Published by Johnny Ward on April 23, 2012
Wherever we go in Italy, we see that most people choose to travel around the city or to nearby places by scooter or motorbike. This is definitely a Mediterranean trait, since it happens in most southern European countries. However, in Italy this is accentuated, Italians are crazy about motorbikes, just as we can see every year at the Mugello circuit for the MotoGP Grand Prix.
Italy is a country obsessed with racing. Whether it’s cars or motorbikes, the Italians go crazy for any kind of motorsport and they show all that passion for it at the home Grand Prixs of each sport, mostly Formula 1 and motorbikes. However, with motorbikes it’s a bit different than with cars because with Formula 1 and expensive cars, such as Ferraris, Maseratis and to a lesser extent Alfa Romeos, Fiats and the tragically-defunct Lancias, most Italians, like most mortals, cannot afford such luxuries and choose the motorbike as their way to get around the city. Motorbikes and scooters are a cheap transport and also a very convenient one, since they don’t use much fuel and can get you through the chaotic Italian traffic.
As soon as you walk out of the door of your Florence apartments, you see an infinite row of bikes on the pavement, which makes one think it’s impossible for the owner to find their own. Motorbikes, as we said, are convenient for traffic and we’ve all seen either on an advert or in real life those pesky Italian scooters zig-zagging their way through traffic. In Mediterranean countries, especially Spain and Greece, motorbikes and scooters are perfect because not only do they give you that freedom that the car doesn’t but they are also a perfect transport for the hot weather, so that you’re not stuck in a hot car waiting in a traffic jam. Because also many of the streets are very narrow, scooters can get through there easy and, probably most importantly, parking them isn’t a problem.
In Florence, because so many streets are one-way or pedestrianised, cars are not allowed to go there but since rules are often bent in southern Europe, people on motorbikes can easily go through there and hope that a policeman doesn’t catch them. As they say in Italian, the motorino is a way of life, a way of living the city and one that we recommend that all tourists who visit Italian cities, especially Florence, experience by renting one.
However, all of this passion for motorbikes comes to its highest point in the summer, just a few miles from Florence, in the small town of Mugello. The Italian MotoGP Grand Prix takes place every year at the Autodromo del Mugello, which is one of the most famous circuits around the world and considered one of the hotbeds of motorcycling, along with Jerez in Spain and Assen in Holland. Italians have always had great motorcycle riders, such as the great Giacomo Agostini, Loris Capirossi, Luca Cadalora, Max Biaggi and most recently and probably most importantly, the great Valentino Rossi, 9-time World Champion. Not only is Mugello one of the most exciting tracks of the season but the one where all Italian motorcycle fans come from all over Italy and show their support, either for Rossi or for Ducati, the Italian manufacturer, who Rossi joined in early 2011.
This year’s Italian GP will take place at Mugello on the 15th of July so get your tickets fast because they will sell out! The roar of the motorbikes and the crowd make this a unique event in the world and even if you’ve never been to a motorbike Grand Prix before, this is an amazing experience that exemplifies perfectly the passion of the Italian people.
Italians and motorbikes go together hand in hand so rent apartments in Florence and see it for yourself!
Tags: florence, sport
Published by Johnny Ward on March 04, 2012
Hawaii is a surfer’s wet dream. It’s golden sand and babe-jammed beaches are pounded by waves of epic proportions all year round and from all directions. There’s no such thing as ‘off-season’ – the end of one merely signals the start of another, the only thing changing being the side of the island with the most breaks. Moreover, the 50th state is the acknowledged birthplace of the sport and has hosted a record number of World Championships. It simply doesn’t get any wetter better.
Even if you’re not a surfer you’d be forgiven for getting over excited. Just watching the Pros hurl themselves into the death-defying whitecaps is a mind-blowing experience in itself. Though if you’ve come this far then you may as well surf – it’s an awfully long way to come just to sit on a beach and sip a cocktail. Luckily, there is invariably something for surfers of all levels on Hawaii. So cough up, buckle up, check in to your Hawaii vacation rental and grab a board. Things are going to get rather damp…
The chief island of the scattered archipelago is probably the most tame in comparison, so is ideal for absolute beginners. The top spots are Pine Trees, a laid-back breaker just south of Nelha, and Ke’ei Beach, a secluded and small swelling ride that is often overlooked.
