Saturday, 22 October 2016

My Peru Diary

12 - 21 September

South America. Vibrant cultures, awesome scenery and high octane travel. We found it all in 11 days in Peru!

We arrive in Lima, having watched 5 movies, eaten 3 meals and gone for about 4 leg stretching loo breaks. We were tired but excited as we reached arrivals and looked for the man with or name. After about 10 minutes we realised he wasn't there. A quick call the hotel and soon enough someone appeared with our name and we were on our way.

Lima is an enormous and gregarious city. About 40 mins from the airport we arrived at our hotel, Casa Cielo in Miraflores, opposite a chocolate museum (was I dreaming?).

Soon enough I was, wrapped up in the down duvet and silky alpaca wool blanket, until the jet lag caught up with me at about 5am.

I could hear a chirping outside my window coming from the tree opposite our balcony. Once the sun had risen, I peeked out and saw a hummingbird fluttering around the flowers in the tree. I couldn't believe it; I was in Peru!


Our friendly driver was a local tour guide and introduced us to the city as we made the short drive to our hotel in Cusco from the airport the following morning.

Eager to explore the city we headed to Placa de Armas, the centre of the historic city centre. The 2 churches dominate the square on the north and easterly side, and a fountain in the centre drew the crowds. The evening sun was illuminating the city in a terracotta glow; this was what we came for!

Placa de Armas, Cusco

Cusco was a pleasure, with friendly people, excellent food and a wonderful vibe. Its old town is small but perfectly formed and there's charm around every corner.

Our hotel, Rumi Punku, was a beautiful mix of a Balinese home stay and a Moroccan riad, with decorated courtyards and balconied room emerging from the walls. Our family sized room came with a spa bath, views of the hillside and 3 beds!

Whilst in Cusco we spent our days acclimatizing, exploring the Sacred Valley and rafting on the Urumbamba river. Before we knew it we were at our briefing for the Inca trail, which would start with a 4am wake up call ahead of 4 days of hiking to the iconic Machu Picchu inca site; the reason we'd come.


After the Inca Trail (and a well earned shower) we returned to Lima for a few days R&R.

With a bit of time in Lima, we were happy to explore the city at a snails pace, and whilst we didn't venture beyond the suburb or Miraflores, I think it had everything we needed.

Our first stop was Parc del Amor, adorned with an enormous statue of 2 lovers embrace, gaudi-esque mosaic terraces and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Couples were everywhere; their names carved into the trees, written into the tiles and their padlocks on the fencing. It was a small but beautiful place which offered much needed calmness in the busy city.

The following day we drove through the port town of Callao then to Palomino Islands by boat for a spot of wildlife spotting. We weren't disappointed, getting to see Pelicans, Blue-footed Boobys, Humboldt Penguins and Sea lions; which we even got a chance to swim with!

Much of the rest of our time was spent eating at the likes of Panchita, and Hencho en Casa, with a drink or two at La Emolienteria.

On our final day we indulged in a chocolate ganache and truffle making class at Choco Museum. In just 2 hours we learnt the art of tempering chocolate, how to create ganache and decorate truffles. Plus, we got to take away 12  chocolates handmade by us each!

Then all of a sudden our bags were packed and it was time to go home. Another trip ticked off the bucket list; another country to scratch off the map. Peru had been as colourful, mysterious and energetic as I hoped it would be. I'm not sure life will ever be the same!

Hasta luego!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru

We will get to the packing lists and how to prepare blogs on the Inca Trail in good time, but for now I'm just going to tell you, without giving too much away, my experience of the Inca Trail.

You might be reading this because you're thinking of doing the Inca Trail, or just because you're interested in hearing about it, but here's the honest truth.

The Inca trail is hard

Waking up before 6am and walking for 5+ hours isn't many people's idea of a holiday, and it's hard work to get yourself up, prepared and motivated each morning. If you're coming from the UK you have jet lag on your side, so take my advice and keep waking up at 5am before you start the trail.

The Inca trail is longer than it sounds

26 miles does not seem long - its a 30 minute drive. People run marathons in a matter of hours! Wrong. You tackle these 26 miles at a fraction of the speed you might normally. The combination of altitude, incline, the bag on your back and the prospect of 4 more days of the same mean you need to pace yourself, and if that means going 2mph - so be it. Enjoy the scenery, stop to breathe it in, then carry on putting one foot in front of the other.

