Hiking Volcanoes on Fogo Island in Cape Verde

Fogo Island, the land of fire, erupted back into life in 2014 when Pico de Fogo recorded one of the strongest eruptions ever recorded on the island. However, it’s highly likely you’ve never even heard of it due to Cape Verde’s isolation, I mean no-one cares because it isn’t affecting our air travel, right? We’re so fickle!

One of the main reasons I ventured to Cape Verde was so I could visit Fogo and in particular Pico de Fogo – the active volcano! The island itself consists of only one volcano that is almost round, this is because more than 73,000 years ago the eastern side of Fogo collapsed that caused a catastrophic tsunami that struck another of Cape Verde’s islands, Santiago.

Taken from an Airbus cockpit by the pilot
Source: Wikipedia

The amazing thing about this island, unlike the majority of Cape Verde’s other rather dry and flat neighbours is that it produces a large amount of not only fruit and vegetables but also beautiful coffee and wine. Although sadly the quantity isn’t significant enough to export, I was able to buy some coffee beans to bring back and believe me it’s some of the best I’ve tried as it has a raw natural sweetness that adds to its charm.

Cape Verde’s islands are all so unique and different, they could all in fact be different countries.¬†Fogo reminded me of mainland Africa, from its cuisine of spicy chicken to the laid-back culture and frozen in time feeling, you will well and truly be on Africa-time. The languages spoken here are mostly French and Creole, due to many of its residents originating from Senegal and the mainland.

Since meeting my partner, things on my travels have slightly changed for me and I’ve had to think in very different ways when it comes to planning. This is because he has two children from a previous marriage and this often leads to me trying to figure out is it family friendly, is it LGBT+ friendly, will it be dangerous? Quite a culture shock considering some of the places I’ve previously visited, I don’t adapt very well but I can honestly say the two munchkins absolutely loved it!

You can in fact hike all the way to the top of Pico de Fogo, thankfully I’m not that insane, and as this trip was a family adventure we opted to do the slightly easier Pico Pequeno peak instead.

However, here’s how we got on…

Fogo is pretty much just straight up in the middle so to get there you’ll encounter some incredible scenery, and an amazingly good road to drive on!

As you begin to ascend you’ll notice the incredible crater landscape and the lava flow that occurred

Even looking straight up at the very top of Pico de Fogo is scary, let alone climbing it. Not for me!

Ok, so I didn’t climb the whole thing, but it certainly felt like it!

The View from Pico Piqueno

Walking along this path is fairly treacherous, especially if you aren’t very steady on your feet as the small stones move, a lot, meaning if you put one foot wrong you could slip all the way to the bottom.

The nearby villages were pretty much destroyed, this one was overcome by lava.

Even though they were completely destroyed, it appears that some people are beginning to venture back to their homes!

One of the most amazing and unique parts of Fogo is the fact that vines grow in the volcanic soil that helps the islanders to produce good-quality wine, make sure you head for a wine tasting and purchase some!

The best bit, no matter whether you do the small or big part of the volcano, reward yourself with a local Strela beer – YUM!

How can you visit Fogo Island?

Well, unfortunately there’s only one airline that fly there, Binter CV, although they aren’t expensive they have some serious issues with time-keeping. Our return flight back to Praia was delayed by 2.5 hours and almost cancelled, which seems to be a regular occurrence on this route so be sure to not get stuck on this tiny island as there is only one flight!

As I was short on time I decided to hire a guide to find out more about the island, its volcano and their quirks but sadly it seems I didn’t pick a great one. His command of English was fairly limited and now I’ve returned to the U.K I’ve actually learned more about Fogo from the internet than I did from him, so sadly I won’t be recommending the “Fogo Guide” (sometimes known as Creole Guide on Fogo).

It is a 2829m hike to the top of Pico de Fogo, so it isn’t for the faint-hearted but thankfully the Pico Pequeno can easily be hiked in approximately 1-2 hours roundtrip. Other than seeing the volcano, sadly there isn’t a huge amount of other things to do so I’d spend a maximum two nights here, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Sao Filipe – the capital of Fogo Island, Cape Verde

S√£o Filipe

It’s well worth spending an hour or so wandering aimlessly around the rather steep streets of the capital on Fogo Island, Sao Filipe. It easily reminded me of Havana in Cuba or Massawa in Eritrea with its slightly run down but charming buildings and architecture. It’s currently on the contender list for UNESCO World Heritage status, only time will tell whether they actually achieve a place.

