When Friends Ask – London

In this post, I introduce two sections to help you run around this city and make the most of it! The first shows you things you the things you must do as a traveler here and the second is a list of my own little discoveries I’ve made over the time I’ve been here.

At this point of time when more and more of my friends are travelling abroad, one of the big destinations is through Europe so in doing so, and knowing I’m living in this big bad city, they ask me about where’s the go-to, what’s the must sees and where are the must go’s. So here’s what I think from first glance, from my first few months of living in this beautiful city, the city of London.

Section 1 – To travel

Everyone travels differently depending on a whole number of factors. Here, I give you a quick rundown, with each category, I give you about 2-3 days worth of things to do. So, without further ado, what kind of traveler are you?

Cultural Seeker – I want to know what it is like to be a Londoner, their daily lives, patterns and things they live by.

  • PRET – What? you’ll know what I mean when you get here. Pret is the most famous of the many “sandwich shops” that keep the cities population moving for another day. They’re a chain that you can find around almost every corner because a part of the London lifestyle is to grab a sandwich (and maybe a meal deal) during lunch or on your way home. Don’t *Pret though, the sandwiches are actually really good, super fresh and well priced so what’s not to love?
  • Markets – I know there are some pretty great markets around the world and you can probably find them greater, larger or more extravagant than those found here. However, I’m talking about literally many dozens of markets littered all around London and in every corner and crevice. During lunchtimes, these markets provide a good break from the daily sandwich and over the weekends they are beaming with local shoppers, artists, creatives and foodies! Some of my favorites include the Brick Lane Markets, Camden markets, Borough Markets and the Colombia Road Flower Markets.
  • Parks – If you’re here in the summer, you’re going to loooove this (check out my re-blog of the London summer https://jayysnotes.blog/2019/07/18/london-summer/), but if you’re not, they’re still worth a visit. Parks here are seasonal, so be ready to see all the beautiful changing colors of all the seasons, the bright oranges of Autumn, the colorful yellows, pinks, blues and purples of Spring, the bright greens of summer and of-course, the brown brushes of winter…but not only will you find the parks incredibly gorgeous and well maintained here, you will find them absolutely empty one cold day and intensely crawling with people from all walks of life in the next sunny day! It’s really quite a sight. Check out some of my favorites, Regents Park, Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park and of-course Hyde Park; and if you have time and want to see wild roaming deer, check out the enormous Richmond Parklands.
  • Beer – I can’t not mention this as it is probably the most English thing I know. Pubs are found literally around every corner of this city. The English see pubs as such: Cold Day – Let’s go to the local pub with our buddies and sit inside where it’s warm, packed like sardines, loud and smells. Sunny Day – Let’s go to the local pub with our buddies and all stand outside creating noise while having a pint to soak in as much sun as we can before the coming 9 month winter. Let me say again how prominent the street drinking is here, so much so we have men’s urinals (the ones we see at carnivals) on the corner of public roads!
  • Free Museums – London is super great for travelers because there’s actually a lot of free stuff to do! (strictly travelers, living here burns holes through your wallet!). One of the best free things are museums and galleries, many of which top of world in terms of ranking. You can find many of the popular ones around South Kensington station and others spread out across the city. Some of my favorites so far are The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), Tate Modern and the British Museum.
  • Live Music and Theaters – Other than having beers 5 times a week, theatrics is something that locals here love to go and see. There are an absolute limitless number of shows that are happening every single day to pique any of your interests! The more popular and world renown ones include the plays at Shake-sphere’s Globe, Phantom of the Opera and of-course Harry Potter’s Play.
  • Special mention to the Regents Canal – Definitely one of my favorites walks on a sunny day, don’t miss out on the canal walk around Kings Cross and the up towards Little Venice and Paddington!

Party Seeker – I want to know how to have a good time in this city, I want to stay up and party all night!

  • SOHO – This is a prominent and central area for a night out. I’ll be honest, I’ve not had a big night out in the area but from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s wild and odd!
  • Shoreditch – Shorditch is a hippie, youthful, artsie and super energetic area especially at night. Walk the main streets, take lots of turns and corners and even explore it’s outskirts for something different, jazzy, fun and exciting. At night the whole area is buzzing, there’s no specific place I’d go check out because there’s always something cool around the corner. I did here something about a place called the Dinerama which is great for food and bars, something for me to check out too!
  • Specific Bars – There’s a lot to mention here. Like seriously a lot and it really depends on what you’re after. This city has a bar for and to suit everyone and anything. I’ve been to super cool themed medieval bars to modern futuristic ones. Bars with huge putt putt courses, bowling alleys and karaoke’s in them, I’ve seen pubs where people play board and e-sports…there’s just everything here…maybe ask me to join?
  • Specific Clubs – Again, there’s a lot to mention and sometimes it depends on the night and the artist who’s playing. Special mention to the Ministry of Sound, Fabric and XOYO along with Printworks but once again, you need to think about what music you like and what you’d like to see.

