A Mighty Long Way

Travel, adventure, and more!


Packing for a backpacking trip is a fine art and a delicate balance. The trick is to pack as lightly as possible whilst ensuring that you have everything you need to bring. Things like socks and toiletries can be picked up easily from pretty much anywhere in the world so you can go lightly on these but some items you really do need to make sure you have with you at all times.

Here is our list of the Top Ten Items which no adventurer should be without.

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Summer’s here and school’s almost out. Both you and the kids have worked hard all year and now it’s time to pack your suitcase, put on your sunhat and head for that well earned vacation!

Finding a holiday destination that is suitable for all the family can prove a real challenge especially if it’s your first time going away with the kids. High season can also send prices soaring but there are still some real deals out there for those with some persistence, patience and of course flexibility.

To help you out we have compiled our little list of Best Summer Destinations for Families so you can take it easy and concentrate on relaxing.

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Once upon a time we travellers stayed in touch with the folks back home by mailing post-cards from around the world and sending the occasional letter. These days, social media channels and email allows our friends and families to follow our every move but still, sometimes our loved ones just need to hear our voices.

Long distance calling though remains bloody expensive and you can easily eat through $10 of local call credit in only a handful of minutes. Help is at hand though thanks to these top apps and services for long distance calling.

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Everyone likes a good beach. The crashing of the waves on the rocks, the beating down of the sun on your face, and the pure, unbroken relaxation that derives from enjoying some time lying in the sand. There are millions of beaches in the world, making for over 200,000 miles of coastline; about as long as the distance between here and the moon.

With that in mind it is quite the pursuit to try and name the most incredible beaches in the world, and it all depends on preferences. Some people like a nice quiet spot for sunbathing, others like to party. Geological features may be your forte, or perhaps the killer waves to surf. Here is a selection of some of the world’s most incredible beaches, that hopefully cater to some different tastes.

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Eco tourism, technically speaking, is a type of tourism that offers an alternative to the mass scale tourism that can so often cause damage to the environment and to local communities. Eco tourism aims to have a direct positive impact on the area it operates in; giving back to the local community, getting involved in conservation, and educating travelers about culture and the Eco system.

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La Concha Bay, San Sebastian

Spain is home to more than 5000 miles of coastline, so there really is no lack of choice on where to catch some beach time. Often, we associate beaches with sun, sand, and… shells, but it really depends what your flavour is. Whatever it is, Spain can provide.

Playa de las Cathederals- Ribadeo

Spain is blessed with both the white sands of the Mediterranean, and the rugged coastline of the atlantic. Some of the countries’ most impressive coastal spectacles, are on the less renowned, choppy coasts of the north. It is the rough temperament of the ocean which puts some holidaymakers off, but the relentless battering of the ocean on the side of cliffs are a pull-factor for those that can bear the winds.

The Playa de las Cathedrals is a stunning example of atlantic coastline, and an awe-striking reminder of the power of nature. Here, the white horses of Pegasus charge forwards to batter against the cliffs, leaving a row of majestic cliff carvings, unlike any others.

It is an absolute must to arrive here at low tide, and is worth planning ahead. At low tide, it is possible to walk under a series of arches in the cliffs, and explore caves, making for a unique beach side stroll. At high tide it is still possible to admire the formations from above, but there will only be a tiny amount of beach available.

La Concha- San Sebastian

Not all beautiful beaches are nestled away in the middle of nowhere, and there is the odd city beach which manages to be just as stunning. Situated near the French border on the Northern Atlantic coast San Sebastian is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It boasts two very clean, and appealing beaches, both of which are worth a visit. Forget the beaches of Barcelona, and check out La Concha!

A far cry from the usual below-average-but-I-guess-it-will-do beaches, La Concha is set against a backdrop of hills and island. The atlantic waters lap the shore of the golden sand, adding atmosphere to an already buzzing city. The beach and surrounding promenade are thriving with tourists, but the atmosphere is rousing, and the beach can turn it’s sands to partying when the sun goes down!

San Sebastian is set to be European Cultural Capital in 2016, and is thriving with budding artists and musicians. A stroll along the sea-front at sunset will tickle the senses, and delight the soul, as the lapping of the sea merges with the sounds of the buskers, and the chatting of tourists and locals alike.

Playa de les Illets- Formentera

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Sometimes, you just want a straight up vacation, with a hard weeks relaxation, lapping up the sun-rays, and only moving from the sun-lounger to cool down with a dip in some crystal clear Mediterranean water. Sound familiar?

Formentera is one of the Balearic Islands, and lies to the south of it’s party-hard cousin, Ibiza. It is part of the Ses Salines nature reserve, and the beaches are both spectacular, and reasonably quiet. Where Ibiza screams out for dance, drugs, and sex on the beach, Formentera whispers white sand, water-sports, and fine-dining on seafood.

One of the finest beaches the island has to offer is Illets, which offers several kilometres of perfect white sand, close to the amenities of the adorable port town. The mild sea is family-friendly fun for swimming, snorkelling, and kicking back in the sun. For a relaxing beach, with a tropical island vibe, Playa de les Illets really hits the spot.

