A City, a river, a kirkyard & a Castle

Welcome to Scotland

It was wet and muddy as It had been raining during the morning when i arrived. I walked over to the graveyard or kirkyard as it said on the sign when entering it. I was standing on the historic site of the Knight Templars Kirkyard. A little known graveyard.

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Arriving at the hotel I decided to go for a walk as I started to see some glimpse of the sun finding the way through the clouds. I was in Aberdeen for a business trip and had been booked in at the Maryculter House Hotel. A Hotel located quite a distance from the city center.

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The Templar Kirkyard is a part of the Templar Park now located on the grounds of Maryculter House Hotel. The park was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the Knights Templars around 1225 and a Chapel was built on the site in 1287.  The Kirkyard is surrounded by a wall that makes it sheltered from the park. It’s small and have a number of good examples of 18th century stones still in good conditions.

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I walked around the graveyard and found my way down to the river. The hotel is located next to the River Dee.

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A river that reaches the North sea at Aberdeen and is also known to be a river great for fishing so one of the activities of the hotel, as things to do in the area, and that is a unique aspect of Maryculter House is fishing. The river Dee is a world famous salmon river. I found a road along the river and kept walking. It was wet after the rain so I had to be careful where to step and at some points the road went over to a small pathway.

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I found the way up to the main road to try to find my way back to the hotel.

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Getting close to the hotel I saw the sign to Storybook Glen and got curious, so I headed up the road to have a look and see what It could be. Saying storybook, A bell should probably be ringing, telling me that It is for kids, but well It did not ring yet. Getting closer I found out it’s a park and the women selling me the ticket to go in to the park probably told me it’s a children park, but at this time It must have been the Scottish accent that I did not understand or it might as well have been the jet lag.

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It was only when I entered the park I realized it was a kids park, but as I was already inside I made my walk through the park and It ended up being a nice walk. The park is quite large and a great park to bring the kids for some play. Looking at the figures from different cartoons and children stories, I could even recognize some from the stories I was told In my childhood.

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Arriving in Aberdeen I discover a bustling, cosmopolitan city with Beautiful Architecture and a good range of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from.

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Aberdeen City and Shire is a region full of maritime heritage so I spent some hours I had free to walking around in the city. I had to try out some of the tasteful seafood as the area is known for some of the worlds finest seafood. I strolled around for a couple of hours visiting some attractions and ended up having lunch at the Jamie Oliver restaurant in town.

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And one of the thing I could not miss was the coast line and the majestic landscape Scotland is know for, so i headed out to the Dunnottar Castle on my last day in town. I arrived at the entrance to the Castle and it looked liked it might be closed. No cars at the parking and I did not see anyone around. I found a sign telling me it was open so I continued in the direction of the castle. It was a bit of rain in the air and getting closer to the coast line it started to be quite windy. The Castle is located on an enormous flat-topped rock with cliffs on three sides and attached to the main land only by a narrow neck of land. I read on the website of the Castle that it had been closed a few days before I went to visit and being late February with strong wind and rain and this location I could understand that it’s probably not the place you would want to be with that type of weather.

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Entering Dunnottar Castle was like stepping back in history. This rock and the buildings reflects much of the rich and tragic story of Scottish history. I spent some time walking around in the different buildings and it’s an impressive site. I could imagine how it must have been in the old days.

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St Ninian, William Wallace, Mary Queeen of Scots and the Marquies of Montrose have all appeared on this dramatic stage. Most famously, though, it was at Dunnottar Castle that a small garrison held out against the might of Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels from destruction.

After visiting the Castle I made my way back to the small town of Stonehaven following the path along the coast line. It was still rain in the air and the wind had become more strong than when i entered the Castle but I decided to do the walk anyway as I wanted to see the landscape and make some photos on the way. And It is an impressive coast line well worth the walk.

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Walking the coastal path I also passed the war memorial and had some amazing view back to the Dunnotar Castel and down to the Stonehaven city. The walk was fairly easy and took me about half an hour.