Section 2 – Discoveries

  • Bogan bingo – All Aussies who visit the city must go on a night out of Bogan Bingo! great fun and laugh for everyone and a good reminder of what we Aussies look like to others!
  • TK MAXX – This is a really great place to shop for good quality branded clothing at super great prices. There’s a few of these stores littered around London, mostly in the outer Zone 2, definitely a great place to find a bargain, pretty much always 80% off the retail price of branded shoes, clothing and everything else.
  • Thai Food – Spicy Basil is really great for authentic Thai food that I’ve yet to see replicated anywhere else in London
  • Indian Food – Vijay is something unexpected when you first walk in, it’s warm and welcoming glow pulls you in and the amazing food keeps you there!

I’ll leave it at that for now as those are the two main types of travelers coming into London itself. I guess I could of added some landmarks as well but i’m sure google has you covered there! e.g. don’t forget to check out the Tower of London! (of-course you wouldn’t forget).

Thanks for reading my friends. Happy travels! ❤

Feature image – View from the 58th floor of the currently in construction 22 Bishopsgate, London, United Kingdom taken on the 3rd May 2019

The Great Lakes District

Quick Facts

  • Title: The Great Lakes District Multi-Day Hike and Camp
  • Status: Completed
  • Dates: 18th April 2019 to 22nd April 2019
  • Objective: To trek the most popular mountains and gorgeous Lakes District over the Easter long weekend.
  • Route: Self-determined involving Inland, mountainous terrain, lakes and river systems.
  • Approx Distance: 100+ Kilometers
  • Approx Hiking Time: 35+ Hours in Total
  • Accommodation: 4 Nights Camping

Facts and Insights

  • Two of the highest peaks in England were tackled during this endeavor. Scafell Pike (978m) and Helvellyn (950m).
  • England’s longest lake was an incredibly popular destination, Windermere stretching over 16km long!
  • Weather; a low of 5 degrees and surprising tops of 19 degrees! Windy but not enough to close off any trails. Weather took the surprise of all who visited over the weekend, sunny everyday, an incredibly rare sight for all.
  • This was a personal challenge. Climbing almost a dozen mountain tops including the two highest in England has inspired me to undertake other great endeavors throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and in time, no doubt mountain ranges of the world.
  • A colleague said that this was more like an expedition! haha makes me feel like Indiana Jones, exploring and discovering hidden treasures. Although it was only 4 days, the fact that it was a unique and personal path made it the more special.
  • During the hike, I pondered over many thoughts, one of which was the reason why I chose to do this. I think for me, it’s not just a hike up the mountain. It’s not about all the incredible sights that you set your eyes upon nor is it predominantly for my own physical fitness. The journey to me is a mental challenge I choose to face, it is continuing to walk even when your whole body is shaking and aching for you to stop. It is making it to the top, to the finish line without doubt in your mind that you have stuck to your own word. I think everything else, the lakeside views, mountaintops, sleeping under the stars and moon, the physical fitness it brings…they’re all bonuses, incredible and amazing bonuses that come with all great achievements in life.
  • Also, dogs climb mountains too, so many of them! so cute!

Introduction

The Lakes District is an incredibly popular destination for the English not only for it’s natural beauty but also for it’s challenging hikes and mountainous ranges. Over the past few months I have taken my time to plan a personal route (made up of many others whom have come before me) to experience a one of a kind trek through the district. From the early morning’s and till sunset, I spent hiking and during the evening’s I set down my tent and gear and prepared for a night under the stars in the mountain tops! Before you think I’m crazy, I’ve done this before! and with each and every adventure I become better equipped both mentally and physically.

I’ve missed home sweet home Australia for all of her natural beauty. I hope for my friends out there whom are home, they never take it for granted. In so many ways, I will always return home to finish my round trip along her beautiful coast. This to me, is just a little detour.

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The planned route including major checkpoints. But all plans are never solid, charged with my trusty map and compass, I crossed areas with no tracks but just my own.

Day 1 – Friday

What a great idea it was to spend the first night at a bed and breakfast. Arriving at Windermere quite late into the night, there was no time nor the light to hike to the first random checkpoint; plus, the time was spent well making preparations for the long journey ahead. I loved the whole homey feel of the place; an old wooden charm and the warm and inviting fireplace and lighting made me feel right at home. She also had a great history to tell, with photo’s, artworks and decorations dating back to the old days. Bed and breakfast’s are a big thing out here in England, they’re in-between air-bnb’s and hotels because the owners are usually also living in the home, retired and invite guests along to enjoy their home, they also cook you breakfast to top it off. There is also no doubt in the world that the traditional English breakfast that was served that morning was delicious and aided in my survival throughout the first day.

