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10 Things You Should Know Before Climbing Mt Batur in Bali (Volcano)

If someone came up to me 7 years ago and asked me to climb some volcano, I would have outright laughed at that person and walked away. Me climbing a volcano? Never! Which brings us to the present, I’m an adult female who goes to gym 5 times a week, I train with my personal trainer once a week, I do cardio, I do weight training, I do boxing and on top of going to gym, I do yoga twice a week. Fit? Yeah kinda… so I shouldn’t even batter an eyelid when comes to hiking up a volcano in Bali… or so I thought (read on to find out why). Now that I’ve been there, done that, printed the t-shirt, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things you should know before climbing Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia.

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  1. It’s an active volcano

When I say active volcano, I’m pretty sure the first image that pops up in your head is boiling lava bubbling its way up the volcano. Well sorry to disappoint but that’s not Mount Batur, it’s an active volcano but there’s no lava. You can expect lots of steam coming up from all directions once you get to the top but there won’t be any lava.

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2. You DEFINITELY need sports shoes

Two of our friends (Hi Kyle and Drew) who also came on the hike thought it would be an easy hike and doable with slops, it’s funny now but if they didn’t go out and buy sports shoes the day before, it would not have been funny. Make sure you pack a pair of socks that fit like a glove and decent pair of sports shoes (preferably hiking shoes but it doesn’t matter). The reason why socks matter here is because on the way down, the soil is very loose and if your socks aren’t that great then chances are, you’ll be stopping every 10-15min to take off and empty out your socks.

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3. Carry a warm sweater

After a few days in Bali you’ll probably regret carrying any form of long sleeves or jackets because it’s a waste of space and absolutely not necessary in Bali’s hot and humid climate. However if you’re planning on climbing Mount Batur, you might just regret not carrying a warm sweater with you. Sure, you’ll be sweating the whole way to the top but once you reach the top, mark my words, it is cold and it is windy so make sure you carry something warm with you.

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4. Know your essentials

If you’re an amateur hiker, leave that backpack at home, you will thank me later. All you need is a warm sweater, a small bottle of water, sunscreen and a torch (make sure the battery is full). You also probably won’t be climbing the volcano alone because there are many tour companies with tour guides that take you up the volcano. If that’s the case, they normally will give out a bottle of water and a torch to each person before the climb. As for sunscreen, trust me you will need it on your way down.

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5. It’s a bumpy ride

Since we stayed in Nusa Dua, which is further from the volcano, we were told that the driver will be picking us up at 1:40am. Yes, you read right, 1:40AM! It was 2 tortuous hours in the car because the road is bumpy and my motion sickness was progressively getting worse as we got closer. Luckily for me my stomach was empty otherwise its contents would be everywhere.

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6. It’s safe, just don’t do anything stupid

If you’re concerned about your safety, just know that you’re safe in the hands of the tour guides. They are professionals who climb up and down the mountain every single day with tourists. Make sure you stay close to your guide and your friends because it’s very dark on the way up since the sun hasn’t yet risen. Don’t do anything stupid once you get to the top because we heard that a tourist fell inside the crater and died a few years ago.

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7. Carry some cash with you

It’s nifty to have some cash with you because on the way up the mountain, there are vendors who sell cooldrinks, bananas and certain snacks to keep you going. Once you get back down, there’s a family run store that sells snacks and drinks and has a toilet (which you’ll have to pay for if you use it). Lastly, don’t forget to thank and tip your guides because if you contacted a tour company, chances are these tour operators are not actually the people who took you up that mountain. So get to know these guides, get to know their stories and their lives in Bali.

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8. It’s a slippery slope

Climbing up is strenuous but going back down need guts! My legs were literally trembling like jelly when we started our descend and I’m not particularly scared of heights. Just understand that there is black, loose soil that covers the mountain on the way down and it’s almost impossible to prevent yourself from slipping and sliding. I was one of the lucky few who made it down without falling on my bum but that’s only because the Balinese guide held my hand the whole way down (yes I was the weakest link but I was used to that by then). If you happen to own a hiking stick, take it with you but if you don’t have one, don’t go out of your way to buy one just for the hike.

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9. Don’t have your wedding 2 days after the hike

For some insane reason, I did the hike 2 days before my wedding. Only after the hike, did I realize the hundreds of possibilities that something may have gone very wrong during the hike, which means I will probably end up cancelling the wedding. Ok that’s a little extreme but I would not be happy limping into the chapel! Luckily for me, we had amazing Balinese guides who took turns holding my hand at the request of my then husband-to-be because he would hate to see me fall on my face. With that said, I wouldn’t advise doing the hike right at the beginning of your holiday because you just never know.

