Throwback Thursday

I know “Throwback Thursday” is usually reserved for instagram but when I realised what the the date was I couldn’t resist using it as an excuse to post some pictures from my travels.

It’s almost 3years to the day that I was watching some of the worlds best bodyboarders in the Pipe Pro final in Hawaii. Sat on the sand, camera in hand it was almost impossible to get any closer to the action, and surfers were just passing through the crowd on their way to the waves, something that doesn’t happen in many other sports. Over the course of the contest I reckon I shot close to 500 frames, but probably close to 100 of those were rattled off in the final heat. 100 isn’t that many by professional standard, but I had more shots than I knew what to do with, but here are my pick of the last round:

 

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Jeff Hubbard.

 

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Mike Stewart Was Pushing Close To 50 During This Contest. Still Surfed Like He Was 21.

 

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Dave Winchester Hitting A Backflip. Solid Reef To Land On If He Messed Up.

 

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Jeff Hubbard Running To His Mates And Fans After Winning.

It was an awesome contest to watch, the waves were great and the surfers were going all out to win. Seeing guys who I had seen in magazines and videos up close and at one of the planets premier waves was a mind blowing experience. Then there were also some guys in the comp who I knew, the North Shore is quite small, and there’s only really one backpackers place and it was full of people who had flown in for the comp, so you get to know them which makes the earlier heats all the more interesting, hoping your new friends make it.

I shared a dorm with a guy from the Basque area of Spain called Alex, he was on the Pro tour and had recently won his first event in Australia. Unfortunately he didn’t advance through his heat in Hawaii, he still had some pretty great waves though:

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Alex Uranga, Looking Comfortable At Pipeline.

 

Renzo

Renzo, 17 Years Old And Charging Pipeline At Size.

 

Eddie Read

Eddie Read, Flying The Flag For The UK. Big Waves Skills Probably Helped By Living In Oz Though.

 

Hawaii, and the North Shore in particular, was an amazing time for me. I was able to get in the sea almost everyday, in challenging waves and really push myself. Also getting to see the pro bodyboarders absolutely rip was no bad thing either!

 

Three Nights In Budapest

It’s an awful dilemma to be faced with but in November of last year I had a week off work and some spare cash and no clue what to do with it.

People who are more sensible than I would probably have but it into their bank accounts for a rainy day or to put towards a house deposit, I however fancied having a few days in Europe.

A little bit of internet browsing later and I had a destination; Budapest. Skyscanners led me to flights for less than £60, and some texts to mates got me a drinking buddy for the trip.

The flights were with Ryanair so to keep the costs down we opted for carry on luggage only, wondering if 10kg would be enough I was pleasantly surprised to find out I actually had weight to spare! The only draw back is the restrictions on liquids but my travel mate James and done his research and got airport friendly sizes of essential toiletries, plenty enough for a few nights away.

After a very standard flight and a quick taxi ride we arrived in the centre of Budapest, just a little unsure of the exact location of our hostel. We had google mapped the location but were really struggling to find it. About an hour into our search we got lucky and found the tiny sign to our hostel. Check in was swift and a quick nap ensued since we’d been up from a stupid hour.

The first night exploring was a bit of an eye opener, we’d heard food and beer was cheap but we weren’t sure just how cheap. Turns out very cheap! Dinner a really nice burger joint (kind of like Red’s True BBQ in Leeds) set us back less than £5, not bad for an amazing burger, chips and a pint of the local brew. Our next stop was a pub about 10minutes from the hostel, over the next couple of the nights the atmosphere of the place and the fact it was £1.25 a pint, kept on drawing us back.

Our first full day in Budapest was action packed, we crammed in all the tourist sights doing a self guided walking (with a brief bit of cycling) tour. Stop number 1 was a St. Stephen’s Basilica, and a climb to its top giving us a good glimpse of the city.

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The View From St. Stephen’s Basilica.

 

A quick cross of the famous chain bridge took us onto the Buda side of Budapest and upto several more of the cities iconic landmarks.

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James Looking Towards Pest, And The Hungarian Parliament.

 

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Walking Up The Aptly Named Castle Hill.

 

We got a touch lost heading back for the bridge towards Pest, but after a bit of map reading we were back on track and heading for the bridge that connects to Margaret Island. As there is no traffic allowed on the island we rented a couple of push bikes to explore.

 

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Tucked Away On The Island.

