide had spike shoes on, so he held me by hand. 2 or 3 people kept on falling.

 

When we got to the Geysir area, that whole area is full of smoke coming out of the ground as a result of hot water springs. Like one of the scenes of a scary movie.

 

Since my tour was 8 hours long, I decided to have lunch there. Bought french fries, 3 fish fingers and coffee for R250. I could buy the same meal in my country with less than R50. Well like I said, Iceland is very expensive.

The tour guide told us that predictions of Arora activity are looking very good and read 6 on the scale. Cloud coverage was a bit of an issue since we needed a clear sky to see the Northern Lights.

That didn’t stop me from booking the Northern Lights tour that evening. They fetched me from my hostel at 20:30 and we drove out of the city.

Took out our tripods, smartphones and cameras and waited in the cold  to see the Northern Lights. An hour passed and there were no lights, instead the clouds covered the sky and by that time I had frozen. So I went inside the bus because I could not take the cold any longer.

The tour guide offered me a blanket and that really helped. He also mentioned that the lights are most likely to be seen around 22:30 to 23:00.

Around that time, in a small gap between the clouds appeared a green light and everybody screamed.

Shortly after that, we started to see bits and bits in different directions. Then finally God answered my prayers, clouds moved and the Northern Lights just filled the sky.

I was so excited, wiping my tears as I set up my tripod again to takes pics and some videos. In the midst of that excitement then boom, my memory is full.

Quickly deleted all those stupid watsapp videos and took more pics. That was not just a bucket-unlist moment, but more of a dream coming true. Moral of that story is always check the memory of your photo taking device.

The plan for the last day was to visit the blue lagoon. But the tickets during day light were fully booked. So after arguing with myself for a long time I decide that it was not worth to pay over R2000 to go to the blue lagoon and not see a thing.

Instead I went to the local swimming pool. On my way I got lost and went into a random shop to ask for directions.

Luckily, the one guy in the shop said that he’s also on his way there, so we can walk together. He went into his car and grabbed his backpack and walked away without locking the car.

I was so shocked, and he went on telling me how safe Iceland is with a crime rate of zero percent. Come to think of it, the guide from the free walking tour did mention that Iceland is safe when he showed  us a building which used to be a prison but was now has been abandoned since there were not so many law breakers.

Before you enter the swimming pool you must shower naked since it’s a geothermal pool and they would like to keep it as clean as possible.

There are 4 pools with different temperatures and depths. I first went into the 38 degrees pool then moved over to the 40 degrees pool where I spent the next 2 hours chatting to a local.

He insisted that I take a walk and get lost in the streets of Reykjavik.

So as I walked out of the pool, ready for the adventure, then he shouted “drink water because the pool dehydrates you.”

I had a glass of water and then went on to take a shower. As I stepped inside the shower room, I got so dizzy that I almost fainted. I drank more water and chilled a bit. Little did I know that I was supposed to constantly hydrate myself while siting in the pool. Well, that’s another lesson learnt.

Apart from the darkness, I really enjoyed my visit to Iceland, though I don’t think I’ll  go there in winter again. It felt as if I’m in prison, a very dark one, or probably down a hole.

Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to visiting Iceland in summer to see how green it gets and do all the other things I couldn’t do in winter.

Apparently, they have longer days, meaning minimum darkness.I wonder how do they sleep.

Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour

This walking tour wasn’t really interesting. Firstly, it was way too long just over 3 hours. And secondly, it was boring. I mean I didn’t travel 9 hours to go and see the reserve bank of Sao Paulo. So some of the places they took us to was not necessary. The history behind the city was interesting, but I would have preferred a local to tell me all about it over a cup of coffee rather than walk up and down the hill roads of Sao Paulo for over 3 hours. So basically, I do not recommend it.

So let me give you a glimpse of what Sao Paulo looks like…


Things you need to know before travelling to Sao Paulo, Brazil

1. Get a yellow fever vaccination.

Well, you won’t be allowed to board without producing your yellow fever card.

2. You can’t buy a sim card as a tourist

I struggled from the airport looking for a shop where I can buy a sim card. They kept on sending me to different shops until ultimately I gave up. I then asked my taxi driver to take me to a shop and when we got there I was told that I can’t buy one since I’m a tourist. So I had to rely on the hostel and restaurants for WiFi. Well fortunately, they have WiFi parks which came in very handy.

3. Learn Brazilian Portuguese

You will hardly meet people who can speak English so learning their language will come in very handy. But they are still very helpful, I was able to get help from locals even though I spoke in English.

4. Brazilians party till morning

If you are into night life, well Sao Paulo caters for all. There are a number of places to go to, but the most popular is Paulista Avenue.

5. Be physically fit.

The landscape is full of steep hills so make sure you hit the gym first before you go. A 15 minutes walk was very exhausting for me.