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 ‘Swimming’

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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Kayaking in a shark-infested lake

February 8th, 2012 No comments

The first item for today, after a lazy breakfast, was to head next door with Gary and Kelly to go kayaking up into the National Park which for only 100 Cordoba ($5) each was probably the cheapest activity we have done so far!

We made our way out onto the lake and along to the National Park which, as I mentioned in yesterdays post, has been partially flooded due to the rising water levels in the past year. As a result we were able to go fairly deep into the park until mangroves and trees blocked our way to check out the wildlife and plant life that inhabits it. During our time there we saw, and heard, a whole family of howler monkeys along with lots of birds, fish, plants and flying bugs and it was nice to be able to get really close to everything without really bothering them which we would have done on foot if the place hadn’t flooded. Whether we were allowed in there on the kayaks that’s another question which I don’t actually know the answer to.

Me and Kelly on kayaks

Me and Kelly kayaking around the National Park

Me kayaking

Me kayaking in the National Park

After the National Park we spent some time kayaking around into the next bay where we were able to land on the beach to take some photos and walk around inside the park for a while. While we were on the beach we ran into an American guy who was staying at the same hotel as us and he said he had to walk all the way around the park, down a track and into the park from the other side to get to where we were so using the kayaks definitely saved us some time. However it was soon time for us to return the kayaks to the hotel and after doing so I decided to swim in the lake for a while just for the novelty of swimming in a shark infested lake. For those of you not in the know Ometepe lake is inhabited by a type of Freshwater Shark that has been known to attack people in the past but which has unfortunately been illegally fished by the locals so the population is nowhere near what it should be.

Our landing area

The area we checked out by Kayak

In a shark-infested lake

Me and Kelly in a shark-infested lake

This afternoon a few of us visited a natural swimming hole on the other side of the island which was apparently a nice place to relax and go swimming. The hotel organised a minibus to take us there, wait for us as long as we wanted, and bring us back for a set price. At the swimming hole the natural rock pool had been formed into a proper river-fed swimming pool which still had the natural bottom and fish swimming in it. There were facilities including a bar, restaurant, souvenir shops, restrooms and sun loungers and we probably spent a couple of hours there swimming and relaxing. I tried to order some food and drinks but they didn’t seem to understand what I was asking for so I just settled for a bottle of water which I know how to order in perfect Spanish. One thing that we thought seemed like a good idea at the time was to jump into the pool from the upstream end and let the current drag us into the pool – that was until I hit myself on the submerged rocks so be careful if you decide to do that while there. I also decided to see if I could swim against the current to see what it’s like but could get nowhere near the end of the pool.

Swimming hole

Me at the Swimming Hole

Swimming hole

The swimming hole

Swimming hole

The swimming hole was nice

Football game

A game of football on Ometepe Island

The road around Ometepe Island

The road around Ometepe Island

Ometepe

A view to the other side of Ometepe Island

When we returned to the hotel Mena was dealing with an incident involving some of the others in the group who had rented motorbiked. The guide at the hotel recommended they didn’t rent them as they have problems every time guests rent them from a local provider but they decided to go anyway. One of our group fell off and damaged the bike on an unpaved road and another one slipped off and badly burnt her leg on the engine. Mena managed to smooth it over with the company and the amount they were charged reduced significantly when she threatened to call the police. I didn’t really hear much of the conversation though as I wanted to get changed and showered ready for the special BBQ that was organised for tonight.

As it was one of our groups birthday today, and the hotel offered, we had a BBQ put on for us by the hotel consisting of all sorts of meats, rice and beans, fish and tortillas. The quality wasn’t as good as it could have been but it was really nice and they even cooked a birthday cake for him which we had for dessert.

BBQ

The BBQ that we had for dinner on Ometepe

Birthday cake

Birthday celebrations in Nicaragua

Tomorrow we head into our final country of the trip, Costa Rica, which is the most built up of all the countries on this trip so there should be plenty to do. Four nights in Nicaragua was definitely not enough – I’ve wanted to come to this country for almost 10 years and I like it here so definitely need to return again!

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Swimming with Dolphins

February 3rd, 2012 No comments

Today was probably the best day of the trip so far as we managed to fit in a few really good experiences and the weather held out unlike yesterday!

I didn’t sleep much last night so this morning I got up at 6am to read on the balcony. Mena woke up early to call the dolphin place to see if they had any swimming with dolphin tickets left for the day and luckily they did have 3 places available at 230 but only for the “Dolphin Encounter” where you stood waist deep in the water rather than go swimming with the dolphins. This wasn’t the one we were aiming for but myself, Gary and Kelly decided to go anyway.