Mundaka- Basque

Somewhere hot and comfy to lie in the sun is high up on most people’s beach priorities. But not everybody’s. Some people want to hit the waves! Spain has many beaches that suit all levels of surfer dude, but Mundaka is not for the faint hearted. Mundaka lies deep in the heart of Basque country; a northern region with it’s own identity, and a rich history waiting to be explored.

It is perhaps the most famed surf beach in Spain, and is internationally acclaimed in the surfer community. Intermediate and expert surfers come here to ride the beast left-hand wave, which reaches heights of 12ft! Needless to say, Mundaka is not the best place to learn, so newbies should try out their skills elsewhere first.

Beginners, or interested bystanders can marvel at the wild velocity of the waves, and at the courage of the keen surfers who take on the ocean. Mundaka is not however the first pick of beach for those who are not interested in surfing. There are much sandier, and more relaxing beaches available. It is a beach that is all about the beauty of the wave!

Playa de Rodas- Islas Cies

The Islas Cies are a beautiful set of islands off the coast of the Galician region of Spain. This is a little taste of the Caribbean in Spain, and you will be pleased to know the stunning island is completely uninhabited. It instead forms part of a national park, which is open to the public in the summer months, and accessible via a short boat ride from the pretty town of Baiona.

Here a perfect crescent of soft white sand, couples with the lapping of the atlantic ocean. The experience is a tranquil one, that would perhaps not be available on the equally beautiful, but often hideously overcrowded beaches of the Med.

You may notice an under-representation of south coast Mediterranean beaches. There is no doubt that the well-known areas up and down the coast, such as Malaga and Alicante, contain their share of stunning sand, and omni-present sun. Sometimes the ease and luxury of these beaches can be their downfall, and the resorts that amass around them can take away from the charm.

It all depends what you are looking for really, but the real untouched beauty, may be found on the more rugged atlantic coast, where sun might have to be sacrificed for superb scenery, and secluded gems. Whatever it is you are looking for, Spain has a beach to satisfy.

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Pink wallet, 20US dollar, sale tag

Don’t let a tight budget put you off traveling. There are many ways to make your money stretch, and often it is possible to travel for less than your usual cost of living, so long as you are prepared to take your budget into consideration. If you’re smart, it’s even possible to make money online to fund your travels. Here are some quick fire travel tips to help you get the most out of your tight budget. Feel free to take advice from the ones that you like, and discard the ones that you don’t:

  • Travel somewhere close- If you have a tight budget, you could consider traveling somewhere nearby to your home, to save on the large costs of round the world flights. See it as an opportunity to explore some of your own country, or somewhere close on the continent.
  • Choose budget accommodation- You don’t have to stay in cockroach infested rooms, but accommodation is a major cost that can be kept down with some consideration. You could look for vouchers or deals for hotels, stay in hostels (which are also great for meeting other travelers), or camp out for next to nothing.
  • Travel on cheap transport- If you book the right flight it can be very cheap, especially relatively so for long distances. You should book carefully to get the right deal. Coaches are also very cheap, and can be used to travel across entire continents if you can handle the long journey times. Trains are probably the most expensive for long distances, so stick to coaches, buses, planes, and boats, and always get a good deal.
  • Eat picnic food- It is nice to eat out,but a picnic in a nice park, or set against a backdrop of epic LOTR style mountains, can be even nicer. Eating food purchased from a shop is much cheaper than eating out everyday, and in a lot of countries will save you money in the long run; money which will keep you traveling for longer.
  • Eat and drink local- There are typically two price brackets for a given country; tourist prices, and local prices. Avoid tourist traps and find local hang outs, and places to eat and drink that locals enjoy. They will be better value for money, as well as making for a more authentic experience. If you must eat out often, then think like a local.
  • Visit free or cheap attractions- You don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to have a great time. You can do, but you don’t have to. There are always things to do that cost very little, and this doesn’t mean missing out on the culture of your destination. For example, it may cost 30 Euros to go up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but it is only 5 Euros to go up the Arc De Triumph, for an equally impressive view. Many museums and art galleries, attractions with cultural or historical significance, are cheap to enjoy.
  • Enjoy nature- Perhaps the most free attraction on the planet, is the planet itself. The splendors of nature are for some the most joyous that a place has to offer, and they are certainly the cheapest. Walking through mountains, camping, swimming in a beautiful lake, sunbathing on a sandy golden beach; all of these require little more than the cost of food for the day.
  • Work or volunteer- If you cannot last on your budget then fear not. In some countries it is possible to find work, and the type of work and wage varies depending where you are. Fruit picking and other agricultural work is an example, and can be found in many countries. Volunteering is possible nearly everywhere, through projects or websites that host work exchanges for food and bed. This is a cheap, and often very rewarding way to travel.
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Beautiful landscape of the Grand Canyon sunset.

The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations attracting over 5 million visitors a year, many of them American. The Colorado river carves its way through the plateau exposing two billion years of geological history. The Grand Canyon National Park has fascinated all that visit with its awe inspiring vastness, and intimidating depths, as well as its immense and powerful beauty, and diverse micro-climates.

