Monthly Archives: May 2010

Off Piste Backpacking in The Gambia

The Gambia – Yep that’s right it’s actually called that and it’s the only country in the World that we’re aware of that uses ‘The’ to officially introduce itself. Along with this there are two other reasons we immediately loved The Gambia, one – English is the national language and two – they don’t charge Australians anything for a Visa. Heaven.

What else will you love in The Gambia?
It moves to a slow beat and it’s a fairly chilled out scene, most locals will want you to stop for a chat to welcome you. You’ll also get used to the familiar calls of ‘Toubab’ (the local term for white man) from the local kids as you high five them and they hug you back as you roam the streets. It’s famous for its eco-tourism scene and it’s all well organised, it’s easy to get around and it’s refreshingly progressive with loads of worthwhile organisations and programs doing great local work.

After dark it’s a place like no other – we learnt a lot on our first night out. Don’t be fooled, you’re not in a retirement village, in fact it’s anything but – the older women you will find in the bars have found their inner youth and that’s why they’re here. It’s a lesson in the food chain as these predators of the night stalk their younger prey across all parts of the dance floor.

If you hadn’t guessed sex tourism is booming here, predominately with older Brits, surprisingly mostly women but there’s also a few men floating about in search of, well, (for lack of any other non-offensive term) love.

Back to the city and around Banjul, there is an awkward sprawl of 5 or 6 local areas, each with their own scene. As a whole if it’s nightclubs you’re after you’ll find them centered in one spot, known as ‘the Strip’ – and they pump. The local lads can truly dance so you’re in for a treat, but as we witnessed time after time, if you’re a white guy stay seated – it’s embarrassing for everybody when you dangle your limbs awkwardly around trying to compete. As one of the local ladies said – ‘White guys can’t dance and black guys can’t swim’.

What seals the deal?
The Gambia is supremely cheap if you stick with the locals. The ‘street meat’ here is well above board and on any given night you can find anything from Nigerian cuisine to loaded long baguettes to fruits to the insides of a goat. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to wash that down with one of no doubt Africa’s best beers, Jul Brew and yes, it’s pretty special.

If The Gambia sounds like your sort of place, we’ve given it an in depth review with all the information you’d need to visit it yourself and we’ve got a video to show you bits and pieces as well.

This is a guest post from the Benny over at Amateurs Africa, the place to go for fantastic insight if your thinking of going out on the road in Africa. You can also check out some other places to go backpacking in Africa here.

Backpacking Around the Volcanic Vistas of Iceland

Eyjafjallajokull may have attracted quite a lot of bad press by travellers, tour operators and travel insurance companies in recent months, but the volcanoes of Iceland are responsible for much more than delays and disruptions. This northern European island country is home to an ancient, unique landscape that boasts incredible geology, hot springs, lava flows, black deserts, ice-caps, glaciers and snow covered mountains. Here’s our guide to the key must-see sites.

Bathing in the Blue Lagoon
An absolute must on any visitor’s Icelandic agenda – the geothermal spa is the most visited attraction in the country. Boasting naturally heated water of 40° and rich in minerals, the area has become a Mecca for health and leisure, with all sorts of bars and lounges, treatment areas and clinics.

Whale watching from Husavik
Husavik is the prime location for whale watching in the whole of Europe and visitors can pick up any number of tours and guides to chug out into Skjalfandi Bay. The waters in this region are home to a wide variety of species, including Minke, Humpbacks and Giant Blue, as well as puffins and dolphins. Most trips last about three hours.

Dettifoss – Europe’s most powerful waterfall
Located within the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, the Dettifoss falls are 100m wide with a drop of 44m into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It’s pretty much out in the wild, which means visitors will have to trek to view the incredible thunder of water as it tips over the edge of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River.

Vatnajokull – Europe’s largest ice cap
The best place to view Vatnajokull is within Skaftafell National Park – where visitors can either climb the low hills overlooking the ice or don crampons and strike out onto the cap itself. Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur, is also located to the south of Vatnajökull, rising to an impressive 2,109.6 meters.

