Photo an hour in Ronda (19 May 2019)

¡Hola, mis amigos! Last Sunday was photo an hour day, and it just happened to fall on the first full day of my holiday. We were in Ronda, Spain, where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, my sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and a friend of my mum’s. Let’s see what I got up to that day, shall we?

8:30 a.m. Awake but not getting up yet, so here’s the view from my bed.

9:30 a.m. Now out of bed and having a cuppa.

10:30 a.m. Dressed and waiting for the others to be ready to leave.

11:30 a.m. Admiring the view… the day’s plan being to walk down into the gorge.

12:30 p.m. The start of the journey down.

1:30 p.m. We found water! Hurrah.

2:30 p.m. Back at the top and hitting a bar for some much needed refreshments.

3:30 p.m. Crossing the bridge, and looking down into the gorge.

4:30 p.m. We stopped for lunch… and I also had a beer.

5:30 p.m. Wandering through a rose garden.

6:30 p.m. Back at the apartment to chill for a while… how beautiful is that ceiling?

7:30 p.m. A glass of vino before heading back out.

We went out for dinner after that and I completely forgot to take any more photos, so that’s your lot. Maybe I will remember to post more photos of Ronda at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath considering I still haven’t posted must of the ones from our trip around Britain two years ago…

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa. The next one will be on Saturday, 15 June. Make a note of it now if you want to join in!

Huka Falls/Lake Taupo and the Forgotten World Highway

For our ninth day in New Zealand, we had booked a room at a B&B in New Plymouth. We left Rotorua after breakfast and drove to our first stop of the day, Huka Falls on Lake Taupo. This is not a waterfall in the traditional sense of the word (cascading down from a great height), but a series of small falls in an area where the Waikato River narrows significantly, causing a huge volume of water to funnel through a narrow space. Huka is the Maori word for “foam”.

The falls are a spectacular sight and definitely worth a visit! There’s also a walk you can do around there, but with a long drive ahead of us we didn’t have time. Instead, we drove a bit up the road then pulled over to take some photos of Lake Taupo and the surroundings. Imagine having this view out of your window?

After driving for a bit longer, we spotted signs for the Waituhi Lookout and decided to stop there. After driving up a narrow winding road through some trees, we came to a clearing with a small amount of space for parking and a viewing platform. We climbed up to the platform, looked out over the trees and saw this:

How amazing is that view? I’m so glad I ignored the advice I was given to miss out north island and just spend time on the south island! (I couldn’t have anyway since I actually wanted to see my family and they’re all on the north island!).

The lake in the pictures above should be Lake Taupo again if I’ve got my geography correct.

After another half an hour of driving, we arrived in Taumarunui, which is at one end of the Forgotten World Highway (technically State Highway 43). There, we stopped to buy some food at a supermarket and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a clock:

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Apparently Taumarunui is on the North Island Main Trunk Railway.. hence the train clock, I suppose. There wasn’t a greet deal there though (at least on the main street), but there were free and reasonably clean public toilets and the little supermarket had some food for us, so we were happy.

Back in the car, we drove on into the Tangarakau Gorge. First stop was at the grave of a surveyor named Joshua Morgan who died in the gorge in 1893. Not all that exciting, but from the grace you could see the bridge we had just crossed to get there.

Next stop, another waterfall: Mount Damper Falls. We parked by a sign then had to walk across a field to get there.

The next photos will just be general ones from along the Forgotten World Highway. We stopped a couple of times to take photos but I can’t say precisely what each one is of.

The end of the highway is Stratford. We didn’t actually stop there, but there are a lot of streets named after Shakespeare characters and we had fun spotting them as we drove through. Finally, we reached that day’s destination – New Plymouth – where we checked into a lovely B&B before driving into town for a walk along the coast… but this post has a ridiculous amount of photos already, so I think I’ll give New Plymouth its own separate one!