The canyon can be over 2km deep at points, and spans a length of 446km, with a width of nearly 30km, making it one of the largest canyons in the world. The Grand Canyon sits in the desert in the state of Arizona, and is still inhabited by tribes and Native American people to this day. With such a rich cultural background, a display of geological splendor, and a unique sprawl of scenery that can only be seen in one place in the world, it is little wonder why the canyon pulls in the crowds.

Many visitors of the park are satisfied with seeing the Canyon with a shuttle bus ride, or by parking their car at overlooks along the South Rim, which can be accessed relatively easily. The North Rim is far less accessible; 345km round the canyon by car, or 34km by foot on the North and South Kaibab Trail. For those who want a more adventurous experience, nothing can beat a hike into the canyons, to give a real sense of the scale and immensity of the area. Although hiking can be an exciting way to explore the Grand Canyon, there are several things you will need to know before embarking.

Day Walks

If you are planning a day walk there are many options available, and no permit is needed. The Grand Canyon National Park boasts many trail routes, some of them well maintained and others very rugged. Some of the trails and sections are suitable for day trip excursions, without the need to camp out. South Rim walks range from the easy Rim Trail walk, which is easily lengthened or shortened by using the shuttle bus, to the very steep Grandview Trail.

There are also many North Rim day hikes suitable for casual walks, ranging from the 30 minute Bright Angel Point Trail, to the 8 hour strenuous walk to the Roaring Springs on the North Kaibab Trail. You will need to plan your day walk to suit your ability; it is better to take on less and have an enjoyable experience, than to risk danger by taking on a hike that is not suitable to be done in a day.

Longer Trails

To see more of the canyon an overnight hike, or a several day excursion, might open up more options. The Corridor Zone trails are the most well maintained in the Grand Canyon and are recommended for first time hikers. They often have more abundant supplies of purified water, ranger stations, and some basic facilities like toilets. Subsequent zones increase in difficulty from the threshold zone, for experienced hikers, and the primitive and wild zones for only proven navigators, and trained desert hikers. Choose a zone and a trail wisely, and be totally honest. Have concern for your safety and you will have a most enjoyable time hiking. Whatever trail route you chose it is never clever to wander off the beat and track in an area as inhospitable as the Grand Canyon.

Obtaining a Permit

For most excursions longer than a day it will be necessary to obtain a permit, which can be applied for from Backcountry Information Centre. There are some developed campsites where hikers can rest without a permit, but to have access to all available camping options a permit will be necessary. They cost around $10, plus an extra $5 a night for every night camping in the park. Permits must be displayed on tents for rangers to see easily. The park has many designated camping grounds that vary in facilities. If you plan on using a horse or a mule this should also be stated when applying for a permit.

Water, or the Lack of It

The trail routes and campsites in the Grand Canyon National Park may or may not have a decent supply of drinking water. You will need to plan ahead and understand the availability of water for the time of year. Whilst some of the more popular trails have regular water stations, some of the less maintained ones will have no drinking water, especially in hotter, dryer months.

Hikers may sometimes need to purify water from rivers and streams, or carry an abundance for a certain section. It is important therefore, when a trail hike has been picked, to check how much water will be available and how much should be carried. Whilst walking, it is recommended to drink at least quarter a liter an hour, more on a hot day. Do not risk dehydration; take plenty of water, do some research, and get some advice if unsure.

Other Gear

Apart from water, you will also need to carry enough food. There are not any restaurants once you descend into the canyon, and so taking more than enough food, and some emergency rations will be imperative. This is not a list for hiking gear but other considerations will include clothes, tent, and sleeping bags at the least. Have enough protection from the sun, enough warmth for when the temperature dips at night, and a good enough tent to withstand the elements. Wear good hiking boots on tougher trails, and take good maps, guide books, and navigational equipment for tougher trails.

Climate

It is very important to understand the climate of the Grand Canyon, or to at least be aware of how it may affect your hike. Because of the intricacies, and large changes of gradients in the canyons, many micro-climates can be found there. For example, the coldest and wettest weather station at Bright Angel Rancher, North Rim, is located only 8 miles from the driest and hottest one, Phantom Ranch. The coldest temperature recorded at Bright Angel was -22 degrees F, and the hottest at Phantom 120 degrees F.

The deeper you descend into the canyon, the hotter the temperature, by around 5.5 degrees F per 1000 meters. It is therefore wise to be prepared for all extremes, for extreme hot and cold. The Grand Canyon is mostly a desert sort of climate, although the canyons are subject to the occasional storm, and lightning strikes. Temperature changes can be extreme, even swinging during a day by as much as 30 degrees. Be prepared for hot, dry daytimes, and cold nights.

Snow can arrive high up on the Rims of the canyon, especially the North Rim, and towards the end of summer monsoon season hits briefly. Research the climate, and check the weather forecast for the canyon. Get some information that correlates to the time of year that is is, and the specific areas you will be hiking.

Hiking in the canyon is not hugely dangerous if these considerations are met. With a bit of preparation and responsibility, the epic views of the canyons can be enjoyed with a tailor made hiking experience. Chose wisely and reap the benefits that the tourists in the car park on South Rim will simply never understand!

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