How nice it was to follow the beautiful walls of stone that climb the sides of these mountains. Often would I think about how and who had the job of placing each and every one of them, perfectly in a position that looks as if it has held for decades.

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It was not long after the beginning that I stumbled upon a bunch of young travellers, taken aback on the hillside inhaling what I could clearly tell was a joint. In fact, this wasn’t only a singular occurrence, I saw this numerous times during the hike and furthermore there were groups of people hiking whilst half drunk! How this was achieved is beyond me, I was more worried about not twisting my ankle on the first day of the trip and asking for them to take photo’s of me hah! If it wasn’t for them, all I had was my non-steady Go-Pro to rely on which took longer to set up than I’d liked.

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Day 2 – Saturday

Who knew that after today Scafell would be conquered?! I should of known that, but really, it was hard to know where you would end up by the end of the day. The plans and tracks that had been made, the checkpoints were only a guide, it would take me a few more great hikes to be able to predict how long it would take me to climb any one mountain; and so the sights were set to go as far as one could along the planned route.

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It was an incredibly rocky road to Scafell Pike, and I don’t say that figuratively! Three paths to take up the peak and the toughest of them all had to be taken, but I guess I’d say, for have we really conquered a mountain if we did not take on her greatest challenge?

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Scafell was busy. Like really busy! Forget about a peaceful climb to the top with nature and the birds and bees following you around. Dozens of hikers arrived at any one time, small and large tour groups made it to the top with cheers and clapping heard all around. When I’d finally overcome the rocky pass, my arms were in the air, a big smile could be seen and an aura of one who had just made a great achievement came over me. From a distance, the peak looked really cool, a pile of rocks stacked on the top allowed visitors to stand and sit up there in unison to enjoy a 360 panorama of the entirety of the lakes. It was beautiful, the energy up there was a high and so there I sat and let time pass me by for hours on end.

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The “easy” way down the mountain was towards the lake of Wast Water. It was a long way down which felt like forever but what made it all the worthwhile was the sun setting down against the lake, probably one of the biggest highlights of the entire trip. A warm orange glow encompassed everyone going down that mountain and after achieving such great heights, it was the best way for most to end their day.

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I on the other hand had taken a slight detour shortly before arriving down at the lake. Making my way down to a super small town called Wasdale in search for a place to camp. As luck would have it, the tiny town had a little campsite with food and drinks to be served along with all the amenities required by those who hadn’t showered for days!

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Day 3 – Sunday

I would say that Sunday was the most relaxing of all the days. Despite a slow start to the day (slow because of an alternate far tougher path up a hill), the day was spent mostly on the lower ground or shall I say, on the lower levels of the mountains.

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There was a moment of real peace when I stopped by the riverside, between two adjacent trees that gave off a perfect shade beside the rapids. There I kicked up my feet in the water and took a much needed break from the sun as by then parts of me were as red as tomatoes! (And FYI, if you’re wondering, of course I used sunscreen and wore a hat!).

Another mountain top later we were overlooking yet another gorgeous lake right off the small town of Buttermere. More tourists flocked here to walk around the lake on footpaths meant for child strollers and bicycles. The one ice cream parlor was overrun by eager children hoping for something sweet and cold. I was definitely one of those children and couldn’t resist one myself; with chocolate icing of course!

Close by was the nice town of Keswick. Keswick is a must visit local town in the Lakes District if you do come up here, it’s a really beautiful old town with some great spots to take photos of the streets and town square. I have to also mention how great it was to meet two locals travelling in for the weekend with their dogs, it made for such a great conversation about the Lakes and other hikes to be done. They’d told me how in all their years they’ve been here, they’ve never seen it so sunny all weekend around because of all the mountains and all. I guess I was lucky! or I’d just brought the sunshine with me haha lame joke*

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To end the day, I made my way up as high as I could towards Helvellyn, this was an exciting part of the trip and couldn’t stop thinking about the “scramble” across the Striding Edge, you’ll know what I mean by that soon. An hour into the hike I’d completely lost the pathway but with my trusty compass I was never too far away from one I’d make myself. I put in the extra effort to climb till the sun set further before I pitched my tent, by then and because of the constant upward battle for over 2 hours, I was sweating a heap and there I was, shirtless half way up the mountain without a town in sight as the sun set in the distance.

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Day 4 – Monday

I woke up this morning with the wind rocking the tent side to side. It was 6:30am, cold outside but surprisingly warm on the inside. It really pays to know what is required in a good tent! Despite this, I found it hard to fall back asleep till the sun rose above the mountains. I made the decision right there and then that I was to have my breakfast consisting of some tuna, nuts, a carrot, an apple and some sweets to top up that sugar level. I cuddled back into the sleeping bag to let the food warm me up before I lept out there into the cold, damp and slightly foggy morning to unpack it all.