The Inca trail is beautiful

Possibly never again will you feel like or be, just a tiny speck of a person in the middle of enormous mountains and deep valleys. The wildlife, the flowers, and clouds even are all the motivation you will need and with every meter gained or lost, your whole environment will change. From clouds and rock to humidity and orchids; it's a beautiful trail.

The Inca trail is major bragging rights

Nothing will make you feel more smug than reaching the outskirts of Machu Picchu and hearing the day trippers coughing and spluttering over the few steps they've climbed to reach the perfect selfie spot. Like the marathon runners finishing alongside the 5k runners, you admire the fact they've made the trip, but there's something extraordinary about the physical and emotional journey you've been on.

The Inca trail is worth it

It's so worth it. The biggest fear I had on the Inca Trail was that once I reached the end, it would be an anticlimax. But on that morning, after the 3am wake up call, the queuing, and the final hike, reaching Machu Picchu and seeing it emerge from the clouds, as we emerged from the trail, it all came together. The challenges of the trail are worth it, and the journey is the destination.

Watch our story of the trail below.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Wildlife Spotting and Sea Lion Swimming at Palomino Island, Lima

Lima is a big city, and if spending hours in traffic trying to get to museums isn't your thing, getting out of the city could be one way to spend a day.

We did just this when we booked a half day tour of Palomino Island, a short boat ride from the port suburb of Callao. The drive itself was insightful as we passed so many old and dilapidated colonial buildings as we passed through the old port town of Lima.

Shortly after we were en route to the islands; a sort of mini Galapagos in Peru. Take a closer look at the beautiful animals we saw and see our top tips for a pleasant trip below.

Blue footed booby
Blue footed booby

Humboldt penguins
Humboldt Penguins

Inca tern
Inca Tern


Sea lions
Sea lions

Top tips for your Palomino Island tour

We booked our tour through Viator, and would recommend it to anyone looking for an up-close experience with Sea lions. Here's some other tips from us:
  1. Be prepared: The area where the Sea lions nest is exactly that - their home - and there's a stink you won't be able to forget for a while. This also means the water isn't as crystal clear as you might like. Try not to get any in your mouth when you jump in.
  2. Take a snack and water: We were lucky enough to get some juice and crisps (chips) for the return journey, but just in case this isn't on offer, we'd recommend bringing a small snack to help you deal the bad taste that might be left in your mouth after your swim.
  3. Enjoy it: There's not many opportunities to have real life encounters with animals in their natural habitat, so make the most of it, and enjoy that these animals are happy and curious about you and not stuck in a zoo doing tricks for food. 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Sacred Valley, Peru

Exploring the Sacred Valley is top of many people's lists when visiting Cusco, or Peru in general. The valley is home to many ancient sites built by the Inca's, the people who lived in the area immediately before, and slightly after the arrival of the Spanish.

A short Inca history lesson

Incan tribes had been living in the Cusco area since the 12th Century, but the Incan empire existed formally from 1438 - 1533 and stretched along the western ridge of South America, centering in the Peruvian Andes. Patchacuti is thought to be responsible for the rapid expansion of the empire, and commissioned the building of sites such as Machu Picchu.

When Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador (am I in an Indiana Jones movie?), arrived from Panama in 1529 he returned to Spain to received royal approval to conquer the region and be its viceroy, then captured the Inca King Atahualpa and used him to demand gold as ransom from the Inca's, before killing him.

The Inca's were eventually wiped out, their history and traditions with them, in 1572 when Tupac Amaru was killed following 36 years of Neo-Incan survival in the mountains.

With no written language, there's very little in terms of historical proof to help us understand the purpose of some of the ancient sites in the sacred valley. Many have been lost to the mountains, and more are still being excavated as we speak.


Your first stop on a tour of the Sacred Valley from Cusco is likely to be Pisac. From Cusco you will climb through the mountains and stunning scenery before reaching the valley. The Inca site had been build into the hillside and in framed by terraces. It's these terraces which you'll see time and time again in the Sacred Valley.

It's a windy road to the city, but once there you're treated to breathtaking views and a chance to explore the pathways. The burial chambers in Pisac are of particular note, and I recommend making the walk to the "city centre" on the far side.