 

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Awesome Musical Fountain On Margaret Island.

 

After exploring the island we crossed back onto the Pest side and took a steady walk back to the hostel, before heading out that night and treating ourselves to T-Bone steaks and plenty of beer.

 

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The Danube By Night.

 

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St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Dinner that night was a bit extravagant, massive T-bone steaks and fries, for less than £12, including a beer! I was falling in love with this town. Following on from dinner we tried a couple of bars before heading back to the one from the previous night and enjoying a couple more of the well priced beers.

The next morning we got up quite early and set off for the docks hoping to get on a river boat, unfortunately very few were running and by the time the first one that we could’ve got on returned we would have missed our afternoon activity, shooting! So we just killed a bit of time around the river before grabbing a taxi for the gun club.

We were both pretty nervous when we got there having never shot before, and were expecting a safety demo or at least the instructor shooting first to give us an idea. That’s not how stuff works in Hungary, a country that refreshingly isn’t health and safety obsessed. We were asked if we had shot before, to which we replied “no”. Our instructor (for want of a better word) just replied “ok, just point the guns that way and pull the trigger”.

 

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We Started Out With A .22 Pistol.

 

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That Was Followed By A Glock And A Magnum.

 

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Yes That Is An AK47.

 

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And We Finished Up With A Riot Shotgun.

 

It was really good fun, we had several shots with each weapon, and the instructor did offer us words of wisdom before using each new gun. The price was steep by Hungarian standards, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fire some actual weapons.

 

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Turns Out I’m Not A Bad Shot.

 

Our final night was spent in the Hard Rock Cafe before doing a bit of a bar crawl. We couldn’t stay out too late though as we had to be up fairly early to check out and have catch our flight, so no big night out on the trip, which means I have unfinished business in Budapest. Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to head back to one of the best cities Europe has to offer.

 

 

Moroccan Adventures, Part 3; Tafraoute And The Journey Home

Following the 5day stint at the coast we were on the move again, this time heading to the small town of Tafraoute in the Anti Atlas mountains.

The coach journey there was a long one, and neither myself nor Steph were feeling too well, so it was a relieve when we could finally get off the bus and locate our hotel. After the squalidness of The Ocean Surf House, Hotel Salama was almost a palace. This proved very fortunate for me as the first 36hours we spent there I was incredibly ill, to the point were there was no chance of me leaving the room. However with Steph on hand to fetch me water, and a comfy bed and aircon I was back to my usual self with one full day left to explore Tafraoute.

Only having one day limits what you can do here, and after been ill I didn’t fancy any major hikes or bike rides so we just explored the town. The views were just incredible and the people so friendly that it made the day fly by. One particular highlight was the traditional Moroccan carpet shop were we were invited into. A brief history of carpet making and an explanation of the different styles followed, whilst of course enjoying a complimentary tea. In Morocco most people usually give you attention and advice in return for you buying a little something from them and this place was no different. He invited us to haggle over the price of his carpets but after finding out the cheapest was over £300.00 we politely informed him that it was well out of our price range! He looked disappointed but hopefully learned not to try sell premium goods to scruffy backpackers!

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The Anti Atlas Mountains.

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 The View From Our Hotel Balcony.

The journey back to Marrakesh was an even longer one, as the bus took us close to Taghazout before heading to Marrakech, so it was a 7hour journey! Upon arriving we decided to walk to back to Riad Les Deux Portes as we already knew where it was and were welcomed back by the every friendly Pitchou.

We only had one full day so chose to cram it full of shopping, museums and good food! The day started off exploring the souks and haggling with the many traders. We managed to pick up a local guide and he took us to some off the radar places where we were shown how traditional scarves are made and dyed.

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The Dyes Used For The Scarves.

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Me And Steph In Berber Scarves.

Following on from souk explorations we spent some time in the Museum of Marrakech and the old school that is nearby. You can get entry in to both for a little under £5 which is an absolute bargain, the art work in the museum is fantastic and the school is a really cool old building to explore. The only downside to both places is the lack of English translation available which leaves you guessing on a few things if your French or Arabic isn’t upto par!

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A Massive Chandelier In The Museum.

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Tiny Windows In The Old School. 

The rest of the day was spent quite literally getting lost in the souks before having a lovely dinner overlooking the hustle and bustle of the main square, a great way to round off a trip that exceed all expectations.