Strokkur Geyser – hot water springs
Iceland is famous for its hot springs and a visit to the country wouldn’t be complete without an excursion to witness boiling water fire into the sky from the rocky plateau. Strokkur Geyser is the most famous of the island springs, with a 30 meter jet that reliably erupts every 5-10 minutes.

The island of Grimsey – visit the Arctic Circle
Grimsey is the only point in Iceland that is actually within the Arctic Circle – visitors can journey by sea or sky to the island, the origins of which are laced with fable and myth that date back to the days of trolls and giants.

This post was provided by The Post Office

Budapest – Backpacking Photo of the Week #8

Budapest is a fantastic city with an array of activities and a fantastic culture for the backpacker to enjoy. You can go for a long weekend or for weeks on end and you won’t run short of things to do. One area that stood out to me was up on the hill overlooking the city where you could take in all the beauty on offer on both sides of the river. This is just a hint of what the city has to offer, to see more you’ll have to jump on a plane!

Backpacking in BudapestEnjoy more of the Backpacking Photo of the Week series here or discover more places to go backpacking in Europe here.

Brilliant Backpacking, But at What Cost? – London, England

Backpacking in London, England
Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking: 8/10

There can be no argument that England’s capital is overflowing with attractions for travellers. London has tourist fodder coming out of its ears and it truly is a 24 hour city. Backpackers can spend all day, every day wandering the streets and taking in the plethora of cultural monuments and museums, or they can become night owls, only popping their heads up once the sun goes down and the bars fill to bursting point.

Whichever option you choose, you won’t be disappointed. You can live in London for years and still not take in everything it has to offer which is why so many backpackers choose it as a longer term base and find work to fund their activities. This is crucial as trying to do anything in London on a backpacking budget is difficult. If you can earn as you go along then it makes things a lot easier.

Backpacking in London - St Paul's CathedralThat’s not to say everything you do has to be pricey though. There is a huge amount of museums which offer free entry and it’s hard to get bored just wandering the streets and stumbling across famous place after famous place. I had a particular favourite route walking along the Thames’ South Bank from London Bridge (having indulged at Borough Market!) to the Tate Modern, then crossing Millenium bridge over to St Pauls Cathedral. From here you could walk back along the river, stopping off for a trip up the Monument to take in some beautiful cityscape views, and then continuing to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. You then go back across the river and return towards London Bridge, passing the iconic City Hall building on your way. These sorts of walks exist right across London and it’ll take you a good while to get through them all!

But despite all these incredible attractions, London can prove difficult for the thrifty backpacker. Even with the wide range of free attractions you still have to pay the heavy price of living costs and getting around. If you want to indulge in a similar way to backpacking in Eastern Europe then you’ll be peering into an empty wallet in no time. It’s these same drawbacks that scupper many of the capital cities and it’s why backpacking in Paris, Vienna or Barcelona can sometimes be a stretch too far when you know your money will go so much further elsewhere.

Travelling in London - EyeThe amazing sights of the place can’t be overlooked though and I’d urge anyone to come and experience London, even if it is just for a quick glimpse on a tight budget; it’s worth every penny.

If you think London might be a step too far for your purse strings then discover the places where it’s slightly easier to go backpacking for cheap in Europe here.

If you’re looking for a great value youth hostel London does have options – check out Hostelbookers for more details

Salar de Uyuni – Backpacking Photo of the Week #7

This week’s backpacking photo of the week was taken whilst backpacking in the salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia. It’s an incredible place to go backpacking and the huge expanse of salt makes it an amazing spot to photograph. As all you can see for miles is salt, all perspective is taken away and people leave with photos of themselves climbing out of wine bottles, walking out of crisp packets or sitting on pieces of fruit. I’ve chosen one which shows the beautiful moment as the sun rises and illuminates this fantastic destination, though any photo taken on the Salar de Uyuni is likely to be a beauty!

Backpacking in Bolivia - Salar de Uyuni

See more of the Backpacking Photo of the Week series here or discover more places to go backpacking in South America here.