Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
  • octopus
    • 07/02/2018
first time trying to embed a video:


GH010249i from stuart pinchin on Vimeo.

  • Cool Boarders 2018
    • 18/03/2018
Not much to report.
Went to Les Arcs for some snowboarding, using the tried and tested method of flying to Geneva and getting the Altibus.
It wasn't during the worst of the "beast from the east" coldness, but it was still minus 22 centigrade up the mountain some days, and the visibilty was generally poor - low cloud without bringing new snow.
So i spent half the time sitting in the hostel, run by an enigmatic english couple, eating croissants and ruining the seasonaires lives by introducing them to Monopoly Deal card game.
This was fine, since i was using an "a la carte" ski pass, where you only pay for the days you use it.
And on the few bluebird (new snow + sun) days, it was fantastic - vast swathes of off piste, DIY slalom runs through the trees, the monster top to bottom, 8km (2km vertical) non stop Aiguille Rouge run.
Also went across to La Plagne for one day, which was ok once the sun came out, again some great off piste off the top of the glacier, and then a race against time to get the connecting "hand bag" gondola back to the Les Arc side of the valley before closing.
  • Hiking Hong Kong
    • 16/02/2018
Next stop Hong Kong, just for a contrast i thought i'd check out one of the worlds most renowned high rise cities.
What i did not appreciate (until i started researching) is that Hong Kong is more than just the city, it has loads of national parkland, mountains and beaches, spread across four? islands.
The mixture of chinese daily life and the remnants of british administration is fascinating, with UK road signs on streets lined with dried seafood stores, bakeries and dim sum restaurants.
A 1920's tramride (20p fare along whole route) got me to the Happy Valley racetrack, an impressive horse racing arena where every wednesday, drunken expats and chinese alike fill in reams of paper betting slips.
The remaining colonial era buildings are dwarfed by the high rise of modern steel and glass skyscrapers, but more numerous are the concrete blocks of flats which seem crazily tall in relation to their footprint, and are unwavouringly covered on the outside with aircon units, satellite dishs and laundry hanging out to dry 36 stories up.
One of the most famous tourist attractions in the city is Victoria Peak, with a 360 outlook over the island. Most tourists take the colonial funicular railway to the top, but the queue was crazy so i walked up, past crumbling mansions whose views of the harbour have been obscured by high rises.
Also noticing that the entire hill side is reinforced and punctuated by identifying markers - a reminder of how many tragic landslips there have been here.

Kowloon
Next day i took the Star Ferry across the harbour to Kowloon, and wandered around the flower market, bird market, the famous Chung King "Mansions", eat cheap noodles, take the crowded subway and be one of two people over 6 foot tall.
Last stop of the day was to hike up to Lion Rock, the mirror image lookout spot to Victoria Peak, but unfashionable and empty. The views would have been great if not for some low cloud.
Descending after sunset down a step track with monkeys chattering in the undergrowth around me.

Lantau
Packing in the sights and the hikes, next day i said farewell to my luxurious hotel, stocked up on bread and cheese and took the ferry to Lantau Island.
Landing in Discovery Bay immediately felt a world apart, with bicycles being the only form of transport to navigate most of the settlement. Then the climbing began, to the top of 869m Sunset Peak.
Unfortunately once again, haze obscured the views at the top, but great walk none the less. On the way up i nearly trod on a snake, which turned out to be a non deadly lookalike, and then emerged on to a ridge covered in military training huts, with an army helicopter buzzing about.
Finally as darkness fell i tiredly descended a seemingly endless staircase to reach a quaint and remarkably un-busy YHA youth hostel.
Another early start in the morning to beat the crowds to the Great Big Gigantic Golden Buddha statue, which is pretty big and dominates the landscape. Also on site, the hall of a thousand golden buddhas.
Now i'm not a religious expert, but i would have though buddhism especially is about inner reflection rather than building gaudy monuments, but i guess the tourist dollars keep the monks filled with noodles.
Quick bus trip to Tai O, a fishing village with houses built on stilts above the coastline, and then ferry (past the enormous new 40 mile bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau)+train+ferry to the next island - Lamma.