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Today, I made an incredible head start on the track towards Helvellyn. As the night before I had put in some extra effort to get as high as I could, I was almost at the top before 7am. From up there, the suns warm glow was a sight for sore eyes and so I sat there basking in her delight. Pillars of rock were all around me and as for those who are experience hikers knew, the pillars are a piece of each person who’d made it up there with a rock of their own to place on the mountain. It was a beautiful sight when I added yet another one to the pile. Would you call these checkpoints? I think you would, they’re checkpoints for the individual to be proud of, to have made it so far.

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At the top it was quiet, peaceful and calm. Because I had made it up there so early, there was no one else there. Oddly enough and don’t tell my parents, there were some sweets in a goodie bag stuffed at the peak of a pillar, they looked fresh so I took it upon myself to have some and say thanks to the kind mountain gods, I in turn added some of my own goodies to the bag to pay it forward. Shortly after, I’d basked in the sunlight some more, a couple arrived at the top and we sat against the wall and talked of mountainsides around Europe and the way ahead. For ahead me was yet another challenge known as the Striding Edge!

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Now, the English have a saying for walks like this, they call it scrambling, I’ve not actually heard the term before so I’m not sure if it’s entirely an English thing but it pretty much was rock climbing on the peaks of the mountains ranges! Most people do so monkey-like but not holding 10kg of baggage as I was so I made sure that I climbed on slow and steady, for one slip meant falling hundreds of meters down below. To be honest, I’m not sure why this is even allowed and again to be honest, it was the first time I’ve actually been scared for my life in a long time. Sadly many people actually die from this very scramble (20 deaths in fact and many more injured in 2017 alone!) I won’t be taking on any more challenges like this for now, no thank you! Looking back it was fun and thrilling but I love life too much to risk that again haha

Did I also mention there is a gravestone with a touching story of a life lost because of this edge? In summary, a man climbing these edges fell to his death, his dog was found wandering around his corpse in incredible sadness and distress. The plaque is to remind us all of the strength and enduring love of our companions during great endeavors. And then a tear fell from my eyes.

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The final stretch of the hike proved to be quite merciful and with gorgeous views of Lake Ullswater, there was nothing more that could have ended this trip on a high…

Except, a really pretty town and lamb shanks by the lake!!! Seriously was well deserved after conquering such a beast in which was The Lakes District.

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Thanks for reading my friends. What challenges do you choose to face in life to help you prepare for the worst?

A Long Walk

A long walk.

There’s something about a day spent walking that brings thoughts to me. A day spent walking feels like a day that stretches as long as the distance is far. It is where the twists and turns that the path reveals with each step feel like those in which life takes you on each and every day. Have you ever wondered how they often seem alike to you?

How a straight path guides you to what you can see clearly and safely up ahead. How one that twists and turns can make you dizzy with wonder at what’s in front of you. How sudden a corner can creep up to you and is there before you even know it. What’s more is the corner in which forks in two directions before you’ve even decided. And what to do with those paths that end with what seemingly feels like nowhere else to go. But i think what’s most unsettling, are those that lead you back to where you began, as if you’d never left the place you stand; but the night falls still, none a wiser to where you’d hoped to go.

There’s something about a day spent walking that brings thoughts to me. How i wonder so often where the path will take me.

❤ Jason

When I ask – Choose your one favourite place…

In my travels I have met many people, each and every one of them with beautiful stories to tell. What I enjoy doing rather than it’s opposite, is listening.

There are a number of topics which I love to bring up, that I love to ask and learn from others. Here is just one:

“If you could choose one place in the world you have been to that moved you, that you find incredibly amazing, where would that be and why?”

Here, I will tell you the where, but not the why, because the why is for you and I to experience ourselves. It is my goal to embark and visit these places, uniquely moving to those whom I have known personally. It’s not something that can simply be googled or seen on social media because these are the places that have truly been felt by those who have been. So, here goes, and in no particular order:

  • James says “Zermatt, Switzerland”
  • Stephanie says “Les Nympheas, France”
  • Matt says “Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom”
  • Erick says “Thaipusam, Batu Caves, India”
  • Carmen says “Naples, Italy”
  • Kim says “Pamplona, Spain”
  • Kevin says “Zell am See, Austria”
  • Agata says “Zakrzowek, Poland”

How could this list not be complete without my own right? As as tough of a question this is, i’ll do my best to answer.

  • Jason says “Queenstown, New Zealand”

Undoubtly this list is long and will only grow as time passes. I can only hope that one day I visit as many as I can and understand why it was their one choice.

With love, Jason ❤

Feature image – Rob Roys Peak, New Zealand. Taken on the 23rd November 2016

Following the Great Footsteps of History

There are certain places in the world that are unlike so many others. Many of which have been lost and hidden in time and history.

