The VivoBareFoot ESC Tempest Review by Darren Farrar for @StandupPaddleUK
As you know may, or may not know, I’m one of the guys behind StandupPaddleUK. We review, test and trial equipment in the paddleboard/watersports industry.. And pretty much anything that can be used while out with your board!
As someone that paddles a lot of rivers and canals footwear is an absolute must. I know a lot of people are very keen on barefoot paddleboarding, which has its advantages when the weather is really hot but I always find myself trying to get out of waterways and more often than not the terrain is not favourable to bare feet. I started researching different types of footwear and qas generally pointed in the direction of a wet suit shoe or boot. I myself do use a Gul Powershoe but the problem with a wet suit shoe is they absolutely stink out your house and car!
This all led us into looking at amphibious footwear and the first company that I came across that produced something which not only looked cool but had a ton of technology behind it and is made by a sustainable company, Vivobarefoot.
In a different life I was a personal trainer so I’ve been well aware of the brand as I used to wear the footwear while working in the gym. However these amphibious shoes are completely different.. Minimal still, but different!
Now I must point out that these are solely being tested for general fit and in line with the use on a paddleboard. I’m not testing their performance for running/triathlons, the review is to show how well the shoe integrates with the day to day use of paddleboard. That being said these are being marketed as an Amphibious Swim/Run shoe so anyone outside of the paddleboarding arena will need to do a bit more research elsewhere if running is your niche.
Straight out of the box: No plastic. Boom. Love that Vivo!
The make up of the shoe: The upper of the shoe have a very interesting pattern which I’m sure when in the water (mainly for swimming) provides some form of friction).
Quick draining mesh and recycled plastic PET ankle sock construction are designed to keep your feet comfortable between land and water.
The bio-based Bloom EVA midsole gives additional flotation! **Bloom is amazing FYA – it us formed into a performance foam made using algae biomass which cleans and restores the environment when harvested. The first sustainable alternative to the synthetic and petrochemical EVA foam!
How do they feel when they’re on: Bloody hell they’re difficult to get on.. I’m a UK8.5 / 9, so with a wet suit shoe I always size down because they’re stretchy. Out of the box I would say these are slightly smaller than ‘true to size’ and anyone with a wider feet should size up by one.
Now for me, these are very weird but also cool looking shoe. We’ve been sent the Zinc colourway but the shoes do come in three different colour options, these which are:
Sole of the shoes are very chunky and they have been manufactured with Michelin so you can almost guarantee that the sole is of the highest quality. *The level of grip that you get from these while on a paddleboard will be tested with an ‘on the water’ test*
There are no laces on these as they are a Speed Toggle. The ST is quite a thin lace system which I feel could be a little bit thicker but on the whole does a good job of tightening the upper. I’ve honestly worn these without tightening the ST as the fit was so snug to my feet.
Overall fit: I have found these, quite tight and fit very snuggly around the top of your foot. If you’ve broken a metatarsal before like me then you may feel that they rub on the top of your feet, however this may wear off once the shoe has been worn in. When walking around normally there are no issues, I found them to be quite comfortable without socks. The shoes essentially work straight out of the box with minimal adjustments and are also very fast drying is also helpful!
Currently retailing on Vivobarefoot’s website for £170. They do a cool 100 Day Trial which may be worth the option for some people. Click Here to read more about the 100 Day Trial!
As a footballer, well, an ex footballer, these reminded me and felt comparable to these…
Myself and Dale will be carrying out ‘on the water’ tests which will be video reviews on our IGTV. We really want to test out how well these handle on the paddleboard, getting in and out of water (specifically onto the sides of rivers or canals). I get the feeling they will be a great tool in our arsenal..
Remember that this is a minimal shoe and while we’re not talking about running it is advisable that if you are trying a minimal shoe for the first time that you seek advice from a professional.
Thanks to Vivobarefoot for allowing us the opportunity to test these out. Stay tuned for the ‘On the Water’ video review. Ciao, Darren.
@StandUpPaddleUK and @BluefinSups bringing you a HUGE lockdown giveaway!
Well, this is a big one guys and girls!
At @StandUpPaddleUK we hit 10k recently, and we were planning on giving away lots of items around the time.. But #COVID19 hit us all and halted that giveaway a little! We’ve pressed on, so far doing a giveaway for @Paddlelogger. We have other brands involved, but we want to keep them secret, dropping giveaways during the lockdown period to try and keep the paddleboard cheer high!
Post must be of ‘YOUR DREAM SUP SPOT’. You don’t need to have a SUP in the photo, the only catch is that you’ve been to the location you post. It doesn’t have to be the Bahamas or Maldives, it can be anywhere!
In the caption tell us why it’s your ‘Dream SUP Spot’! You must include the hashtags #BluefinSupSpot AND #StandUpPaddleUK to be included in the giveaway, and it is the best way we can track all entrants. Also tag the image!
Share our post on your Story so all your friends can see the giveaway!
Sit back and await the winner, which we be decided by @Bluefinsups next weekend (25th/26th April)
Now, I can’t win this but my idea of a dream #bluefinsupspot looks something like this..
StandUpPaddleUK & BluefinSups will judge the competition and decide on the winner, which will be picked at random from all entries via Instagram. (Site to be used https://commentpicker.com).
In the event a random name generator is unable to be used a member of @StandUpPaddleUK and @BluefinSups will select the winner of the giveaway, from entries processed and tagged correctly in the Instagram tag feed.
The competition is open to anyone.