As the windiest island of the archipelago, Maui, and in particular the aptly named Jaws and Hookipa surf spots to the north, can whip up the most jaw-dropping groundswells when conditions are right. Some reach heights so staggering that surfers have to be towed into them by jet-ski. This, needless to say, is not an ideal environment for a beginner, though is definitely worth a watch. Head over to West or South Maui instead, where Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kihei provide less intimidating surges.
This is where it all started. ‘Duke Kahanamoku’, whose bronze statue welcomes surfers to Waikiki Beach today, introduced the sport to the world in the early 20th century. Since then, surfing has become the most popular watersport in the world, and Oahu, is the jewel in the crown. One glance at the colossal rollers on the north shore during winter will reveal why. Banzai Pipeline, Sunset and Waimea Bay, for example, sometimes see waves of up to 100ft and are tackled by only the most harebrained aficionados.
The South shore is more beginner-friendly. Waikiki Beach itself and in particular, Canoes, where the Duke allegedly reached the end of his legendary mile-long ride, offer swells of a much more agreeable nature during the winter months (in the summer it is less forgiving). However, these spots are rarely without crowds in owing to this.
If you’re looking to escape the hordes, then perhaps Kauai wouldn’t be a bad idea. Most of the island’s surf tends to happen on the pristine and phlegmatic Hanalei Bay. Here, surfers can expect to ride swells of all sizes, though again, as a northern shore spot, learning conditions are better during the Summer months. Poipu is a tamer choice if you’re over during the winter, and Kalapaki and Shipwreck Beach are also worth checking out.
Lessons are generally costly at around $90 for a two-hour session, but whether you’ve come on a whim, a honeymoon, an all-expenses paid trip or a raft made of sticks, surfing in Hawaii is just something that you absolutely have to do. It’s basically the law.
Tags: beaches, hawaii, sport, surfing
Published by Johnny Ward on February 11, 2012
After climbing Kilimanjaro, checking out Mount Fuji, hiking up Mount Kinabalu and trekking to Everest base camp, I’m starting to get a thing for mountains, so the next one I’ll be taking on is Mount Teide in Tenerife, Spain in the summer. At 3718m (more than 12,000 feet) Mount Teide is Europe’s highest volcano (the world’s third) and Spain’s highest mountain and it’s a UNESCO world heritage site too, let’s have a look at climbing Mount Teide:
When’s the best time to climb Mount Teide?
Before and after summer is best but you can climb it all year round. April – May and September and October are the best months.
In the winter, snow is pretty likely, from November until March the higher slopes are snow-covered, while in the summer it can be scorching hot
How long does it take to climb Mount Teide?
One long hard day. Generally speaking, people leave early in the morning and try to get to the top by sunrise, if that’s too much of a nightmare, you can casually stroll up late afternoon and when you reach the refuge of Altavista, (3,270m), you can sleep there, set your alarm for the next morning, have a quaint night climb for the last section and get a wonderful sunrise on the mountain.
Note: you’ll have to book your accommodation in advance ($30 per night)
How much does it cost to climb Mount Teide?
There is no fee BUT you do need a permit. So 8 days before you do it, email email@example.com and get your permit first. Or a permit for the summit can be obtained from the national park office in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Emilio Calzadilla 5; open 9am-2pm; take a copy of your passport too.
Sunrise from Mount Teide
Do I have to be fit to climb Mount Teide?
You don’t have to be a marathon runner, but it’s a bit of a hike. It takes 5-8 hours to hike up, you start at 2300m and carry on to the summit at 3718m, where the oxygen level is only 50% of what you’re used to. Frankly, if you’re unfit you can still do the climb, just give yourself most of the day to do it.
What about the cable car?!
So you heard about the cable car huh? Ok, you can take the 8 min cable car to near the top of $32 USD return, but you wouldn’t wanna cheat though, would you?! If you do take the cable car, you’ve still got an hours hike to reach the summit.