Pisac is also home to a market with lots of souvenirs available, however these are no different to the items you will find in Cusco or any other market in the Sacred Valley. There's lots to tempt you, and it's certainly worth picking up a gift or two, but don't be disheartened if you don't have time - enjoy seeing the sites and shop back in Cusco.


Next on your Sacred Valley tour will be Ollantaytambo. This ancient city is still active and a real treat to explore if you have the time. Unlike other Inca sites, in Ollantaytambo the city was built in the valley - thanks to a pre-existing community when the Incas arrived - so the mountians were dedicated to the building of temples. The steep stairs take you to the temple of the sun and some stunning examples in Inca architecture.

Keep an eye out got the watchtowers on the neighbouring hills. Ollantaytambo was well guarded and it's believed the face of god can be seen in the mountain opposite the temple.

Quechua girls in Ollantaytambo - by @clairemgale on Instagram

In the town below the ancient site, you'll find Inca streets, with their channels of running water, and quint squares in the colonial style brought by the Spanish.

Many people stay in Ollantaytambo before starting the Inca Trail and it's on the train line to Machu Picchu, so if you've an evening to spare, I'd recommend staying the night and soaking up the atmosphere.

Other places of interest

In addition to the cities of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, a typical tour of the Sacred Valley may also include a trip to the salt mines at Maras, the Inca site as Moray, meeting typical Quechua weavers at a women's co-operative, a visit to a llama farm and Chinchero.

We booked our Sacred Valley tour with Viator - check it out!

Below: Patchacuti statue at Aguas Calientes, greeting people on their way to Machu Picchu

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Chocolate Truffle and Ganache Workshop @ Choco Museum, Lima

Choco MuseumBooking a hotel opposite a chocolate museum and workshop could be seen as a cruel joke, or an invitation to get messy.

If you're looking for something a little sweeter than Pisco Sours to play with in Peru, Choco Museum's range of workshops could be right up your street. Choco Museum uses fresh Peruvian cocoa in all their products and has a delicious range of bars, jams and other chocolaty treats for sale.

Their workshops include "from bean to bar" and farm tours, and whilst in Lima we tried the truffle and ganache workshop.

The 2 hour class is just S75 (Peruvian Soles) or about £20 making it a sweet deal as we also got to take 12 chocolates of our own making home with us.

Here's a little taste of what to expect...

Choco Museum has locations across South & Central America in Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Colombia.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Hiking the Dorset SWCP: Part 2

Welcome to part two of our guide to walking the Dorset portion of the South West Coastal Path. The SWCP covers 630 miles of coastline on England's south west peninsula from Poole Harbour in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset.

As part of our training for hiking Peru's Inca Trail, we set out to walk the miles of Dorset coast using the SWCP, and covered the Poole to Weymouth section in part one of this guide.

In part two we will complete our challenge, clocking up over 75 miles along the way!

Chickerell to Abbotsbury

We start our next walk at Chickerell Village just outside of Weymouth. There's plenty of on road parking, but please be considerate of residents. Head through the campsite and onto the path which runs parallel to Chesil beach. This is a flat walk and very peaceful. As you near Abbotsbury, why not stop at the Swannery before catching the X53 bus back to Chickerell and the car.

See the Chickerell to Abbotsbury route now on MayMyRun.

Top Tip: The bus is £4 each, so have some change
Pub Stop: The Swan Inn, Abbotsbury
Distance: 8 miles Start Chickerell, End Abbotsbury
Gain: 405ft

Abbotsbury to West Bay

One for the Broadchurch fans, the end of this walk leads to the base of these infamous cliffs. From Abbotsbury beach car park (£6 all day) take Burton Lane along the coast. The path gets very pebbly at times which makes it a little challenging, but it eventually gives way to trail again. The reward is an endless choice of fish and chip huts, and delicious tea and cake at West Bay. The X53 bus can drop you back to Abbotsbury too!

See the Abbotsbury to West Bay route now on MayMyRun.

Top Tip: Be very careful around the cliffs. Land slips are common and can be deadly
Pub Stop: The Custom House, West Bay or The Station Cafe
Distance: 8 miles Start Abbotsbury beach car park, End West Bay
Gain: 170ft (apparently, but I think this is an error on the may. Expect a few moderate hills)

West Bay to Lyme Regis

Finish the SWCP quite literally on a high with this challenging but very rewarding walk. From West Bay join the path and climb the hills to Eype and a refreshing drink at Seatown. You'll need it for the climb to the top of Golden Cap, the highest point on the South Coast. Make time to enjoy the views before following the path to Charmouth and Lyme Regis. There is a diversion in place where the path is no longer safe, so be sure to keep an eye out for the markers from Charmouth onwards. Again the X53 bus can ferry you from one end of the route to the other, giving you time to celebrate with a walk on the Cobb at Lyme Regis.