One of its best features is the beautiful black sandy beach which stretches quite a way and it can easily feel like you it’s just you and the sea as very few people come down here, mostly thanks to the fact that the town is raised up above a rocky edge.

This place can seem very isolated so if you have a cancelled flight or the sea is too rough for the ferry to head over to Brava island, you might get a bit stuck. There’s also no ATMs anywhere and nowhere seemed to take cards so make sure you bring all of your money with you!

Praia da Bila is a beautiful black sand beach located just a short from the centre of Sao Filipe

Further Information?

Fancy exploring more of Cape Verde? Discover the top things to see on Sal Island in Cape Verde.

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip¬†or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my¬†Facebook page¬†and¬†please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

All images copyrighted, if you wish to use any images produced in this blog article please contact me.

Want to see the REAL Europe? Visit Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Tourism in Bosnia Herzegovina is booming, with arrivals up year-on-year thankfully the country hasn’t yet reached its peak potential in terms of tourist numbers. According to the World Bank, BiH attracted a grand total of 529,000 tourists in 2014, however most of these only usually arrive on a day trip¬†from Croatia who in comparison welcomed more than 12 million tourists in the same period.

For me though this was perfect, not many tourists = prime discovering opportunities!

A quick history lesson

Many¬†of you will only know Bosnia and Sarajevo for one reason…the wars. I cannot write an article about the country without mentioning it’s incredibly sad history.

If you wish to discover how the Siege of Sarajevo unfolded check out this YouTube video.

Well that’s enough about the tragic history, Bosnia is looking forward and is trying to rebuild not only the capital but the country too. It still bares war scars which are still clearly visible in some parts of Sarajevo even today, 20 years after the war ended.

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebevińá mountain

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebevińá mountain

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebevińá mountain

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebevińá mountain

The fantastic view from one of the destroyed hotels I found up on Mt Trebevińá mountain

The fantastic view from one of the destroyed hotels I found up on Mt Trebevińá mountain

My Bosnian Diary –¬†Sarajevo

Arriving in Sarajevo is a real culture shock, there are people practicing¬†every religion all mixed in together. I found the city to have a vibe more similar to Turkey in some parts, however it’s very unique in the fact one minute you are staring at a mosque, if you turn around you’ll see a church and potentially even a synagogue.

After leaving the E.U country of Croatia and arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina I felt like I could be on a different continent, but I’m not, I’m still in Europe.

BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija - the fantastic old bazaar gives Sarajevo that eastern feel

BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija – the fantastic old bazaar gives Sarajevo that eastern feel

Bosnia Herzegovina is one of Europe's poorest countries, unfortunately you'll still see many sights like this.

Bosnia Herzegovina is one of Europe’s poorest countries, unfortunately you’ll still see many sites like this.

Within the Old Town you'll feel more like you are in Turkey than Bosnia

Within the Old Town you’ll feel more like you are in Turkey than Bosnia

In 1984 Bosnia & Herzegovina (then Yugoslavia) fought off competition from Japan and Sweden to host the Winter Olympics, the first time ever to be held in a communist state. Purpose-built stadiums and venues were created including the Bobsleigh and Luge track on Mt Trebevic.

Sadly during the Siege of Sarajevo, the Trebevic mountain range was an ideal location for the Serbian forces and the Bobsleigh and Luge track was used as protection whilst shooting through purpose-built holes, however it now appears that these have now been filled in and you can no longer see them.¬†Although it’s a place of incredible sadness, I highly recommend visiting this place as it’s one of my top travel experiences.

According to various sources the Government are planning to renovate and reuse the bobsleigh and luge track for the European Youth Olympic festival due to be held in 2017. However when I visited in May 2015 it still very much looks abandoned, the forest is starting ¬†to reclaim the land and it is now a really peaceful place to see and possibly enjoy a picnic. Throughout the mountains you’ll find various abandoned/bombed out hotels, restaurants and residential homes to explore, with respect naturally.

I had a fantastic trip visiting the bobsleigh track, highly recommended!

I had a fantastic trip visiting the bobsleigh track, highly recommended!

