This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Monthly Archives: December 2016

7 Tips for Tackling Your First Bike Tour

Avoid unnecessary detours

Once upon a time a wrinkled, dog-eared, hard-copy map was the ultimate bike tour companion. Now, it’s a reliable GPS or navigation app. Opt for a durable and multi-use GPS product designed with adventurers in mind.

Smartphones are also a fantastic option if you’re likely to have regular access to electricity and the internet. You can download maps that don’t just show you the best roads, but the best off-the-beaten-track routes for cycle touring. The Maps.me app is detailed, easy to use and now shows the route elevation on the bike option in most countries.

Create a budget and start saving

Bike tours can cost very little; if you’re willing to live on rice and porridge and wild-camp at every opportunity, then a budget of a few US dollars a day is achievable.

Visas, hotel stays and restaurant visits add up, but if you’re hoping for a happy medium (a lean food budget and plenty of low-cost or free accommodation with occasional splurges) then expect to spend about $15-$20 USD a day depending on the country. Factor in travel insurance and emergency money for bike repairs and kit replacements.

Set your own personal goals

World cyclist Jonathan Kambsgaro-Bennett says the question he gets asked most is how far he pedals in a day. His answer? ‘It depends on the hills, the wind, the road and about a million other things… Especially the wind.’

Setting daily distances can be tough but having a rough idea of what you want (and are able) to achieve will help you plot an itinerary. Many bike tourers average between 60km and 80km per day, depending on conditions, while those just starting out may aim for much less. Besides the weather and quality of the roads, your personal goals should also influence the decisions you make along the way – and will often push you to keep going.

Become a camping pro

Pitching a tent in the wild after a long day in the saddle can be stressful. Fortunately, fatigue often overrides fear – and the more you do it, the easier it gets. Some places welcome wild camping as long as you’re out of sight (Scotland, Iran, Japan) while others forbid it which makes a stealthy camp much tougher (Switzerland, Australia and the USA) – it’s worth being aware of the laws wherever you choose to cycle.

While a nice, secluded, flat piece of turf near a river is the goal, anything can make a fine camp spot and the key to overriding those initial fears is to keep well hidden and off private property, or to simply ask the landowners for permission to camp. Locals are often keen to help – and if you have their blessings, you’ll sleep like a baby. Check out world cyclist Tom Allen’s top tips on how to wild camp.

Become familiar with cyclist resources

If you like Couchsurfing, then Warmshowers– a tight-knit international community of cycling enthusiasts catering to pedal-powered travellers – will be your best friend on tour.

While it’s tough to find hosts in Central Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East, Warmshowers has a huge network throughout Europe,Iran and the Americas. Many hosts will do more than give you a place to rest your head after a day on the bike, often feeding you dinner and sharing their own tales of adventure.

Learn how to cook on a camp stove

Unless you’re happy with a two-minute noodle diet, spend some time getting to know your stove. Most small camp stoves have just one setting and few bike travellers carry more than two small pots, but with a little creativity you can whip up a delicious meal after a tough day of pedalling.

Pasta, rice and porridge are great value staples. To make your meals more exciting, throw some chilli, garlic salt, pepper and curry powder in light, plastic containers. Peanut butter turns even the worst meals into a satay delight and soup mixes make for lightweight yet delicious sauce bases.

Overcome your fears

‘What if someone steals your bike? What if you get attacked while camping? What if you get hit by a truck?’ These aren’t just the questions your family will fling at you – they’re the ones you’ll ask yourself repeatedly before setting off.

To deal with those recurring fears, expect the best but prepare for the worst. Commit to reading the fine print and get insurance with comprehensive cover that will replace your kit if it’s stolen. Keep a personal alarm or bear spray in an accessible place and consider carrying a SPOT tracker; these devices (when turned on) emit your location to allow friends and family to keep an eye on where you are. Stay vigilant and you’ll be fine. The majority of cyclists report overwhelming generosity and kindness from the road.

