norway

Camping: Living In A Tent

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In our convenient world of Booking.com, Hostelworld and Airbnb, travelling has been made ever so accessible via the relative ease of finding, booking and getting to your accommodation. We decided to buck this modern trend and spend most of our summer sleeping in a tent!  This piece will give you tips on how you plan your own long term camping trip.  We will also take you through some of our highs and lows from camping across Europe and Asia with our home strapped to our backs.

 

Camping's Technicalities

Firstly, we must discuss size. Ali is 5"3 and Mark a long 6"2, which means we have to distribute the weight between two bags carrying a collective weight of 35kg. Mark carries 18kg and Ali 17kg. Remember, travelling with a tent, tarp and cooking equipment is much heavier than a general backpacking experience where you’ll just carry basic equipment between hostels. When you’re living in a tent in nature there are some barriers you’ll need to consider: ranging temperatures, wind, rain, snow, slopes, dips in the ground, insects, finding water, keeping food fresh and struggling with carrying a heavy bag every day.

Equipment list

Our general advice would be to buy medium to high specification equipment because it will almost always be lighter than the cheaper stuff, it should last longer too. That said most of our equipment is medium end and has performed well across a range of places including Siberia in Autumn. We generally buy our equipment from actual shops so you can check performance and ask questions. Sometimes we go home and buy online when you know which product you want so you can get a better price. 

Turtle travellers

Backpack

Your bag is so important because you’ll use it everyday and it’s the only way to transport your gear around comfortably.  Firstly, you’ll need to be realistic about how much you can carry. Nature can throw many challenges at you so having all the equipment you will need makes for a much heavier bag.  See if you can test the bag in a shop with 20kg of weight to make sure your back is conformable, remember weight should be distributed around your waist rather shoulders. 

Ali has a 60L bag and Mark a 65L, which are both mage by Berghaus. Mark's bag is 8 years old and part from from a few clip snapping the bag has performed well, Bergahuse replace any utility clips free of charge too. Make sure you buy a strong bag with a lifetime guarantee, companies like Berghaus and Osprey will replace parts that break or malfunction. We paid no more than £80 for each backpack and we’ve had very few problems with our bags in this price range. More important than the bag is how you pack it, we have tried so many combinations of setup with the tent on the outside, sleeping bags in bin bags strapped to the top, and neither of those worked. We have come to the following conclusions on packing your bag to avoid backache…

Packing Your Bag

  1. Most modern backpacks have a compartment at the bottom where you should place your sleeping bag, as tightly wrapped as possible, in a plastic bag to protect it from water. Squeeze that in first.
  2. Put your tent in next into the largest bag making sure the length on the tent sits against the bags spine as it will support your back and the structure of the bag.
  3. Squeeze in the smaller items like pots and pans, inflatable mattresses and inflatable pillow around the tent at the bottom of the bag because these are the last things you’ll need later when you set up camp.
  4. Lastly put in the items you will need most at the top of the bag normally clothes, hat and gloves.
  5. Use the side pockets for water and day to day items.

Additional Backpack Items

Always pop into the pound shop and buy the follow items:

Bungee cords - These allow you to attach almost anything to the outside of bag and they are also useful for setting up a mosquito net in a large room.

Utility straps - If you need a stronger, more permanent, connection then utility straps are great.

Gaffa tape - Incredibly useful.  Use it to attach a mosquito net to the wall, fix ripped bags or keep food packaging sealed and fresh. You can fix most things with gaffa tape!

Bin bags - Can be used with gaffa tape to waterproof pretty much anything.

With these items almost anything can be attached to the bag with the weight ideally going upwards rather than outwards, otherwise your bag bounces with every step (Ali put up with this for weeks before using the technique above).

Our Berghaus tent

Our Berghaus tent

Tent 

We have a small lightweight two person tent made by Berghaus which is wind and rain-proof. It fits in the 65L bag, which is a must!  It may be worth taking some extra pegs and a repair kit and always check the season of the tent. We have a 3 season tent which has been suitable to -2 temperatures but this would not give enough protection for cold winter weather. Our tent is small with a tiny porch so we had to find a way of storing all of our equipment in the tent and keep it dry. The solution is to cocoon our backpacks in black plastic bin bags, using the gaffa tape, and leave them outside the main tent in the porch. This gives us more space inside the tent. Our tent is also very quick to put up and take down because of simply designed it is, which is an advantage when there is only a small weather window to escape in.