Where is Mount Teide?
It’s in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, off to the coast of Morocco. You can easily get cheap flights to Tenerife. Once your here, you can book with your hostel to do the climb or take the one bus a day from Puerto de la Cruz (number 348) and Playa de la Americas (342) run to Teide. Both leave at 9.15am and return at 4pm.
Tags: activity, canary islands, mountain climbing, sport, tenerife
Published by Johnny Ward on February 02, 2012
The United States presents people with tons of opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. As you travel around the country, you will find many things to do throughout the year that will give you memories that last the rest of your life. For film buffs, check out the many film festivals across the country. Sports fans can look into things like the super bowl. Music buffs can go to a variety of music festivals. Each of these experiences are an opportunity of a lifetime that you don’t want to miss.
Sundance Film Festival
Each year the Sundance Institute puts on a Sundance Film Festival in Utah. It is one of the most popular independent film festivals in the country. People travel across the entire United States to attend this event and see the movies it showcases.
Every year, the top two football teams face off in the game of the year. Many houses around the country gather around the television with popcorn, chips and dip, and sodas. It’s a huge party throughout the country once a year. But it wouldn’t be much of a game if there weren’t any spectators in the stand. Bypass all the parties this year and head to ground zero: the game itself.
While the Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year for football fans, hockey fans flock to the Stanley Cup each year. A group of teams from the National Hockey League standoff against each other in a playoff. The top two teams from the playoff rounds go head to head for the Stanley Cup. Attending this game is the hockey equivalent of going to the Super Bowl. It’s a great experience for any hockey fan. You may be used to cheap goalie pads & equipment, but these pros will show you how it’s done.
Southwest by Southwest
If you’re into film and music, consider going to Austin, TX for the largest music festival in the country. South by Southwest lasts approximately 10 days and features Interactive entertainment, music and film across the duration of the conference. It happens in the middle of March and attracts people from all over the world. Celebrities and industry power players all come to this event, as well as music fans from all over the country.
It’s important to go out there and live life the way you want. Make memories and enjoy the opportunities you get. If there’s something that you want to do, make it happen. Remember, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities may only come around once.
Published by Johnny Ward on February 02, 2012
Traveling the world is a awesome, traveling the world and watching football (soccer to you yanks) is even better. I’m a massive football fan and whether it’s pretending to be a scout at a Kenyan premier league game (long story) or watching Spain win the World Cup in the stadium in South Africa, I always have an eye out for my next footy experience. For all footy-loving travelers, these 5 games should be on your list too:
Superclásico, Buenos Aries, Argentina: Boca Juniors vs River Plate
Like all intense rivalries this transcends merely football. The hatred stems from more of a socio-economic tension where River Plate are seen as the rich boys from the nice side of the city and Boca, Mardonna’s team, are the working class heroes. The stadiums literally wobble when the crowd get going, especially at Boca’s stadium. This is my number one football bucket list event.
The Istanbul Derby, Istanbul, Turkey: Galatasary vrs Fenerbahce:
Possibly the fiercest derby of all them all. These two giants split the city with Galatasary being on the European side and Fenerbahce on the Asian side. Turkish fans are known for being, ahem, ‘passionate’ and on game day expect flares, missiles and the odd spot of violence. If your backpacking, don’t pick a side and don’t wear one of the shirts. Stay neutral and soak it up.
The Old Firm Derby, Edinburgh, Scotland: Rangers vrs Celtic
One of the oldest derbies in the world, this one is particular explosive thanks to the religious connotations each side carries with Celtic a famous Catholic team and Rangers a famous Protestant side. It was only in the last 15 years or so that players of opposing religions would even sign for the other side! Don’t wear anything blue or green on this day guys!
El Classico, Madrid, Spain – Real Madrid vrs Barcelona
Perhaps the two most famous teams in the world play in El Classico each season to a backdrop of political confrontations. Not really a derby as one is in Madrid and the other in Barcelona, this game is often the most watched match on the planet each season. It’s intensified due to the fact that each side has opposing political positions (Spanish and Catalan nationalism) so that cranks the atmosphere up another notch. With so many cheap holidays in Spain, this is one of the easiest to access.
