Looking for tickets or info for the Get Happy Tour 2018 featuring Bowling for Soup, Army of Freshmen and The Aquabats?

This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
General Onsale: 10am on 27 September.

Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk and bowlingforsoup.com
 


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Posts Tagged ‘Bonfire’

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

June 3rd, 2015 No comments

Three years ago I bought a Polaroid Pogo printer as I thought it would be useful when travelling, so that I could give kids a copy of photos they ask me to take, but I have never had a chance to use it. This is partly as when I last went to Africa I took the wrong connector cable and partly as my other trips have been ones where we didn’t spend too much time interacting with local kids. This all changed today and I was able to use it for the first time.

After breakfast I spent some time sitting and interacting with the kids who live at the camp with their family. They kept asking to pose for photos and as we had some time before we had to leave, and as we had a working power supply, I thought this was a perfect chance to bring the printer out. You should have seen the face of the first kid I gave the photo to – his eyes lit up, he had a huge smile and he ran away to grab the other kid to show him. I spent about 15 minutes taking and printing photos for both kids before I ran out of paper for the printer and it was nice to see something so simple make them happy. They showed their mother, who asked them to say thank you to me in Russian, before running around the campsite showing everybody. I think I’ve used the phrase “take things for granted” a lot in this blog, especially the entries from this trip, but when you travel to the sort of places I do, get immersed in the culture, and see kids as happy as this over something so simple it really puts things into perspective.

Kids in Kyrgyzstan

This is the kid who was watching the suspicious video last night

Kyrgyz kids

This one wasn’t

Cowboy in Kyrgyzstan

They liked dressing up for photos

Posing for photos

The kids here were adorable

Me and Kyrgyz kids

Me and the kids at the camp

Yurt Camp

Saying goodbye to the camp. Notice the kid still looking at the photos I gave him.

Scenery

Scenery as we left the camp

Lunch was a little later than normal today as we stopped to do some walking at a spectacular area near the town of Jeti Oguz. I can’t remember the name in Kyrgyz but it translates to “Fairy Tale Canyon”. If you happen to be passing along the south shore of Lake Issyk-Kul definitely stop here as you will not be disappointed. The rocks have such a deep red colouring that they remind me of the red centre of Australia, just closer to civilisation. They have been sand and wind blasted over tens of thousands of years and are just so beautiful. When we first arrived I wasn’t sure where we were walking to as the trail to get to it seemed to go on for ages through the baking heat – smaller vehicles can drive all the way up but our one couldn’t. However when we arrived we were presented with sights like these.

Fairy Tale Canyon

Fairy Tale Canyon

Fairy Tale short cut

Some people decided to take a short cut down

Fairy Tales do come true :)

Fairy Tale Canyon was beautiful

Fairy Tale Canyon

The scenery here was just breathtaking

We spent some time looking around the area, taking photos and climbing up to various view points. Some of them can be very high and up steep slopes so be sure to take care if you visit, but it’s worth the effort. There wasn’t a set time limit but most of us looked around for about an hour before heading back to the truck for the short journey to Jeti-Oguz town. Here we had a chance to grab some lunch at a small local cafe and stock up on supplies before heading up into the mountains.

Jeti Oguz Town

Jeti Oguz Town

Jeti Oguz Town

The cafe we ate at was in the parade to the left

Tonight we are staying in the mountainous area near Jeti-Oguz and I can’t believe how different the scenery is. I think today the scenery has been more diverse than any other day on this trip so far – this morning we woke up on the shores of a lake, then a few hours later we were surrounded by red rock canyons and now it looks like we are in the Alps in Europe. The journey up was a bit treacherous as we had to pass over a lot of wooden bridges, some of which looked less than safe, and the roads were nothing more than dirt tracks but I’m glad we made the trip. We had the option of Yurts or camping again and after seeing the brand new Yurts that were available I immediately chose to pay for the upgrade. I love getting off of the beaten path and visiting remote places but whenever an upgrade from camping is available I generally take it just to improve my enjoyment of the trip as I’m a tall person and find tents uncomfortable to sleep in.