Although the experience was a bit surreal, you get a sense of what life must have been like during the war.

Although the experience was a bit surreal, you get a sense of what life must have been like during the war.

One of my favourite photos from the trip, the bobsleigh track in its true glory with all its twists and turns.

One of my favourite photos from the trip, the bobsleigh track in its true glory with all its twists and turns.

The finishing line...sadly never to be used again. Or is it?

The finishing line…sadly never to be used again. Or is it?

Between 1992-1995 Sarajevo was a city cut-off from the outside world and from itself, the Serbian forces had surrounded the city which was now split in two with only the airport as a buffering ground which nobody could cross.

Thankfully in secret a Bosnian Civil Engineer had created plans to build a tunnel between the two parts of Sarajevo known as the “Tunnel of Hope“.

This proved to be a lifeline for many people as various items could be brought across via the tunnel, cigarettes were especially used as a bargaining tool. These days you can see only a very small section of the tunnel as the rest was filled in with concrete by the Government. This decision was taken mostly due to the tunnel being directly underneath Sarajevo International Airport runway, they feared that it might collapse from the weight of landing aircraft.

The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum is definitely worth a visit, it’s next to the airport so it could be a good option¬†to see when you first arrive in the country. Currently it costs 10 KM (Bosnian Convertible Marka) which isn’t a huge amount and is definitely worth the experience seeing what these poor people went through just to survive.

The entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel, the opposite side cannot be accessed as the Government have filled the majority with cement due to its location being under the runway of an international airport

The entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel, the opposite side cannot be accessed as the Government have filled the majority with cement due to its location being under the runway of an international airport

Inside the Sarajevo Tunnel you can imagine how tough it would have been to crouch or be bent over slightly just to walk for 40 minutes to reach the other side

Inside the Sarajevo Tunnel you can imagine how tough it would have been to crouch or be bent over slightly just to walk for 40 minutes to reach the other side

Sarajevo - the surrounded city

Sarajevo – the surrounded city

As you can see the building still bares bullet holes

As you can see the building still bares bullet holes

Throughout Sarajevo, despite having undergone major restoration projects, you’ll still find shelled buildings with gun shot holes still visible. However a lot of the places which were almost destroyed including the Holiday Inn Hotel and the Bosnian parliament building have now been completely modernised and renovated.

Just one of the many tower blocks that still bares the war scars in the city

Just one of the many tower blocks that still bares the war scars in the city

The Holiday Inn hotel was almost completely destroyed, however it has been fully restored and is still a hotel. You'll also notice the 1984 Winter Olympic logo on the side of the building.

The Holiday Inn hotel was almost completely destroyed, however it has been fully restored and is still a hotel. You’ll also notice the 1984 Winter Olympic logo on the side of the building.

Something that I thought was a very sweet touch whilst walking through the city was seeing the Sarajevo roses, these were explosion marks on the ground from the impact of the shells that have now been painted red to look like a rose. Such a beautiful thing to see from something so tragic.

Just one of the many Sarajevo Roses

Just one of the many Sarajevo Roses

The main boulevard from the Airport to the City centre was an ideal position for sniper shooters to target residents as it was a large/wide street with many high-rise buildings which is what lead it¬†to be dubbed “Sniper Alley“. This location saw some of the war’s most horrific war crimes and even today you can still see some of these scars on numerous residential buildings.

Once a place that people feared to go in case they were shot by a sniper is thankfully back to being the busy and functional main avenue in Sarajevo.

Once a place that people feared to go in case they were shot by a sniper is thankfully back to being the busy and functional main avenue in Sarajevo.

Many people just presume Sarajevo is still a war zone or that there isn’t much there to see. Well they’d be wrong, brand new buildings are popping up all over the city including the Awaz Twist Tower which was built in 2008 and has 36 floors.

A very modern building more appropriate in somewhere like Dubai now towers over the Sarajevo skyline.

A very modern building more appropriate in somewhere like Dubai now towers over the Sarajevo skyline.

If you don’t like heights then the lift might be a scary experience, it goes from zero to floor 35 in 30 seconds, check out my video coming back down from the top.

Why visit the country?

Look one way and you’ll see a church, look the other and you’ll see a mosque or hear the call to prayer, it’s a fascinating experience.

