Below are some recent trips - to see all our videos check out our youtube channel by clicking here.
Mont Blanc Tour - Trekking
Tour Mont Blanc Day 0 Arrive Chamonix
Day 0 - Chamonix Sunday 17-06-18 Shuttle from Geneva airport to Chamonix is around EUR30 with Cham-Van and takes about 1.5 hours Cham-fest a music and food festival was on this weekend so no wonder it was hard to get accommodation. Our hotel the Chalet Hotel Le Priuere was very nice. Most importantly they had bacon and eggs as well as bread, cheese, fruit, cold meats etc. We walked around the town of Chamonix that is quite beautiful and full of adventure gear stores, skiing stores and plenty of restaurants and bars and is surrounded by beautiful steep mountains on both sides of the Valle de L’Arve - on l’Arve river which is a blue/grey cold and running powerfully. We picked up some snacks to take with us for the next couple of days. Dave and I had a Raclette for dinner which was served with potatoes and cold meats, pickled onions and gerkins.
Tour Mont Blanc Day 1 Les Contamines
Day 1 - Chamonix to Les Contamines Monday 18-06-18 We tucked into breakfast making sure we left with a good meal in our tummies. Which was lucky because the places we expected to get lunch were either not there anymore or closed on a Monday. Nuts and museli bars it was to be. We also came across some lovely boys who had made ice tea and you also got a slice of cake with it, so we bought a round. The day started with a short train ride to Les Houches leaving at 9.15 and from here you take the trail heading out of the town. It was pretty much straight up the mountain to the Col de Voza at 1,653 - Les Houches was around 1,000m. This area is a ski field in the winter and at the top of the Col you have a lovely view of the Glacier de Bionassay. There were some open cafes here but it was a little early for lunch and we thought we would have lunch in Bionassay but the cafe ended up being closed on Mondays. We had taken a stop for tea/coffee/ice cream at a lovely Refugio just a little before this called Chalet-refuge du Fioux which has a beautiful view and a lovely grassy terrace. We wish we had eaten lunch here because it smelled so good.. C’est la vie. By now the temperature was around 18 degrees and the sun out and we were sweating away. There are so many fields of wildflowers with cows with their bells ringing and many small typical alpine looking chalets. We walked not only on dirt paths but also though forests, small tar roads through towns and some fields. The views were stunning and it was everything I was hoping the trail to be. The total kilometres for the day were around 15. We left around 9.45 and arrived at the Refugio CAF on the outskirts of Les Contamines around 4.30 after finally getting a quiche for lunch at about 4pm. This was the shorter route which we were glad to have taken - 3km shorter than the alternative route. Were were pretty knackered by the time we arrived. A nice cold beer at the Refugio and a hot shower and then they cooked us a wholesome dinner at 7pm and will prepare us a picnic lunch for tomorrow of a ham and cheese sandwich, taboleh, muffin, fruit compote and a twix bar. Dinner was pea soup, chicken curry with rice, cheese, cheese cake...and some lovely Château Cardboard that from a carafe tasted wonderful. The room we have has 8 bunks in sets of two side by side. Yes, there is Wi-Fi here.
Mont Blanc Tour Day 2 Les Chapieux
Day 2 - Les Contamines to Les Chapieax - Tuesday 19-06-18 Not a cloud in the sky today- beautiful! Breakfast started from 6.30. Our room was right near the kitchen and dining room so we got in early as we had heard that sometimes the food runs out in the Refugios. It was not as wonderful as dinner. Muesli, bread, jam and tea and coffee. But the lunch pack they made had an excellent ham and cheese sandwich that made up for that. Today is a longer day that yesterday maybe 17-18km. And a lot harder. Around 7.5 hours. So we left at 7.45am and started on he first gentle slopes through pine forests and along a glacial river. We had a nice chat to a couple from North Carolina. She is s professional photographer and he twas into timber mills. We left them just after the chapel Notre Dame and the track became very steep. From this point it was to be up hill for the next 4 hours. Thankfully it wasn’t all as steep as the first section. As we came out of the forests the stunning view of the Col du Bonhomme opened up. There were beautiful pastures with happy cows with their signature bells ringing gently. We gained 1,316 metres before we had a two hour descent of around 929m which was quite step. The highest point today was 2,483m at Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. There was a lot of snow on the pass and for quite a long way down the other side. We had a bit of slipping and sliding in it on our way down the mountain. We saw quite a lot of marmots today running across the snow and eating in the sun. They look a lot like a beaver. Again we walked through fields of wildflowers down to Les Chapieax a small hamlet with a few places to stay, a campsite and small cheese and local products shop. We arrived around 3.30pm so about 8 hours today. I had come down with a bit of a head cold so after a shower and doing some washing I had a sleep and rest for about 45 minutes. I heard later I was not the only one a bit shattered after the hard day. I was then ready to join Dave for a local beer. Dinner was soup, followed by slow cooked lamb and roasted potatoes, hunks of cheese and then panacotta for dessert.