There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
The entrant must be following A) StandUpPaddleUK & B) BluefinSups on Instagram in order to enter, and have used both the hashtags #StandUpPaddleUK and #BluefinsupSpot
BluefinSups as the prize provider, shall have the right, at its sole discretion and at any time, to change or modify these terms and conditions, such change shall be amended immediately upon posting to this webpage.
BluefinSups have overall decision of the winner, and descretion of the winners selection.
StandUpPaddleUK also reserve the right to cancel the competition if circumstances arise outside of its control.
Closing date for entry will be Friday 24th April at Midnight. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted
Prize: 10’8 BluefinSup Cruise Carbon Package
The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current [UK] data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
Any entries into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of the Instagram user of these terms and conditions.
@darrens_visuals review of the 2019 BluefinSup 14 Sprint Paddleboard
After cutting my teeth with Bluefins Cruise Carbon, I wanted to see how other boards in the range looked, held on the water and most importantly.. Did they provide any variation in their range? After chatting with Liz at Bluefin they sent me down a 14 Sprint to test..
Some similar, but also great, features to what the 10’8 CC has (see my other review) yet in a slightly different package. The Sprint 14 is the Tourer of their range, it is of course narrower in profile, which requires extra balance for more proficient paddlers. I wanted to test this board purely to see if it handled as a faster board, and it’s safe to say it did!
How much better? Well, I took this bad boy to the Algarve in Portugal to give it a test on the Atlantic!
We were staying right on the coast of the Algarve in Vilamoura, perfect location for paddleboarding..
The board dims; 426.5cm x 77cm x 16cm (L x W x H)
The Sprint really does ‘cut through waves but tracks well on flats’ as they state on their website. The double layer side rails are again reinforced with 500 denier PVC fabric & bonded with heat welding.
Staying in the Marina was perfect. The ability to jump on the water was excellent. The Sprint absolutely chewed up the flat water in here. I was shocked by the pace I was getting out of it.
I tested the board for about 3 solid days on the sea, both in the Marina and out on the open sea. As with the 10’8, very impressed by the overall package but more so impressed with the board this time. The speed I was getting was great, the step up from an all rounder was just what I personally needed and would suggest anyone thinking about taking that step to consider a 14 Sprint.
The board held really well on the open water, several times I was hit with waves from speed boats and rip boats, but it held up well (less stable than the 10’8 but expected due to it’s dimensions and size), however when hitting the waves head on the board cut through them with ease – a thigh workout for me but the board held up well.
I like the ‘Smart Lock Fin System’, there’s no loose metal parts, really simple to click into place and it secures the fin nicely. I’ve had tons of use up to now and it is still snug and tightly fits.
Obviously Bluefin has slapped on the GoPro mount – it’s almost a requirement nowadays, but it’s still something I value as a must have given what I do.
After this trip I’d been solely using the 14 Sprint on the Canal system in Milton Keynes.
The Sprint 14 is more than capable in most water conditions I’ve taken it into. Really impressed with it’s stability in choppy water, and how easy it was to ride the board off the bat. It’s a more advanced board so newcomers should look into a 10’8 / 12 before progressing to a longer tourer. RRP is £1299 but there are currently sales on the Bluefin site, click here to be directed.
@darrens_visuals review of the 2019 Bluefin Sup Cruise Carbon Paddleboard
I originally formed this review for StandUpPaddleMagUK and I’m finally getting round to publishing it on my own site!
Now I’ve been paddling for a few years now along the UK coasts, rivers and abroad. I form part of the Instagram UK SUP page @StandUpPaddleUK. We like to think of ourselves as a promoter of the people, a place for UK SUP to share images, and an unbiased place that reviews equipment. Which leads us on to the business end.
I recently received the 2019 Bluefin Sup Cruise Carbon 10’8 and WOW I’m impressed by the package. The Carbon is a dual weapon, both paddleboard and kayak. I had no preconceived ideas about this board, only that it looked very cool… Which is important of course!
Looks and features
When I unrolled the board I knew I had made the correct choice. Those tuna blues, and grading greys on the croc diamond deck pad. It’s such a cool looking board.
Dual cargo nets for stowing bags, and also you can connect bags to the rings (14x D mount rings in total).
A very comfortable board under foot also, which is a big plus for people that like to paddle for hours on end.
Rear kick pad for those sharp turns on the step back. Gives you a good boost actually
GoPro mount, a plus for GoPro-ers like me
Five grip handles.
Two main pump points, the rear pump for the bulk of the board, and the central point for the ‘kayak seat’ – such a cool idea. I’ve had 18PSI in both and it holds very well.
Travel friendly backpack which really does hold ALL the items that come in the box, and more! Can go in the hold on a plane, which is very cool.
What’s in the bag?
The Cruise Carbon 10’8 with integrated GoPro mount.
Kayak conversion kit.
Triple action pump.
Carbon fibre double paddle and fin.
Let’s talk stability
I’ve come from riding the ultra stable 2017 Red Paddle Co 10’8 (also used the 2018 version), so it’s a great board to gauge against. Now, there are different brands, boards and design but in my opinion, the Cruise Carbon rivals Red’s 10’8 for Stability.
The FRS carbon composite rail, 1000 Denier Exo surface laminate and Pro-Weave drop stitch materials make the Cruise Carbon so tough it holds up to 28 PSI! Bluefin say it will be, “The most rigid and stable inflatable stand up paddle board you’ll ever buy,” and I really have to agree with that.
I always find jumping onto a new board a happy go lucky moment, you are either going to love the board – or hate it because you find it unstable. My first ride was on a very strong current on the River Ouse in Bedford and I didn’t once feel like the board wanted to eject me quicker than a fighter jet. Comfortable and stable, two things of huge importance!