*New Zealand was my March trip for my 2016 redo of Take 12 Trips*

Canyon swing, canyon jet and Queenstown

I am going to use this post to tell you about our final day on New Zealand’s south island and also for some general photos of Queenstown that I took on various evenings throughout the week.

As you may know, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Actually, they claim to be the adventure capital of the world… If you’re interested in bungee jumping, paragliding or white water rafting (to name just a few examples), Queenstown is a pretty good place to be!

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Paragliders over Ben Lomond

We decided that we should partake in some adventure tourism before leaving the south island, so we booked the Shotover Canyon “Double Shot”, which meant the canyon swing and canyon jet for a special price (cheaper than booking each thing separately). We were told to be at the Shotover Canyon shop half an hour before our booking, which we did. There, we were weighed and waited around a bit for the rest of our group to arrive before being driven up to the top of the cliff that we would be swinging from. Jan and I decided to do a tandem swing and I’m a wimp so we chose the least scary version, The Cutaway, where they lower you over the edge of the platform and then pull the pin so you fall down (the next least-scary option is jumping forwards). Neither of us wanted to go backwards because we actually wanted to see the view as well as having the adrenaline rush.

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The above photo shows the platform you swing from with the canyon below. We couldn’t take a camera with us on our swing (you are allowed a GoPro if you have a proper wrist strap for it, but neither of us own such a thing), but after our swing I took some photos of other people from our group. I think it’s okay to use them here since they’re too far away to be identifiable.

The initial freefall is 60m, but it seems much shorter… it was over so fast! I didn’t even scream when they let us go because my breath was literally taken away! After the freefall, you swing around at the end of the wire for a bit before being brought back up. Various jumping methods are available, including diving head first or going down a slide. For a small fee, you can do a second jump, but we chose not to since we had already spent a lot and had a whole week of north island to go!

Once everyone in our group had finished their jumps and purchased whatever photos/videos they wanted, we headed back to the van. Everyone else went back into town while we were dropped off at the canyon jet. Again, we couldn’t take any photos – all our possessions had to be placed in lockers so they wouldn’t get wet or fall out of the boat! But here are some photos of where we went and of one of the boats:

The jet ride was really fun! The driver (captain?) of the boat stopped a few times to tell us where we were and give us some information about the area and the views down in the canyon were absolutely spectacular! I so wish I could have taken photos. The only annoying part was that we had a lady behind us who would not stop screaming and carrying on! The driver used hand signals to indicate when he was about to do a 360° turn because we were supposed to hold on and brace ourselves at those times, and every time he did the signal the annoying woman would start screaming before we even started the turn (he gave us plenty of warning). Gah!! I thought the turns were fun. The worst part for me was when we went over huge rocks  because there wasn’t much warning there. We were right at the front of the boat and I got jolted around quite a lot! I can definitely recommend the Shotover Jet though.

After our jet ride, we took the free bus back into town where we decided to have a relatively relaxing afternoon. We went for lunch at an organic café called Rehab then went to play Frisbee/disc golf in Queenstown Gardens. We then took the gondola up Ben Lomond for some evening views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges.

I also found some more of my little friends the Paradise Shelducks. These ones were much easier to photograph than the ones in the Gardens and I spent ages trying to get a shot of them that I was happy with.

After taking the gondola back down, we tried to go to the Queenstown Birdlife Park to see the Kiwis, but it turned out to be closed (Good Friday!) so instead we went for dinner.

And now, as promised, some of the photos I took of Queenstown at various other points during the week:

Photo overload! Gallery two below:

Finally, I shall leave you with a photo of the full moon… which from our point of view was upside down!

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As you can hopefully see, despite being incredibly touristy and not really feeling “real” (I would like to know where the actual residents live/eat/shop!), Queenstown is a beautiful. There aren’t many of the original buildings left, but the builders have done a pretty good job of making everything feel quaint and not too modern. As a base for exploring Milford Sound, the Central Otago region and other parts of southern south island, I can definitely recommend Queenstown!