Luis Figo transferred between the two teams, on his first appearance in the El Classico, someone threw a pig's head at him!
The Fla-Flu, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: Flamengo vrs Fluminese
Each derby is played at unofficially the biggest football stadium in the world, the iconic Maracana, where it’s record attendance was said to be 200,000!! Flares and banners are rife, as unfortunately is violence but it’s a football spectacle, that’s for sure.
These are all on my bucket list, even if it takes me a lifetime I’ll see all these games for sure! Happy travels!
Tags: football, soccer, sport
Published by Johnny Ward on November 24, 2011
Backpacking in so many obscure countries, it never fails to amaze me how often I see places advertised to play golf. Even bang in the city centre of Bangkok there’s a huge golf course, but it gets a lot more obscure than that. I was trying to sort out a visa for Iran and what do I see, bloody google ads for golf in Iran. So I decided to choose the 5 weirdest places you can play golf:
1) Kabul, Afghanistan.: Probably not high on the list of peoples countries they want to visit, but a golfing opportunity no less. The Kabul Golf Club is up by the Karga Dam and their 18 holes require you to play 9 wholes but twice! They have a grand total of 2 sets of clubs available for hire but in fairness, demand isn’t great so you’re luck will most likely be in.
Highlights of the course, after teeing off on the first hole, include a bombed-out army barracks, the lack of any fairways, greens that are actually black (made from a mixture of sand and oil) and a collapsing clubhouse with no walls. Green fees are about $10.
Not sure if 'gulf' is a spelling error or just a very witty sign
2) Pyongyang, North Korea: Never one to let their southern, golf-mad brothers out do them, the North Koreans have a full 18 hole golf course outside their capital. Amazingly, Kim Jong Il opened the course by shooting a ‘world record 38 under par on his first ever round of golf, including 11 hole-in-ones. Almost unbelievable. Almost.
3) Ushuaia, Argentina: The southernmost course in the world at 54.8 degrees south, just above Antarctica, this should have the title of coldest golf course in the world. It’s not exactly pretty but it will give you bragging rights over your golfing friends, that’s guaranteed. And while their tagline might have lost a bit in translation, it’s probably pretty apt “No sophistication, just nature!”
4) Uummannaq, Greenland: Home to the World Ice Golf Championships, the entire course is laid on gigantic icebergs and rounds of golf are played in subzero temperatures. The rules remain the same as regular golf although the course is a little shorter, the holes a little larger, the ball is orange and the green is white.
5) Mount Merapi, Indonesia: he Merapi Golf Course is one of the most unusual courses in the world. The course has breathtaking views and is one of only a handful of courses where golf is played next to an active volcano – although the course architects are yet to include lava hazards.
For any golfing fanatic, these 5 places should take up the next 5 to 10 years of your life planning a safe trip to. Should they be a little out of your comfort zone, check out http://www.golfnow.com for a few more accesible courses! Happy travels!
Tags: sport, top 5
Published by Johnny Ward on October 18, 2011
Home to the colossal Rocky Mountain Range, it’s no surprise that the ski resorts of Canada are among the best in the world. But this vast expanse of land sees its world renowned ski destinations stretch right across the country, from Banff National Park in the west, to Mont Tremblant in the east. The choice is endless for skiing in Canada so, to make your decision a little easier, we’ve put together this list of the top 4 ski resorts. Now all you have to do is get the best Canadian exchange rate, and learn how to master those slopes.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Since the 1990’s, Whistler Blackcomb has been frequently voted as one of the top ski resorts in North America by leading ski magazines and, at almost 50% bigger than its main competitor and home to over 200 runs, it’s easy to see why. When you’ve finished with the 8000 acres of terrain, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Rest you’re legs in the relaxing spa, enjoy the culinary delights of the many restaurants, or party the night away at the clubs and bars in the pedestrian-only base village.