It also feels like a quick board, yes that really depends on how fast you paddle, but it doesn’t feel too bulky or heavy through the paddle motion.
Do I need a gym membership to carry it?
Nope. I’ve used boards in the past and carrying them from the truck to the water was a pain in the backside, due to being awkwardly shaped, lacking hand grips, the size! The Cruise Carbon is light, when pumped up it is manoeuvrable due to all the handle grips. I was very surprised at the ease of carrying and moving in and out of the river.
Is it worth your cash? In a word… Yes. Currently retailing at £799.99 on their website – this is quite the package deal considering what comes out of the bag. The guys at Bluefin are even throwing in a free camera! And for a limited time, using the code DARREN10 at checkout will also gain you a discount!
This was my second time in Venice and I was really excited to explore these amazing islands again. This trip gave me a chance to wander a little bit further, and travel to the islands I didn’t see previously, like Lido and Murano!
I don’t think Venice needs much explaining.. So this post will be purely pictures of my top picks and locations..
Venice is somewhere I’ll keep returning to. I love the atmosphere, the people and of course the food and drink. If you haven’t been, of course it’s a must.. I’ve you have already been, go a second time.. I felt I saw more of the Islands than previously. Take some risks, get on the water taxi and explore everything..
Stop two of my August trip was Milan, the train from Lugano to Milano Centrale was so easy and cheap! Approx €20, great value. Similar to the Zurich-Lugano route, the views from the trains at times were beautiful..
I got off the train at Milano Centrale, it was around 33 degrees, I had to get rid of my backpack so I agreed to tie up with my Air Bnb host. I had a place near Garibaldi Station, and my host spoke pretty much zero English. I loved this. I had to learn Italian phrases so I could speak to her, and she really did appreciate I was trying!
The View from my Air Bnb, perfect
Such a perfect little find on Air BnB, Corsa Como was the best location
Duomo di Milano (Piazza del Duomo, 20122 Milano MI, Italy)
I walked from my Air BnB into the city, of course headed for the Duomo. Firstly, I probably saw 5 or 6 people getting pick pocketed. You’ll see guys handing out bracelets, once given one you’ll be followed around. From what I could tell; people with decent cameras were being targeted.. anyway enough of the negatives.
The Duomo is amazing. It’s not quite as immense as the Duomo in Florence, but non the less, this place is incredible.. tips for the Duomo.. Book your tickets in advance. I queued for about 40 mins to get tickets to the stair climb to the roof terrace..
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know I fly drones for photography. Flying over any of the ‘Art Cities’ is illegal. I was desperate to fly in Milan but couldn’t arrange a permit quick enough. I did see two P4Ps fly over the Duomo. Word of warning, you’ll get caught.. I watched police detain a guy for flying over the Duomo.. be careful and know the rules..
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Piazza del Duomo, 20123 Milano MI, Italy)
Stunning architecture I love, shopping I do not.. this is probably one of the only times you’ll see me enjoy a shopping experience. The Galleria has to be seen to be believed. Unique symmetry, perfect lines. It’s beautiful.
This is Italy’s oldest active shopping mall, built between 1865-1867, named after the first King of the Kingdom of Italy.
The Statue of Leonardo di Vinci (Piazza della Scala, 20121 Milano MI, Italy)
Did you know this statue was created by a winner of a contest? Pietro Magni..
As beautiful as the Duomo is, I much prefer seeing epic landmarks at night. Lighting is everything. The warm tones which light the Duomo are pretty cool. Generally at meeting place at night, and very busy, not that the photo really looks busy!
The San Siro (Piazzale Angelo Moratti, 20151 Milano MI, Italy)
Football stadiums my not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the top off my trips, even if I don’t see a game. I just love to see and experience the venues. The San Siro is a beast. I’ve wanted to come here for probably 19 years, yes since around Fifa 99 came out. Just over 80,000 seater stadium, it really makes you realise how HUGE football is in Milan..
I could not imagine the likes of Man Utd and Man City sharing a Stadium, yet these clubs do and it works for them. Whether you support the famous Rossonero or I Nerazzurri, any football fan must visit here..
Cimitero Monumentale (Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale, 20154 Milano MI, Italy)
Now this was unexpected… and amazing..
The Cemetery of Monumentale is known for it’s stunning sculptures and garden grounds.
The Marzoni Tomb is, well, crazy. Manzoni was a famous novelist, and o me of Milans most honoured citizens..
Lievità Pizza (Porta Garibaldi, 20121 Milano MI, Italy)
Lievità Pizza was some of the best I’ve eaten.. hands down. No review rewired. This place was amazing. 6 minutes for a pizza to arrive, fresh as fresh could have been.. Wow.
A couple of other spots worth a visit..
Sforzinda (Piazza Castello, 20121 Milano MI, Italy)
The grounds and park at Sforzinda are beautiful. You can walk from the Arco della Pace through the park, often live bands are playing. A really cool castle and a relaxing place to hang out.
Built between 1807-1838, this monument was formed in dedication to peace amongst European Nations. A quick stop of on the way through the park!
Bosco Verticale (20124 Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy)
Bosco Verticale, a stone’s throw from Garibaldi Station and the new hub at Porto Garibaldi. Really cool apartment blocks which stand out a mile on the Milan skyline. They may only be apartment blocks, but there are a must see spot..
Another month, another trip.. This is becoming a bit of a thing for me..
Lugano was first on the hit list. I flew into Zurich, and caught the SBB cross country train into Lugano. The train ride was amazing, going past LakeZurich, Zug..
The views were amazing. The train was worth the journey alone!
Trains in Switzerland are a doddle, SBB run a superb service which is rarely late or delayed!