When I ask myself the questions which ponder at our worlds greatest histories, it often revolves around how they came to be, what was it that made it so incredible and how can I today recreate it. I speak of the great routes and paths of ancient and modern history, routes which have defined much of the worlds cities, societies and cultures that we see today and for centuries to come.

From the ancient Silk Road to the path Gandhi took on his peaceful Salt march, from Alexander the Great’s conquest to the Germans march across Belgium which sparked WW1, from the many pilgrimages millions take each year for their faith in religion and/or spirituality, these are the paths in which history has and continue to be written. These paths not only gave way to the trade of rare commodities, knowledge from travellers of far away cities, cultural and societal norms and beliefs; but they also gave way to much of the violence and conquest that we have seen in histories past.

To re-enact and follow in these great footsteps of history, I hope to seek a greater understanding of our past. Some of my major goals in life revolve around completing these journeys ahead, following the towns and cities, the cultures and stories in which they passed; because maybe, just maybe by seeking to understand our greatest histories can we begin to build and even greater future.

 

Thanks for reading ^__^

Some of these major routes I seek are listed here below, is there a famous route that changed the world that you would like to embark on one day?

  • The Silk Road – An ancient trade route connecting the East to West
  • The Gospel Trail – Following the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples
  • Alexander the Great – His journey of conquest
  • The Salt March – Led by Gandhi which in turn began a wide protest for Independence in India
  • The Inca Trail – A hiking trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, an ancient civilisation which thrived in the Peruvian mountains
  • The Eight Great Sites – The path of Buddha and his journey to enlightenment
  • The Hajj – The annual pilgrimage for millions of Muslims to the city of Mecca

A Journey to The States

Quick Facts

  • Status: Completed
  • Dates: 12th May 2018 to 26th May 2018
  • Objective: San Francisco to Las Vegas to Los Angeles to San Francisco
  • Route: Inland, mountainous & coastal
  • Approx Distance: 3000 Kilometers
  • Approx Time Driven: 50 Hours
  • Accommodation: 3 Nights Camping/ 5 Nights Car/ 6 Nights Hotel & Home

Insights

  • Camping is expensive
  • Camping has all amenities
  • State taxes, insurance, laws and regulations
  • You meet friends when you least expect it in places where you
  • We are not on this Earth to live or be alone. To be social with one another is core to our existence whether we consider ourselves introverted or otherwise.
  • Tackling your fears head first is the best way to overcome them (Safely ofcourse).
  • It’s more difficult than you think to foresee where you may end up in life, where you might settle and live, how your relationships will turn out and what career you might set your path upon.
  • It’s possible to live life or atleast short bursts of it purely based on spontaneity and trust in your gut feeling.
  • Always, always make time to take the scenic route, miss a turn onto the highway and drive off the beaten path. You’ll be surprised where it takes you.
  • Simply ask the locals what you should do when you get there, they’ll talk of places and things to do that you just can’t find anywhere else. TripAdvisor is one thing, but a true local is another!

Introduction

I guess there was a lot to expect; preconceptions of what it means to be in The States…

But before I get to that, we start at the very beginning. Flying the kangaroo half way across the Earth was absolutely wonderful, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a more comfortable flight. 14 hours was what it took, ten of those were spent sleeping and the other four eating and snacking. There is a certain pride and joy flying with our own airline, even when it is slightly more out of my own pocket, it still kind of feels like home but just at 35,000ft. Imagine that, your home suspended at 35000ft *giggles*. The food is also surprisingly good, in fact for plane food it is even great. I would suggest getting doubles when the scent of the mid-flight hot dog and mini burger arrive while you are dreaming away. I guess in retrospect, I am one of the lucky ones who can sleep on the plane, It’s one of the things I try not to take for granted and I often cite it as one of the greatest transferable skills on my CV. Anyways, I digress…which I do often when speaking of sleep and food.

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Before the landing. The city landscape is pretty on the eyes 🙂

Day 1

It kind of took me about 5 hours to get out of the airport, sort out my rental car, sim card and onto the road, three of which were spent waiting in lines, mostly for my rental car. That was an unexpected hump, already hours late to meet my friend Sabrina for lunch so she could show me around the city. Luckily she is awesome and forgives me for any harm done hehe. It’s the best thing to see a friendly face across the world, especially when you can use them as a free tour guide! hah, but you know I’d do the same for any friend coming to Sydney.

Straight off the bat is lunch at the Panda Express. Now I’m not usually one to talk about food in my blogs but if the food is somewhat iconic or a representation of culture then I should probably run it past. So I didn’t actually know it was a thing until I came back to Sydney and people asked me if I’d been to Panda Express! and so it was a coincidence. Pretty much the epitome of Asian food court delicacies. Yes, Asian food court food and it was actually pretty good, keeping in mind that it was food court food.