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10. It is NOT EASY… but there’s an alternative

The whole misconception about this hike started when I read somewhere online that this hike was an easy to medium difficulty. Let me just tell you that IT IS NOT EASY, medium to hard maybe! Clearly whatever I read online was not speaking to the majority of us, which are amateur hikers. Since my expectation was not managed properly, I really suffered going up that volcano, although I’m pretty sure my lack of sleep the night before and also the car sickness didn’t help with that. If you are not the hiking type, just know that this is not your only way to see the volcano. You can also get a private tour guide to drive you and your loved one to a restaurant up a mountain with a full view of the volcano, which is what my family did instead.

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Thank you for reading! Share this with someone who is crazy enough to climb the volcano!

With love…xxx

All photos belong to Drew and myself. Please don’t use without permission. Follow him on Instagram (@toastedswimmer). 

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10 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Japan (with photos)

I must admit that I have not done a travel intensive trip in the longest time until Japan. We headed to Japan to catch the cherry blossoms in April 2016 and boy was it worth it. We travelled to Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Osaka, our trip was in total 14 days and it was more than enough time to travel those 4 cities. I decided to compile a list of 10 things that you should know before traveling to Japan.

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  1. Know your routes beforehand

Since we will be heading to 4 different cities in Japan, the first thing we researched on was how to travel to the different cities. There are numerous options but the easiest is by train and trust me when I say that Japan the king of convenient rail transport country-wide. The easiest option is the JR Pass, which is only available for use by foreigners, it allows you unlimited travel across Japan on rail, buses and ferries. You can purchase 7, 14 or 21 days pass but it’s not cheap. We didn’t opt for the JR Pass because our first stop after we arrived in Tokyo was Hakone and JR trains don’t go all the way to Hakone (this is why I always research in advance) so we decided to buy our tickets along the way. With that said, it doesn’t matter what form of transport you use to get to places, just make sure you plan your routes in advance because it saves you a lot of time and money if you already know the best option to get to your destination.

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2. Cash is king

Like any other Asian country, Japan is very cash orientated and it makes your traveling so much easier if you carry cash on you (or at least know where to get cash from). Sure there are shops and restaurants that have card machines but there are also lots of local restaurants and food stands that don’t so rather be safe than stranded somewhere hungry without cash.

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3. Learn how to say “thank you” in Japanese

I must admit that I was fairly surprised that people didn’t speak much English at all for the first few days we were in Japan. I eventually got over it and adjusted. I mean the amount of effort and hand signing it took me to explain to the lady at the counter that I required a sim card was ridiculous! The Japanese are very polite people, they certainly won’t be rude to you if you don’t speak their language but learning how to say “thank you” can make all the difference so make an effort. If you’re wondering what “thank you” is – Arigatō gozaimas – you’re welcome!

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4. Convenience stores are your best friends

Apart from Hakone, all the other cities we travelled to had convenience stores everywhere, which were mainly 7-11s. They sell everything, band-aids, cool drinks, magazines, makeup, sweets and food but not just any food, you can get wholesome and delicious meals from 7-11s in Japan and for cheap just incase you get stranded somewhere hungry AF.

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5. Check the cherry blossom forecasts before you book your flights

If your sole purpose is to go see cherry blossoms then make sure you check out the forecasts before you go because the last thing you want is to rock up and not even get a glimpse! The cherry blossoms bloom at different times every year but it generally falls between April and May and they only last for about 2 weeks (May is pushing it so April would be a safer bet). We traveled to Japan during the second week of April and it was in full bloom so basically by the end of our travels, the cherry blossoms have already fallen but they were a spectacular sight none-the-less.

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6. Japan is not a morning place

If you’re an early bird and hope to get things started in the morning, just know that majority of the shops and restaurants will not be opened. I remember one of the days we wanted to catch a bus somewhere quite early, like around 8am and we walked around and couldn’t find a place that served breakfast. Even Starbucks wasn’t open that early, we ended at a little cafe that was also a bakery and we had breakfast there.

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7. TIPPING in Japan

If you’re from South Africa or the United States, you’re probably very used to tipping by now that it is almost second nature to you, regardless of whether you actually like it. Just know that tipping is not customary in Japan (and most Asian countries) because all shops, restaurants and hotels who offer a service include service charge in the price. Everyone gets a salary for the work they put into it, so why add more as tip?

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8. Vending machines are everywhere

The one thing that caught our attention traveling around Japan was that there are vending machines everywhere! Those vending machines mostly sell drinks, all sorts of drinks, beers, coffees, teas, soft drinks, juices etc. You don’t only find these vending machines in malls or the lobby of the hotel but they are also everywhere on the streets, so if you are thirsty and wandering around somewhere, you should definitely make use of these vending machines when you see one, also the prices of these drinks are cheaper than the shops.

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9. It’s not easy buying a sim card

We really struggled finding a sim card or should I say a pre-paid sim card with just data in Japan. We wandered around the streets of Kyoto for aaaages before we finally found a cellular shop that sold pre-paid sim cards. Some of the other cellular shops we found didn’t sell pre-paid sims at all. Although most places had wifi, I always prefer buying a local simcard with data so I can at least search for destinations on Google Maps and do some quick research before heading somewhere.