I arrived into Lugano Station to this view. I’ve wanted to visit here for a long time, but never really knew how to fit it into a trip. The Swiss / Italian tour was the perfect blend. As usual I was set up for an Air Bnb, it was a little out of the main centre but it was amazing value for a country which is expensive, well.. most assume it is!
I don’t goto a city without seeing a stadium, that has become a thing for me too. This may not have been a huge Wembley like stadium, but what a backdrop. Nestled between mountains. What a place to play football..
I had four goals for my trip to Lugano; 1) Hike Monte Bre. 2) Hike Monte San Salvatore. 3) Swim in Lake Lugano. 4) Eat Immense Pizza.. Yeah that’s a goal.
My hike up Monte Bre started with the use of the Funicular. I’d been travelling all day and with limited time to hike I opted to cut some time off. You can find the Funicular on Via Pico.
At the summit of Monte Bre you’re met with a beautiful view over the Lake shame about the cafe umbrellas below! I walked a couple of trails and headed down to Ristorante Vetta Monte Bre…
Ristorante Vetta Monte Bre is probably the most picturesc restaurant I’ve ever seen on my travels so far.. Perfect spot for an Aperol, beautiful views of Lake Lugano..
I started my long hike back down the mountain, stopped off at a couple of view points. Probably one of the most peaceful places I’ve been. I didn’t see anyone during my descent..
I walked approx 2 hours back from the summit to my Air Bnb, and I was beat. I had planned to hike Monte San Salvatore the next morning, obviously it was time for a pizza and sleep to prepare.
The San Salvatore hike is no joke. There are a few options for your ascent; Use this website, it shows all the walks and trails… CLICK HERE!
I opted for a difficult route, up the side of the funicular, up the front of the mountain.. Paradiso-Pazzallo-San Salvatore was the route I used.
I saw 1 other person during my hike.. it was the ultimate reflective hike. It’s pretty well sign posted, but use the link and work out the trail which suits you.
Probably worth noting that the hike trails will require walking boots or a decent trainer.. the trails get wet, it’s very loose ground also. Be careful here, it does tend to rain at night and the trail was pretty raw during my hike.
Views from Monte San Salvatore are immense. My trips lately have become about goal setting, especially when it comes to a hike. The route by the locals said it was approx 2.5 hours, I crushed it in 1 hour 45.
Regardless of how long it takes you. The views are unforgettable.. There is also route for Via Ferrata, for those more experienced and wanting a challenge. I’d love to try Via Ferrata but I was warned that this route was a ‘high skilled’ route..
I didn’t use the San Salvatore funicular, but it’s worth noting it’ll save you some sore feet if you aren’t prepared!
The weather was HOT. Pushing over 32 degrees, after my hike I fancied a swim, and crossing off Goal 3. Lake Lugano was surprisingly warm! The water was cleaned and clear, swimming in a lake may but be for everyone but you should try it! I used the Lido which has access to the Lake, although there is plenty of places you can get into the Lake..
With Lugano being Swiss Italian you can guarantee food to be of the best quality. Of course, I opted for another Pizza by the Lake.
And this view was well worth waiting for..
Lugano has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for a few years. I’d recommend to anyone. You don’t have to do the hikes, you can use the funiculars. It’s very peaceful, you can swim the Lake.. it has so many options..
Lugano was done, I was headed across the border to Italy. Milano is next up.
Red Lights, Windmills and Everything inbetween; Amsterdam
With a country so close to the UK you’d think more people would have been to Holland.. but the general discussion is that many people haven’t got there yet.. Let’s see if I can spend a few minutes convincing you..
I picked up flights into Schipol Airport for £70 return, and an Air BnB for £80.. So a real cheap city break can be had here..
I landed into Schipol just after lunch time, and headed straight into the City. Walk out of the arrivals area and straight into the Train Station.. Yes it is that simple and well sign posted. The Sprinter Train runs quite frequently and costs €4.30 for a Single. It runs through two stops and rolls into Centraal Station. Centraal Station has connections to most of the other major cities including Rotterdam, if you’re looking to explore further afield after AMS.
Rijksmuseam and the I Amsterdam Sign (Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands)
This is the tourist trap.. the only way you’ll be getting touristless selfies or shots.. Get here at 5am!
The Rijksmuseam has a vast Art collection, but I was here to admire the architecture and grab some shots. The lake infront of the IAmsterdam sign provided a nice reflection too!
You can walk the Canals of Amsterdam for hours. Bridge upon Bridge, genuinely beautiful. Stop, take in the views across the canals. There are so many cafes and restaurants to sit and enjoy them from.
The scenes are a different level at night. The still canals give off the perfect reflections, and the Red Lights of the District really set off the views..
The Johan Cruyff ArenA (ArenA Boulevard 1, 1101 AX Amsterdam)
The Johan Cruyff ArenA is epic. The scale appears huge. While it may only be a 53,346 seater.. it looks much much bigger! Home to Ajax, and quite far out of the city. You’ll need to grab the M54 metro out to Strandvilet, it’s a 2 minute walk from the station. Another Stadium off of my quest to visit all the too tier stadiums in the world!
The Red Light District (Amsterdam Central)
No intro, discussion or explanation required. This place should be experienced on whatever level you choose.. Whatever your taste…
Lisse / Keukenhof (Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse)
Stretching 30km between Haarlem and Leiden are the tulip fields of North Amsterdam. This is a must see, it’s a short train ride to Haarlem, for there you can hire a Cycle (Which is between €8-12 for a day!) I used a small shop in Haarlem called ‘Bike Rent Haarlem’. Now I ride a decent standard road bike in the UK, don’t expect that on a hire! It was a bum numbing 35 mile cycle but the views of the fields are worth it..