We went to Earth Mamas today again for breakfast but today I decided to sample the Eggs Benedict with hash browns to compare it to the eggs benedict I’ve been having back home – it wasn’t quite as nice but I still enjoyed it. I decided to make use of the snorkel rental next door as it was cheaper and the equipment was better condition too – only $5 plus a deposit rather than $10 if you hire it directly at West Bay.

Roatan Island

Roatan Island has lovely scenery 🙂

Yummy!

Eggs Benedict for breakfast

Roatan Island after rain

It rained a bit overnight as you can see

The sun was out all day today so I made full use of the time over in the West Bay today. I saw even more fish than before, including some large shoals, and probably stayed out in the water for an hour in total. This caused problems, however, as I managed to miss a small portion of my back while putting my sun cream on and I ended up getting rather badly burned just above the waist line and decided to spend the rest of my time at West Bay just relaxing on the beach.

Gary on the water taxi

Gary on the water taxi

A great beach

This was a great beach

Relaxing on the beach

Me relaxing on the beach

After returning to West End on the water taxi we dropped off our snorkeling equipment before catching a taxi to Anthony’s Key Resort for the Dolphin Encounter. The resort is lovely but is fake compared to the rest of the island. We arrived a little early so after checking in for the encounter there was time to head to the bar for drinks before returning for the briefing.

It was a short boat ride to the dolphin lagoon where we changed and put all of our valuables, except for cameras, in lockers that were provided before heading down to the waters edge. The dolphin in our encounter was called Mr French and we were told all about him and the other dolphins before seeing him do some tricks. We then got into the water where the encounter portion started and we were able to rub / touch Mr French as he swam past before the obligatory official photos which we could purchase afterwards. A word of advice be careful where you put your hand when you have the official photos taken as Gary said when he put his hand underneath he felt his hand slip into one of the little holes on the underside!

Me with some dolphins

Me with some dolphins on Roatan Island

Mr French

Mr French again 🙂

Mr French wanting some attention

Mr French coming past for a relaxing rub

Mr French

Mr French ready to be fed

The official photos actually came out well and at $10 each on a DVD, or all of the photos with us in for $40 we decided to get all of them for $40 and then just share the photos afterwards. After purchasing the DVD and a few souvenirs it was back into town where we had an early dinner at the pizzeria in town which, considering the location, was actually really nice. The rest of the group wanted to go out for another group meal but as we had already eaten we formed Team Breakaway (Mena, Kelly, Gary, Gina and myself) and had a few drinks at the bar over the water before heading back to the room to relax.

Mmmm Pizza :D

This was large but I was hungry!

Caribbean sunset

The sunset from the Pizzeria

In the bar over the water

In the bar over the water on Roatan Island

The bar in daylight

This is the bar in daylight, just to compare

Luckily it’s a lazy start tomorrow as we have two full days of travelling ahead of us, plus my sunburn is starting to hurt.

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Swakopmund

August 21st, 2002 No comments

What a nice place Swakopmund has been especially compared to the last couple of nights we were at Fish River Canyon. I’ll give you no points for guessing who caused the problems again!

The Truck / campsite

The Truck / campsite

I guess the start of the problems weren’t specifically Dan’s fault. Remember that nice meal I told you about? It was indeed a nice meal but we had to wait over two hours for it. We all ended up eating everything that was food on the table, including the sugar cubes, but we needed some sugar and energy in us after the trek so not a bad thing. The frustration from this delay made Dan R even more of a pain than he was.

Later that evening me, Simon and Sam were relaxing in the tent trying to get to sleep when we heard movement then this weird noise. What had Dan done? He had found a hose pipe, connected it, put it under the top sheet of our tent and turned the water on resulting in a nice waterfall of water over all of us. One of Simon’s books got ruined, as did the film that was in his camera. Luckily I had a waterproof camera because of the sand, even though people did make fun of me for it, so the photos from Fish River Canyon were saved. We turned it off and saw Dan behind his tent laughing but were too tired to do anything so went over to the truck and slept there. That was one of the coldest nights sleep I have ever had and how Rod sleeps in there every night I don’t know. We woke him up and had to explain what was going on but he let us sleep in there for the night which was a big help.

A bird came to say hello!

A bird came to say hello!