Moving on, the first thing to see was the Golden Gate bridge, from every angle it seems. It was nice both walking and driving across the bridge; beautifully draped in its red velvet. All I could think about was how tough it would be to repaint that thing, half true. I was thinking more of its history, it’s construction and engineering marvel. At the same time, the inescapable sad truth that something so beautiful is also known to be a place where so many lives are taken. It was a bittersweet moment but at least one spent in good company.

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Well, this is a pretty typical tourist must take photo

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It’s beautifully draped in red velvet

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Here you can see #KarlTheFog yeah, the San Francisco Fog has a name and Insta!

Lombard Street was our next stop. With the rooftop off we drove down the worlds crookedest road along with so many other tourists. It was actually really fun, the plants and flowers surrounding the area were pretty and with the backdrop of the city, what isn’t there to like.

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Lombard Street – World’s crookedest road

Now to the Fisherman’s Wharf, I was in search of that iconic sign and found it soon enough. A bit of an evening walk and catching up later we found ourselves having a nice warm dinner at a restaurant with live music to our ears. It was there where I found that most nice restaurants serve chowder as their entree, we don’t really have that in Australia or at least we don’t always call it that. Truth is I didn’t know what it was until an age I’m too embarrassed to admit. let’s just say I never really understood the “chowder” reference in The Simpsons.

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Thanks Sabrina! You’re awesome!

To end the first day of my trip we went to have some Asian dessert, wish I’d taken some photos because it was nice but I’m usually too busy getting started on the food…kind of reminds me of Meet Fresh!

Day 2

I took off from San Francisco quite early in the morning to get a good head start on the road as I’d suspected it would take me some time to reach Yosemite; little did I know that I was to stop almost a dozen times before reaching the National Park. From toilet breaks beside the road to country towns and gorgeous lookouts to turning back around after seeing a caravan parked beside a gas station with colours all around it…how could you not be curious right? As I approached the caravan I noticed a lady hanging some really colourful clothing along with some beef jerky. She was so welcoming when she saw me approach. We talked about how she and her husband had escaped the city back in the 80’s and had been living on the road ever since, dyeing shirts all sorts of patterns and colours, selling them to just have enough to keep going. Half an hour later she offers me one of these shirts as a gift, of course I couldn’t accept this without offering a small gesture of my own too. The gift was perfect, now I had something to wear over the EDC weekend!

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An after holiday photo as I was cleaning the closet. Ignore the butt, it’s all about the shirt here.

A few hours later and I’m at the entrance to the National Park. I’d got my hopes up when I saw the entrance, ready and eager to jump right into some hiking trails, too bad it was another hour or two till I actually reached the falls; mostly because again I’d stopped to enjoy the view countless more times. But have a look at that entrance, in spectacular American fashion!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Entrance to the Yosemite National Park. Love the pine trees in the backdrop, you’ll see plenty more of those.

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Yosemite National Park – At First Glance

*INSERT* – YOSEMITE TIME LAPSE

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Much of the valley is scattered with things to do and see; something for everyone

I took my time to wander around the village once I’d finally managed to find parking. From the gift shops, to restaurants and campsites to their very own convenient store it really was more like a small busy tourist town rather than a remote place out in the mountains, nothing like it is in our peaceful and quiet Blue Mountains.

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I made my way down to my first hike, I thought I’d start with something pretty easy and so it was. Popular with families with young kids and babies in strollers, I should have known this would be a piece of cake. Nonetheless, the Yosemite Lower Falls walk was beautiful. I tend to get off track so I got drenched at the base of the waterfall, all for the selfie as I do.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Yosemite Lower Falls – Rushing, gushing with all of natures might

*INSERT* – LOWER YOSEMITE FALLS

After my slow, very slow “hike” to the Lower falls it was already the late afternoon! I’d still wanted to hike the upper falls, totally behind schedule 😦 . About an hour up the Upper Falls i passed by a ranger who told me it would still be hours till I’d reach the top, by then it would be cold, dark and by the looks of it, rainy and wet! I’m somewhat glad I didn’t embark on that journey further up because the moment I got back to the base it poured rain like no tomorrow. Meanwhile, I was happily enjoying a pizza all to myself by a nice fireplace inside the restaurant. So warm and cosy!

That night I drove back outside the National Park (because they don’t let you camp just anywhere inside) and pitched my tent down by the river just outside of the Indian Flats campground. Not for the lack of trying, the campground wanted to charge me $60USD to sleep in my own tent inside the campground somewhere. Why do that when there’s a perfectly nice illegal camping spot down by the river…Some would argue with me, but I’m poor, rebellious, daring and a bit spontaneous in that way. So that night I slept with a knife under my pillow just in case a bear did decide to come strolling into my camp. lol.