Banff National Park, Alberta
With a range of terrains to suit skiers at all levels – as well as spectacular scenery and a dramatic setting – Banff is among the most popular resorts in the country. There are a several ski schools located here offering activity programs for people of all ages, including the Tiny Tigers Ski and Play program which is designed to introduce little ones to the slopes.
Kicking Horse Resort, British Columbia
Boasting the fourth highest vertical drop in North America, Kicking Horse is surrounded by the soaring peaks of Selkirk and the Rockies. In recent years, the resort has become well known for heli-skiing. This extreme sport sees skiers dropped from a helicopter onto slopes which are otherwise inaccessible by lifts. If you’d prefer something a little tamer, there’s a skating rink, great bars and restaurants, and tubing for the kids.
Mont Tremblant Resort, Quebec
This relatively new resort is situated in the Laurentian Mountains and is the best known ski destination in east Canada. With over half the slopes classed as ‘expert’ on the difficulty level, this resort isn’t recommended for beginners. However, if you’re a pro on the pistes, you’ll love Mont Tremblant, thanks to 95 runs, 14 state of the art lifts and over 600 acres of ski and snowboard trails.
With working holiday visas giving you guys the chance to visit this awesome country, go and get a ski season under you belt and live the dream. Happy travels!
Published by Johnny Ward on August 04, 2011
Ok, so your friend spent a ski season in whistler, or your cousin goes to the Swiss alps every year. I’m sure it was great, and I’m sure you were joined by tens of thousands of other skiers in the process, if you’re feeling the urge to get off the beaten track a little – check out these 9 obscure ski destinations for a whole new ski experience:
Lebanon: A double whammy here – first off, yes Lebanon does have a great ski resorts and amazing luxury ski holidays. Secondly, and perhaps more enticingly for our male readers, each year, at the Middle East’s largest ski resort Faraya, they run annual ski season lingerie shows! Where middle eastern hotties parade up and down a very chilly catwalk, not that’s value for money. The Lebanese ski season runs from December to April.
Afghanistan: Yes, Afghanistan. You may have heard of Bamiyan before, the sight of 2 huge Budhha statues carved into the cliff face infamously blown up by the Taliban in 2001, well it’s much safer now and since 2010 the slopes have opened to tourists. Skiing in Afghanistan, don’t expect any all inclusive holidays here, no lifts or paroles at all. Accommodation is primitive and access to the area is via flight to Kabul and an 8 hour bus, but what a destination to ski at! Well worth the effort, and it’s certainly gone straight on my bucket list. You can be one of the 730 foreigners who made this trek last year!
Lesotho: Prounced Less-oot-too, the tiny landlocked African country must be the most obscure of all global skiing areas. From June to September each year with a bit of luck and some decent snow fall you can join the other 3000 people who make this crazy journey. I wouldn’t go as far to say that there is an option for a luxury ski holiday here, but if you’re willing to rough it you’ll get a real treat! Tell your mates you went skiing in southern Africa during the summer and they’re more likely to disbelieve you than be amazed, but you know it’s true, that’s enough
India: It’s not all chapattis and 40 degree heat in this fascinating country. Head into the contested area of Kashmir to Gulmarg and you’ll see some of the world’s highest peaks (you are in the Himalayas after all!). The highest, and most testing slopes, are serviced by a single gondola, picking people up at the already high attitude of almost 9,000 feet and dropping them around 13,000+ feet – this is to be attempted by only the most skilled skiers and snowboarders, you’ll be on your own up there.
Bolivia: We’re facing a race against time here guys, the Chacaltaya glacier is melting exponentially and the snow is running out! However, Bolivia’s only sky resort, at 5000m, plays host to the highest ski slope in the world, bragging rights in the bag for sure. Summer skiing has gone for good now, so plan your visit from November to March
U.A.E: You can’t fault Dubai for lack of ambition, a huge ski centre in the middle of the desert is quite an impressive feat indeed! Ski-Dubai offers year round skiing in the Middle East, complete with an area to build snowmen and have a snow fight, quite remarkable
Morocco: Skiing in Africa is still a strange concept to many but the ski market in Morocci is thriving. Home to the highest luxury ski resort in Africa (3000m up in the Atlas mountains) it comes complete with lifts, hotels and all the plush extras you’d expect from any luxury ski holiday at a French or Swiss outfit. Morocco really is home to best of Africa’s luxury ski holidays, with ski trips easily arranged from destinations like Agadir in the foothills of the Atlas mountains.