I took a few detours here and there in search of tulip fields. Hillegom and Heemstede are beautiful, peaceful towns. Some of the houses are LIFE GOALS! I’d arrived a week after the cuttings of most fields which was a shame, but I managed to capture a few which were left!
Beautiful. I’ll 100% return during the blooming of the tulips next year.
Zaanse Schans (Kalverringdijk 5, 1509 BT Zaandam)
Zaanse Schans is a throwback to the 18th century. The iconic windmills were moved here to recreate that feel. It’s a day out from the mayhem of Amsterdam, and a very unique part of Holland, which many who visit Amsterdam will over look. This is another place which is a short trip on the train from Amsterdam Centraal. Be sure to head out to the Bakery Museum.. the fresh Cookies are excellent!
Amsterdam is beautiful in the day, and a complete flip side in the night, but still beautiful depending on where you go.. Much like Prague, it has a reputation for the sex but unless you go looking for that, it really isn’t as bad as you’d think.
An amazing 24hrs in the Beautiful place that is Montenegro. Make this your next Destination..
So after a couple of beautiful days in Dubrovnik I was headed for the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro.
It’s a really simple border crossing, just remember that if you are planning to cross the border and you are using a hire car you will need a ‘Green Card‘ from the rental car company. It has all the relevant car details. Also worth pointing out that quite a few of the companies I checked didn’t allow a border cross. Goldcar allowed it, for approx £20 extra. The border crossing itself is free, but most companies hold the Green Card it seems.
FYA your phone data will be expensive here, mine was!!! I used Spotify for 3 songs.. it incurred a £42 charge – thanks Snoop Dogg. Check your network, only use Wi-Fi is my advice..
I got through the crossing and headed straight for the Bay. Stay on the E65 (then E80) which goes through Herceg Novi to Kotor – worth stopping at one of the supermarkets in H.N… there’s a short amount of shops from there until Kotor.
As the title says, 24hrs in Montenegro.. I was in a bit of a rush to get to Kotor. It’s really the only thing I had planned to do while here, as it was only a small amount of time.. On route I spoke and met up with my Air BnB host. I was staying in Jošice, a very quiet fishing town, where the crossing for Kotor is also available..
I have to say the cost of my Air BnB was exceptional. I paid £10 a night, and the cost would have been less if staying for more than one night! The rooms at the 4 Sailors were very good. Considering the cost I was expecting a pretty bad experience, I can only but recommend this place!
After quick hello and tour with my host I got back on the road. I’d opted against the Kotor Crossing as I wanted to explore the route around the Bay. The villages of Risan, Strp, Perast, Orahovac are pretty quiet. Most notably Orahovac, there’s a huge hotel on the Bay front which is completely baron. Pretty haunting consideing it’s location!
Perast / Sveti Dorde
A couple of lonely islands sit in the middle of the Bay, off of Perast. There’s a perfect little car park which sits opposite also. Obviously I was going to get the drone out.. there are two islands, Sveti Dorde and Ostrvo.
A beautiful location nestled between a mountainous Bay. Again there isn’t much here, there’s a couple of bars and restaurants down by the waterfront at Perast. I couldn’t explore this as the weather had turned and I didn’t fancy running in hail stones!
The reason for my trip, the Ladder of Kotor. The Ladder is amazing. From the ground you can see parts of the trail but it really doesn’t take shape until you’re half way up atleast..
The entrance to the Ladder is difficult to find. I had to use Google maps as the guides were all pointing me to the Fortress, which didn’t feel I had time to do! Anyway, the Ladder of Kotor..
I ploughed up the Ladder, I passed a great deal of people who were giving up and headed back down. I’m not one to be beaten, and certainly not by a trail. I cracked on. Eventually the trails become more rocky, more undulating, and more difficult to foot. Of course those sorts of things make a man think.. “the drone would be a great idea”.. I got Cameron out and captured some absolute aerial GOLD…
The zig zag trail cannot be seen in such a way without a drone. This is the reason I got a drone. Being able to capture moments which are not possible with conventional cameras.
After a quick stop for water and droning I got back on the trail. I arrived at the summit approx. 1hr 20 mins of climbing. And it was totally worth it.. Over 70 switchback turns. A real highlight of my trip..
At the top I met a girl from Holland. We sat, had a little chat about the climb. Obviously she posed for photos being a solo traveller. It was cool to chat to some else on the journey at the top of a mountain! After a bit of time spent relaxing at the summit I headed back down the mountain trail, double time. It took me just over an hour to reach the base. I think this is a given but I’d advise solid walking boots or running trainers for this trail!
It was early afternoon so I grabbed some food from the shopping centre at the base of the mountain and headed back to my car. Kotor was my main aim for this part of my trip, but with time to spare I opened up the map and decided to drive down to the coastline to the South.
Approx. 20km from Kotor. This part of my trip was a bit on the fly. First stop was a car park, views over the beaches and coastline. It was perfect for a pit stop. I checked my map for local points of interest and there were two of value to me..
The fortress is well hidden, and cannot be accessed by car (I tried..). You’ll have to park the next car park in Gospostina and walk back..
The Mogren Fortress is pretty epic. I was here for around an hour… and saw one other person. Look out for the BROWN SIGN noting ‘Tvdara Mogren’. This place was hidden and I loved that. The Mogren Fortress was built in 1860 by Austro Hungarians to defend the Western borders of Budva. Due to earthquakes and lack of up keep the fortress is falling apart so be careful.. Excursions aren’t taken here so if the goal is seclusion then this is the place. Ideal for droning…
The island of Sveti Nikola aka ‘Hawaii of Montenegro’, can be seen from the fortress. When the tide is low you can see a sand trail into Budva beach under the water. If you want to go to Sveti Nikola you can grab a boat for €3 return..