See the West Bay to Lyme Regis route now on MayMyRun.

Top Tip: Save your picnic for at the top of Golden Cap
Pub Stop: Anchor Inn, Seatown
Distance: 9.75 miles Start West Bay, End Lyme Regis
Gain: 1724ft

Thank you to all our friends who joined us on some of these walks, with their endless support and willingness to help us complete our challenge!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

48 Hours in Bath

Bath is quite simply the stuff weekends away are made of. It's stunning architecture and endless list of things to do are sure to keep you coming back time and time again. Having visited a few times recently I thought it time I told you my tips for a great 48 hours in Bath!

Where to stay

Bath University

Bath is famously expensive and I've been lucky enough to see both ends of the scale whilst maintaining quality. For a modest budget, book your room at Bath University. During non term time the campus halls double as hotel rooms complete with en suite bathrooms, toiletries and breakfast (canteen style). If you're weekending in a group the kitchens are also open for you to relive your uni day with a few pre-dinner drinks. Be warned, the halls are popular with groups and the wifi is bad at best, but at £40 per person you can't complain. 


For a more quaint and country scene, head out at the city to the Moonraker Hotel. This Manor House style inn is complete with resident pigs, herb gardens and Neil's Yard toiletries, and guests are welcomed with homemade flapjacks. A cosy stay here is definitely more about staying in with a good book and roaring fire than going out!

What to do

The Makery

Artists and artisan wannabes should make for The Makery in Bath. Conveniently in the centre of the city it's the perfect place to spend a few hours before heading back to the shops. On offer are all sorts of crafty capers from headbands and knicker making to espadrilles and lampshades. You'll be guided at each step and likely have the helping hand of a sewing machine and endless pots of buttons, sequins and ribbons for to adorn your creations.

Sessions typically last 2 hours and you can take your creations home with you. 


Thermae Spa

The Roman Baths get a 21st century upgrade with all the ancient Heath benefits at Bath's Thermae Spa. 3 distinct experiences will leave you soothed and relaxed.

Enjoy the view over the city from the open air roof top pool before hitting the 4 steam rooms, each punching out a different aromatherapy oil. End your trip in the Minerva pool, where the gentle currently guide you around. If that isn't enough the on site spa will work a little harder to get you there.

Where to eat

Sotto Sotto

If there's one thing Bath does well it's underground vibes. Sotto Sotto is a delightfully authentic Italian restaurant set in bricked arches just below street level.

The menu included a tasty burrata with Parma ham and fig, chocolate lentils and mushroom pasta, all of which go very nicely with a glass or two of prosecco. 

The Pump Room

For afternoon tea in Bath the only place you need to know about it the Pump Room. Set within the historic Roman Baths, the Pump Room will serenade you with its wide tea selection, decisions cakes and live music.

Not forgetting the astonishing decor, the service at the Pump Room is second to none, with the team breaking all expectations to accommodate the nut allergies and vegan diets in our party.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Hiking the Dorset SWCP: Part 1

The SWCP, or South West Coastal Path stretches from Poole Harbour in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset, taking in 630 miles of coastline on England's glorious south western peninsula.

It's quite a thing to behold, and I'm pleased to say that as part of our training for hiking Peru's Inca Trail, we set out to walk the miles of Dorset coast using the SWCP.

Here is a guide to how to conquer such a feat, and a few tips, including pub stops along the way. Part 1 will cover Poole to Weymouth, and Part 2 covers Weymouth to Lyme Regis. There's a few hops, skips and jumps to join up the path, but as you'll be doubling back on occasions, we wont worry too much about that.

As for getting about, a car is helpful, but also the Purbeck Breezers for transport on Purbeck in the summer months.

Shell Bay to Studland 

Assuming you've taken in the 7 miles of golden sands and promenade of Bournemouth and Poole beaches, start this 'out and back' walk at Studland. Leave the car in Sandbanks and hop on the chain ferry, then follow the sand all the way to Middle beach. Stop for a much needed cup of tea and slice of cake at one of the cafe's before heading back, and keep a weather eye for nudists!