Mont Blanc Tour Day 3 Combal
Day 3 - Les Chapieax to Lake Combal - Wednesday 20-06-18 We were on road by 7.30 after our standard breakfast of museli, bread and jam. Not a cloud in the sky again. This is incredible. The start of the walk was a nice gentle slope along a tar road on the shady side of the valley which was lovely as most of us got pretty sunburned yesterday. Then a more serious climb started up towards Col de la Seigne which is at 2,516m which we reached around 11.15am. On the climb up you could hear cow bells ringing and we could see that the diary cows here are milked by a portable miking trailer so they can follow the cows around while they are in the high pastures in summer. There were beautiful views all day today and finally we caught a glimpse of Mt Blanc towering above us. She had a little cloud around her but they parted enough for us to get a fairly good view. We walked through a lot of snow again today. On the way down from the Col the easiest and fastest way through some of the steeper snow fields was to sit down and slide. Quite fun too! We saw some more marmots today but up a little closer. We arrived at the Elisabetta Refugio around 1pm and continued down the valley where a bulldozer was still trying to clear the road of metres of snow. There was a sparkling clear glacial pond next to a snow drift. Some of us had to jump in for a 5 second dip. Talk about refreshing! The Refugio Comban du Combal was just minutes away and just out the front a herd of mountain ibex were jumping around the rocks or nibbling on a salt lick. We arrived around 2.10pm so this was a much easier day than yesterday, only around 6.5 hours. The Refugio is lovely and spotless and no prize for guessing and there is minestrone soup and pasta on the menu tonight. Total distance for the day was around 17km and we gained 1,004m and lost 258m.
Mont Blanc Tour Day 4 Courmayeur
Day 4 - Lake Combal to Courmayeur Thursday 21-06-18 The summer solstice today! And again, not a cloud in the sky even though last night a few clouds had rolled in before bedtime. Today is the closest we will get to Mt Blanc on the tour and what epic views we had. It was so close the peak is only about 7km away and you can see from the bottom of the mountain in the valley all the way to the top. On the way there was again a lot of snow and the marked paths are not as well marked here as they have been at other times. So, we missed the path but after having a look at the map made our own way up to connect with the track just as the views of Mt Blanc really opened up. A lovely bunch of North Korean hikers joined us there along with two male French hikers who were silly enough to follow our “off the beaten track route” and Ben the American that Bianca and Mieke has been chatting two the day before. On the downwards track we had some quite steep sections of snow that we took a lot more care than before. But otherwise the start of the downhill was lovely and we were remarking what an easy and beautiful day this had been. Only 460m up and we thought all of the down was going to be undulating. It was to start. Then we reached the ski area of Courmayeur and found a green lake that I just had to take another dip in. Not at cold as yesterday but very refreshing. Just down from this at Col Checrouit there was a lovely Refugio and restaurant and Dave and I had an Italian hot chocolate. The American couple from North Carolina were also here so we caught up with them and their two friends they were traveling with. Then we really steep, never ending decent started down through woodlands - it was steep path and steps for about and hour and getting hotter and hotter as we approached Courmayeur. Finally we made it, waking first through the little stone town of Dolonne and across the bridge into Courmayeur. The drop in elevation was 1,560m and my knees could feel it at the end when we arrived at the hotel Les Jameaux around 2pm. We had a quick shower and then went out looking for Pizza only to find most restaurants close at 2.30! We found a hamburger joint that was open until 3pm so beers and hamburgers or was. We went back and did the daily wash of clothes and then collapsed for around 45mins until going for a walk around this pretty little village, patting dogs of all sizes, eating gelato and getting some provisions for lunch for tomorrow. Even though we only did 15km today it somehow felt longer maybe the days are building up in our legs. Dinner was PIZZA at last! Josh and Bianca said they think they found the best place in town. It was pretty good and huge. It was pizza tunnel. Then we enjoyed an aperol spritz up on the main plaza.