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Walking down to Stonehaven you have a great view of the small seaside town. It’s a cozy city and easy to get around. I found my way over to the central part to try to find a way to get back to Aberdeen. I found a tourist information center but it was closed, but had some stands outside of the buildings with some information about the city and a map. The city is a good starting point for entering the Dunnottar Castle and also for other hiking options in the area.
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Back at the hotel it was time for an afternoon coffee and some snack before heading to the airport. The hotel is stepped in history and tradition and is often used as a location for arranging weddings. Before leaving I was told that The Knights Templar’s whose original function was to protect those on pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, were never completely dissolved in Scotland and that the organization still exist today.

Some useful information:

http://www.maryculterhousehotel.com/

http://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/

http://www.storybookglenaberdeen.co.uk/

Hiking Galdhøpiggen

I was happy and tired after hiking the Besseggen Ridge and my next plan was to hike to the top of Galdhøpiggen the following day.  I had checked options for the hike and I had 2 choices. One was to start at Juvasshytta and do the hiking crossing the Styggebreen glacier or I could start the hike at Spiterstulen lodge in Visdalen. My original plan was to stay at Juvasshytta but it was fully booked, but I still decided to start the hike from here as It was shorter and I had to drive back to Oslo the same day. So I had to be at Juvasshytta in good time before the first guided tour over the glacier that was 10am in the morning.

I was driving to my hotel and made a stop in Lom on the way. I needed a coffee and wanted to make a visit to Lom Stave Church to see it from inside as last time I passed by here It was closed and I could only see the outside.

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Lom is a municipality in Oppland county in Norway and is considered as the gateway to the Jotunheimen Mountains and the Jotunheim National Park. The municipality contains the two highest peaks in Norway, Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 metres (8,100 ft) and Glittertind at 2,464 metres (8,084 ft), which lie within the park.

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Lom Stave Church, which is located at Lom center, is believed to have been built in 1158. It was extended in 1634, with further addition of two naves in 1667. A few Runic inscriptions can still be seen in the church. The church also contains numerous paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries with religious motifs. Many of the paintings were made by local artist Eggert Munch, a distant relation of the famous Edvard Munch. The church also contains numerous examples of local woodcarving, as seen in the elaborate acanthus scrolls adorning the pulpit. Carved dragon figures on the roof are old symbols of protection against evil. It is still in use as the local church.

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After a long day of hiking and a visit to the local Church I was happy to reach the hotel. I had booked a room at Elveseter Culture and Art Hotel that is an old farm situated in Bøverdalen valley just outside of Lom. Elveseter’s history is linked to a family of gifted craftsmen of Norwegian folk art and pioneers in the hotel and leisure industry. They dared to think differently and succeeded.

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One of the characteristics of Elveseter, is the use of names and symbols from the ancient Norse Mythology. Names such as Midgard, Utgard, Tor and Odin, makes history come alive at the hotel and creates a bridge to modern times.

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I spent the evening having dinner and drinks in the hotel restaurant and a visit to the hotel bar before i headed to my Viking room for a good night sleep.

I woke up early so I had time to enjoy my breakfast before I had to drive to Juvasshytta for my day of hiking to Norway’s highest peak. I bought my ticket for the Glacier hiking and went outside to wait. But as the day before It was rain in the air and foggy and at this elevation with some wind as well, I could feel the cold. I was prepared for the rain but not the cold as it was in June, so I did not bring any gloves. Who need gloves in June, well I realized I would be very cold if i did not have it so I rushed in to the small store as I earlier saw they was selling some clothes. Looking at the watch I had to hurry and tried to get contact with the girl behind the counter to serve me before the others and get the right size of gloves. She came with different type as well, so I just took a pair that was made of wool and was fitting, paid and went out. I arrived outside and everyone was lining up listening to the guide. We needed to walk for some kilometers to arrive at the glacier so they handed out the equipment needed and some had to help out carry the ropes. Arriving at the start of the glacier we had to wait for the guides to organize the ropes and the groups so this took some time. The best decision I had made today was to buy my gloves. As we where all ready the wind got more heavy and it started snowing. The first group went off and we had to wait until they where on a distance before we could go.  The wind got heavier and same with the snow. Galdhøpiggen was surrounded by a white cloud.

