Skye in 5

Last August I visited the Isles of Skye and Mull in a Ford van turned caravan. I took hundreds of photos but these are the ones I liked best so I thought I’d share them here.

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This was the sunrise on our first morning of camping. We picked berries from the roadside and then headed off on the ferry to Mull from Loch Aline. You have to be up pretty early to see sunrise in Scotland in Autumn.

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This is the view up Ben More, one of the steepest munroes in Scotland. It starts on the shore of a sea loch in Mull. We went up and down in 5 hours, including a half hour nap at the top in the fog and a play in the crystal clear waters on the way down.

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This so me looking into the fog from the summit. Vertigo inducing stuff.

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This is one of the fairy pools on Skye at Glen Brittle. I loved this part of Skye, the waters were so clear and the colours were ethereal. We climbed down a pretty steep cliff to get to this photo but it was worth it.

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Finally the Old Man of Storr (not Stoor) Everywhere we went around this part of Skye was adorned with these cairns and I got a bit obsessed with them. I just thought they were so pretty.

So go to Skye and Mull in Autumn/Fall. The weather was amazing, the views were incredible and the food, especially at the Crab Shack and the Three Chimneys, was delicious.

The GART – pt 2. CanaMex route.

Route 93 – The CanaMex Highway.

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The standard CanaMex Highway is the major North to South American route. You don’t have to cross the border, starting at Port of Roosevelt in Montana and ending up in Wickenburg, Arizona, or you can really travel the Americas by starting in Jasper, Alberta and cruising over three states to Tucson, Arizona, about 70 miles away from Nogales at the border. The first route is around 1457 miles long (or 2345 kilometres) and would probably take around three weeks. The latter is around 1995 miles/3210 kilometres, and I would suggest taking around 10 weeks to do it.

Now that the logistics of the trip are over we can get along with the Fun Parts; starting up in Jasper, Canada. The only place I have been to in Alberta was Edmonton which, granted, was a riot, but was a bit too north for me to get a look in at Jasper and Banff. However I’ve called upon some sources (Thanks Brad!) and hopefully can give some good enough information about everywhere!

Jasper is found pretty much in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. Depending on the time of year you go there are different things to do there. However, what I would suggest doing is visiting Maligne Lake. There, you can fish (check permits first!), rent kayaks and canoes, and in winter they offer snow-shoeing and Canyon ice-walking.  It’s beautiful camping territory up there as well, if that’s your thing! As for food I would suggest Evil Dave’s Grill. Their Caesers (or Bloody Mary’s for those UK readers) look lethal, as do their Lollipop shrimp and Alberta beef. Yum!

Because Canadian distances are incredibly deceptive, Banff looks close to Jasper, though it is a good 4 hour drive away. But worth it, as there is a wealth of beautiful countryside to go through and indeed see once you are there.

You can hike Sulphur mountain which is pretty much right in the town itself. It’s not terribly difficult at all and has some nice views on your way up. If needs must there is a cable car (I’m such a fan of cable cars) and I’m lead to believe it’s free to take down if you’ve walked up… however you have to pay to ride up. I have also been suggested to go out to Johnston Canyon which is about a 30 – 40 mins drive from the town. It’s a great a hike with some walkways that ends in a beautiful waterfall.

After all that hiking you’re bound to get up an appetite, so I shall give a small list of places to go and things to get there. Courtesy of Brad!

  1. A Barpa Burger from Barpa Bill’s Souvlaki Restaurant.
  2. A ‘Litre o’ Sangria from Magpie and Stump. I’ve been told it’s the best Sangria our of Spain. Ask for a ‘litre o’ to get a litre of your favourite drink!
  3. Head to Eddie’s for a gourmet burger – Aussie style! For drinks try a TrashCan. I just hope it’s tastier than it sounds!
  4. Another good watering hole is the Rose and Crown, with live music at weekends
  5. For those late night munchies head to Aardvark for pizza and sub sandwiches.