Natural beauty doesn’t even begin to describe Bosnia and Herzegovina, yes it still has war scars with many buildings abandoned, falling down or¬†being reclaimed by nature. However, this is all part of the charm and there’s so many places that are totally off the grid as far as ¬†tourism is concerned.

Sadly some parts of the countryside are still off-limits due to unexploded land mines scattered around, however thankfully you can hire guides who know the safe routes.

I never imagined Sarajevo would look this beautiful...a must on any travellers list of place to visit.

I never imagined Sarajevo would look this beautiful…a must on any travellers list of place to visit.

Beautiful Bosnia

Beautiful Bosnia

How to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina

From the U.K sadly there’s currently no direct flights, however there are several good choices for a stopover including Zagreb, Istanbul¬†or Belgrade.

I opted to fly from Zagreb which was only about 40 minutes but was comfortable and quick.

Many people choose to do a day trip from various places in Croatia such as Dubrovnik or Split, however I wouldn’t advise this as all you’ll see is Mostar and there is so much more to this country.

Visit Bosnia & Herzegovina for yourself

I highly recommend a visit, to book your stay go to Booking.com and search for Sarajevo.

Click here using this link!

On arrival in Sarajevo

Sarajevo International Airport is as you can imagine rather small, but that’s not a problem as it means you’ll get through twice as fast as a normal airport. Once you’ve passed through passport control, baggage and customs you’ll be greeted by lots of excited locals waiting for their loved ones to walk through the arrivals door.

Sadly it was just me, so once you¬†brush past all of them walk straight outside you’ll see a few taxis waiting around. The first ones have a monopoly on the airport and will try to charge you what they like, however be aware of what the actual¬†price should be.

From the airport to the city it should cost no more than ‚ā¨10 approximately 20 KM (Bosnian Convertible Marka), they tried to charge me twice that rate so don’t get fleeced.

Sarajevo has the second oldest tram network in Europe making it a must-try when visiting the city. WARNING: Some are very old and battered!

Sarajevo has the second oldest tram network in Europe making it a must-try when visiting the city. WARNING: Some are very old and battered!

Visiting neighbouring countries

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a great place to add to your list of countries to visit on a Balkan tour.

After missing my train to Mostar at 7.15am I opted to take the bus all the way from Sarajevo to Split in Croatia. Although it’s a long journey (8 hours) its relatively affordable at a cost of ‚ā¨28 but make sure you save some change for the driver because for him to take your luggage he’ll also want an extra 2 KM.

Discover more

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from¬†this trip¬†or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my¬†Facebook page¬†and¬†please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Pre-war Syria in photos

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Syria, once the beacon of prosperity in Middle Eastern tourism until the 2011 uprising. I previously explored the wonderful history in another article which can be found here.

This post is by no means a promotion for tourism!

It’s simply an opportunity for those who didn’t get the chance¬†to see what fascinating places this country features.

Krak des Chevaliers was once a crusader castle and is one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world.

Krak des Chevaliers was once a crusader castle and is one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world.

Syria really surprised me with views like this, I didn't know a huge amount about the country before I visited so it was a pleasant surprise to see a mixture of landscapes.

Syria really surprised me with views like this, I didn’t know a huge amount about the country before I visited so it was a pleasant surprise to see a mixture of landscapes.

Afamea (Also known as Apamea) is located at a strategic crossroads which is why the city flourished.

Afamea (Also known as Apamea) is located at a strategic crossroads which is why the city flourished.

Syria

Roman architecture could be seen everywhere, especially impressive colonnade's

Roman architecture could be seen everywhere, especially impressive colonnade’s

The Great Colonnade at Apamea was the main colonnaded avenue of the ancient city of Apamea in the Orontes River valley in northwestern Syria. The monumental colonnade is among the longest and most famous in the Roman world.

The Great Colonnade at Apamea was the main colonnaded avenue of the ancient city of Apamea in the Orontes River valley in northwestern Syria. The monumental colonnade is among the longest and most famous in the Roman world.

Before the war the tourism industry was thriving, I'd hate to see what happened to all the amazing animals I encountered on my visit.

Before the war the tourism industry was thriving, I’d hate to see what happened to all the amazing animals I encountered on my visit.

The beautiful Giant Norias (waterwheels) of Hama, sadly these haven't survived the civil war.

The beautiful Giant Norias (waterwheels) of Hama, sadly these haven’t survived the civil war.