Day 3 –

I survived my first night camping and it was absolutely freezing cold! I should have known better than to camp at the bottom of the valley where the wind gushes by and the river water flows with all the might of nature…let’s just say that’s a lesson learned. I was up really early just as the sun came up to make the most of the day. I wanted to go on a real nice hike, spend all day up there in the mountains and so I did, it was to be the longest hike I’d ever attempted and completed. It all began here, at the entrance of the Mist Trail.

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And it begins! Entrance to the Mist Trail.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Squirrels are so cuteeeeee!! ❤

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Chill

It was still early in the morning as I made my way up the trail. It couldn’t have been later than 7am when I came across this view. I think it’s beautiful the way shadows climb up the rocky faces of mountains. In the shadows it drops below 10 degrees but out in the open sun it could be easily triple that, and when making your way up the trail means that you get one or the other for a few minutes at a time you really don’t know what to take off or put on. A chill runs through your spine every time you hide behind the rock face and end up with a view like this.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
You can hear and see it beyond the shadows…

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And here is is, the Vernal Falls

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Behind me, a rainbow perfectly captures the figure. The Mist was just impossible to avoid on my lens…

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And then ofcourse, there’s me awkwardly asking someone to take my picture; turned out pretty okay! 🙂

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Once I got to the top, I realised that the awe had not ended yet! You must see the full panorama! 🙂

Now at the top I thought it would be a good time for lunch. Before I’d even unpacked my sandwiches, fruit and snacks, a squirrel found me, no doubt looking at my fancy trail mix!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Sadly I’d already eaten my sandwiches before I took this photo

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
He’s enjoying the view with me

So that was it, time to leave my newfound friend alone. Next stop, Nevada falls, another 3 kilometres up ahead. It was here where I’d bumped into two sisters who, like me had lost the main path! And who couldn’t with forests like this below. At one point I’d followed a path that led me right back to where I began, talk about Deja Vu! The sisters, from Cleveland (just in case I ever visit) were headed the same way. We would soon bump into each other a dozen times with me nudging them to continue along the Panorama trail and down the 4-mile track! Well worth it and an absolute great company to have met on the hike.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Massive log in the way? let’s cut our way through it

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Looking down

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The Nevada falls was just ahead…and then the clouds came rolling in…

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Spying on the Nevada Falls…

Much of the next 14 km can be summarised by one photo below. It felt like I was always following a path around the mountain, never being able to see what was just that bit further ahead. What you could see though, was the Half Dome almost throughout the trail, It’s as if no matter how far you walked, the Half Dome and it’s mountains never moved, never shifted away from your sight.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Panorama Trail…

At the end of the trail was an incredible lookout where most people had not hiked to get up, but instead made their way by car or bus. I could have saved myself 14 km’s of mountainous death if I had taken that option and as I stumbled past all the tourists who took the easy way up, I could see why.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Apart from the impending weather doom, can you spot the difference?

But the hike had yet ended, as the clouds rolled in I kept my fingers crossed for the 4-mile hike back down. It was quite amazing and just my luck that just as I reached the base the rain poured in like none other.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Anddddd more squirrels!

So with much relief and good company from the sisters, we were back down on the valley camp. We had dinner at one of lodges where they served a buffet / food court like meal which was pretty simple yet interesting. We said our goodbyes and hoped to visit each other across the world one day.

That evening I continued the journey back outside the National Park and towards the one and only Viva Las Vegas. On my way out I could not help but stop at what would be the last of about a dozen amazing lookouts at my time here in Yosemite and wow was it an absolutely incredible farewell. Farewell Yosemite, but sure not a goodbye ❤

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
One last look…

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The way out…

That night I drove into the sunset, swirling and twirling through the mountains and soon found refuge by a lookout and so took up camp. I sat there for such a length of time that I could not tell, but because the view was something that I could not explain. It was with moments like this that make me wonder why I am out here, all on my own and so far from home; moments like this that make me more sure than ever that I am heading in the right direction. Because so often do I feel that I am out of place, that the world is trying to make me someone I am not; it is so often that I feel there exists a place where I belong and i’ts so close, within a hearts reach.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Night 3 – Sunset Horizon

Day 4

So it was on Day 4 that I continued my way through the mountains. The drive down and back up these mountains was a lot longer than I’d expected, the twists and turns felt like they’d never end and what looks like 20km on google maps is more like 50kms worth of twists and turns. As fun as they were though, it pushed my timetable a bit back and so later on I would miss my chance to see the beauty of Death Valley (hot desert and more hot desert from what I’ve heard).

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The unexpected mountain battles

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The never ending twisty turnies

The drive, however was gorgeous and once again in my good old fashion I can’t help but stop at the many lookouts along the way.