If you need some detailed help and advice on picking the right tent you won't find a better guide than this one https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/camping-hiking.html

Tarp

After a few weeks of camping we soon realised that when the rain came, and in Norway it definitely did, we didn't have anywhere to sit and relax in the evenings or cook dinner. So we visited Globetrotter in Berlin to pick up a big tarp for extra space. Having a tarp was such a useful item because we could create a large space using our walking poles as stems or by attaching the tarp to trees. With the extra shelter we could prepare all three meals a day without having to worry about any incoming precipitation!  

Gortex Jackets

Gortex Jackets

Jacket

This item should be on any backpackers list because keeping yourself dry when facing the elements should be your top priority. We have Gortex (waterproof and breathable) jackets which, as well as being lightweight, have peaked hoods that keep the structure of the hood in heavy wind and rain. We also opted for windproof jackets, which does exactly what it says. We spent around £80 pp for our jackets with these features but prices can be much higher for insulating linings, thicker materials etc. In our experience it is better to have a light rain jacket that is supplemented by 1+ thinner layers underneath as it's much easier to control your temperature this way. 

 

Day Bag

It can be quite useful to have a smaller day bag that you can wear on your front where you can keep the items you’ll need across the day like your rain jacket, gloves, hat, sprays, sun cream and water. The downside of a day bag is that you’ll probably get a sweaty chest where the bag rests against it. If we are doing a long trek with heavy bags then we’ll attach the day bag to our larger backpack. 

 
It's useful to have a day bag for excursions out of camp

It's useful to have a day bag for excursions out of camp

 

Boots

It’s an imperative that you buy some decent boots because you’ll use them everyday and they will help soak up some of the forces from a heavy bag. They’ll also help you grip on difficult surfaces and most importantly keep your feet dry. Boots come in different season ratings, the higher the rating the less flexible the sole of the shoe is. For example, a 4 season boot is for technical activities like climbing and cold weather so the shoe will not flex at all. We have 2 season Gortex boots that are grippy, waterproof and have some flex in them, which is perfect for trekking. Do some research before you purchase because there are many companies making boots and many different price ranges. We bought our North Face boots in a half-price sale for £60 and they have last for 7 years. Although the waterproofing started to fail us on this trip so we bought a waterproofing spray that brought them back to life, who knew Gortex boots can lose their waterproofing?

Socks and Gloves

If you can afford it buy Merino wool, which can be manufactured into socks, shirts and jumpers but at a high price point. We would certainly recommend Merino wool socks because they have been the only ones to last the whole trip. Literally all the synthetic and cotton socks had holes in after extended use, whereas the Merino wool ones just keep on going. Over time we will buy all of our clothes in Merino wool because they are warm, dry quickly and pick up less smell than synthetics, smelly Mark can attest to this! We also have 3 season gloves that are waterproof and insulating. The waterproofing is really useful but we found them too cold on their own, so we purchased some cheap wool gloves that fit inside the waterproof ones. With two pairs of gloves our hands are toasty, warm, dry and we can still just about operate a camera with them on.

Wild camping on Olkhon Island, Siberia

Wild camping on Olkhon Island, Siberia

Sleeping Bags - The 'comfort zone' will depend on the season you are travelling in, we have 16 to -4 degree bags that compact well. In winter months, you'll need even warmer sacks.

Roll Mats - These insulate you from the cold ground as well making the ground softer. We have self inflating mats that have performed ok, after a few months Mark's started to deflate in the night and his was a £40 mat!   

Inflating Pillows - These have been really useful on the trip because they make sleeping far more comfortable, easy to deflate and store inside the sleeping bag.

Torch / Headlight - When you're camping you'll need light every night. Purchase a decent LED torch / headlight and you won't regret it!

Gas Hob - If you want to make food in the wild then you'll need a hob and gas. We opted for a little fold out hob that can hold a full pan of water.

Camping Gas - A standard 330 gram gas canister can last up to three weeks of 3 meals a day and hot drink at breakfast. 

Pots And Pans - We purchased some Vango pots and pans that slot inside one another to save on space. Both saucepans have lids, and the lid of the larger pan doubles up as a frying pan.  We also use the pans as bowls for eating out of.

Plates, Cups, Sporks - All made of plastic for lightweight storage, we use these daily for our food prep, plating up and hot drinks.