So we’re done with Canada! For now…

There’s sadly no Man v Food stop in Montana (Get on it Adam) so if you can face the prospect of a state without food challenges, travel six hours south and you’ll reach Sun River, Montana. The main information I found about this site revolves around fishing and camping. Some companies offer packrafting, which I have sort of down in my own country and would definitely root for – it’s great fun!  Another two hour drive south and you’ll come to Missoula, MT.  Now, if I was going there I’d personally be hitting up the Ghost towns, which may not be for everyone but it looks right up my street. There also a number of breweries and campsites you can visit, and if you just aren’t happy with that you can try the bar where time stands still for two hours a day and head to Finn and Porter’s bar and grill, where happy hour lasts for three hours…

Next on out whistle-stop tour of the United States (and Canada) is Bitterroot National Forest, which borders Montana and Idaho, the next state we’re heading into.  Bitterroot offers a Full Moon Walk, which starts at about 7pm and lasts an hour and a half. There’s so much else you can do during the day, such as hiking, horseback riding, boating, and hunting. Not sure how we all feel about the option but hey. The option is there for us.

Pass through the forest and we end up in Idaho (No, Udaho. Guess whose least favourite joke that is. Hint, it’s everyone I know because I say it all the time) Unfortunately all three of the Man v Food locations are located in Boise, which is near the border of Oregan and far away from Highway 93. About five hours south of the Montana border is Sun Valley, where you can ice skate, snow board and climb up numerous mountains such as Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain. There’s an activity there called Snow Tubing, which caught my attention, so after a quick google I found this video. Look at it. How peaceful does that look? Very.

For the more adventurous head down through Idaho to Twin Falls. There you can head to Shoshone Falls aka “The Niagara of the West”. It’s over 200 feet tall and 900 feet wide, and although it’s $3 entry fee it seems to be well worth it.  You can also BASE jump at Perrine Bridge, where there are festivals yearly that are worth a visit.

Let’s move swiftly through “the Loneliest road in America” to yet another state; Nevada – famed for its gambling. To break up the enormous nine hour stoat from Twin Falls to Las Vegas I would suggest a stop off at the Great Basin National Park and take a little trip up Jeff Davis’ mountain. You know, to stretch your legs a bit. After that you can jump back in the car for another four hours to the gambling centre of the world, the epicentre of cash flow, Las Vegas.

There are three spots to eat in Las Vegas, according to Richman. Let’s jump in at the deep end and eat at the challenge restaurant, the NASCAR Cafe. Food won in this 6 pound burrito challenge. If eating something the size of a small baby does not appeal to you our pal Adam can suggest Hot N’ Juicy Crawfish or Hash House a go go  which probably has a different meaning to some, but I can assure you they are talking about hash browns.

For those of you looking for something to do in Las Vegas I suggest you turn your television on and watch any American made sitcom from the 1980s onwards, as they will each have at least one episode where a main character is swept up in the lights and glamour of being in a brightly lit room 24 hours a day gambling away their children’s inheritance money. If that’s not your thing I suggest a trip to the Venetian – the biggest hotel in the world. It’s the size of a small town and has underground chambers to help staff keep the efficiency. If that doesn’t float your boat, Red Rock is a 30 minute drive away, as is Hoover Dam.

Passing through the Grand Canyon National Park at Lake Meade should provide some much needed respite from the built up chaos of Las Vegas. Drive through the Grand Canyon state and hit up a rodeo in Wickenburg before hitting up Phoenix; where our Man v Food fun begins.

Tragically, the challenge establishment Big Earl’s BBQ, where food won in a 12 slider challenge has closed. According to my (minimal) research the wonder has opened up a new place in Scottsdale, but alas. Instead, head on over to Alice Cooper’stown (no, that’s not a typo). This rock star turned golfer turned restaurateur serves up an interesting menu and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s gonna be a memorable experience there with such a character at the forefront of it all. Acknowledge Arizona’s close links to Mexico by eating at Los Reyes de la Torta  and then heading south to Tucson.

So we’re nearly at the end of our journey. You’ve been driving for about 35 hours in total and covered 3,050km. You’ve crossed one international border and two state lines (the states are long and skinny in the west huh?) You’re so close to Mexico you can almost taste the tequila; however, you gotta make a couple of stops first. Tucson’s Lindy’s on 4th is our challenge restaurant of the city. The OMG burger (now called the OMFG burger…) is nine 1/3 lb. patties (3 lbs.) of meat with cheddar and Swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion & Lindy’s sauce and, astonishingly for the first time in a while on this trip, Man won! If you don’t fancy high blood pressure I’d suggest El Guero Canelo, famed for its hot dogs or the little nest where you can rest before the final leg of our journey, Mi Nidito.