Moroccan Adventures, Part 2: Taghazout

Following on from a few days exploring the hectic maze of Marrakech we hopped on a bus and headed towards the coast, destination Taghazout.

After a pretty uneventful coach journey and taxi transfer we arrived in the small fishing village of Taghazout, a place not on most tourists radar but somewhere that surfers will almost certainly be aware of.

We found our hostel fairly easily, The Ocean Surf House, and checked in. The view from our bedroom window was incredible, perfect for an early morning swell check as Hash Point was less than 100metres away. However that was pretty much the only plus point to the hostel. The rooms were grubby, but I have stayed in worse, the shower though was something else. It was a small cubicle that also housed a toilet, with poor drainage and no seal under the door you had to make your shower quick or you’d flood the stairs. I’ll not even get started on the smell. Suffice to say I would not stay there again or recommend it to anyone.

The main point of the beach portion of the trip though was to spend as much time in the sun and surf as possible, not stay in the room so it wasn’t the end of the world.

Taghazout has a couple of beaches, the main village one, and another about half a mile away called Panorama’s. We spent the majority of our time at Taghazout beach, only venturing to Panorama’s for a walk when the surf was flat as it didn’t pick up as much swell.

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Hash Point.

The days we spent there were all very similar, wake up, simple breakfast, head to the beach, surf, grab a spot of lunch, back to the beach, more surf, then a quick shower and out for dinner at a lovely local restaurant for a couple of hours before heading to bed and doing it all again the day after. This might sound boring to some, but after the madness of Marrakech, and of course work back home, it was just what both Steph and I needed.

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Surfing In Africa!

The wave at Taghazout/Hash Point wasn’t world class, but with no massive swell coming through places such as Anchor Point and Killers weren’t working, so I spent all my time pulling into fun ones and dodging the odd tourist who got in the way.

The first day was definitely bigger than the rest of the week, and whilst waiting for a set I got talking to one of the local guys who was super friendly and a great sponger too. I wasn’t expecting any hostility, but much like Hawaii, I wasn’t expecting the local guys to be friendly but they seemed pretty stoked to be sharing waves.

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One Of The Bigger Waves Of The Week.

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I Took This One On The Head.

There was never a day with no waves, and I even managed to persuade Steph to have a go, pushing her into waves that were quite a lot bigger than they first looked! We both enjoyed our time in this often overlooked beach town but we had to head on out to Tafraoute to explore the mountains and see another side to Morocco.

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There’s Also The Odd Fishing Boat To Avoid. 

Moroccan Adventures, Part 1: Marrakech

The Morocco trip didn’t get off to the smoothest start in the world, passport control took well over an hour to get through, and that was followed up by a cash machine refusing to give me any of the local currency. After attempt number 2 with a different bank we had some cash and could finally hop in the taxi to the Riad.

Leaving the relative calmness of the airport and venturing on to the streets of Marrakech was a bit of an eye opener. Mopeds everywhere, pedestrians running across the road, kids hitching rides on the back of trucks and the near constant sound track of car horns was assaulting to the senses.

If that wasn’t enough of a sensory overload we were dropped off at the edge of the main square, Jemaa El Fna, and met by Pitchou, the person running the Riad we had booked in to. He led us through the mass of people and maze of side streets to the complete sanctuary of Riad Les Deux Portes, one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed. We checked in, had some sweet Moroccan tea before having a quick wander then heading to bed.

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Inside Riad Les Deux Portes.

Our time in Marrakech was spent wandering the souks, soaking in some of the culture, and exploring places like El Badi Palace and Jardin Marjorelle. After hearing tales of people being harassed by traders we were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t bad at all. You do get a lot of offers to look at goods or to be shown around but in 90% of the case just a simple no thank you will suffice. On the one occasion where a local man decided he was our tour guide and was dragging us away from where we wanted to go a member of the tourist police stepped in and escorted him away.

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Jemaa El Fna, Before The Evening Crowds.

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The Cyber Garden, A Place Most Tourist Maps Ignore.

We had wanted to go to the Sahara, but unfortunately we had booked all of our accommodation in advanced with out realising all trips there were a minimum of 1night. So instead we decided to join a day trip through the Atlas Mountains to the place where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, Aït Benhaddou. The drive was long but the scenery was amazing and the driver stopped several times for photo opportunities.

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The Start Of The Atlas Mountains.

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One Of The Many Roadside Villages.