Hawaii: Skiing in Hawaii, on a volcano – sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? Well it is! The peak of the mountain is literally the best place in the world to see the stars, hence it being home to the Mauna Kea Observatory, the largest astronomical observatory in the world, operated by 11 countries. However, there are no lifts, no ski patrol and no official maps but every time the snow falls, expert skiers flock to this place.
Israel: The Mount Hermon ranges straddles Syria, Lebanon and Israel so as well as being an obscure destination, it’s probably also one of the most politically unstable. On your way to the Hermon Ski Resort you drive passed cordoned-off mine fields, from the resort you can see the Israeli Defense Force’s observation post, complete with their special Alpine unit. Certainly one of the more politically charged skiing areas you’re ever likely to visit :S
These destinations should get your heart racing at a few extra beats per minute. You’ll certainly have a few interesting stories to tell after a flight to Kabul or Kashmir, and if after a week or so slumming it you may well feel the need to check out some all inclusive holidays, but that’s ok – you’ll have definitely earned it! Happy travels!
Tags: list, ski, sport
Published by Johnny Ward on April 18, 2011
I love Malaysia, I really do. I just spent a great weekend with some awesome Malaysian friends in Kuala Lumpur, we went to the Formula 1 Grand Prix together – the qualifying session on the Saturday and the race proper on Sunday. I know there’s a lot of money kicking around in the motor sport world and I always thought I’d never fork out all that cash for a sport that I don’t have a true passion for, and then the beauty of backpacking kicks in….
So I have some truly great friends in KL, ones who keep me posted on cheap air asia flights and any other promos running in the area – this one was a real gem! They booked me us the cheapest tickets available for the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, on a 50% early bird discount so it cost me the grand total of 30RM, approximately $10 USD. That gave us the full 3 day pass (I attended two days) and what a great few days it proved to be. The girls were kind enough to let me stay with them for the whole trip too so this really was a bargain and a half.
Information about the Malaysian Grand Prix
DATES: Normally the second or third race of the season, so around April each year
COSTS: Anything ranging from 30RM ($10 USD, my ticket!) to 11,000RM ($3600 USD). If you want the promo fares you need to book early, failing that you can turn up on the day and get a seat on the grass for a very reasonable 60RM ($20 USD)
LOCATION: The Sepang International Circuit, Sepang. The track is only a stone’s throw from Kuala Lumpur airport so you can connect directly with regular shuttle buses running every 30 mins (5RM, $2). If you’re staying in the city, the track is about 50k from there – you can take numerous buses from KL Sentral for around 8RM ($3) direct to the track, they take about an hour. Or you can take a taxi from the city for around 100RM ($33) which is not a bad option if you have 4 people in your group.
WHERE TO SIT: There are a lot of areas to choose from – the cheapest ticket will give you access to area C3 which is on one of the largest corners, the shape of the track means that the ‘cheap’ seats give you views of 2 sections of track, more bang to your buck there. The cheap seats aren’t actually seats, you simply plunk yourself on the grassy bank – the weather is generally 30 degrees+ but with the crazy Malaysian weather, rain is a distinct possibility, bring sun screen and an umbrella (I brought neither and got sun burnt and soaked, good move Johnny!).
If this $10 experience doesn’t represent the beauty of international travel then I don’t know what does. For the price of a subway meal I got to watch world champion Sebastian Vettel give a masterclass in F1 driving, managed to see a certain Michael Shumacher race in the flesh and, through a friend in Bangkok, got VIP tickets to the FI Johnnie Walker party thrown in too – what a weekend! Malaysia is surprisingly inexpensive, so a trip here could prove to be one of your cheapest holidays yet!
Tags: cheap travel, kuala lumpur, malaysia, sport