That was the end of our time on the south island. The next day we returned the rental car and then spent most of the morning at Queenstown airport waiting around because all flights in and out had been delayed due to fog! Watch out for my north island posts coming soon…

Hiking from Sissach to Liestal

I will get Saturday’s photo an hour post up soon, but first it’s time for another Monday Escape with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey

Jan has been determined to go hiking since we arrived in Basel, so a few weekends ago we did just that. I found a route that started in Sissach (about 20 minutes train ride away) and ended in Liestal, the capital of the half canton Basellandschaft (the capital of Basel-Stadt is, of course, Basel itself). Warning: another long, photo-heavy post ahead… the scenery is just too beautiful to resist!

The first part of the route took us from Sissach train station up to the Sissacher Fluh (a Fluh, sometimes spelled Flüh or Flue, is a rock face or cliff). That part was the steepest climb and took us about an hour.

The view from the top was well worth the climb!

You could even see Basel from up there (you can tell it’s Basel by the wedge-shaped building):

There’s a restaurant at the top, also named Sissacher Fluh. We stopped there for a cool drink and some lunch, and decided to share the Fluh platter which looked like this:

Sissacher FluhIt also came with delicious bread.

After lunch, it was time to head back down the other side of the hill. There was a kind of sculpture trail set up on the hillside, which was mostly weird and a bit pointless, but there was on sculpture I really liked:

Those of you who are connected with Confuzzledom on Facebook may have noticed that one of the moles is the new profile picture for the page. The title of the sculpture was something about politicians and looking to the future (obviously a play on the fact that moles are practically blind and can’t see very far).

This part of the route led from the Sissacher Fluh to the village of Hersberg, past another village called Nusshof. Have some more pictures:

In Hersberg, we saw some horses and stopped to refill our water bottle.

Next it was on through the woods and up the hill to Schleifenberg, which meant another hour of hiking.

Finally, we reached the top of the Schleifenberg, where there’s a viewing tower. The tower is 30m high, and after climbing up the first few levels you find yourself coming out of the trees to spectacular views. It costs 50 rappen to get into the tower and no change is given so make sure you have a 1/2 franc piece on you! Trust me, you are not going to want to miss these views! My camera could not do it justice at all – partly because it can’t cope with clouds, but mostly because it just can’t see as far as my eyes can!

Directly below us, at the base of the Schleifenberg, we could see our destination – Liestal. We still had just under an hour of walking to go before we got there though, so we decided to stop for a quick drink. We had a beer each and watched some bug (beetle?) that was crawling around the picnic bench.

On the way back down to Liestal, we came across more wildlife: hornets, a snake and a lizard (who I didn’t manage to get a photo of before he ran away):

Jan took the final hornet picture here – I wasn’t willing to get that close!

Finally, just as we were about to leave the woods and enter Liestal, we spotted a very interesting looking tree…

LiestalI don’t know how well you can see, but the roots form a kind of cave under the earth above. I actually had my photo taken inside, but it’s on Jan’s phone so I can’t access it now.
Then, just after seeing the tree, we finally reached the outskirts of Liestal.

First glimpse of Liestal
First glimpse of Liestal

With a population of just over 14,000, although it’s the capital of Basellandschaft, Liestal is not exactly large. It’s an industrial town, but it has a very pretty old town centre, which we walked around for a while.

There are three museums in Liestal (the cantonal museum for Basellandschaft, a town museum for Liestal and an organ museum), but being late afternoon on a Saturday in a small town, all of them were closed – as were the shops. By that time we were tired out from our long hike (13 km, in case anyone was wondering) so we left Liestal and took the train back home. My leg muscles hated me the next morning, but it was worth it for the gorgeous we saw along the way. I still can’t believe all of this is literally on my doorstep!