The next day we just relaxed by the pool again all day. There were some hot springs too but they were too hot to paddle in this time compared to the ones at the start of the trek. A few people went to the indoor swimming pool but I was quite happy outside. Today was also the first day most of us were able to call home to get results from GCSEs, AS Levels etc. I decided not to ask as I wanted to open the envelope myself when I got home but mostly people did well. We were planning to have another meal in the restaurant but after the chaos the night before Rod cooked us a BBQ comprised mainly of Springbok. It was nice but certain people had too much beer and caused problems again. Sam and Simon escaped into other peoples tents which left me alone and at the mercy of the bog brush, which had somehow made an appearance again. Not a good night, but it was the last night we would have to camp this trip so I survived it.

We left early on the 18th for an all-day drive back up to Windhoek to stay at the Roof Africa Lodge. The other place we stayed at was better but this was a nice place to stay. We all went out for a meal at the famous “Joe’s Beerhouse” and all but one of the group ordered the Bushman Sostie – a shish kebab comprised of lumps of Ostrich, Crocodile, Zebra, Chicken and Kudu meat. I was a little hesitant but it was actually really nice! If you’re in the area I highly recommend this place for the great food and great atmosphere.

On the 19th we left Windhoek and travelled to Swakopmund before spending most of the rest of the day just generally exploring the local area and relaxing in the hostel. Duneboarding was organised for the next day and we had paperwork for that to sort out too. I had to go to the bank to exchange some more money as I had kept a bundle in both British Pounds and US Dollars due to the exchange rate slowly getting better all month!

The 20th was another highlight of the expedition so far – Dune Boarding. There is no greater way to soak up the atmosphere than to rush down sand dunes that face the Atlantic Ocean. I chose the slightly cheaper option of laying on the board rather than what was a converted snowboard. Not only was it cheaper but it was easier! We went down various slopes on our own before going down another slope in pairs which a lot of people failed at miserably. I was with Dominic and we didn’t fall off in a big pile even though I expected we would. The last run was the fastest, steepest and the sight of the famous “Sam Thomas falling off his board at top speed, rolling off across the sand and having his shorts fall down” incident. It looked painful but was impressive to watch!

Preparing for Dune Boarding

Preparing for Dune Boarding

Me Dune Boardfing

Me Dune Boarding

The scenery

The scenery

More scenery

More scenery

Me and Dominic

Me and Dominic

After duneboarding we had a picnic with the whole group which mainly comprised of us but also contained some Americans and Germans. I removed sand from places I didn’t know existed again but it was a great day. In the afternoon the team leaders went skydiving and the rest of us explored Swakopmund again. I had a KFC before returning to the hostel to watch the video from the Dune Boarding. I decided to purchase a copy, as well as a floppy disk with some photos on and also bought a T-Shirt. Apparently last night some of the group went out to a nightclub. They didn’t invite me which sucks, but most people didn’t get in and I’m not a nightclub person anyway!

Picnic after Dune Boarding

Picnic after Dune Boarding

A low-quality version of the video is shown below. It could take a while to load if you have a slow connection as it’s quite long. The first 1 1/2 minutes are a generic introduction introducing Swakopmund and the company that operated the day so if you only want to see the actual Dune Boarding you can skip to 90 seconds. (By the way I’m the person in what looks like a luminous blue t-shirt. It wasn’t that bright in real life!)

Today was another good day, as so many others have been while in Namibia. A few of us (Me, Dan Becks, the two leaders and Rod) went fishing to catch some fresh fish for dinner. I think we all caught at least one fish (I caught 2) but Rod caught something ridiculous like 17 which meant we all had enough to eat tonight. The difference in our catch was confusing as we were all on a small boat but we thanked Rod for his efforts! I don’t know what most of the fish were but I know dogfish was in there somewhere. I’m not much of a fish person but they all tasted nice, especially when cooked on a BBQ in the terrace of the hostel. Another highlight of today…. a ceremonial sacrifice of the bog brush which made up for me not being able to get back into the room for a couple of hours after fishing due to Sam and Simon going to the cinema with the only pair of keys for our room! It gave me a chance to wander the town and buy some local music and a Namibian flag though.

Fishing

Fishing

Swakopmund Harbour

Swakopmund Harbour

Our boat

Our boat

Tomorrow we head back to Windhoek for the last time before leaving this amazing country!

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“Table for 18 please”

August 8th, 2002 No comments

Right now we should still be in the school in Gibeon but we decided to leave due to the ongoing issues that I mentioned in my last post. We did as much as we could for the school and enjoyed every moment there but the Principal was making us feel less and less welcome every day and made it obvious he was looking for a financial contribution which we just weren’t prepared to give. One of our leaders made some calls back to the UK and we were told that within a couple of days somebody from the trucking company would be there to take us on to a temporary campsite while we waited for our main truck driver.