Once there we had a guided tour of the Berber village, seeing where films like Gladiator were shot and how some of the local people live and make their living there. It was a great place to visit, it’s obvious why it is frequently used as a set and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, there is just so much history here.

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Aït Benhaddou.

After 4 days exploring Marrakech we had to pack up and leave as we had booked a few nights in the coastal village of Tagazhout, a place know for world class waves, and there was a small swell due. Just as well I’d brought my board!

Exploring The Lake District

Ever since I was little I have always spent a lot of time at the coast. As a child I have great memories of family holidays by the seaside and day trips to Whitby. When I was a teenager several holidays to Newquay gave me my first taste of surfing, bodyboarding and beach life. At 18 I passed my driving test and whenever I could I would head off to Scarborough to get wet, and if I had a bit more time on my hands Newquay was usually a good option.

Spending all my time going to the coast meant that until recently I’d never been to the Lake District, but as Steph has moved up there with work, recently I’ve been spending a fair amount of time up there and I’ve got to say it is STUNNING. I’ve been missing out these last few years by ignoring it, that’s for sure.

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Thirlmere, Cumbria. Could quite easily be New Zealand.

 

There’s so much to explore there I’ve got a feeling it’ll take me awhile to see it all. So far I’ve managed to cross a few lakes off the list, a couple of waterfalls and a beautiful secluded beach. No fells as yet though, saving one of those for late this summer.

DSC_0375Walk On About 10mins From Aira Force And You Come To This. No Tourists In Sight.

 

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The Scenery Is Phenomenal.

 

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Not A Soul In Sight. Shame There’s No Surf Too!

 

Over the next few months I plan to see a lot more of the Lake District, do some serious hiking, a bit of wild swimming, probably some canoeing, and maybe if there is some swell snag a small wave (I’ve seen a pic or two so who knows…).

 

 

 

In Bruges, & Brussels Too

It’s always good to sneak a trip abroad in at the start of the year, and with a bit of expendable cash, a few days off and some mates to drag along the planning began.

To start with a lot of destinations got thrown around, Paris, Rome, Budapest, Prague but the flights were all looking a bit expensive. So after scouring skyscanners for what seemed like hours a well priced flight to Brussels was booked.

The first day of the trip went by in a slight sleep deprived blur. We landed at Brussels second airport, a good 50km outside of the city so had to figure out how to get to the centre of Brussels, after some slight struggles due to the groups lack of French (should’ve paid attention in school), we pulled into the station and headed off in search of our hotel.

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The View From Our Balcony.

 

The need for sleep was quite high, but you only get so much time on a trip so the obvious choice was to power through and get a solid afternoon of sight seeing under our belts, after a quick lunch and a beer of course!

First of the Brussels monuments to get the tourist treatment was the Atomium, a weird sci-fi type relic from back in the fifties. For about 10euros you get an amazing view of Brussels and entry into the strangest museum I’ve ever been to. It starts off as a history of the Atomium but then changes into a chair exhibit.

DSC_0167_V2The Atomium.

 

atomiumFrom L to R; Jonny, Me, Strange Atomium Mascot, Tom and James .

 

The first night in Brussels was spent gorging on burgers at the Hard Rock Cafe and sampling some local beers, all in all a good way to spend a night.

 

For the second day an early start was essential, Jonny had to catch the Eurostar back to England (he’d been there a day before the rest of us) and the remainder of the group were heading to Bruges. A quick train journey and some lucky guessing got us to the centre of Bruges as made famous in the awesome movie In Bruges.

 

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The Belfry.

 

The afternoon was spent sightseeing whilst indulging in the Belgian delights of waffles and beer. Followed on by an evening of more beer back in Brussels. It’s a tough life but someone has to do it!

For our final full day we decided to head the Tintin museum, again a short train ride from Brussels. 10euros gets you in and it is completely worth the entry fee if you are even slightly interested in Tintin. We spent almost 4hours there checking all the exhibits and deciding on souvenirs to buy.

The evening was much like the previous ones, good food and great beer.

 

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Tintin Street Art In Brussels.

 

There’s also plenty of other stuff to see in Brussels, Grand Place is a must whilst the Piss Boy statue is quite underwhelming but worth a look. In short, if you have some free time and spare cash, Brussels is worth a look instead of some of the more common Euro-staples. Especially if you appreciate good beer.

 

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Grand Place.