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Ascending up to Jeti-Oguz Gorge.

Jeti-Oguz

This is only a couple of hours from Fairy Tale Canyon but looks like another world.

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Almost at the camp for tonight

Yurt and Tent camp

This is where we stopped tonight in Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Helena rests

Helena at Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Washing up time

Getting water for washing up

I spent some time walking in the Gorge on my own before dinner. There weren’t any view points to speak of but it was great to walk through the woods listening to the river and taking photos. I planned to have a shower after returning but the motor which pumped water from the river to the heating unit wasn’t working which meant one thing – washing my hair in the river. The water was freezing so I was definitely glad of the heat from the bonfire that we made this evening. The smoke from the bonfire was a little powerful, and my eyes felt like they did after being exposed to volcanic fumes in Nicaragua a few years ago by the time I called it a night, but it was a great evening chilling with the group in a lovely setting.

Jeti-Oguz Walking

Going for my walk

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

A photo from my walk

Bonfire time

Bonfire time

Andy, one of the Dragoman crew, is sharing the Yurt with me tonight as the only other guy who wanted to pay for an upgrade but it’s a huge Yurt so I have loads of space to myself. Tomorrow we make the short trip to Karakol where I can jump on Wi-Fi and work out whether or not I’ll be finishing the trip with the group. I’m getting nervous now as I think I’ve definitely decided I will be travelling back early so I just want to get there and book the flights if I can find any.

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Eagle hunting and Lake Issyk-Kul

June 2nd, 2015 No comments

Today ended with an overnight stop at a beautiful lakeside retreat, but earlier in the day I witnessed something which will stick in my mind forever. Those who are squeamish, or those who believe that hunting is wrong, may wish to skip to the end of post as it contains information and photos from an Eagle hunting demonstration which was organised for us.

After breakfast at the home stay we made our way into Kochkor town to pick up some supplies. Prices here were a little higher, although still cheap by western standards, but they had a wider selection and we were able to stock up on personal items like toothbrushes and pens for letters in addition to the usual group supplies. We spent an hour or so shopping before getting back into the truck to head towards Lake Issyk-Kul.

My bed

My bed at the home stay

Dining area

Dining area at the home stay

Home stay

This is the Kochkor home stay

Kochkor

Outside the home stay

Kochkor town

Kochkor town centre

Kochkor

Kochkor town centre

The journey was through the same lovely scenery but this time I spent more time thinking than looking at the landscape going by. The wi-fi started working in the home stay last night as I going to bed and so I was able to get in contact with people and chat to them for a while, but this has made me start to consider whether I want to stay until the end of the trip or come back early. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the trip, in fact I’m having a great time, but somebody close to me is leaving the UK forever on the day that I’m due to arrive back and with all the problems people had with Turkish Airlines on the way out it would be too much if I was delayed and missed saying goodbye. I won’t have any internet tonight to be able to look into prices but should do in Karakol the day after. Although more about that later, if I do decide to come back early, as for now I want to tell you more about my day today.

Kyrgyz scenery

We stopped at a lake to take photos

Helena the truck

Helena while we take photos

A couple of hours passed before we turned off of the road and made our way to a remote spot behind a hill, where we set up lunch. This was also to be the place where we would be given a demonstration of how the locals hunt for food with Eagles, and so was out of the way in order to give the Eagle a quiet place to hunt. Lunch was the usual selection of sandwiches and we had some time to walk around and take in the scenery before the Eagle hunter arrived.

The eagle hunting demonstration was the only part of the trip that I am not sure should have been included so far. I agree that it is part of local tradition but over half of the group were unsure about whether an animal should have to die in order for us to understand the tradition. The animal chosen was a rabbit that was raised by the eagle hunter and which didn’t stand a chance when the Eagle was let loose from a hill overlooking the valley.