See the Shell Bay to Studland route now on MayMyRun.

Top Tip: This walk is almost all on sand at beach level, so bring a towel for a refreshing dip at the end.
Pub Stop: Knoll Beach Cafe
Distance: 5 miles Start/End: Shell Bay
Gain: 52ft

Swanage to Studland

After exploring the seaside town of Swanage, head left along the beach until you find the wooden steps. From here, you climb up the hill and are treated to stunning views of the bay. Follow the path as it crests and you will see Bournemouth and Poole Harbour in the distance. At Old Harry Rock, follow the path to the left all the way to the Banks Arms, where you'll find local beers and fish and chips waiting on the large garden. If you can tear yourself away from the lovely garden, it's a short walk to the main road and bus stop where you can hop on the 40 bus back to Swanage.

See the Swanage to Studland route on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Start with tea and cake from the tea room in the carriage of an old train at Swanage station.
Pub Stop: The Banks Arms
Distance: 4 miles Start: Swanage, End: Studland
Gain: 200ft

Swanage to Winspit

From Swanage, head right along the quay and up the hill. Follow signs to Durlston through a residential area and woodland to the welcome centre. Here the SWCP picks up and follows the coast all the way past Dancing Ledge to Winspit, a disused quarry. There's a few steep climbs with steps, but poles shouldnt be needed.

From Winspit follow the path up to Worth Matravers, stopping at the Square and Compass for some live music and local cider, then take the road through Langton Matravers to Swanage.

See the Swanage to Winspit route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Make the most of the photo opportunities at the Durlston Globe and Winspit Quarry
Pub Stop: The Square and Compass
Distance: 11.6 miles Start/End: Swanage
Gain: 900ft

Chapmans Pool to Kimmeridge

Start your walk from Kingston village or Houns Tout car park. Head down South Street and through the sheep fields towards Chapmans Pool, but turn right off the track at the sty. Cross the fields to pick up the path and find the famous steps out of Chapmans Pool. Once out, follow the path up and down (and back up again) until you reach Clavell Tower and the path dips into Kimmeridge Bay.

Head out of the bay towards the village, stopping at the Clavell Arms for a comfort break before continuing past Seabcombe House and through the farm. Cut through the fields back to the path you were on earlier and follow the route back, turning left at the top of Houns Tout to catch the path back to Kingston, and hopefully a plate full of jerk chicken!

See the Chapmans Pool to Kimmeridge route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Things start to get hilly and there's a lot of stinging nettles, walking poles and doc leaves recommended.
Pub Stop: The Scott Arms and Clavell Cafe
Distance: 11 miles Start/End Kingston Village
Gain: 1250ft

Tyneham to Lulworth

Park and leave a donation at Tyneham before either heading south to Worbarrow Tout (for the views) or east to the mouth of Worbarrow Bay. From here it's a steep climb out of the bay to Flowers Barrow before you dip into the tank graveyard. Watch you footing and heed the warnings, this is a military training zone. Follow the path over a few more climbs before winding down to Lulworth Cove. After freshening up, head left along the beach and climb out of the cove through Fossil Forest and pick up the path back to Tyneham.

See the Tyneham to Lulworth route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Check the Lulworth ranges are open before setting off and make time to explore the abandoned village of Tyneham.
Pub Stop: Lulworth Cove Inn
Distance: 11.4 miles Start/End: Tyneham Village
Gain: 1812ft

Lulworth to Preston

Park at Lulworth and take the path over the ridge towards Durdle Door. After taking some pictures, follow the path keeping Portland in view. As you near Ringstead Beach you'll see signs for the White Nothe and then the path becomes a lot flatter, eventually dropping into the beer garden of the Smugglers Inn.

From here, you can continue to Preston, or Weymouth, or head up the road to catch the 30 bus back to Lulworth Cove.

See the Lulworth to Preston route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Stop to admire Durdle Door and Man o' War beach.
Pub Stop: The Smugglers Inn
Distance: 7.1 miles Start: Lulworth, End: Osmington Mills or Preston
Gain: 900ft

Happy Trails!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Crete, Greece

 4-11 June 2016

My cheeks are sore by our second full day in Crete, and when I go for my morning dip in the sea it becomes clear why. I've never been a good snorkeler (something about a fear of inhaling mouthfuls of sea water and some unsuspecting seaweed) so, armed with my goggles and wet shoes, dive in and hold my breath as long as I can before coming up for air. Now I know why my mouth hurts. I swam in the crystal clear waters of Crete's northern coast twice yesterday and I've barely been here 24 hours.