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We crossed the glacier and left the ropes ready for the return. Then it was to hike up to the top. It is not a very challenging hike but still some snow so some parts took a lot of the energy. Reaching the top there is a small hut where they sell some snack, coffee and some souvenirs. They also sell stamps that can only be bought up here for the ones who wish to send some postcard home. The weather did not change as i hoped and still with a cold wind, it was quite comfortable to sit inside to eat my lunch.

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So here I was on the top of Norway. Event with the fog, the rain and the snow it felt fantastic and I was happy I got the weekend free to be out exploring this fantastic nature.

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Now it was back in the car and a long drive back to Oslo.

At Juvasshytta there is an alpine ski resort with lift on a glacier, with top on 2200 m.a.sl, the highest in Scandinavia. It is called Galdhøpiggen summer ski center and is open from June and all the summer, when the road is open.

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Some additional information about hiking to Galdhøpiggen:

Galdhøpiggen (English: Galdhø Peak) is the highest mountain in Norway, Scandinavia and Northern Europe, at 2,469 m (8,100 ft) above sea level.

“Galdhøpiggen” means “the peak/spike (piggen) of the mountain “Galdhø”. The first registered ascent was done In 1850 by three local men from Lom, the guide Steinar Sulheim, the local teacher L. Arnesen and the church warden S. Flaatten.

Access to the top of Galdhøpiggen is not especially hard: from Juvasshytta (1850 metres above sea level, 5 km from the summit) it takes about three hours up (including about 45 minute to prepare for crossing the Styggebreen glacier), an hour at the top and about two hours back. Some days in the summer, a few hundred people reach the summit each day. Guides are needed to cross the glacier, but are available every summer morning.

Galdhøpiggen can also be hiked from the Spiterstulen lodge in Visdalen, with a technically very easy, but still somewhat strenuous climb of 1300 m — nearly 4000 ft. It takes four hours walk up, two hours down. From Spiterstulen, hikers do not have to cross the Styggebreen glacier, and hence a guide is not required. Ardent peak-baggers may count three summits on the route from Spiterstulen: Svellnose, Keilhaus topp and the summit itself.

Hiking Besseggen – A part of the Norwegian National park Jotunheimen

I had my hiking boots ready, woke up early and was looking outside, it was raining, just as the forecast had promised but not what I was hoping for.

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I took my time eating my breakfast, hoping for the weather to clear up in the next hour. But with the dripping rain and the fog in the air I did not have much hope. I glimpsed out of the window to check the queue for the first boat leaving and as expected It was just a few persons standing there. I had to make up my mind if I i should gamble with the weather and go for this boat or wait it out for the next and hope for better weather. Quickly checking the forecast again it looked like it might clear up around mid-day, so calculating the time for when I would be at Lake Bessvatnet that should be about half way of the hike, I decided to wait for the next boat. I spent the time reading my book, looking out hoping for the rain to stop. I made my lunch pack ready during breakfast but checking my backpack I would need some more water. I went to the store and as the rain was still poring down I just stayed in here until people started to queue up for the boat.

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So here I was, just getting off the Ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu,  ready to hike the Besseggen Ridge, one of the most famous hiking destinations in Norway and a part of the Jotunheimen national park. Hiking Besseggen you have the option to start at Gjendesheim and do the hike to Memurubu and catch the boat back or do as I did, take the boat to Memurubu and hike back to Gjendesheim. I had been wanted to do this hiking for years so I had checked it out and was sure that the only option for me having fare of heights would be to hike it this way. The drawback hiking it this way is the crowd, as most people prefer hiking it this way. The ferry was crowded but as it was a rainy day and still early in the season, it still had capacity to take more people. The first part is uphill and quite steep so I stopped a few places on the way up to let the crowd pass me and took the the opportunity to take some nice photos and get a photo taken of myself.