Lunch time

Lunch time in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz scenery

Helena being dwarfed by the scenery

Kyrgyz scenery

Some lovely Kyrgyz scenery

Final warning for those who don’t wish to see photos from the Eagle hunting.

One thing I will say is that I am amazed with the beauty, majesty and strength of the Eagle. I have never seem one up close but was given a chance to get up close and personal with her while the hunter was telling us about the local traditions, and about how he came to own her. For the local tribes owning an Eagle is a sign that you are a man, and when you come of age you take your friends up into the mountains to take an egg from a nest (occasionally having to fight off the parents in order to do so). The egg is then incubated by the hunter and the Eagle is raised from birth in order to form an unbreakable bond which allows them to hunt together and remain loyal to each other. A couple of the group said they were going to write to Dragoman to complain but I’m not sure this is necessary – we were all given a chance not to watch the demonstration and to go for a walk while it took place.

Eagle

The hunter and his eagle

Eagle

Vicki and the Eagle

Kyrgyz scenery

Some more beautiful scenery

Eagle hunting

The Eagle closing in on her prey

Eagle hunting

The Eagle proudly guarding her catch

While I’m not sure it was necessary I did find it a very informative and effective insight into local culture. I’ll never forget the images, or the noises, from the demonstration though.

The drive from the Eagle hunting demonstration was fairly uneventful and we arrived at our destination for the day after not much more than an hour. We are staying at a camp on the shores of the lake which is owned by a family and where we have the option to camp or upgrade to a yurt. I was the only guy who chose to upgrade and as the camp is fairly empty I have been given a yurt all to myself. It doesn’t have any lighting or power like a couple of the other yurts but it will be my space and I’m looking forward to it tonight. Don’t get me wrong I love the interaction you get with people on this sort of trip, and that’s one of the reasons I come on them, but you do need your own space occasionally to make sure people’s individual habits don’t bother you.

I spent some time later on at the shore of the lake. The scenery was beautiful and the air was really warm but wow was the water cold. Obviously due to the high altitude, the glacial melt and the deepness of the lake it doesn’t get too warm so if you are planning to swim here please take care. The only other place I have been swimming where the water was this cold was at a national park in Namibia so I was only able to stay in there for about a minute before having to get out.

Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul

These were at the Yurt Camp

Yurt Camp

This is our Yurt Camp

After dinner a few of us made a bonfire out of some wood that was made available for us, but we were basically given whole trees so this meant a lot of axe work to make anything small enough to burn. It was also really wet so was hard to light and we had to use a combination of fire lighters and toilet paper to get it going. Once it was lit we had a great time chatting to each other and soaking up the atmosphere, although I’m a little worried about one of the kids from the camp who decided to join us. He showed us a video that he had on his phone, and acted it out, but it looked and sounded like some sort of jihadi extremist propaganda video. Hopefully I’m just thinking too much into it but it was a bit scary!

Bonfire time

Bonfire time

I’m sat in my private yurt now and am thinking some more about whether or not to make the journey home early. I think I probably will come back early as long as flights are available but I will have to wait for two more days until we are in Karakol before I will have wi-fi in order to check. As I said in a previous entry I’m not thinking about coming back early due to the trip itself it’s simply because I have something I need to take care of back home – sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

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BBQ on Swinton Island

March 6th, 2014 No comments

I slept really well last night as I had the whole room to myself with Ashu in the hammock. He said he got a great nights sleep too so we’re going to have the same arrangement again tonight but I might suggest we make it permanent as I could do with a good sleep each night – these days are turning out to be more exhausting than I thought considering this is supposed to be a relaxing holiday. However today has been another day to remember.

Departing Lampi Island

Departing Lampi Island

I got up early to watch the sunrise on deck and, after an early breakfast, we set sail for Swinton Island in time to get some perfect photo of Lampi Island as we were leaving. Today there was quite a lot of wind so we managed to sail most of the journey which was great as it was so relaxing without the noise of the engine. Even though the wind was strong the seas weren’t rough at all which I was pleased about as I was told Swinton Island was the most breathtaking of all the islands we would visit and I didn’t want to arrive feeling sea sick.