Finally, Head through Green Valley which has some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the United States until you get to Nogales, AZ, where the film Oklahoma! was filmed…. Watch yourself here; a year ago the largest underground drug bust was carried out, resulting in the arrest of three people. Marvel at the immense security measures at the border of Mexico. Nogales, MX is one of the main ports of entry from the USA to Mexico especially for tourists. It consists of bars, strip clubs, hotels, restaurants, and a large number of curio stores, which sell a large variety of artesanias (handicrafts, leather art, handmade flowers, clothes) brought from the deeper central and southern states of Mexico. Local dishes commonly available in restaurants include many types of antojitos (Mexican food) such as enchiladas, tacos, burritos with carne machaca (dried meat), menudo and tamales, but sadly, no Man v Food.

Morocco!

Disclaimer – this was written nearly two years ago now and is taken directly from my tumblr with no edits.. Apologies for any cringe terms or phrases/change in writing/hair style. I had a crop at one point…

When I first arrived at the border, and the tour guide told us – “No photos, there are people in uniform” I thought it was such a shame. You can literally see the divide. There are people with about a dozen bags full of what looks like bedding hiking about all over the shop. Thousands of them! People queuing up for hours just to get across the border. That, and there was an old Merc that had a bar instead of seatbelts.

This was my first impression of Morocco, but I’m glad I’m open minded enough to change my mind. After a little drive through the coast with all the white washed houses and little villages up the hills and enormous mosques we came to a little stop. And this is what happened there.

Yes. Ladies and gentlemen, I rode a camel. Single most funniest thing that’s ever happened to me. “Ride this camel for a euro” Yessir, I was all over that camel.

After a spot of camel-riding we went to Tetuan. I adored Tetuan. We went into the old town, with all the Jewish quarters (though you’d think there would only be four.) The people there are preparing for November 7th – a day which is also celebrated in my area of Ceuta. The people save and scrimp for months, then buy a beautiful goat, and kill it in the streets. It has something to do with the Bible and when someone had to kill someone else, but mainly they make a huge feast with this slaughtered goat and the whole street smells like blood. Can’t wait…

Beautiful olives! We got free samples of olives, bread, and two cups of Moroccan tea – which is very sweet and minty but delicious! All the women were given a stick of mint to smell, and, you know, it was minty. I’ll be darned.

Sadly I had to cut that photo down about so it would fit on here, but there was every colour you can think of, and they hand make everything there (as you can imagine) They roll out these balls of string in the street for blind people and also so that it doesn’t get tangled up when they make things from it! All the girls got to try on a 30,000 euro golden belt that’s traditionally bought for a bride.

Next was another surprise!

All the girls were dressed by native women working in a market in the traditional dress of the Moroccan workers!! My little woman was abut 4 feet tall, maybe a little more, so there was a lot of bending over backwards (literally) so she could get my head dress on. Here is a closer version:

I don’t know if you can see her because she is so small, but that’s the woman who dressed me!


IBERIA life jacket anyone?

We got taken to this beautiful carpet shop (again, the photo had to be trimmed to fit but there was much more colour) He asked us which ones we liked so I pointed to a lovely sunset coloured blanket and was hustled into a side room. Now, I’ve seen Taken, and I’ll admit I was a bit wary. He wrote “85″ on a piece of paper and smiled at me. I had no idea what was going on. He looked delighted, as if he had stumbled across an idiot tourist who thinks that 85 euros for a blanket is reasonable. I wrote “30.” Though I didn’t really want it. He looked a little down heartened, then agree. So my first accidental haggles was a success. Or it would have been had I bought it…

Lunchtime entertainment.

Next it was lunch time. I don’t have many photos because the food was very good, but I have a couple of videos of the show they put on for us. I’ll try and put them on youtube the next time it rains and I have nothing to do, but it was very impressive.

After that we went to Tangiers, and I have to say, I didn’t feel much for the place. It was full of people trying to sell you things or trying to give you things and it just wasn’t my bag. We went into a spice chemist – which was very interesting, finding out about all the different spices and what they do!

Then we went back! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and would recommend the trip to anyone! The trip was via Flandria Agencies in Ceuta, Spain. Our guide was honestly extraordinary and could speak at least 5 languages. He even knew some Finnish!