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It was June so still snow on the mountain tops.

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It was clearing up a bit but the fog kept coming and going. The marking of the trail is quite good but as I was hiking alone in this weather I was letting the crowd in front of me but stayed just behind them for the first part uphill. As most of the crowd was making a good effort of walking fast the first part they needed a break at the first top, so I passed them and walked for a long time by myself. I love walking in the mountains just surrounded by the beauty of the nature. So quiet and peaceful, so I kept walking for about an hour almost by myself. Then I could see some people far in front of me. They might have been walking in front of me without me notice it as it was still foggy and it was only when the fog cleared I could see them.

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The group in front of me looked like being 2 couples so I just kept going in this tempo and stayed at a distance, but close enough to see them. It felt more comfortable as I know the Norwegian mountains and how fast the weather can change.

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The snow had been melting so the level of the water was quite high, something I would experience later on the trail as well,  so at edge of the lake I had to balance on the stones for a part and managed quite well without getting wet on my shoes. I was enjoying the beauty of the nature around me and the amazing view.

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Arriving at Lake Bessvatnet it was still foggy but the rain had stopped. It is quite a challenge to get down this part but I just took it easy and tried to follow the people in front of me and when down there was a track in the snow to follow so it got easier.

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I reached the point of the trail where I had Bessvatnet at one side and Lake Gjende at the other side. So then I new I was about half way. Looking at the watch I had kept a good pace.  And now was the time where the most challenging part start. At least for me it was. Just looking up seeing people climbing made me dizzy and I started considering if I would be able to make it. Options would be going back and well that was not an option. Other option could be to follow the Bessvatnet and see if i could get up at some other point to avoid the steep climbing, but sitting having my lunch break and evaluating it I ended up with the challenging option to just follow the track and hope for the best.

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I was still a step behind the 2 couples that had been in front of me for the most of the trip. and at this stage I was consider this as being quite clever as now I could follow where they where climbing and hopefully they would choose the best route and make it easier for me. So I was thinking if they can do it then I can do it. And as long as i don’t look down before I feel i am on safe ground this will go well. One step at a time. Finding my grip, the right place to put my feet and push myself up. At one point I passed a couple climbing down. They where asking me if it was far and well for me it was difficult to say as I was not looking behind, at least trying my best not to, so looking up I told them that they where probably half way. The women almost started crying telling me she would never do this again. It was the most scary thing she had done and she was not sure she would make it. I tried my best to tell her that the part until here was not so bad and she seamed more relaxed. I continued climbing up, trying not to look down but at some parts I was just at the edge so difficult not to look down. I just took a deep breath and continued. So far so good. I even challenged myself to turn around a few times to take some photos.

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The 2 couples was still in front of me and I could see that one of them started to have some problems with the height as well. I was just next to them now and one of the girl told me she had problems with fare of height but had overcome it, but now it came back. But we all managed to reach the top and could finally look back en enjoy the beautiful view. They made a break at this point as one of the guy was not in the best shape and he told me this part was more challenging that he had imagined.

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I took some photos and enjoyed the view and continued my way back to the starting point where I had taken the boat this morning. The rest of the trip was easy walking as most was flat or downhill.

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As I kept walking I started to get the view down to the Gjendeheim where I had slept the night before. I stopped took some photos and just enjoyed the view.

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At a few places going down I had to watch out. At one point the waterfall was quite heavy and had taken away a part of the trail so was difficult to cross and I was trying not to get my shoes under the water. I was close to  Gjendesheim and could see it at a short distance and I was thinking wow I did it and now I could understand why it is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Norway. I got down, picked up my car, feeling tired but in a good way and was happy I did the hike even if the weather was not the best. Looking at the watch I had spent about 5 hours from I got of the boat and reaching back to Gjendesheim. Not bad at all and now being tired and hungry I was looking forward to reaching my next destination that would be the Elveseter hotel, enjoying a good dinner with some good wine before my next hiking adventure the next day before heading back to Oslo.