When we arrived I could see what all the fuss was about. Swinton Island, which the crew and Jill have been talking about since the start of the trip, is set on a wide beautiful beach surrounded by trees, with a small island offshore stopping large waves coming in. It also has a couple of secluded bays with beautiful turquoise water which are perfect for snorkelling. Much to my delight snorkelling was the first activity after dropping anchor.

Arriving at Swinton Island

Arriving at Swinton Island

The water was still very murky but cleared once we got closer to the rocky shore and the depth decreased. I saw a LOT of urchins while snorkelling but today was also the first time we saw some proper marine life since starting the trip. I saw lots of Angelfish, Parrotfish, a few of whatever Dory is in Finding Nemo and loads of other fish I didn’t recognise. I also saw a few large clams.

During the snorkel we slowly made our way to the turquoise bays we saw upon arrival where the water got shallower and warmer. It also got clearer and unfortunately this meant not so many fish so we decided to take a break from snorkelling and enjoy the views from the beach for a while. The beach wasn’t too big but provided us with some great views and gave us a chance to take some lovely photos.

Swinton Island

Swinton Island

Swinton Islnd

Swinton Island

Me on Swinton Island

Me getting ready to snorkel again

A few of us were eager to get back in the water so decided to swim around to the second bay which looked a lot more promising for snorkelling. The water was a little murky but had lots of rocks and deep channels which provided shelter for a whole variety of marine life. I saw clownfish, an albino urchin, some Oriental Sweetlips, and lots of the same fish we saw earlier. We also saw Mike, the skipper, spearfishing and while we didn’t see him catch anything he already had a large number of caught fish in town which meant that the beach BBQ tonight would be plentiful.

Snorkelling

Snorkelling at Swinton Island

Mike

Mike Spearfishing

In order to get ready for the BBQ we had to cut the snorkelling short and after being taken back to the boat we dried off and headed straight to the main beach to collect wood and set up the area. Collecting wood was hard work – not because we we’re all unfit on this trip but because Win is like a machine. He already has a reputation within the group for working hard and today was no exception. While most of us were collecting sticks and other small burnable materials Win was chopping down trees and severing branches using what looked like nothing more than a meat cleaver. This was great and meant that we would have a huge bonfire but meant that we were exhausted carrying the logs and trees to the BBQ location. While collecting we didn’t see much wildlife but this is probably just as well as we saw some cat tracks in the sand. I don’t know what sort of cat the tracks were made by but generally the wild cats in this area aren’t too friendly!

After building the bonfire there was time to relax and enjoy the sunset on the beach. I can see what all the fuss was about as the sunset was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen – I don’t think it quite beat the sunset over the Kazinga Channel in Uganda a few years ago but it came close.

An Eagle

An Eagle visited us

Swinton Island

On Swinton Island

Bonfire

Setting up the bonfire

Sunset

Sunset over Swinton Island

We made a quick stop back on board to freshen up and grab supplies before heading back to the beach for our BBQ and Bonfire. If you come on this trip you will need to make sure you bring insect repellent as Swinton has a lot of sandflies once the sun goes down. Even though I had to apply a lot of mosquito repellent this didn’t spoil the evening as we had such a great evening. Win and Hein were in charge of the bonfire while Marie and Mike cooked us a great meal of chicken, fish, rice, potatoes, salad and much more. I’m not a huge seafood or fish person so I mainly stuck to chicken but I tried some of the Oriental Sweetlips and it was a really beautiful fish with a delicate taste. According to Mike it’s rare to find them in markets as they lead solitary lives so aren’t caught as much as we were lucky to have some for dinner.

We sat relaxing and chatting after dinner until the bonfire burnt itself out and it was such a relaxing night although it’s now almost 11pm so I’m going to be heading to bed without socialising tonight. I’ve had such a great day today and while I’ve had better snorkelling Swinton Island is so beautiful and I’m glad we spent so much time on shore.

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