The backstreets of cities including Damascus and Aleppo were fascinating, you could end up in someone's house without realising.

The backstreets of cities including Damascus and Aleppo were fascinating, you could end up in someone’s house without realising.

I could have happily sat here all day, incredible view, stunning history.

I could have happily sat here all day, incredible view, stunning history.

Sadly I don't remember where in Syria this was, if anyone could help identify it please email me.

Sadly I don’t remember where in Syria this was, if anyone could help identify it please email me.

The gates of Aleppo Citadel

The gates of Aleppo Citadel

Make the most of this image because Aleppo will not look like this again for a very long time. This photo was taken from the Citadel and shows how the city was clean, organised and incredibly historic.

Make the most of this image because Aleppo will not look like this again for a very long time. This photo was taken from the Citadel and shows how the city was clean, organised and incredibly historic.

The ancient souk of Aleppo, many locals would shop here for their daily essentials. Such a shame it was burned down.

The ancient souk of Aleppo, many locals would shop here for their daily essentials. Such a shame it was burned down.

The only way to described the walled city of Rasafa is isolated, incredibly well preserved with some ruins.

The only way to described the walled city of Rasafa is isolated, incredibly well preserved with some ruins.

The beating heart of Syria is the Euphrates river, bringing life to thousands of residents and transforming the landscape from barren dessert into lush green fertile fields.

The beating heart of Syria is the Euphrates river, bringing life to thousands of residents and transforming the landscape from barren dessert into lush green fertile fields.

The historic caravan city of Palmyra has to be one of the most amazing places I've ever been to, especially when I arrived at 5am on a camel just as the sun was rising.

The historic caravan city of Palmyra has to be one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, especially when I arrived at 5am on a camel just as the sun was rising.

Palmyra was an absolutely huge site with many places to explore, sadly I'm going to guess that many treasures have been looted.

Palmyra was an absolutely huge site with many places to explore, sadly I’m going to guess that many treasures have been looted.

The famous colonnade of Palmyra, many thousands of tourists explored this site but it's likely none have visited since 2011.

The famous colonnade of Palmyra, many thousands of tourists explored this site but it’s likely none have visited since 2011.

The theatre of Palmyra, what can I say but WOW! Simply stunning, I was able to picture myself sitting here in this Roman theatre back in the Second Century when it was built. Incredible experience.

The theatre of Palmyra, what can I say but WOW! Simply stunning, I was able to picture myself sitting here in this Roman theatre back in the Second Century when it was built. Incredible experience.

On one of the main roads towards Iraq I found Bagdad Cafe, I'm going to take a random guess this place doesn't exist anymore. When I visited in 2010 it was a mecca for tourists and was in the middle of nowhere.

On one of the main roads towards Iraq I found Bagdad Cafe, I’m going to take a random guess this place doesn’t exist anymore. When I visited in 2010 it was a mecca for tourists and was in the middle of nowhere.

I'd never have believed if somebody had me questioning which city was more dangerous but sadly I think right now Baghdad might be slightly more secure than Damascus.

I’d never have believed if somebody had me questioning which city was more dangerous but sadly I think right now Baghdad might be slightly more secure than Damascus.

A nighttime view overlooking Damascus, a beautiful insight into one of the world's oldest inhabited cities.

A nighttime view overlooking Damascus, a beautiful insight into one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities.

All images are Copyrighted © Matt Baron, please contact me if you wish to use any.

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from¬†this trip¬†or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my¬†Facebook page¬†and¬†please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

My worst trip ever was to…Fiji?!

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When you see this photo you think of absolute paradise, pristine sandy beaches, beautiful clear blue sea and friendly locals shouting “Bula” (Hello) in Fijian.

Unfortunately my Fijian experience was far from heaven. Back in 2009 I was living in Australia and was able to easily visit the South Pacific islands. I’d already been to¬†Tonga and Samoa¬†but probably the most famous island is Fiji, so before I came¬†back to the UK I wanted to make one final trip to the beautiful South Pacific island.

After finding an extremely good deal via Expedia I immediately booked and started to get really excited about the prospect of visiting the “friendly islands”.