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To get to Gjendeheim I rented a car in Oslo. I stayed over at Gjendesheim so a good thing is to book in front to make sure to get a room. It can be quite busy during the peak season.

When to go:
The main summer season in the Norwegian mountains is July and August.  These months will be your best bet for sunny, warm days, but be prepared for all kind of weather.

Getting there:
The start or finish of the Besseggen ridge is located at Gjendesheim, on the eastern end of lake Gjende and Jotunheimen national park itself.  Here you’ll find a full service DNT hut, a small shop/cafe, toilets, the ferry boat, and parking area.

By Bus:
Several busses travel to Gjendesheim daily.  The two options are to travel via Fagernes (to/from Oslo) in the south.  To the north the bus travels to Vagamo where one can transfer east to Otta and the train, or continue west through the fjords.

By Train:
There is no direct train link to Jotunheimen national park.  If traveling by train, say from Trondheim in the north, exit at Otta, where you will have to take the bus to Vagamo, then on to Gjendesheim.  The bus/train does not always meet at a convenient time, so be sure to check schedules.

Transportation links:
https://www.nsb.no/ – Train info
http://www.nor-way.no/ – Bus info
http://www.ruteinfo.no/ – Local bus info
http://gjende.no/ – Ferry boat info

Other Useful links:
http://www.turistforeningen.no/ – The Norwegian trekking association
http://www.yr.no/ – Norwegian weather

Singapore Air show

Asia’s Biggest For Aviation’s Finest

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I spent my Saturday morning watching the Singapore Air show and what a great show. It was crowded with people and the weather was hot and a bit cloudy, so sun block was a must and I had my camera ready to try got get some nice shots so here is some of the photos taken during the show.

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RSAF Black Knights, Singapore Team Aerobatics performing in F-16C Fighting Falcon jets with a new design having a crescent moon and five stars against its red and white body.

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Amazing Aerobatics performed by the team.

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Then some Aerobatics from the TNI-AU Jupiter Aerobatic Team from Indonesia.

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Followed by this amazing aircraft from MV-22B Osprey, United States Solo Aerobatics.

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The Marine Corps’ MV-22B Osprey is the world’s first production tilt-rotor aircraft, combining the best capabilities of a helicopter with range, airspeed and payload of fixed-wing airplanes. With vertical takeoff/landing ability, runways are not necessary, making it the perfect aircraft to respond to crisis and to move people and cargo quickly.

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And then the show with the performance from the RAAF F18-F, Australia. The F/A-18F Super Hornets are larger than the classic model with many detail improvements.

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It was a fantastic show full of action, music and high speed performance.

For more info about Singapore Air show you can check out the official site: http://www.singaporeairshow.com/

Pousada Tankamana

High up in the Valley

Pousada Tankamana is located in the Cuiaba Valley in the mountain range outside the City of Rio de Janeiro. It is close to the major center of Itaipava, a region known for organic farming with products like Cheese, Jam and trout. Itaipava is a small town that could well have been a mountain town in Germany and so different from other places I have visited in Brazil. The best way to get there is by car and it is about a 2 hour drive from the international airport in Rio. It is just to follow the road to Petropolis and then turn off the main road when you see the road sign to Itaipava. Looking at the map we knew we had to pass Itaipava and then turn up in to the valley to get on the right road. We almost passed the junction where we had to turn, but managed to see the road sign at the last moment. After turning of the main road we continued on a narrow road for some kilometers, passing some horse farms, some restaurants along the road and some nice villas so this was looking promising. The road  became more narrow and got over to a gravel road so we started to think we might be on the wrong road, but again there was a sign telling us we were heading in the right direction. Continuing the road got more winding and deep in to the forest so we made a question mark to what places we had booked. It was getting late and dark outside so when we finally arrived at a big gate we were happy to find out we had arrived at the right place and could check in to our “Chalet” in the middle of the forest.