We decided to make the most of our time there. On the 3rd, the day after the BBQ, we had a last day of work on the school before making a castle and giant domino set with the remaining bricks. Harley made a video – I’ll see if I can add it on my site later. In the early evening we made a giant bonfire with any loose wood or dead plant material we could find by wandering the local area. All of the material was dry and easy to light and we quickly got a big bonfire going. Some of the kids joined us until Dan, the instigator of most of the drunken behaviour so far, decided it would be funny to throw a full cigarette lighter onto the fire which exploded and scared all of the kids away. Thanks Dan :(.

Later that evening after the bonfire went out the two American teachers at the school invited us out to sample the local nightlife. Most of us accepted, although we didn’t know what to expect, and we were taken into the centre of Gibeon in their cars. We didn’t spend much time with the teachers but they were great and were the only other white people to visit the town in the last few years – something we found out the second time we went to the post office last week. That day we stopped in the cafe next to the post office for some cold drinks and one of the kids said something to the lady behind the counter. She said “he says he wants some money for you burning his eyes out” before apologising and sending him out. We didn’t take offense – we know he didn’t mean anything by it.

Although back to the nightlife. Their local nightclub was basically a shack with a bar, pool table and DJ inside and a courtyard outside. The drinks were incredibly cheap as is everything in this part of the world and it was only the equivalent of 8p for a 500ml bottle of Fanta! Some of the others had beer but I stuck to the Fanta. We enjoyed the surroundings for probably about an hour before gunshots started sounding outside. Our leaders decided it would be a good idea to leave before anything happened so we walked the quarter mile or so back to the school. Apparently what was happening was there was a fight outside and the police arrested them both. One of them got away and went running off so the police fired some warning shots into the air to make him stop…. but better to be safe than sorry I guess!

On the 4th we were scheduled to have another football match but our transport arrived early to take us to the Hardap Dam resort – just up the road next to Mariental. It was only a small minibus so it had to make the trip 3 times. I was given the job of going into town to the one remaining phone box that worked to make the reservation. On arrival back in the school the kids were disappointed to see us go, and the feeling was mutual, but we told them due to a problem with transport we had to go to our next place now or we wouldn’t have got there at all. We took some photos with the kids, exchanged addresses, had the principal ask for money again and then went off to Hardap. We spent that night setting up camp and eating at the restaurant there. I was in the last minibus so got a lift back to the restaurant. The 5 or 6 of us that arrived first were the only people in the place so the waiter got a shock when we said “table for 18 please” although the others came along after a few minutes. After dinner we mainly tried to work out what these weird creatures were that were running all over the park. We found out later they were called “Rock Dassies” but we nicknamed them “Monkey Hamsters”

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

Hardap Campsite

Hardap Campsite

Monkey Hamster!

Monkey Hamster!

The next day we took a short trek to get used to the idea of trekking in the Namibian climate before our main trek of the trip. We had a group of Springbok run behind us, just as Will was moaning he hadn’t seen any wildlife, but they were too fast to get a photo. Apparently somebody saw a Scorpion and Baboons but I didn’t see either of those. After returning we relaxed by the swimming pool which was bar none the coldest I have ever been in! Needless to say we didn’t stay in long just mainly relaxed and enjoyed the evening before having curry for dinner and an early night.

Simon on Trek 1

Simon on Trek 1

Trek 1

Trek 1

On the 6th we took a longer (10 miles) trek around the other side of the park and over the Dam itself. We had random spam sandwiches for lunch before having to turn back early because a few of the group were starting to feel a little ill from the trek. We took it easy that night before taking a longer trek the next day – with full rucksacks to prepare us for the longer treks ahead. We returned to the campsite to find another World Challenge group had set up camp near us. We chatted for a bit before heading off to the restaurant again. I was a little more adventurous this time and tried Crocodile Goulash – the meat felt weird but tasted like Pork. That evening there was a bit of an incident involving Dan again where he decided to attack me with a bog brush – don’t ask. He denied it so we had a little mock court case to liven things up this morning. The whole thing was very pointless but was also very random which I like.

The Dam

The Dam

Sunset over Hardap

Sunset over Hardap

Eating Crocodile - I know I look bad - I was tired

Eating Crocodile – I know I look bad – I was tired

Some of us in the restaurant

We will be leaving for Sesreim soon – Rod just turned up with a big green truck for us all to travel in!

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