Multi-tool - This is an all singing all dancing penknife with a selection of knives, tin opener, scissors etc.  Multi-tools are relatively heavy so it's worth checking the weight first.

First-Aid Kit - It is important to get this bit right whilst travelling.  Make sure you have a good selection of plasters, antiseptic wipes, syringes, bandages, tablets, gloves, steri-strips, wound pads, mosquito repellent, high factor SPF suncream.

Our camping equipment

Our camping equipment

Sewing Kit - For those quick repairs needed to clothes, shoes and kit. We even used it to fix our tent.

Black Bin Bags - These are very useful in downpours to keep your stuff dry.

Waterproof Liner Bag - essential to go inside your day bag to keep the important bits dry. 

Water Storing Sacks - not essential but we found these helpful for camping and trekking.

Snood - Snoods are useful for extra head warmth, dust, hair bands and come in different togs.

Walking Poles - These are useful for supporting your knees on long treks, without them Mark's knees would buckled from the weight of the bag.

Luxury Item - We always have some Kendal mint cake for a big trip, its pure sugar and the British used it as a sugar boosting snack to get to the top of Everest!

We called this one Pasta and Vegetables 

We called this one Pasta and Vegetables 

Food and Drink

This is perhaps the biggest hurdle; how to keep well stocked when you're in the middle of nowhere? Sometimes we've been lucky and provisions can found a few km away, other times we've had to prepare for days in the wilderness. First you’ll need cooking equipment. Here is what we brought with us: 

Gas stove - with a heat poof stand for a pot, this means you don’t have hold the handle whilst you cook

Gas canister - a 330gram canister normally lasts about 3 weeks for 3 meals a day.

Pots and pans -  That fit neatly inside each other for space saving.

3 Plates (one for prep and two for dining) 

2 Plastic Cups

2 Sporks

1 heat proof cooking utensil

Washing-up liquid and a few sponges 

Pen knife - Useful for preparing vegetables, open bottles etc

Ali preparing vegetables with multitool and prep plate in Bavaria 

Ali preparing vegetables with multitool and prep plate in Bavaria 

Water

Water, the elixir of life. We have two 2 litre pouches that are made from flexible plastic, which makes them easy to fit into bags for storage. 2 litres normally does a days trekking whereas we need both full for prepping dinner, so 4 litres for a whole day of trekking and cooking. These can be filled from fresh streams when you’re near mountains or waterfalls or using taps at a campsite. Always check with a local person to see if the water is safe, if in any doubt purify it. We have met other campers who use water purifying canisters, which we want to get ourselves some day. They can clean any water in a just a few minutes which means you can clean the water as you need it so you needn’t carry heavy excess water. You can also use water purifying tablets to do the same thing, always have these as an emergency backup.

Breakfast

We are big fans of porridge for breakfast because its lightweight before cooking but expands after cooking and fills you up all morning. It can be prepared with water or milk (bit of a luxury) and you can add sugar for flavour, or salt if you're a crazy Scot! This can be washed down with a tea, always the Empirical brits, although we use milk powder rather than real milk. Washing up quickly is key or else the porridge turns to concrete! On luxury days we apply cinnamon, nuts and dried fruit for that extra energy/ protein punch.

Bring tea bags / coffee / milk powder

Rolled oats

Cinnamon

Dried fruit / nuts

Water

Lunch

Out in the countryside we stock up on cereal bars, nuts for protein, chocolate and dried fruit for sugars (fruit can also be put into your morning porridge.) Sometimes we are able to get some real fruit whilst most of our carbohydrate comes in the form of bread for simple carbs, for complex carbs we have to wait for dinner. All these items are light, relatively cheap and packed with energy. There are times when you’ll stumble on a mini mart and we’ll always try and make a sandwich, well we are British after all.

Cereal bars

Nut bars

Crisps

Dried fruit  / nuts

Water

Dinner

This is where we get most creative. Pretty much every meal contains onion and garlic, roughly cut on one of the prep plates using the pen knife. From here we develop sauces using purée (light and flavoursome) and some kind of bean in a can using water and oil to bulk the sauce out. Flavour is added by stealing portions of salt and pepper from McDonald's and we always add some chilli and an exotic spice mix Ali brought from home. If our spirits and bellies are at a low point we’ll try and make something homely like a spaghetti bolognese or curry, but most of the time a simple pasta or rice dish; an army marches on its' stomach they say. If you google camping recipes there are some really neat ideas for one pot dishes. 