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We wanted a change from the City life and the beaches and booked a stay for the weekend at this pousada. If you are not used to driving in Rio it can be an adventure in itself and getting out of Rio on a Friday afternoon is the same as being stuck in traffic. Arriving late on Friday evening due to the traffic we where meet by the friendly staff showing us to our Chalet. They had made up the fire place as it was in August and a bit chilly so what a welcome after a long drive.  It was first when we woke up the next morning we realized how beautiful this place hidden far up in the valley was.

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There was no rush to get up for breakfast as there was no timing for it. Whenever you feel like getting up to have your breakfast they will serve you. So we enjoyed our time, walking around looking at the place.

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After Breakfast we drove down to Itaipava to have a look around as it was Saturday and the market day. All the local people come to town to sell and buy things, meet up with friends, have a chat over a beer or a coffee. I love this atmosphere. We where visiting the marked and some small shops along the road. We stopped for a coffee and found a nice wine store where we ended up buying some wine for the evening.

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The people where friendly and talking and even they don’t speak much English they kept talking in Portuguese and smiling. We went for lunch at a nice restaurant we where recommended in the city before heading back to the pousada.

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We where back in the valley and wanted to spend the rest of our stay enjoying this fantastic place. If your not in to just relaxing there are 2 swimming pools, sauna, gym and spa so more than enough for an enjoyable weekend and being surrounded by nature you have lots of options for hiking. And they have bow and arrow if you would like to practice that. We went to explore the forest and did some hiking.

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Followed by some relaxing time in the sauna and a refreshing swim in the pool.

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This pool connected with the sauna have running water from the mountain and is not heated so makes you wake up when you jump in the pool from the sauna and swim out. We enjoyed our stay to the fullest, with wine by the fireplace in our Chalet, followed by an amazing dinner at the restaurant. They serve Brazilian and International food and being in the area with fresh trout they had different options on the menu. We tried out a few during our stay and the food could not have been better. It’s a 5 star resort surrounded by forest hidden in the valley.

To get to Tankamana we rented a car in Rio and booked our stay at http://www.booking.com so if you are in Rio and want a break from the beach and the samba this is the place to go.

Hiking in Rio

Pedra De Gavea

There’s more to Rio than just the famous Beaches, samba and caipirinhas – the city’s peaks offer an amazing view of the city and have some of the most fantastic urban hiking. So during my holiday in August last year I challenged myself to Hike to the top of Pedra de Gavea. For me this was a bit of getting out of my comfort zone as the hiking includes some rock climbing that is probably not the most ideal when you having fare of heights. The rock climbing is a small portion and considered as beginner level. The part can be done without rope but for safety ropes are recommended and for me a must so we hired a guide from the company RioXtreme that provided all the necessary equipment needed.

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Arriving at the start point the guards warned us that there had been occasional reports of armed robberies on the trail, so this got us thinking that this might not be a good idea. I have been hold up and robbed before with gun so I can promise it’s not an experience anyone would like to have. But despite of this we decided to go ahead and do the hiking. The hike is strenuous and not for beginners. So if you have not done this type of hiking before I would recommend to chose one of the easier mountains in the Tijuca forest.

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Pedra de Gavea is a part of the Tijuca forest that is the world’s largest urban forest. With its elevation at 844 Meters it makes it one of the highest mountains in the world that ends directly in the ocean. The hiking to the top takes about 2.5 hours so we made sure we had enough water and snack to eat.

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A few short breaks was needed along the way.

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Us and the Guide with a nice view in the background. Reaching this point we got the first close-up view of the top, and looking closely at the rock you can see features of a human face. The mountain is surrounded by mysterious legends and stories.

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Reaching where the rock climbing part comes in, a crowd of people where climbing up, so we took a short rest and enjoyed the Bird-eye view of Barra de Tijuca.

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Now being in front of the 30 meter wall that is nearly vertical and getting ready to climb is where the ropes and hardness come in handy.  If you do this part without ropes you better be careful as people have died here from falling. I did my best to not look back at any given time during the climbing.

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And finally getting to the end of the wall, happy I made it this far. The rest of the trail was steep and muddy but not to challenging compared to this Rock climbing part.