Flight Nightmare

Air Pacific

My journey had only just begun when a problem occurred. I had arrived at the airport, but too late, though not through my own fault. I hadn’t been informed that the flight time had been changed due to daylight savings, therefore Expedia were legally required to put me up in a hotel and transfer me for free to the flight the next day. Although I was relieved I’d not booked with a budget airline, this was a considerable inconvenience as I’d lost a day of my holiday.

At the time the airline was called Air Pacific, although recently this has now been changed to Fiji Airways. I was quite amazed a 747 was flying the route, although I understand this would then go onto  the U.S.

Getting Robbed

When researching in¬†guidebooks and online, it became obvious that there wasn’t much to do or see in the capital Suva, so I decided I would look for a nearby alternative. I came across a quirky small town called Lautoka, famous for it’s Sugar Mill and Highlands nearby it looked like a great friendly place to stay.

My hotel, the Tanoa Waterfront Hotel, did exactly as it says on the tin. It was just a short walk from the centre of town and was opposite the “beach”. When you’re¬†in the South Pacific you must buy some of the local¬†fresh fruit, I decided I wanted to¬†go check out the local market, which was probably my favourite part of the whole trip.

Lautoka beachfront

Lautoka beachfront

In the South Pacific islands many people are genuinely friendly and will say hello whilst walking down the street and ask you where you are from and then simply say “Welcome”. This is how my conversation started after leaving the market I noticed a man walking directly next to me, after chatting for several minutes whilst walking, without realising I’d now stopped walking and was surrounded by three huge Fijian men.

Thankfully as I’d only planned to visit the market I only took a small amount of cash out with me. This was a smart move as all the men wanted was money, because I’d been shopping all they took was only worth about ¬£3. As with many other Pacific islands, many men carry axes around with them, so it’s not a daunting feeling when you see this. However after I realised what they wanted, it then became a scary potential!!

It was the first time on my travels I’d ever encountered anything like it, and I’ve visited several war zones! I was quite shocked and scared from the ordeal but it certainly wasn’t the last negative surprise Fiji was going to throw at me.

Fiji

Abandoned Tour

Traditional Fijian Village

Traditional Fijian Village

Back in the early days of my travels I would regularly arrive at a Tourist Information centre and book all my tours whilst visiting the country.

One of the recommended day trips available was to spend the day at a local village and explore the community. This sounded like a great opportunity to see the “real Fiji”.

We were collected on time by the chief of the village, a huge man who’d scare the living daylights out of any bodybuilder, he must have been at least 6ft 5″!

As part of the tour, his family were making us lunch, prepared in the traditional way and laid out on traditional tapa maps, these are famous all over the South Pacific.

After lunch we were told that his¬†children would take us for a walk up in to the highlands for fantastic views. After about half an hour every one of the chief’s six small children had disappeared, thankfully I wasn’t alone, I was with a fellow Brit who I didn’t know before the tour. It was at this point where we¬†realised we’d been deserted in the middle of nowhere!!!

The scariest thought what on earth do we do now?

Fiji

Somehow we managed to find our way back to the village, by this point fed up, hot and concerned at¬†what had happened, we confronted the villagers. The chief apparently had “other business to attend to” and wasn’t available anymore. This did not go down well with neither me or the other tourist, it’s safe to say you do not cross a Scottish woman who’s angry!

We demanded the chief return to his village, collect us and return us to our hotels as we had paid for. When he arrived he was extremely angry. We thought this was very odd given that he¬†had abandoned us in the middle of nowhere. However it later became apparent that it’s the most disrespectful¬†thing you can do to speak down to a chief, so he’d probably never experienced it before!

After eventually being returned to my hotel a mere four hours later, I decided to write an email to the tourism board of Fiji complaining about what had happened.

Before you visit paradise, make sure you’ve read up on the history of the island as Fiji is not all it’s cracked up to be!

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from¬†this trip¬†or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my¬†Facebook page¬†and¬†please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

What happens in Chernobyl, stays in Chernobyl (you hope)

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On April 26th 1986 the world’s first nuclear disaster took place in what was then the Soviet Union.

When Chernobyl happened I was only one year old, I had no knowledge of the event until a few years later when I was at school and uncovered the horrors that took place.

I’ve wanted to visit the area for a number of years now, I finally got my chance in April 2014, a mere 28 years after the disaster took place. Friends simply asked‚Ķ”Why”? Well I hope this blog post¬†will show how you can find beauty even in the most saddest of places.