Pasta / rice

Puree

Garlic / onion / chile

Olive / vegetable oil

Peppers  / courgette (vegetables that can survive a few dents)

Meat (optional)

Water

We have been able to carry around 5 days of the above out into the wilderness and survive.

BBQ in the wild is a satisfying way to cook, you could always make your own fire in the wild

BBQ in the wild is a satisfying way to cook, you could always make your own fire in the wild

Tips For Living In A Tent

Over three months, we used our tent and camping gear to sleep in campsites and wild camp in Norway, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Siberia and China. More than just the equipment, we would make these recommendations about what we've learnt from long term camping: 

  • Always bring a few light synthetic layers of clothing rather than big, heavy, thicker layers as it gives so much more control of over the temperature of your body.
  • Make sure you have good waterproof layers for when the rain falls, it can be very difficult to get dry. If you're in the wild then you'll need to start a fire to dry your clothes.
  • Bring two pairs of gloves so one fits inside the other, keep your hands warm at all costs.
  • Same for your feet, buy high quality socks because they will smell less, wear slower and keep your feet warmer. We opted for Merino wool.
  • Always keep your head, feet and hands warm to stay safe in harsh environments.
  • Always have emergency snacks and always plan your foods well when you venture into the wild.
  • Use water purifying tablets or boil water for 8 minutes to get safe drinking water in the wild, otherwise buy a water purifying flask, this is on our wish list!
  • Head torches are very useful; midnight toilet trips, evening card games or navigating home after a sunset trek.
  • Buy foods which are dried or dehydrated you will be grateful for a lighter bag!
  • A tarp is incredibly handy for those nights spent in the rain. Otherwise you will have to get inside your tent straight after dinner to keep dry and wait for cabin fever to set in.
  • Always hook you fresh food high up on a tree branch to stop rodents coming near your tent or, worst still, eating your food. 
  • Learn to read the weather, after a few weeks outside with nature you’ll soon be able to spot a rain cloud coming and have your jacket on and ready.
  • Although it's nice to have expensive camping equipment it's only real benefit is size and weight. Most of our equipment is low to medium cost and served us perfectly well in both hot, cold and challenging places. you don’t need to spend a fortune to go camping!
  • Many people across the world survive in very harsh conditions with very little money or technical equipment. Travelling and camping teaches you that human spirit is as key to survival as your equipment is.

When Disaster Strikes...

Camping throws quite a few surprises at you and occasionally a few disasters. Dealing with these are part of the parcel so let us disclose a few camping nightmares. The first occurred whilst wild camping at the base of the Besseggen ridge in Norway’s Jotunheimen national park. We were on the downward path back to camp when intense rain hit and soaked us to the bone. Shoes squelching, socks swimming. We managed to cook some dinner in our porch and got warm by going to bed at 8pm. It rained all night and was still raining in the morning. Everything was soaked so there seemed little point in changing our clothes. We packed down and dragged our sorry souls to a nearby guesthouse. Being slightly cheeky and resourceful we moved into the hotel lounge where they had a roaring fire and many bewildered guests. We dried out everything over the next few hours and learnt a definitive lesson; sacrifice all to stay dry and your camping experience will be far more pleasant.

Sorry to all the paying guest at this hostel

Sorry to all the paying guest at this hostel

Next there was the flooding in Copenhagen, the picture says it all. Just look around at your environment before pitching the tent, just don't put it in the dip in the field like we did. Our tent was actually floating in the pool of water! We had to stay up until 1am drying our clothes, shoes and bag using the campsites hairdryers.  We felt like muppets but learned a valuable lesson about where, or where not, to pitch our tent in the future.

Check out the flooding around our tent

Check out the flooding around our tent

But When It’s Good…

Camping is one the best things you can do to de-stress, connect with the outdoors and experience amazing sights, sounds and live with nature in the moment. There really isn’t a better way to disconnect from your normal life than by getting outdoors. They say just an hour in nature will provide 7 hours of relaxed mental attitude for the rest of day, nature literally heals you! We camped next to the Great Wall of China, which meant we could get up on the wall for sunrise. This would only have been possible by camping so close to the wall. It also meant we had the whole wall to ourselves. These are just some benefits of camping. We hope our advice will inspire you to have your own camping fun. After travelling for a long time it’s safe to say our most memorable nights have been spent in the comfort, or some freezing our asses of in, a tent! 