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Arriving at the top we where meet with a spectacular view of the city of Rio de Janeiro. A bit foggy but we could still see both Corcovado and Pão de Açúcar. From this view, what is considered as one of the  greatest cities in the world looks more like a jungle surrounded with beaches than a big city.

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After some time at the top enjoying the view it was time to head down again. As most of the part going up is steep going down is a quite big challenge as well and a killer for the legs. The guards had recommended us to get down early. The guide was eager to go fast down so that made us a bit nervous as we where sure the reason was he was nervous as well due to the guards warning about the robberies, so we tried our best to follow his tempo. This made it even more hard for the legs so we where quite happy when we arrived down at the starting point and could rest again. But what a fantastic hike. Next time I’m in Rio I will try out some of the other peaks in the Tijuca forest.

A Tropical Temptation

When I first moved to Singapore I wanted to take a trip with my son to celebrate his birthday, This was back in 2007 and searching for a place not to far from Singapore I discovered this beautiful little Island called Nikoi.
The Island is located of the coast of the Island Bintan in Indonesia.

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So to get to Nikoi we had to take the ferry to Bintan. At the immigration we where meet by the staff from the Island. A car was waiting for us and took us to another part of Bintan Island and from there we where transported in a small Speed Boat to the Island.

Arriving at the Island we had to get off the boat on the beach as the only pier was under construction and not suitable for dropping us off in a small Speed Boat. This made the feeling of being on an adventure more complete. With little information about the Island upfront, we where both exited how this weekend would be.

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On the beach we where meet by the staff for a welcome drink and then shown to our Chalet that would be our home for the weekend. The Chalets are mostly built from old washed-up wood. The Chalets are open with no glass and being right at the beach you fall asleep to the soft sound of the waves.

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At the time we where there 6 Chalets had been completed and new one where under construction. The Chalets is built to have natural ventilation and with no air condition installed. Mosquito net are installed above the bed and you really feel like being in a tropical paradise.

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Arriving late and just in time for dinner we where introduced to the other visitor at the Island as everyone where seated at the long table for dinner. As the Island was newly opened the only visitors was another group of 5 people and the 2 of us. Then another 2 persons where expected to arrive the next day.

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Our plan for the Saturday was to explore the Island and as it is a small Island, It did not take us long. To walk around the Island took us around 30 min. Walking around the Island we got to walk through the mangroves and we ended back up where they where building the swimming pool close to the Chalets. Most of what you can do on the island is water sports, relax in the sun or play games as there where no Internet and no TV. They also have some climbing on a big rock on the island for the one interested in that.

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We went to the beach and spent some time there and tried out the kayak. Our plan was to try to paddle out to the rock looking like and Ipad, but dark clouds was getting closer and the waves got bigger and a tropical storm was about to hit the Island.

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It started to rain heavy with thunder and lightning so we went back to our chalet to relax before dinner.  During dinner it was still raining heavy with thunder and lightning and suddenly the lightening stroke and hit the Island Generator. It felt like something strong hit the ground and the light was shut down. The feeling of sitting in the open air just covered with a roof above us with no walls and feeling the forces of the nature was a strange feeling and a bit scary as we where very close to where the lightning stroke. I think we where all in a kind of shock after this and kept talking about how close it was so the dinner ended up a bit different then it started. The rain stopped and the weather changed. The Generator was fixed and electricity came back on.

The staff had noticed it was Aleksander’s birthday as we had to give a copy of our passport on arrival, so they surprised him with a cake and the evening was celebrated with Cake & Drinks.

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The next day we had to return back to Singapore so the first group where leaving just after breakfast and we where leaving just after lunch.The staff on the Island where down on the beach to wish everyone a safe trip back and thanking them for visiting the Island.

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As in this tropical climate you never know when the rain will come and and when it comes it comes fast with heavy rain so just before we where to take the boat back the rain started again. This time without the thunder and lightning and lucky for us as we where going to spend about and hour in a small speed boat to get back to Bintan.