Underwater swimming photo
Swimming in the crystal clear waters

It's our summer holiday and were checked in to Meli Palace, somewhere in the rocks between uni goer favourite Malia and sleepy Sissi. The all inclusive hotel isn't our usual style, but it turns out the rumours were true; the food is excellent, the beach is private and the activities on offer will keep even us busy. Tennis, volleyball and kayaking are all on site and there's even an isolated island to swim to and conquer before heading back in time for lunch.

Mark and Claire Gale Kayaking in Crete

Sunday is Greek day in the restaurant (though there are Greek dishes available all week) and I particularly enjoy filling my plate with Greek salad, stuffed vine leaves and souvlaki. Couple this with a hearty buffet breakfast and excellent dinner and it's a good thing there are a few opportunities to burn some of it off!

Reading on the beach
Sometimes all I need is a good book and a sunny spot to read it

We swim, eat and read until the explorer in us can't wait any longer and it's then that we make the 5k walk westwards to neighbouring Malia. Passing though the strip of bars and clubs, we seek out the old town. It's a hidden gem with blue painted doors and flowering climbers decorating the walls at every turn. We are greeted with ice cold sangria and Mythos and watch as the small square sets up for the evenings dinners, most likely a mix of locals of people like us looking for a taste of real Greece.

Malia Old Town
Malia Old Town

To the east of our slice of Crete is Sissi, which we visit one evening for dinner. Its tiny harbour is picturesque, and the few moored boats bob on the water as the sun slowly sets. We settle ourselves at Hemingway's Bar for chilled sweet red wine by the very large glass whilst the aged rockstar-esque proprietor sips his own glass and tends to his cats. Wandering up the road for dinner we are treated to more warm Greek hospitality, some spontaneous dancing and raki before getting a cap home. 2 people ask me if I'm Greek or have been there before, so I guess my tan is coming along nicely!

Greek Taverna with moped outside
Cretan backstreets

Our final night, we book a table at the a la carte restaurant, To Nissi, and are treated to a stunning sunset as we are waited on. Course after course follows, washed down with a few glasses of wine and I can't help but think it's juts the best way to end our week in Crete; feeding our bodies and minds!

Sunset over the beach
We were treated to plenty of beautiful sunsets

Watch our video on Crete below!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Coasteering in Dorset with Land & Wave

"But you did jump off all the higher rocks in Ibiza!" my friend reminds me when I bring up that Mark is planning a coasteering experience to celebrate his birthday. Everyone is invited but it seems this time we've gone too far!

The adrenaline junkie in me is excited a few weeks later as we get wet-suited ready for an afternoon of sharp rocks and steep drops with the Land & Wave team at Dorset's Dancing Ledge. Before I know it the sea is in view. It's a gorgeous day; green fields and spotless blue skies take my mind off what's to come. Then, finally it's time for some fun!

Our guides Ross and Hannah start off light with gentler jumps, helping us acclimatise to the chilly water, slowly building up to the biggest leaps of the day. They're easy enough to entertain, after all the water is a brilliant turquoise and the sun is illuminating the depths below the surface, but taking that final step still takes balls!

I can't believe the time it takes to hit the water but as soon as I do, I can't wait to climb back up and do it again! What a rush! Everyone gives it their best shot and any initial fears are soon replaced with bants and the occasional face plant!

But no one escapes "the gauntlet" - the final challenge where we battle against the swell to traverse a natural wall. I'm literally swept away before an outstretched hand pulls to relative safety, but by this time I'm too busy laughing to be scared! 

Check out the video of our Dorset coasteering experience now!

We ended our weekend with a night at Burnbake Campsite in Studland, Purbeck. This cute campsite was the perfect base for our weekend, and had everything you'd need even for a longer stay. After cooking endless BBQ to feed our tired bodies, we huddled around the fire pit toasting marshmallows until midnight, only to be awoken by the dawn chorus and a screaming child. Such is life on a campsite, but the laid back communal atmosphere meant we didn't really mind, not when when there's bacon baps and hot tea on the go from the friendly food hut!