To gain access to Chernobyl you must request permission from the Ukrainian Government, this is due to access to the area being restricted and off limits.

After driving for roughly one hour and 100km,¬†we arrived at the first checkpoint. There’s very few¬†towns in between Kiev and the border with Belarus, more than likely due to Chernobyl. Due to the on-going crisis in Ukraine I was very intrigued¬†to see BUK missile launchers very close to the border with Belarus, at this time the country did not know where the next attack was going to come from.

After arriving in Chernobyl town I was quite shocked to see people still living there. Daily lives continuing as if nothing had happened. Only a few miles down the road is the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, some of which effects are still felt today.

You might be surprised to hear that Chernobyl village wasn’t the most badly affected place; this title unfortunately stands with Pripyat. What was once a thriving town and rapidly expanding, it was a model for the Soviet propaganda machine. The town was well situated for river cargo along the Pripyat River whilst a central railway station was situated on a major junction.

The power station is very close to town and whilst driving around our guide mentioned a bridge nearby. It’s one of the highest points facing the power plant, people used to stand and stare at it, it now has the unfortunate nickname “Death Bridge”. This is because several people who couldn’t sleep on the evening of the disaster walked out of Pripyat and stood here, sad to say they took the full force of radiation due to the proximity.

I was advised before I arrived that we wouldn’t be able to enter the buildings due to dilapidation. However, thankfully my guide was extremely knowledgeable¬†and allowed us to wander freely around the Sports Centre and¬†School. Creepy is not the word!! Even in daylight this place is literally like something out of a horror movie, unfortunately this isn’t far from the truth.

Standing in the middle of the swimming pool I had to think what it must have been like back in 1986 when the residents were told to evacuate. Unfortunately Ukraine was then part of the Soviet Union, the truth was far from it and they were told they’d return within a couple of days, 28 years later and nobody is allowed to return to¬†live here.

When visiting the primary school I did feel like some items had purposely been placed to create good photos, nevertheless the empty building was really eerie and things had pretty much stood still in time‚Ķthe 80’s!

One of the most famous photos you’ll see of Chernobyl and Pripyat is of the fairground. Unfortunately none of the Pripyat children ever got to try out the Ferris wheel or bumper cars, as it had not officially opened. This was due to take place a couple of days after the disaster.

I’d really not like to walk around Pripyat in the dark; now that the humans no longer live there I’ve read that wolves and other dangerous animals have moved in. Some buildings are in such a bad condition they could probably fall down at any moment. It was interesting to see that many of the windows had been smashed, I wonder who had the opportunity to do this before being evacuated? Most likely it was vandals who stupidly visited in the aftermath of the disaster.

It was rather interesting visiting the town’s supermarket, completed gutted but some relics from the 190’s remained. Sadly no products but there were a few shopping trolleys scattered around; it was too unsafe to enter so we viewed from a distance. All that is left is mangled metal; now so rusty it brightens up what would otherwise be a pile of dusty, grey rubbish.

According to my guide the swimming pool in the sports centre remained full until 1994, I’m not 100% sure of this information but if it’s¬†true then I fear for anybody who entered the pool after 1986!

I somehow found myself alone in the basketball court. For me, being alone in a scary place, my worst nightmare, but in Pripyat, that’s a whole other story! Thankfully after hot stepping it I found the others from my group. All I can say is never watch the movie Chernobyl Diaries before you visit Chernobyl.

One thing you are advised not to do is eat any locally produced food or drink any water, this is so important as it could be contaminated. However there is a Cafe within Chernobyl village, which has to import all of their food from outside the exclusion zone. It was really tasty and well worth visiting, you can even stay here as it has a hostel attached.

Although¬†this was quite an extreme trip to take, it was absolutely amazing to see how life has simply stood still and you get a glimpse into the past, whilst remembering the awful tragedy which took place and respecting the fact that these used to be people’s homes, businesses and livelihoods.

Chernobyl is now a photographer’s paradise, however it is still scarred by what happened on that day in April 1986 and according to scientists will not be a liveable place for the next 25,000 years.

Fancy following in my footsteps? I travelled with UK based travel agency Lupine Travel who offer budget travel to unique destinations including Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea.

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from¬†this trip¬†or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my¬†Facebook page¬†and¬†please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.