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10. Know that Japan is not cheap

If you’re used to traveling around other parts of Asia, you probably know that food and transport are super cheap and you can probably score some bargains no matter where you go. Before you go to Japan, throw that thought out the window because Japan is NOT cheap! I would say it’s comparable to cities like New York and London, ok maybe a bit cheaper but not all that different (especially for South Africans). Our first stop after Tokyo was Hakone, and since Hakone is a small, touristy town, it was by far the most expensive city all the way from hotels to food. How do I judge this? I compared the prices of a Japanese staple across all 4 cities – ramen. The cheapest ramen was none other than Tokyo, which isn’t surprising because it’s the capital and competition is high, there are hundreds if not thousands of ramen shops spread across the city. A bowl of ramen at a basic lunch spot can cost anything between US$8-US$12 in Tokyo.

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I hope you find this post informative and share this with someone you would like to go to Japan with! Happy Traveling! 🙂

All photos belong to me and my friend Drew (IG: @toastedswimmer), please don’t use without permission. If you would like to check out more traveling photos, check out Drew’s Instagram.

With love…xxx


							
Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge

Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge

Hi everyone! Haven’t written a blog post in aaaages, there are all sorts of feels right now! 🙂 I was recently going through some photos on my computer and I came across ones we took over Valentines weekend this year (2016) and I cannot believe I never posted about my weekend at Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge. For those who follow me on Snapchat, you’ll probably know all about my weekend but for those who don’t, this is for you! Also, this was my very first time at a game lodge, I cannot believe I’ve lived in South Africa my entire life and I only went to a game lodge this year!

So E actually surprised me with this little weekend getaway, I mean of course I knew we were going away for the weekend (we had to book Buddy in to a doggy hotel) but I just didn’t know where! All I knew was that it was a bit of a long drive and the whole time E was teasing me that he’s taking me to Sun City (I’m really not a fan since I’ve been before and it was rather average). We stayed for 2 nights, Saturday and Sunday (Valentine’s Day) and we drove back to JHB on Monday afternoon.

I must explain that I am a newbie safari girl, I don’t do camping or “roughing it out”, I enjoy my hot water baths and showers, a king sized bed with preferably white, Egyptian Cotton sheets (thread count is everything!), and I’m not even going to pretend for one minute that I’m chilled, I have zero chill when it comes to accommodation. If you’re just like me or you’re also a newbie safari-goer then I really think this would be a great first time experience. The rooms are extremely private, there are outdoor showers and trust me your neighbours can’t see you, the rooms are serviced and amenities are provided, almost like a hotel except you get more privacy. There is a restaurant that provides amazing food, there’s great entertainment on Saturday nights with traditional African dancing and singing, plus you get to dine in true African style, outside, candlelit and a braai! What’s a “braai”, you may ask? It’s a South African term for barbecue and we love it!

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Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge is located in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve (pretty close to Sun City), which is only about an hour and a half’s drive from Johannesburg. If you want more of a buzz, I would recommend going on Friday because I feel that’s when most people arrive and they go on their first game drive together on Friday afternoon after high tea (yes they provide high tea!). We arrived on Saturday to drumming and singing as we were checking in and we were welcomed by drinks and a delicious lunch. I recommend purchasing an all inclusive package if you are going for the weekend because it includes all game drives (2 per day), meals and high tea. It does exclude drinks, which we paid in total when we checked out but it was no biggie.

Let’s talk about the best part of the weekend, the game drives! There are two game drives per day, one in the morning (sunrise) and one in the late afternoon just after high tea, in time for sunset. The tour groups are MUCH smaller, I must emphasize, MUCH MUCH smaller than other game lodges, the cars that took us probably seats a maximum of about 10-12 people (they are rarely full because the guests are all spread out with other rangers). We’ve seen tours that had like 30+ people in one group so I definitely recommend doing some research about numbers when it comes to these tours. The smaller the better because then it’s more personal. We drove out 4 times that weekend because before we left on Monday, we went on our last game drive that morning and it was just E and I in the car, it was very romantic. 🙂 We managed to see 4 of the big fives that weekend because the Leopard is extremely hard to spot (no pun intended).  We managed to see active female lions close to our lodge on our first game drive, which is quite rare because they are hardly active during the day.

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The lodge made it even more special on Valentines Day because we went back to our rooms with roses, chocolates and sparkling wine on our bed waiting for us! Since we were in the middle of no where, there’s hardly cellphone reception but luckily the lodge does have wifi. I think it was a great weekend away to get away from all that technology we cannot live without, there wasn’t a TV in our room, which I thought was great! The stars were so clear at night because there were hardly any lights around us. I even want to go back as I’m writing up this post because I enjoyed it so much. I would definitely go back, it has the perfect balance between a luxury hotel and a “into the wild” experience!

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With love…xxx

*This is not a sponsored post.

*All rights to photos reserved.