Burnbake Campsite, Purbeck

Thursday, 19 May 2016

New Forest Water Park, Hampshire

Forget the HIIT class that has you sweating it out with 50 other misty eyed gym goers on a Saturday morning; this course is a real challenge this weekend!

The New Forest Water Park might just take you by surprise. After all it's not like you expect to see a Total Wipeout level of inflatable playground just 10 mins from Ringwood. The New Forest is better known for its picturesque villages, stunning scenery and more than a few horses, but now it's making its mark on the adventure circuit too.

After arriving, signing disclaimers and picking up a wetsuit (it is only May after all) we were penned into a briefing room then made our way to the pontoon, with the likes of the 'iceberg', 'human catapult’ and something called 'the doughnut' ahead of us, and a few obstacles in between.

Quickly forgetting how cold the water is, you're challenged to jump and swing around the course and heave-ho yourself and others back onto dry (wet) land (inflatable) for another go after you inevitability and very ungracefully fall in.

Naturally it's bloody hilarious, and watching your friends battle through the course in a friction and gravity skewed world will have you working your abs as much and your arms. Prepare to ache!

Check out our video below!

Also available at the New Forest Water Park are, cable powered wake boarding, a small bar, picnic tables and a much earned hot-dog hut.

Weigh the Anchor Recommends

  • Bringing wet shoes for a little extra grip 
  • Chest strap for your GoPro 
  • £5 for the extra wetsuit hire
Still smiling!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Why I write

By Claire

This week an article of mine was published on, and I couldn't be happier!

It's my first gig as a writer; there was a discussion on the topic, a round of editing and I wrote my first invoice. I'm expecting a call from an agent seeking to represent me any day now.

Ok, not really. source a lot of their content from people living the gap year experience and those with valuable perspectives and insights to give (even if we are back home now). But the fact that I was offered payment for my writing capabilities makes this assignment feel different. Yes I am just as passionate about this article as all the ones I've written before, but receiving payment makes me realise I have other opportunities open to me and my voice too.

Writing on the balcony on a sunny summer evening

I write to digest what's happened on a particular day, to solidify a memory for the future and to vocalise a thought or feeling on subjects. I write privately when I'm stressed and can't seem to talk it out; it's part of my healing process. I scribble my thoughts down in a sudden and sometimes surprising outpouring of emotion and suddenly the solutions become clear and I feel magically cleansed. Publicly I write to share an experience and offer my point of view, not because it is any more valid than anyone else's, but because I enjoy it. It's a wonderful way to share and find experiences and enriches my life. It's also a break from my norm, where a weekend walk turns takes on new purpose and I have more to think about than my usual work/gym/sleep routine during the week. 

Getting started can be hard; I've always written journals and diaries, but it's only once I became used to my voice that I was comfortable making my thoughts public, and I still wince sharing my blog with family and friends, even though it's only ever been met with complete support. 

I've always said "I write for me, not for you" as a form of protection. With this perspective, if someone doesn't like what I write, it's ok. I'm not expecting their support or praise, but it's nice to receive if they want to give it. I guess that's why this assignment is different. Without support, the article wouldn't be, and by choosing to publish it I am being given credit for my writing and validation of my views. There's nothing like endorsement to deliver motivation, which is why the minute I saw the published article, I couldn't wait to start composing the next one.  

iPhone notes; filled with scribbles when inspiration strikes
So thank you all. Thank you for reading, thank you for writing, and thank you for your support.

Till next time,  
Claire x

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Big Bournemouth Beer Festival (2016)

25th March 2016, by Mark Gale

In its 7th year, the Bournemouth Beer Festival keeps getting bigger and better. Each Easter weekend sees the festival pop up in the Purbeck Hall at the Bournemouth International Centre (known as the BIC) and spreads itself out over the 4 day bank holiday, much to the delight of the locals who attend to sample the vast amount of beers on offer.

We first visited the festival in its 2nd year back in 2010 and although it has no doubt risen in popularity, not too much has changed in that time since our last visit – in fact one of the biggest changes since then is my own perception of beer. Like many men these days, the resurgence of the craft beer trend has led to an evolution of people’s taste buds that has taken our palettes beyond the bland and boring swill of mainstream lagers such as Fosters and Carling (absolute swill) that you used to (and still do) get in most ordinary pubs into the realm of beers of vast varieties, flavours and colours.