I was slowly running out of daylight. I wanted to head further round to Sveti Stefan but I didn’t have time. Budva was an extra I didn’t expect but I’m really glad I took the trip.
On my drive back I found the one restaurant which looked open, Verige 65. The food, service and restaurant itself were excellent. I spent less than €20 for a starter, main and two beers. Really great value. The restaurant over looks the Bay, with views of Tivat and Kotor.
And that was it, my 24 hours in Montenegro was close to being over. I headed back to the Air BnB to prep up for my flight the next day, back to Dubrovnik.
As ever, if you have questions on any of my travels, or Montenegro specifically then please drop me a comment or message!
Where do I start.. Logically I should start at the beginning… but f*ck logic.. I got myself a new camera a few days before this trip, so say hello to lots of Sony Alpha shots with plenty of swirly swirly cream cheese like bokeh! New trip, new kit..
Ok back to the travel; I set off for Stansted at 3am. Croatia has some excellently cheap flights from Luton and Stansted, you just have to pay in loss of sleep.. but for £100 return you cannot argue with that.
I landed in Dubrovnik to that famous Adriatic Sunshine. Dubrovnik gets almost 130 days of sunshine each year..
I’d hired a car before my arrival. Now it’s notoriously cheap to hire cars here, and when you read reviews you’ll see a great deal of NEGATIVE comments regarding companies policies, claw backs of money, claims of damage etc. I cannot confirm this, my experience was excellent. I used Rentalcars.com who I purchased full insurance with, so if there’s any damage.. you pay and you’re refunded, regardless of how the damage occurred. FYI I used Goldcar (via Rentalcars.com). Anyway, in the famous last words of the Goldcar employee.. “Please drive on the right and don’t crash, bye bye“. I did have a good laugh as I drove away!
The drive from the airport to Dubrovnik is beautiful. There are a few stop off points for photos etc, well worth getting out and taking in the views over the coastline.
As usual for my trips I used Air BnB, I opted for a place outside of the Old Town, mainly due to having a car. I paid around £35 per night, and my accommodation was excellent. Arguably one of the best Air BnBs I’ve ever used. Really nice views from the terrace over the Port..
Never used Air BnB? Well here is a link for £25 off your first stay.. You are welcome! CLICK HERE
Old Town Dubrovnik (Poljana Paska Miličevića, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia)
The Old Town of DBV is amazing. One of the most cool and beautiful places I’ve been to. It has the charm of an Old Town, yet the Vibe of thriving city. Everywhere you turn are restaurants and stunning buildings. But I wasn’t there for the restaurants.. I was there for the Old City Walls..
The Old Walls entrance can be found directly to the right as you enter the Old Town..
Plan your days accordingly in Dubrovnik. It is worth checking the Port Authorities Arrivals, click here. I arrived on a Thursday, notably quiter than Friday, funnily enough a massive cruise ship had docked over night… Dubrovnik’s Old Town went from the relatively quiet town looking like this…
To this on a Friday..
Double check the Arrivals. It can really change your experience of Dubrovnik..
The Old Town has plenty of highlights and places to visit, here’s some of my favourites;
Buza Bar (Aim for the signs which say ‘best drinks and views in Old Town)
Now if Drones are your thing then you’ll like these shots. If you’re planning on using your drone in Croatia you will need to contact the CAA, sending off a form to the authority by post to Croatia. You need to ensure it arrives 8 days before you plan to fly.. Use this link for more info. Once confirmed you’ll receive an email to say you are now an authorised UAS operator.
I found a few good spots to take off from, one just by Hotel Excelsior and the other to the North of Lovrijenac, head to towards this address and walk the coastline until you find a good spot.. Rudimira Rotera, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
I use the DJI Mavic Air for all my drone shots. It’s light, compact and is perfect for the backpack traveller.
Mount Srd (Cable Car: Ulica kralja Petra Krešimira IV, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia)
I’d prepped up my visit to Mount Srd for the evening, to capture the sunset and the night lit view of the Old Town.. and it really didn’t disappoint. When you get off the Cable Car you’ve taken to a viewing platform, it also has a restaurant. If you walk out of the building and round to the right you can climb down some rock face and set up your camera on the edge of the mountain..
I walked around Dubrovnik for 2 days – walking over 35 miles. There’s a great deal of stairs and walking to be done..
There is beauty at ever turn in Dubrovnik. I will return in the future and I highly recommend it to any and everyone..
Any questions about Dubrovnik or travelling there? Get in touch!
Iceland is a country I’ve wanted to visit for years now but I had always been nervous about the scale and amount of driving required.
Let’s get two things out the way immediately;
1- Iceland is expensive. Get over it.
2- The weather is changeable like you wouldn’t believe. Always check the forecast…
Before leaving I’d planned this trip extensively. I had 4 days so I really could only cram in the West and parts of the South. Now you can travel the ring road etc etc however you’d like, you could even hire a camper.. a good choice if there’s a few of you to split costs. I opted for an Air BnB just outside Reykjavik in Kópavogur, perfectly located to travel in all directions, and a bad ass 4×4 as I’d planned routes through the national park on F roads.
I arrived in Iceland and had pre booked a hire car with Geysir Car Rentals. Highly recommend them and the service was excellent. You get a little key fob which gives you a discount at OB fueling stations.. a nice touch.