My Travel Monkey

Urban golf in Fribourg

Swiss rail has various summer offers, so a few weeks ago we decided to make use of one that involved the train to Fribourg plus a Fribourg city card for 92 francs (that’s roughly 88 euros or 64 pounds) per person. Fribourg, or Freiburg to give it its German name (although at least in this part of German-speaking Switzerland it’s referred to by its French name to distinguish it from the Freiburg in Germany), is right on the border between French and German-speaking Switzerland – officially, it’s a bilingual canton but more people have French as their first language than German (although most people speak both to some degree). Our Fribourg cards included something called Stadtgolf, or urban golf, so we decided to give it a try. Basically you get given a golf club and a ball each plus a map which tells you where the holes are. At those points, you look out for a blue pole and a red pole – the blue one is the start and the red one is the end. Like so:

The holes are dotted about throughout Fribourg, and the leaflet  with the map includes a score chart on the back and, in the middle, brief information about the sites where each holes is located, so what you end up with is a mixture of mini golf, putting and a city tour. An interesting concept, and a bit different to just walking around the town. Jan won, of course! Here are some of the photos I took during our walk/game.

One of the bridges in Fribourg, the Zähringerbrücke, is jokingly known as the Röstigraben or rösti ditch – the cultural boundary between the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. Only the German-speaking Swiss could possibly be uncouth enough to eat grated and fried potatoes – the French speakers are, of course, much more sophisticated 😉 Here’s the Zähringer Bridge, from various angles:

In case you were wondering, the river is the Saane or Saline, depending on which language you prefer. Some more photos of Fribourg:

By the way, not all the holes were as easy as the first photo seems to suggest. Here’s one of the more difficult ones:

FribourgThe photo was taken from next to the blue pole. Note the huge wall in between that and the red one? Needless to say, this was not a hole where you could get a hole in one!

The urban golf course involves a lot of walking, up hills and down stairs. It’s a lot of fun though, and if you get tired or bored you can stop at any time. There’s nobody forcing you to complete the course 😉 However, if you do you will have seen pretty much all there is to see in Fribourg/Freiburg. It was a lot of fun and something a bit different to our usual method of just wandering around aimlessly! And the city itself is well worth a visit (honestly though I’ve yet to find anywhere in Switzerland that isn’t gorgeous!) The Fribourg tourism website has more information on urban golf here (and no, they didn’t sponsor me to write this post!). At the time of writing, the price without a city card is CHF 9 for adults and CHF 5 for children. Golf clubs can be picked up/returned from the tourist information centre or, when it’s closed, the bowling alley round the corner.

*I’m linking this post up to the Monday Escape blog hop with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey*
Packing my Suitcase

Weinheim

It took me so long to finish talking about Taiwan that I haven’t even mentioned where I went for Take 12 Trips in September yet! Seeing as it’s now November, it’s probably about time I got on that!

Weinheim

Jan and I took a train to Weinheim on the last Saturday in September 2014. This is the Weinheim in Baden-Württemberg, near Heidelberg – I’m sure there are others around as well. It had been rainy all that week and it was cloudy when we left Karlsruhe, but we ended up being really lucky. The sun came out and I even had to take my coat off and carry it! Between the blue skies and little hints of autumn just starting to peek through it was a perfect day for a walk. Unfortunately I’m an idiot and completely forgot to charge my camera battery the night before, so unsurprisingly it very quickly died. Here are the few photos I actually managed to take:

Yes, those few photos plus the one at the top are all I managed to take! Luckily Jan had his phone on him and in most conditions that actually works better than my camera anyway! Here are the photos he took. A few I requested, but most he just took anyway. A good opportunity to see how our opinions on what needs photographing differ 😉 (Hint: he tends not to take photo of lanterns…)

Is it just me or does that first photo looking through the gate belong in a fairytale? So gorgeous!
We walked around the town for a while and spotted a flea market in the streets around the cathedral. Sadly I didn’t see anything worth buying though. Eventually, we wandered back to the market square to find something for a late lunch. The entire square is on a slope, so all the outdoor tables are kind of wonky. Look what happened to my soup:

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The chef must have been practicing because it was the perfect amount not to spill over the edge of the bowl! It was also delicious, and came with some really nice bread. Once we’d eaten we took a slow walk back to the train station where we looked around the book shop for a bit while waiting for the train home. It was a great day out in a really pretty little town (we also saw a wedding going on at the town hall, which is right by the Schlosspark, and I decided if we ever get married I want it to be in Weinheim. Just imagine the pictures we could get in front of the pond/with the towers, etc.!)