INSERT VIDEO OF SCENELAPSE

INSERT VIDEO OF ME DRIVING

The next stop was Kings Canyon which was supposed to be on my way out of all these national parks but turned out to be a whole day trip. The one thing I really wanted to see was the largest tree in the world known as the “General Sherman”; a giant sequiola. If you’re curious as to what they mean by the largest tree in the world, it’s measured by total volume, so it may not be the tallest or widest, but it’s combination of the two does make it so.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Entering Kings Canyon – Don’t mind the smudges, they’re just the dozens of bugs that decided to chill on my windscreen

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Onto the valley floor

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Perspective

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Sequioas, giant sequioas everywere

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Backpack vs Sequioa trunk

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And then there was me and the Sherms

To be honest, the tree was big, but not as big as I’d imagined. I’m not sure why but when I think of a big tree I’d like to think I could look up and not see the top, that above me would be something of a stalk into the sky. Now, I know what you’re about to say, this isn’t some Jack in the Beanstalk or Avatar movie, this is real life; well let me tell you, real life is underwhelming sometimes then *sad face*. But nonetherless the trip here was wonderful and the short hike was full of surprises, among some of them was overhearing tourists be in awe of the tree, one of them sounded just like this when they saw it “aauuuuhhh zes zes, zat is big tree”, I couldnt help but giggle. Then you had others who tried taking photos from perspective, trying to hold the trunk between their fingers or leaning against it from an angle that made them look as tall as the tree, this was fun to watch as I sat there admiring the nature around me.

A short drive later and I was met with some construction work up ahead, they were repairing some of the tight bends around the mountains edge that must have collapsed recently. It was quite a long wait, so long that I turned off the car, opened up the roof and had lunch sitting on top of the car whilst everyone watched behind me.

*INSERT VIDEO OF HAVING LUNCH ON TOP OF CAR*

Just like that, I was out of the mountains and the colours of the landscapes changed dramatically.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Green – One last look

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Yellow – fields of orange plantations

From green to yellow. It was so sudden and to be honest, i hadn’t even noticed the scenery change until i looked twice. Driving is sometime’s like that, especially longer journeys. The landscapes all blend into one long road of ash and pavement and not until you look for a second time do you really notice your surroundings.

Sun was dawning now and a yellow glow in the distance complimented the earth. Driving into it, i was met with machines, hundreds upon hundreds of machines drilling into the earth. It’s hard to explain the sounds and feelings that emcompass you as you sit there watching, watching them turn and twist, like the drinking bird that never stops drinking and sucking from the earth. It’s hard to believe that this is what society is based upon and every ounce of your being tells you that this is somehow not right, that this is very wrong and yet this is how it is.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The oil rigs

*INSERT VIDEO OF MACHINES*

I stopped by a Denny’s for dinner. Classic American fast food described simpley as large in proportion, cheesy, meaty and fatty!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Denny’s Diner

That night, i drove into the sunset and took my rest by the side of Highway 15, just hours from the lights of Vegas.

Day 5

The early morning drive was met with a really cool sight. Right in the middle of the Mojave Desert i drove past the Ivanpah solar thermal plant. Couldn’t help but stop by the side and take a few photos of this awesome engineering project, just one of a few i would plan on seeing today!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant

Next stop, Walmart! I had to go to atleast one while i was here right? do they really sell guns? is the pharmaceuticals aisle larger than the sweets? nope, but it was pretty big!

Hoover Dam. I was here, now this was truly an incredible marvel of engineering! Sweltering hot outside  though as i made my way from the car park to the tourist centre taking plenty of photo’s, enjoying the view and reading all about the project.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Sweltering hot!

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My tanned face

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The Hoover Dam ❤ WOW

After a few hours at the dam, it was time to head out towards the Grand Canyon! This was no simple feat, over 4 hours of  driving in the desert, with literally nothing to see and nothing to do inbetween can drive someone crazy! You know those cartoons of the desert landscape where you see the dry round shrubs bounching from one side of the screen to the other? well, that’s real, there really are shrubs bouncing across the road on these desert highways!

I spent a lot of time walking the various tracks of the canyon on my own. It has a certain grandness where you’d just like to be alone in the peace and quiet. There’s not much else to be said about the Grand Canyon as the photos speak for themselves. Absolute wonder.

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Tourists

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Okay, you win, it really is pretty grand

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The photo doesn’t do the red rocks justice

Another 4 hours of driving back into Vegas had me in a dazzle. From sunset to city rise i could see in the same distance as i headed into the city!

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Sunset heading into Vegas

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City lights rise

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
Vegas Strip

That night i met up with friends, enjoyed a yummy In-n-out burger and retired the night at The Luxor!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The Luxor

Sadly, I’d never spent the time to finish this blog post 😥 Plenty of stories and photos to tell of the other half of the time I was out here but maybe they will be told another time.

Thanks for reading my friends ❤