Why is this important? Because, when we first visited we (myself and my friend Adam) were only beginning to expand our horizons of tasting beer when we first visited, whereas these days we have a much better idea of not only what we really enjoy, but also what quality beer tastes like, so we were very interested to see how things would measure up with the benefit of added experience.

Also along for the ride were Claire, Jess and Mike – who would admit to being on the other side of the coin and not the biggest beer drinkers; but considering the range on offer were willing to come give plenty of it a go! What was good about this was we were all interested in trying different things, so it often meant we were insistent on letting others try what we’d ordered so we could experience as much of the taste as possible!

So here’s a running order of the beers I sampled on the day:

Pre-event: Brooklyn Lager

As a warm-up we stopped by the local Wetherspoons (Moon in the square), where I had one of my current favourites, Brooklyn Lager. A strong, 5.2% lager that I’ve really grown to like this over the year; both before and after trying it in New York. It may be a lager, but it’s a lot more complex with a deeper, bitter taste but is still refreshing. Big fan of this and love the bottle design too.

During the event

1: Beast (Dark ale, 6.6% by Exmoor)

Beautifully complex, plenty of flavour dancing around your tongue. I loved this dark ale and it felt like a stout that was a lot lighter. If I wasn’t so interested in trying others, I would’ve had this all night and will definitely seek this out again as it was my favourite of the night!

2: Sunchaser (Blonde, 4% by Everards)

Claire’s choice as she didn’t want something too heavy. Problem was that even she felt this was too far in the opposite direction. This was a very drinkable beer, problem was there honestly wasn’t much to talk about with the flavour as it was very plain. Advertised as ‘lightly-hopped’; perhaps a few more hops are in order here!

3: Red Dragon (Red ale, 4.5% by Great Orme)

I enjoy red and ruby ales as they offer something different; in this case it was a very fruity bitter (yes, it’s possible!) which I wasn’t expecting. Nice, but I’ve had far better reds.

4: Captain Pigwash (Porter, 5% by Potbelly)

Claire’s choice and a surprising one for her as I wouldn’t expect her to like a porter. The description included chocolate and ‘crystal’ malts (?) and wasn’t something I enjoyed.  Maybe the combo of the flavours involved isn’t for me, but I couldn’t quite grasp what on earth was going on with this one as it didn’t sit well with me and left a very weird taste in my mouth. Strangely, Claire loved it and declared it as her favourite of the night!

5: East Street Cream (Bitter, 5% by RCH)

Although mainly sampling half-pints, I was certainly getting a bit full at this point. Next up was this bitter which tempted me with its promise of both bitter and sweet in one go and that's exactly what comes across. This was really satisfying on the pallet and along with a nuttiness was something you could happily have more of - perhaps another time after not so many full bodied beers already!

6: Ripper (Belgian Tripel, 8.5% by Green Jack)

I'm a huge fan of Belgian tripel's but other countries attempts often fall very wide of the mark. Not in this case though. I was really pleasantly surprised with this as it had all the usual notes of a tripel but still had a distinctive twist that kept it firmly in the realm of other ales. There's far better of course, but this was a very good attempt.

What's the event like itself?

The atmosphere is brilliant; laid back but also suitably livelier as time goes on with a band playing. The festival appears every Easter bank holiday and sees countless visitors and you can see why, because for £7.50 a ticket and very reasonable prices for the beers on offer, you certainly feel you get value for money. Everyone also receives a memento glass to drink out of during the night, which is a great souvenir to take home from the night.

You start the night by booklets of beer vouchers, which you use to purchase beers - as some are pricier than others (often down to the strength) - and we were over zealous as we eventually ended up selling our booklet on as we didn't need anywhere near the amount we bought!

One thing I couldn't help but notice was that most of the beers on offer were all in the realm of ale, which isn't necessarily a problem, but I can't help but think the organisers could either invite suppliers that have a more varied range of beers, or make it a bit clearer about what the majority of beers are like. Take nothing away from it though, we all had a really good time, but it was partly down to our success in finding a table - if you're stood up in a massive hall all night you may feel differently!

So final verdict? Give it a go obviously! What was clear was that even if you aren't the biggest fan of beer, there's so much to try that it's worth a go just to be adventurous and those we were with still had a great time, whereas those of us who are closer to connoisseurs had a great time - with all that's on offer you can't fail to have a great time trying them all!

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