Day One – The Golden Circle
þingvellir National Park
The huge lake of þingvellir was solid frozen which was quite a sight.. pretty much all the water I’d seen all morning was frozen.. including the sea. There was excellent walking routes here. I followed a couple of trails but was conscious of the time needed to complete the Golden Circle in one day. You have to pay to park here.. if you veer off to the right before this sign you can park for free… off-road parking though!
Take a look around the walking routes before heading away. They can be found here
Geysir Geo Thermal Park of Haukadalut
The Geysir is pretty cool. You can’t miss it, A) because it’s packed solid with people and cars, B) the stench of sulphur is pretty heavy. Regardless of the fumes the Geysir experience is well worth your time. The eruptions from the main Geysir are pretty large, upto 70m high. This is a no drone zone over the eruptions.. I saw 2 drones fall foul to the Geysir bursts!
The Geysir will soak you if you’re down wind. I was drenched after an eruption.. and smelt like sulphur for a few hours..
Photo hot spot, full of camera tripods and selfie stick wizards.. yes I am one of those idiots too. Hillarious to see people being battered GoPros unsuspectingly while trying to capture the eruption..
In a word. Epic.
The 32m drop looks huge, especially when the fall is partially frozen over. It was surprisingly quiet during my visit, I really guess it all depends on when the Golden Circle tour buses arrive..
This place was one of my favourites. The scenic lake occupies a volcanic crater. It is around 3000 years old! And even better, the lake was frozen and you could walk over it..
I walked around the lake looking for the best vantage point for the sunset. There was a massive ground of tripod raiders on the West flank.. I found a better spot..
The sunset from Keriđ was exceptional. I got really lucky with my timing..
After Keriđ I ended up heading back to my Air BnB in Kópavogur. If you’re doing a self drive I’d advise heading to Selfoss. There’s a few supermarket shops (and takeaways here if totally necessary!). By the time I got back to Kópavogur I was beat. I’d travelled non stop since 5am, I had a quick chat with my host and hit the hay. I had plans for a 5am start in the West..
Day Two; West Region
I headed out at 5am. A 180km route was in the sat nav. Be aware when heading North/West, Route 1 has a tunnel under the Hvalfjördur. It cost me 1000ISK each way, so about £7. Worth the cost as the drive around is an additional hour.
The drive from Reykjavik to the West was awesome. I genuinely saw no cars for miles upon miles…
You can really see the changes in weather from region to region..
The roads after Route 54 are pretty baron, untouched and icy AF. I saw three cars on the roof tops.. All non 4×4/AWD. Again I’d advise a 4×4 if you’re headed out on a self drive. After 160km I hit Kolgrafarfjödur.. I had to stop and get some shots. It was silent, so peaceful and totally epic.
The Mavic Air was the perfect drone for Iceland
At this point, this was the highlight of my Iceland trip. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I’ve been to the mountains in various countries and always get that feeling of amazement, but here it was different.. I was speechless. I sat and watched over the lake and mountains eating breakfast, the perfect spot.
Approx 20km from Kolgrafarfjödur is the immense mountain of Kirkjufell. Again a real photographer hot stop however today, 6 people were here..
Some will know Kirkjufell from Game of Thrones, it features in Seasons 6 and 7.. known as Arrowhead Mountain.
A really impressive mountain, with a stunning backdrop. Take some time to take in the mountain, there are plenty of spots to camp of picnic here. If you need supplies there is a large shop in Grundarfjödur..
This I found by accident while travelling the Snæfellskökull peninsula coastline. Head up the track about 400m, hop out the car and walk another 200m and you’ll see the waterfall..
I was really taken back by this find. It wasn’t on my Maps during my planning so I was shocked to find it. It was difficult to see how close you could get to the fall as everything was snowy or frozen. I sent the drone out to see what the situation was, and capture some bangers of course. Well worth a stop off.
I continued round the coastline of Snæfellskökull. There were a couple of stop offs, there are quite a few beaches but I was unable to get down the roads due to the weather. Very gravelly roads full of ice.. I didn’t fancy a massive repair bill. Eventually I found the Malariff Lighthouse and coast line..
This is Londrangar.
Londrangar is a pair of natural towers which overlook the ocean, formed by volcanic material. The walk from Malariff will take you around 20 minutes.. maybe quicker if it isn’t icy! Excellent views out to the ocean, a real peaceful spot.
After spending some time here and at Arnarstapi (a good place to get supplies for the drive home) I headed back to Reykjavik. The coastal drive along the south peninsula of Snæfellskökull is exceptional. Non stop mountains to the left and ocean to the right for miles and miles, very cool.
Hallgrimskirkja is Reykjavik’s cathedral, inspired by Icelandic traditions. It can be entered and has a 70m plus tower. Tip; a good place to park after 6pm and walk into the city centre.
I can recommend a place to eat. I had a real urge for a burger after a 18 hour day.. I found the Vitabar in downtown Reykjavik (
Yeah I’ll admit it looks pretty low key from the outside but the food was awesome. Prices were very good and I thought cheap (for Iceland) a huge burger and fries with a coke set me back 3000ISK so around £20. Most places this would be 4/4500ISK. Give it a try!
Day Three; The Southern Coast
I’ve always wanted to visit locations on this leg of my tour so I was pretty excited when I set off from Kópavogur..
Seljalandfoss and Gljúfrabúi
When you pull off Route 1 for Seljalandfoss you’ll see the car park full of buses. Drive past this, there is a big lay by about 300m down the road which is free..
Seljalandfoss is stunning. I’ve seen photos of it for such a long time and they do not compare to being there and seeing the waterfall in motion. In winter when the water hits the base of the waterfall it freezes and settles as snow around the base. You will get wet it you get up close..