Tips to Prepare a Perfet Voyage to Antartica

Lean on an outfitter for the logistics

Antarctic cruises have the benefit of organized pre- and post-voyage transportation and sometimes include additional excursions aroundUshuaia, Argentina (where most Antarctica-bound vessels call in to port) plus accommodations, on-board meals and expedition gear included in the price. Pick a reputable, International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators-affiliated (iaato.org) outfitter to ensure a safe and environmentally responsible experience.

The more you know, before you go

Reading about Antarctica’s history, geography and wildlife will not only provide pre-trip inspiration, but will help you appreciate the journey as you reflect on the tales of those first explorers who charted the very same waters you’ll be sailing. Antarctica showcases wildlife on a magnificent scale, so learning about the life-cycle and food chain of the continent’s species will provide insight on the mesmerizing and sometimes curious behavior you’ll bear witness to.

If you don’t get a chance to read up before you go, most ships have reference libraries and offer lectures by on-board scientists. You may find yourself sitting next to one of them in the dining hall – pick their brains and you’re guaranteed top-notch dinner conversation.

At the very least, brush up on ice – it’s good to know the difference between a glacier and a ‘berg (the former chills on land while the latter floats out to sea).

Get the right gear

Many outfitters supply essentials like parkas, boots and waterproof trousers. These items are likely to commandeer most of your luggage space, so check with your operator to find out if these will be provided or if you must bring your own. Consult any packing list they supply, which should include items like hats, scarves and gloves (it’s wise to pack a back-up of each), wool socks and base layers.

Layers are everything on an Antarctic expedition, which goes for on-board time as well – you may be cozy with a cup of tea and a book one moment, then rushing outside to spot a pod of killer whales porpoising beside the ship the next. Best have a fleece and a down mid layer quick at hand, plus a pair of waterproof shoes with good grip for the slippery decks.

Non-clothing essentials

Bringing a quality pair of binoculars is wise, and if you want to get good photos of fast-moving wildlife, a zoom lens is ideal for your camera. Be sure to bring some kind of waterproof casing for your camera or mobile phone as splashes while riding on Zodiacs (the smaller boats used to venture out from the cruise ship) are certain.

Despite being a land of ice, the sun is incredibly strong in Antarctica and reflects blindingly off the snow, so sunscreen (at least SPF 45) and sunglasses are necessary. The cold wind can wreak havoc on your lips, so stock up on lip balm with SPF.

As minimal as you should strive to be, it’s nice to have a couple of creature comforts…particularly, edible ones. Most voyages have set meal times and the grub is plentiful, but outside of that, food may be hard to come by. Bring along some trail mix and chocolate or protein bars.

There’s often a strict weight limit on what you can bring on the ship (checked and carry-on luggage combined) and the average ship cabin is scant on square footage. Unless you find comfort in clutter, leave any unessential items at home – your cabin mate will appreciate it.

Shape up to ship out

You don’t have to be a triathlete to go on an expedition cruse to Antarctica, but general physical preparedness and sound mobility make for a much more comfortable voyage. One of the defining realities of a cruise expedition to Antarctica is the crossing of the Drake Passage – twice. This 600-mile stretch of sea between Tierra del Fuego (shared between Argentina and Chile) and the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for rough waves. It’s the confluence of three oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Southern; their temperatures and currents meld to create swell that once saw explorers perish.

Though the vessels of today are well equipped to maneuver such choppy waters, brace yourself for what will be a bit of a bumpy ride at best and vomitous at worst. When the ship starts to sway as you amble from deck to deck, good balance and leg strength well keep you sure-footed as a goat. When walking around, always keep one hand somewhere on the boat. The handrails you see everywhere serve a purpose (just don’t forget to hit a hand sanitizing station every time you pass one).

Top 9 Free Things to do in Paris

1. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Festooned with gargoyles and Gothic touches, this imposing icon ofParis is essential for every visitor. Entering this grand medieval edifice is free (although it costs to climb its twin towers) as is a stroll along the neighbouring Seine for an alternate view of the cathedral’s spiky apse and naturalist sculptures.

2. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen

Window-shopping (or lécher les vitrines to the locals) is a great way to take an indulgent peek at objets d’art and wild curiosities you’d never actually buy. The St-Ouen flea market and antiques fair is the perfect place to let your imagination run riot. Marvel at bearskin rugs, antique tapestries and brass diving bells in this decadently eccentric marketplace. (But try to keep your eyebrow-raising in check when you look at the price tags.) Hop off the metro at Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) and continue under the bridge until the souvenir stalls give way to side streets crammed with beautiful buys.

3. Parc du Champ de Mars

A lift to the peak of the Eiffel Tower can squeeze the budget but views below can be equally stunning, albeit from a different angle. Parc du Champ de Mars has lawns and flowerbeds manicured with military precision (as you’d expect from a former army marching ground). Bring a blanket, wine and the best brie you can find to this expanse of greenery and wait for the light show at dusk to set La Tour Eiffel a-twinkle.

4. Cimitière du Père Lachaise

The most haunting spot in Paris allows you to rub shoulders with literary greats like Proust and Balzac, and modern icons like Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Jim Morrison also lies in this ancient cemetery, his grave barricaded off to protect it from over-zealous fans who make a musical pilgrimage here. The tree-lined avenues and calling crows make Père Lachaise the most atmospheric walk in Paris. Head to the 20th arrondissement, jumping off the metro at Père Lachaise (line 2) or Gambetta (line 3).

5. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

For a surreal view of French culture, dive into the permanent collections of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. From the bolshy cubism of Braque to Matisse’s dancers, there’s sure to be something to lift your spirits. Take metro line 9 and alight at Alma-Marceau.

6. Marché d’Aligre

Feast your eyes on the finest local produce at this fabulous covered food market on Place d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. Mountains of cheese, artisan butchers and a field of flower stalls can send you into sensory overload after wandering through a few aisles. Stop for a discreet glass of Bordeaux and get your hands floury on some crusty baguette. Ride metro line 8 to the Ledru-Rollin stop.

7. Basilique du Sacré Coeur

This palatial white marble church crowns the lively Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. Its interior is bedecked with gold mosaics and towering stained-glass windows, and you can listen for the peal of one of the world’s heaviest bells. Visiting the basilica is free, but there’s a charge to ascend into the dome or explore the crypt.

8. Musée Carnavalet

Experience a tour de force through Paris’ history, from its ancient origins to the fashion-forward capital of sophistication it is today. The Musée Carnavalet’s permanent collection has no charge, allowing you to saunter through fin-de-siècle drawing rooms and delicately reconstructed baroque interiors without spending a euro. The closest metro stops are Chemin Vert (line 8) and Saint Paul (line 1).

9. Cimitière du Montparnasse

The final resting place for hundreds of glamorous and intellectual Parisians, Montparnasse cemetery is less ostentatious than Père Lachaise but perfect for a serene stroll. Get closer than you ever thought possible to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett. Ride metro line 6 to the Edgar Quinet or Raspail stop.

Sipping Cocktails and Craft Brews in India

The Bengaluru drinking scene spans the spectrum, from nostalgic holes-in-the-wall to chic cocktail lounges that could hold their own in Paris or New York. Keep a particular eye out for the city’s craft beers – local brewers create everything from wheat beers to pale ales and stout – and Bengaluru mixologists who add Indian herbs and spices to the standard cocktail palette. Here’s our pick of the best places in Bengaluru to wet your whistle after hours.

Daytime tipples at Noon Wines

The appeal of Noon Wines & Scottish Pub (No 17/21, Vasavi Complex, St Marks Road) lies in its nonchalance. This ‘hole in the wall’ outpost of colonial-era Bengaluru is open for only five hours in the day (12-5pm), but nostalgia seekers flock here for inexpensive wines and an agreeably short menu with simple potato wafers as a best seller. The Heritage wine is extra sweet and extra potent in nature, served in shot glass-sized wine glasses.