Mont Blanc Tour Day 5 Bonatti
Day 5 - Courmayeur to Refugio Bonatti - Friday 22-06-18 8.45am kick off after a pretty good breakfast including freshly squeezed orange juice. Straight out of town our uphill section started straight away. Today would be uphill about 860 m. Only 102m decline in elevation today. This climb was almost finished by the time we reached Refugio Bertone. Not long after this it was a fairly easy indulging walk. All day we had spectacular views of the Mont Blanc Massif - again in spectacular conditions. We passed some old stables used for housing the cows for 3 months of the year. The milk from these cows make fontina cheese, a specialty in this valley. We met Rosie and her 2 daughters. Rosie came to this valley on holidays and loved it so much she moved here 30 years ago. She and her daughters teach English. We arrived pretty early to the Refugio Bonatti, a relatively new Refugio built in 1998 in the name of a famous Italian climber. Check in time was only 3.30 pm so we sat in the sun taking in the view of Mt Blanc from our 2,025m elevation. Total 12km today. The afternoon was spent chatting to other hikers, drinking hot chocolate and beers in the sun, playing cards and admiring the view. Dinner was a lovely salad with goats cheese then a very lentil and bean soup followed by chicken meatballs with garlic potatoes, a slice of cheese (loving this tradition) and then a dessert that was a bit like a small cheese cake. It was a bit of a rough night all sleeping side by side in the dorm with someone or a few people snoring and me sniffling and blowing my nose. But that’s the way it goes in a refugio!
Mont Blanc Tour Day 6 La Fouly
Day 6 - Refugio Bonatti to La Fouly - Saturday 23-06-18 Everyone was up early creaking around the wooden floors of the Refugio early. Breakfast started from 6.15am. Another perfect cloudless day but quite a bit cooler here due to the altitude and the wind. Standard fare for breakfast then we headed off just after 7am. Quite an easy terrain start to the day leaving Mt Blanc behind us as we travelled along the valley. After about an hour it was down hill to the valley floor and then right back up again into an 860m incline to Grand Col Ferret at 2,537m. This will be our highest pass on the hike. It was cold an windy there as we headed down into the next valley and into Switzerland again waking through many snow fields but down quite a mild incline which would last for around 1,410m. Near the bottom of the incline we dropped in at La Peule a refugio and restaurant that overlooked a dairy farm with the ringing of the cow bells in the background and also a few pigs we could see at this farm. They seemed to specialise in cheese omelettes here that looked delicious but we had already eaten our picnic lunch so we just stopped for a drink. The South Korean group that we keep passing were here and apparently invited us to a Korean dance party in the campsite tonight. Thankfully we have no idea where the campsite is so we can just crash at the end of our 20km walk. After taking the obligatory photos and videos of gorgeous cows with a snowy Swiss mountain backdrop, we completed our journey down the hill on gravel and tar roads and through some meadows of a rainbow of colours into the very quaint Swiss village of La Fouly. We arrived around 2.30 pm. With my cold gaining in strength I thought it would be a good idea to get a single room so my sniffing, nose blowing and coughing did not keep the dorm awake all night at the Hotel Edelweiss which is beautifully situated on the river looking up at the mountains. We are at about 1,610m here. After a shower and the daily clothes washing duties we did a brief tour of the supermarche mainly for cough medicine and throat lozenges but some dried fruit made it into the biodegradable shopping bag too. They make amazing dried fruit in Europe. Dave and I joined the rest of the group on the deck of the Cafe Restaurant de la Fouly which was basically a pizza joint and bar. The Margherita pizza they made here would have to go down as the best or close to the best I’ve ever had. After a beer and a pat of the friendly pizza makers dog, Ralph, the border collie cross German shepherd, I decided it looked like an afternoon to enjoy an Aperol Spritz in the sun. It was Saturday afternoon after all, so the order was placed. Ahhh, it was tempting to have another but someone decided we should be sensible and head back to the hotel (probably Dave :)) to get ready for dinner. Another great day on “TMB”. Stayed at Hotel Edelweiss.