In months without snow it is possible to go behind the waterfall.. I was disappointed I was unable to but The entrance was frozen over!
Just 24 minutes down the road is another beaut.. Skógafoss waterfall. The only difference between here and Seljalandfoss is there’s a cool staircase and viewing platform which gives off great views over the waterfall.
Tip; I returned here on my way home, Unfortunately my phone and gopro were completely dead, the moonlight shots you can get from the waterfall are class. I stood with a group of photographers who were shooting absolute gold!
Sólheimasandur DC3 Wreckage
The wreckage isn’t sign posted from what I could see.. but It is 11km from Skógafoss on the right. Now be warned, the ‘path to the DC3’ on Google doesn’t really show or tell you how far it is. I walked 30 minutes each way, in horrendous winds which were blowing people over and rain which left me soaked through.. but the end of the long walk is the wreckage. It’s pretty haunting, especially in dark wet conditions. But it’s such a cool spot..
As with most spots.. this is usually busy as hell. The weather kept people away!
Conditions were terrible…
This felt like Mordor or something from Game of Thrones.. the black sand beach is both beautiful and haunting. I’ve never seen a beach like it but it given the conditions of the day it really looked moody AF! Beware on this coast, deadly seeker waves hammer this beach.. massive 20ft waves which pull people in from the coastline due to the tremendous power of the under current.
The coastline has been beaten for many years and is sculpted by the waves and winds, some of the cliff faces looking similar to the iron throne!
Day Four; The Blue Lagoon
Key piece of advice is book your tickets. There are three levels, each more expensive.. click here for details. I opted for the Comfort entry, this is ample for me. You get use of a towel, a free silca face mask, and a free drink while in the lagoon. It cost me £70, steep yes but it’s an all day ticket.
The lagoon is awesome. A totally relaxing experience. Probably the most well known spot in Iceland, yeah it’s busy but it’s pretty big that there’s room to chill out away from others.
After 4 hours in here I left, as I was driving away I spotted some non entry thermal streams..
At this point I only had an hour before I had to be at the airport, I had one last stop.
The Bridge America
A cool geography lesson on my.last stop. This bridge connects the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Before the breaking of Pangaea this would have been connected.
And that was it. My Icelandic adventure was over. I had the most epic experience and I was definitely return.. I only saw a tiny bit of Northern lights and it was quite disappointing that I didn’t see the green dance.
•Waterproofs are essential
•Pretty much everywhere will accept credit or debit cards
•Book the Blue Lagoon before you travel
•Always carry water on journeys, dehydration is not joke, as I found out.
•Pick up a 12V DC car inverter. This will also you to change things like a laptop or drone.
•Also pick up a phone holder as you’ll need it for GPS.
Thanks to my Air BnB host, Floris and thanks Iceland, you’ve been incredible.
Alpe D’Huez is a resort based between 1250 / 3330meters. In the central French Western Alps, and forms part of the Isère region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.. and was year’s location for our 1st Snowboarding trip of 2018
It is that time of year again..
Alpe D’Huez is a resort based between 1250 / 3330meters. In the central French Western Alps, and forms part of the Isère region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.. and was year’s location for our 1st Snowboarding trip of 2018.
I’ll start off by saying, I really do love France so I’ve always wanted to hit the mountain in winter.. plus following our trip to Morzine last summer.. my mind was made up.
Now we had booked this trip before the MAMMOTH snowfall across Europe. We booked with Crystal Ski and got a great deal in the Bergers area of Alpe D’Huez, a board in board out location right next to the base lifts. Hotel Les Bergers was a decent Hotel, half board with excellent food. The location was the key point but I’d recommend staying here. We paid £800 each which included flights, transfer, lift pass and a half board hotel. Not too bad at all!
Let’s talk about the Mountain.. It’s huge. No, it’s on an epic scale. Considering this is a local lift pass.. I’ve been to resorts with an Area Lift pass which are smaller!
250km/155miles of Piste
Highest point 3330m
41 Greens, 34 Blues, 40 Reds, 16 Blacks
2 Snow Parks
84 lifts (Gondola, Chair, Pomas, Cable Cars)
Cross Country Skiing (if that’s your thing) 50km
Obviously the first thing we did was go straight to the very top of Pic Blanc, 3330m.
The route down from Pic Blanc is via the famous Sarenne, a 16km Black Run. One of the world’s largest. Some would say it isn’t a true black as there are parts which become flat between cross overs but it’s pretty challenging as it can be icy and very narrow.
We hit as much of the mountain as we could. It’s near on impossible to cover every piste/untracked in 6 days but we tried. Mornings are best suited to the Signal de L’Homme over towards Auris en Oisans – grab the Alpauris chairlift. We had some much pow and some of the best of it was here.
Obviously we got to Alpe D’Huez in one of the worst snowfalls in the past 20 years. So most days were spent in low light, be prepared for such as some of the mountain when in the shade is difficult to ride. We opted for Oakley Prizm lenses which made things a lot easier..
Best runs on the mountain?
Olympique (some excellent pow to be had through the pistes)
Col du Cluy
Pré Rond (Yep a blue with mega Pow because of it’s position on the mountain
Chamois (excellent under the gondola)
To be honest I could have listed all the Red and Black runs, the resort was decent all round!
We did have some bluebird days.. Only 1.. maybe 1 and a half. Due to the stormy weather.. but when you get this much snow.. It’s worth it..
All in all I would come back to Alpe D’Huez. A vast resort, immense snow and beautiful views in every direction.
Some of my favourite shots from the week;
If your hitting the mountain here or have any questions about Alpe D’Huez please get in touch!