Cocktails like grandma used to mix

Take a map of Bengaluru and stick a pin in its heart and you’ll find yourself on the threshold of The Permit Room, a welcome retreat from the hubbub of MG Road. Cosy interiors decked out in the iconography of South Indian slang make you feel like an insider immediately. The moody mixologist, inspired by his ajji(grandma), has reimagined hearty home cooking as well as the cocktail menu; for our rupee, Paati’s Magic Rasam curry, Highway Pandi Curry, and filter coffee-flavoured pot de crème are all decided winners.

Ten of the best at Arbor Brewing Company

Start your love affair with the brews of Bengaluru with a choice of ten in-house craft beers at this spacious, minimalist American-style microbrewery. The pub fare at Arbor Brewing Company is best enjoyed at long communal wooden tables, with low hanging lights running along the centre. Sip crispy Hefewiezens, confident stouts, German-style pilsners, Belgian fruit beers and pale ales with lingering bitterness to wash down amply portioned dishes with a US flavour.

Wheat beer that pulls in a crowd at Toit

Back in 2010, Toit Brewpub almost single-handedly salvaged Bangalore’s flagging pub scene with a sprawling wooden-floored brewery, providing space for close to 400 happy beer drinkers. Of the six house brews, the Bavarian-style Toit Weiss wheat beer trumps the competition any day of the week. Check out the curious logo, inspired by Pepé Le Pew (the skunk of Looney Tunes fame), with the motto ‘sending it since 2010’ (a local phrase for downing a drink).

In the cocktail mood at Sotally Tober

At this twenty-something focussed nightspot, expectations are set high by paint-splashed walls, vintage cameras and lamps fashioned out of Mason jars and teapots. The moody lighting arrangement keeps heads turned in conversation until the juicy pulled pork and signature cocktails arrive (try the Sotally Spice – vodka, peri peri sauce and mint). Start with familiar hummable music during the day and reach a joyous crescendo as the sky turns dark.

Monkey around with mangoes at Monkey Bar

The brains behind Monkey Bar mixed a substantial list of ingenious cocktails and bar nibbles with piles of monkey-themed trinkets and cheeky posters. Browse the specials on the menu and home in on the ‘Maanga’ – vodka flavoured with green mango, cumin and salt. For eats, the aubergine tacos and Sorpotel pickle pot (an east –west fusion of pork belly and liver) will transport you to food heaven.

Reinvent the Raj at Toast & Tonic

Toast & Tonic is the kind of place that’ll make you forget flowers, violins and heart-shaped balloons as romantic gestures. Reserve ahead for a dreamy evening of mellow yellow lighting, soft-toned wooden décor and smooth Gin ‘n’ Tonic based cocktails. Try the British Raj, infused with cinnamon and pomegranate and topped with a rose petal cucumber ice. With a harvest of international flavours on the dinner menu, what’s not to love?

Tunes, views and party people at Watson’s

The intense devotion of regulars at Watsons is thanks to the uplifting view of a leafy canopy of trees below. Drinkers congregate for affordable beer and signature cocktails like the Watsons Mule, Mirchi Margarita and Flat White Martini. When it comes to food, any dish suffixed with the words ‘pepper fry’ is sure to fly off the table. The winning ingredient, though, is the 90s music, which has everyone on their feet as the evening progresses. Come early while you can still see the décor.

Bar hop to Bangkok in Bengaluru

Down-home ‘ten table’ bar One Night in Bangkok has a sparse menu, a shortage of elbow room and poorly lit interiors, but it’s still easy to sing its praises. For starters, it feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret – a green velvet curtain parts to reveal a cheerful facsimile of Thailand, complete with a massive Muay Thai mural. Add in cheesy music from the 80s and great pub grub, and it knocks the socks off many of its glitzy neighbours.

Catch the breeze at Windmills

There are plenty of reasons to splurge on the in-house brews and American-inspired cuisine at Windmills, with its book-lined walls, small stage for live jazz gigs and open-air wooden deck that catches the breeze on sultry Bengaluru evenings. It’s up on the 5th floor, diners order on tablets and the music of the in-house Jazz Theatre is intimate and uniformly brilliant.