As I mentioned at the start, Weinheim was my September trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare at Need Another Holiday.

Driving along Taiwan’s (North) East coast

Almost a month after returning from our trip, I’m finally getting round to posting the last installment in my recap!

Our final day in Taiwan was spent travelling back to the airport. To do this, we drove along the East coast from Hualien up to Taipei. Hualien is roughly in the middle of the country, so really it was more like the North-East coast.

Before we got properly underway, we stopped at Quingshui Cliff, which isn’t far from Hualien City. Quingshui is the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan. It stretches for a length of 21 km, but there’s a viweing area not far from Hualien, which is where we stopped. I think you’ll agree the view is stunning. Look how blue the water is! (It’s the Pacific Ocean, in case you were wondering)

Once we got back in the car, Jan asked me to take some photos while we were driving. Apparantly he has photos that were taken while driving along the Pacific coast in the US, so he wanted some from the other side of said ocean. I don’t think I did too bad a job with the following photos considering they were taken with a crappy camera from a moving car!

We stopped again at a viewing point that looks down on (I believe) Keeling harbour, then we had a final stop at a beach where people were surfing. For the first time on our trip we saw mostly non-Asian tourists! Of course not every other tourist elsewhere had been Asian, but there were a lot more of them about than “Westerners”.

See that last photo with the people on it? The island in the background is called Turtle Island. You can’t tell why from that photo though, so here’s another crappy “taken-while-driving” picture of it from the other side:

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Finally, we drove back to Taipei. Jan had been talking about taro balls (taro is a kind of root vegetable, kind of like sweet potato) all week but we hadn’t been able to find them anywhere, so before heading to the airport he wanted to go back to the night market where he had eaten them. First, we needed to find somewhere to park, which was easier said then done! The sat nav kept telling us we’d already driven past the carpark we’d asked for directions to without us ever spotting said carpark! Finally, we managed to park by the main train station. From there, we took a Metro then walked for a bit until we reached the night market, the last one we would visit in Taiwan. Taro is sweet, so before buying that we went fr some dumplings. This time they weren’t bread dumplings but a kind of pasta-like dough. The filling was delicious pork! We enjoyed them so much that, after our first basket, we ordered another. In fact, I would like to eat more of those dumplings right now! That’s how good they were.

So tasty!
So tasty!

Once we were done with the dumplings, we went and stood in the looong queue for taro balls (apparantly they’re popular!). Jan bought some plain ones and some that were filled with pickled egg yolk. I preferred the plain ones – the egg tasted rubbery to me. The plain ones were a bit like doughnut on the outside but then the inside tasted almost like bean curd. It was a bit odd! I certainly wouldn’t have raved about them the way Jan did, but oh well. I was pleased he got to have some again before we left.

Time was getting on by then, so we went and picked up the car then drove it back to the car rental place. From there, one of their staff members drove us back to the airport. The check-in desk wasn’t open yet, so we went and looked at the gift shop and I bought some sweet potato cakes to bring back to work (they tasted odd, for anyone who’s wondering). Then we finally checked in, bought ourselves a drink on the other side and, before long, it was time to board our plane. And thus ends our Taiwanese adventure! It’s a shame we didn’t get to visit the south of the island – I’ve heard Alishan is amazing! But a week just isn’t long enough. Hopefully one day I’ll make it back.

~I am counting Taiwan as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. It also counts towards my 35 Before 35 challenge, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.~

For those who missed them, here are my other Taiwan recap posts:

  1. Initial Thoughts on Taiwan
  2. Taipei, Taiwan
  3. 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan and Sun Moon Lake by Night
  4. Sun Moon lake and driving through the mountains
  5. Hiking in Taroko National Park