Mont Blanc Tour Day 7 Champex
Day 07 - La Fouly to Champex -Sunday 24-06-18 Something different today. Clouds! Well, we can’t complain we’ve had such an incredible run with the weather. We were on the road around 8am for what is described in our guide book as the easiest stage of the tour. I wish they had not said that, it left us unprepared for the last 1.5 hours uphill over 420m into Champex. There was quite a bit of cussing going on amongst the group. It was still only 15km and took less than 5 hours so it wasn’t bad. Before that it had been a lovely amble along beside the river starting with another cow experience. This time we had to walk through and with a herd. They are so friendly and used to humans it was so sweet - one of them gave Dave’s hand quite a good lick. This region Valais is also where the cow bell that I bought just before the trip comes from. So it was nice to meet some of the local Valais cows. We wandered through some small Swiss villages and open green pastures and had about 10 minutes of light rain. Dave, Josh and I ducked into the only cafe we’d seen today for a hot chocolate and a coffee and but the time we were done the sun was back and the climb up to around 1500m started. Champex is on a green cold lake and our hotel “Splendide” certainly lives up to its name. It is perched over a valley and our rooms have an excellent view. We arrived around 1pm and went into town for lunch. I had the Les Croute, which was like two large crispy toast pieces covered with ham and melted cheese and a fried egg on top. It was delicious. I could have eaten another one. I do love how much cheese features in the Swiss cuisine. We went for a bit of a walk along the lake before heading back to check into our room and have a shower, so some washing and for me to decide by looking up Mr Google that my cold now has left me with step throat. Lovely... I think Dave is quite pleased because it hurts too much to talk he has a very quiet roommate. I stayed in bed resting, reading, salt water gargling, taking ibuprofen and all the other things the world of google tells me to do to recover...at least I had lovely views over Switzerland to gaze over while I lay in bed.
Iceland Self Drive 4x4
Arctic Truck 4x4 Self Drive tour of Iceland
In July 2016 I had an incredible adventure of the wildest parts of Iceland. Over 13 days we would see the most stunning scenery. If you go to Iceland - try and get off the tar road. it is worth it! If you'd like to join this tour try www.selfdriveadventures.com
Madagascar World Self Drive 4x4
Madagascar Self Drive Adventure - World First
In October and November 2017 our Self Drive Adventures business ran the world first commercial tagalong self drive adventure in Madagascar. Mike and I escorted the trip with our local guides Minah and Hans. It was epic! Madagascar is so much more than lemurs and chameleons. 160 million years ago Madagascar split from the African continent to form the fourth largest island in the world. At that time mammals did not even exist (they appeared around 100 million years later), which is why Madagascar is without the typical fauna found on the African continent. Other than bats, that were able to fly from the continent, there is not a single Madagascan mammal species that you can find in any other place of the world. Madagascar is one of the most bio-diverse countries on earth, home to thousands of species of plant and animal life of which about 80 percent cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Even 65 percent of all bird species are endemic to Madagascar. The local ethnic group that forms almost all of the 22 million population are the Malagasy. They only arrived here from Indonesia around 2,000 years ago and now there are 18 tribes of them across the country. The history of has many influences from Arab merchants, Portuguese, French, Dutch and English. As we discovered Madagascar is a perfect self drive adventure destination. We believe we were the first commercial convoy adventure ever to take place here – most of the 4x4 driving done is with a local driver, doing it yourself is almost unheard of. We experienced some interesting but fun ferry crossings, a good bit of sand and dirt as well as tar driving, some on good roads, but many with excellent and large pot holes. If you are interested in joining this trip visit www.selfdriveadventures.com
Ahimbomanga UNESCO world heritage site Madagascar
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is the most significant symbol of the cultural identity of the people of Madagascar. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was enchanting to explore this 19th century Royal City. The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga consists of a royal city and burial site, and an ensemble of sacred places. It is associated with strong feelings of national identity, and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for the past 500 years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere. Ambohimanga is a short but slow drive out of town providing us ample opportunity to take in all the road side stalls that sell everything from food, spare parts, timber yards you name it you will find it. We visited this place as part of our exploratory world first tagalong self drive adventure see more here on this trip www.selfdriveadventures.com
2018 WA Road Trip
Another Pin in the Map WA Road Trip, Video 1: Mike departs
The weeks of planning and preparing came down to the last few tasks on the "to do list". Now the Troopy and trailer are packed, farewells have been said to the dog (and yes, he did give me a kiss and hug goodbye too) and Mike is on his way to to Western Australia. I'll meet him in Perth in around 11 days time.