Lamma
Lamma island hosts Hong Kong's power station, fish farms, and out of sight of both, empty beaches and tiny villages, traditionally populated by fishermen who have vetoed any development.
The whole island is navigated by a few concreted paths about 6 foot wide, so again the only tranport is bicycles, plus a few quad bike type things.
There are no hotels but i was able to stay in an AirBNB, with a zimbabwean/south african family who had moved here for a fresh start, working for an NGO.
It felt bizarre being in such a quiet and tranquil place, yet only half an hour boat ride from a metropolis.
That brought me to my last day - well, my flight home was at 7am, too early to be worth staying anywhere before heading to the airport, so i hiked back across the island, took some last photos of HK sights, rode the mid level escalators, watched the nightly "symphony of lights" (somewhat underwhelming) where all the skyscrapers LED advert boards coordinate to music for 20 minutes, and then headed to the airport to find somewhere to sleep. zzz

Flying back via Abu Dhabi was interesting to see the man made islands and crazy skyscrapers from the air, but i can't think of a less appealing place to spend a holiday!
  • Similan Smiles - diving in Thailand
    • 06/02/2018
So in Nottingham i've been crashing at my friend Callum's place, an australian immigrant web developer.
His cousin was getting married in Thailand, so i tagged along for some winter sunshine.
After the celebrations on the beaches of Koh Samui, i headed to Koh Phi Phi, famed for being the location of the beach used in the film "The Beach".
The beach is now submerged beneath throngs of daytripping tourists, including boat loads of chinese snorkellers, many of whom can't actually swim and just bob around in their bouyancy aids and water wings.
Amusingly though, by walking through a bit of jungle one can reach equally idyllic sandy coves with no one else ruining the view!!!
After another quick ferry ride to the refreshingly quaint colonial town of Phuket, i embarked on something new for me, a liveaboard diving trip; 5 days at sea living on a boat and scuba diving as constantly as regulations allow.
The Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock, located in the Andaman Sea, are marine reserves and frequently appear in list of the top 10 dive sites in the world.
And indeed the underwater sights were good.
I was lucky to be in a group with 3 experienced qualified instructors (on their holidays), which meant maximum bottom time on all the dives.
So many fish that you couldnt see the fish for the fish.
Fantastic variety and abundance of hard and soft corals, nudibranch, shrimp, pipefish, and most exciting for me, octopus.
I'd never seen octopus before so to seem them jetting around, changing colours and texture of their bodies, and most lucky of all, to witness two together in a "romantic situation"!
We weren't fortunate enough to see any ocean giants (sharks etc) but there was so much to look at, shoals of barracuda, lobster, moray eels, seahorses, grouper, puffer fish, endless list of things i can't identify or remember.
The weather was fine and calm, thirty degrees plus water temperature, 30m visibility underwater.
An experience i would certainly repeat!
(for reference i went with Kholak Scuba Adventures on their boat Manta Queen 1)
I bought a GoPro especially for that trip (and general future usefulness), so have some interesting footage out of reams of blurry shakey stuff.
Generally happy with the gopro although i suspect you can get the same quality from one of the many cheap knock offs available on Amazon!
  • Durban Urban Turban.
    • 01/11/2017
Final days in Durban, which could easily be mistaken for a seaside resort with its miles of sandy beaches and promenade.
Europcar didn't look too impressed with how muddy the car was when I returned it!
Inland, a built up CBD with some grand historical buildings, and an international melting pot - Durban has the biggest Indian population outside if India, resulting in the local speciality snack, Bunny Chow, half a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry. The owner of the restaurant I stopped in complained that the area was being spoiled by an influx of foreigners - referring to northern Africans and in particular Nigerians moving in. Wandered through various busy shopping streets and markets, including the Muti market which sells a wide range of witchdoctor supplies, with unidentifiable animal body parts hanging up above tubs of roots, spices, and miscellaneous crazy stuff.
Durban's museums all seem to be free which was a nice bonus. The Kwa Muhale museum is housed in the buildings originally used for issuing work permits and passes to natives under the "Durban System" where blacks were excluded from the city.
Adding insult to injury, the natives were further indentured by the banning of home brewing, forcing them to spend all their wages in expensive municipal beer halls.
Also a big and informative exhibit about HIV. The art gallery was small, but happened to be hosting the World Press Photography exhibit, something I've made an effort to visit in London in recent years, always a sobering and eye opening experience.
The troubles depicted worldwide made stepping out into the Durban sunshine seem like the calmest, safest place in the world - I had been warned that it was risky to walk around town but did not see any evidence of this during the daytime - nevertheless had left valuables at the hostel.
Just waiting for the airport shuttle bus now, 24 hours ish to blighty!


browse by location

Thaliand

Hong Kong

Thailand

RSA

Zimbabwe

Malawi

Tanzania

Kenya

Tanzania

Rwanda

Uganda

Kenya

Norway

Sweden

Denmark

Germany

The Netherlands

Cuba

Cayman Islands

France

Switzerland

Italy

Switzerland

England

Wales

Scotland

England

France

Holland

England

Germany

England

USA

England

Thailand

Malaysia

Singapore

Fiji

Australia

Samoa

Fiji

Australia

New Zealand

Cook Islands

Mexico

USA

Canada

USA

England

thingid: , section: blog, submenu: blogarchive