Even with the tropical storm hitting the Island with the lightning cutting the electricity the weekend had been fantastic and I was planning to return to this Island at a later time and so I did in 2011.

This time It was not so easy to book a stay at the Island as it had become more known to people and special to people living or visiting Singapore, so I was lucky and managed to book a stay for a weekend and here I was back on this beautiful Tropical Island.

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The Island had not changed much but had a few upgrades, so the small speed boat was changed out to a larger one with cover. A new jetty had been built, the rest of the Chalets was completed so now there is a total of 15 Chalets that has different sizes and the swimming pool had been completed.

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A Lizard is out for a walk and was trying to take a swim in the pool.

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The sunset is still amazing and they still make the fire at the beach in the evening.

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The Island is not the place if you need to be connected to Internet or need a TV, but if you are looking for some days just feeling the peace and quiet this is the perfect place. It is still a tropical temptation even do with a little less Robinson Crusoe touch to it.

To book your stay at Nikoi Island you can log in to: http://www.nikoi.com

Winter in Oslo

White, Cold and Beautiful

It’s January and mid winter, it is snowing and the city is all covered in white. Here I am, back in Oslo on a business trip. I plan to spend some time during the stay trying out my skiing equipment and my skiing skills and It could not have been more perfect than this.

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The Royal palace during the evening hours. All cover in snow.

The unique about Oslo is how close it is to the nature so my Sunday plan was all about skiing. I woke up early,  took the metro from the City center and 25 min later I had my ski strapped on and was ready to explore the cross-country trails of the Oslo forest called Nordmarka.

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I started my skiing at Songsvann, It was snowing and it was all about finding the right ski wax to make sure not to spend all my energy on going backwards instead of forward, as I wanted to take the trail to Ullevålseter that is mainly uphill. After some struggle uphill and re-waxing half way, I made it to Ullevålseter and had a rest at the Cafe with some light snacks and refreshments before I returned back to Songsvann station taking the metro back to town.

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During my week i returned back to try out the trails at the evening hours as some of the trails have flood light to 10pm in the evening. Being out in the trail after the dark has a magic feel to it.

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With the easy access from the City Center you can go Cross-country skiing in the evening and end it with a nice meal at one of the many great restaurant in town or just go for some fun after skiing in the city of Oslo.

If your looking for some more adventures skiing you can head to the Oslo Winter park.

Travel Plans for 2014:

The land of the Polar Bear

One of the trips I have planned this year is a skiing expedition to the island of Spitsbergen and I am very excited about it. The Island of Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, which lies halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

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We will spend 10 days skiing across Svalbard and will be camping 7 of the nights in tents. Can you imagine the beauty of true untouched arctic wilderness all covered in white, miles after miles, and can you imagine the pain in your body after a few days when you have not done skiing for years, well I can.
So as I live in Singapore where there is no snow, I am doing my best to prepare for the trip in alternative ways, so here is my Roller Ski Ready to be used.

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We will start our expedition in Longyearbyen, the capital and the largest town with a population just over 2000 people. we will get a taste of the magnificent nature of Svalbard- spend the nights in solid mountain tents and pull our own sled with equipment. The Island is also home to around 3000 polar bear so can it be more adventurous than this?

Thaipusam in Singapore

A Walk of Faith

Thaipusam is a  Hindu festival held during the full moon in the 10th Tamil month, called Thai, which falls in mid-January. The festival is a celebration in honour of Lord Murugan, that was given a Vel by Parvati to destroy the evil demon Soorapadman. It’s a festival full of color and the sound of Indian drum music playing.  Devotees are accompanied by friends and family members praying and chanting to offer support.

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Early morning on Thaipusam day, hundreds of devotees offer prayers either by piercing their body with spikes and lemon, pulling a chariot or carrying Kavadis on the 4km long walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple where the devotees then offer their prayers and fulfill their vows.

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Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting more than a month before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.

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Visit Singapore during the full moon of the month of Thai to witness the sacred ritual of Thaipusam. A journey of faith.