Sunset on our wild camp in Arshan, Siberia

Sunset on our wild camp in Arshan, Siberia

Have you had some positive wild camping experiences you'd like to share? Got some must have equipment we should all go out and purchase? Where is the best place in the world to camp?

We’d love to hear about your camping experiences so please leave any comments or tips in the box at the bottom of the post.

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Camping - Living In A Tent, By Studio Mali
 

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Must Visit Destinations For Nature Lovers

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We should be honest here, this is a more like a list of our favourite places in the world! A swan song to our most memorable travelling experiences; some are close, some far but all have something in common. They allow the visitor to experience some of natures most unbelievable sights and experiences that can’t be found at home. City breaks they are not but unforgettable they are. Read on to discover Mali’s top pick destinations for nature enthusiasts.


Nepal

Nepal 45 Annapurna.jpg

If you like days and days of walking then there is nowhere in the world better for a trekking holiday than Nepal. If it's your first visit then the perfect destination is the Annapurna circuit, which is world famous for the variety of activities, dynamic landscapes and generations of like-minded backpackers that come here every year. The circuit has everything from a 5 day trek to Poon Hill or enough routes and challenges for a two month trek enjoying the many side routes, lakes and mountain passes, not to mention jungles, the world's highest lake and world's longest pass at 5416 metres above sea level! 

Annapurna isn't always the easiest environment to walk in and much of the circuit is above 3000 metres, which makes it challenging and ultimately, an unforgettable experience. But what makes the circuit easier than most destinations is that it has a long culture of visiting travellers and guesthouses can be found in every village; so there's always hot food, drink and somewhere to rest your head after a long days walking. We have written a piece about preparing for a 3 week trek around the Annapurna circuit here: Coming Soon

If you need some inspiration to urge you to book that flight to Nepal then why not check out our post with 20 photos that will make you want to trek the Annapurna circuit

More information can be found here: Annapurna Tourism Board


Lake Bohinj

Jezero Bohinj, in all its radiant glory

Jezero Bohinj, in all its radiant glory

Europeans looking for sun, lakes and mountains will be happy about Lake Bohinj as it’s easy to get to. Located in the north-west of Slovenia, it's the main entrance to the Triglav National Park. Getting there is easy, just a three hour train from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, then grab the hourly bus to the sparkling Lake Bohinj. We camped at the campsite of the same name and it was one of the best and cheapest camp grounds we have visited in Europe, made all the better by the young traveller-type folks who spoke great English and knew every trek around the National Park. The campsite offers a nice mixture of wild camping, with scenery under the cover of trees but with all the amenities needed to keep you and your cooking equipment clean. The star of the show is the National Park,  which has so many treks to do, rest assured, your legs will be keep very busy. When you need a break from extensive walks, the beautiful lake is the prefect place to unwind, bath and enjoy the company of Slovenian families holidaying there. Lake Bohinj rocks. Need any tips on preparing for a camping trip? Read our blog post on living in a tent.

Lake Bohinj Tourist Information


Jotunheimen National Park

At the top of Besseggen

At the top of Besseggen

This Norwegian National Park includes the countries highest peaks and covers a huge 3,500km. We visited in July and climbed the mighty Besseggen, which is still one of our favourite treks we’ve ever completed. We would later learn that climbing Besseggen is a right of passage for any Norwegian living in the south of the country. The park offers a range of trekking routes and boat journeys across the fjords where one could choose to wild camp, stay in lodges or even in hotels. We met folks who had been walking the mountain paths for weeks, with just backpacks and provisions. Norway is a beautiful place to visit, surely one of the most serene in Europe but it is an expensive place to travel. We have written a guide on how travel through Norway on a budget here. Don’t be put off by the cost as you’ll get to experience unforgettable peaks, fjords, glaciers and even snow during the summer. 

Visit the Jotunheimen National Park in Norway


Gobi Desert

Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi Desert

Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi Desert

Gobi is one of the most extreme places in the world. Swelteringly hot in the summer months falling to the coldest recorded temperatures in the world through winter, we visited in October and felt the icy chill of minus 15! But none of this detracts from how vast and beautiful this dry open wilderness is. In the summer months the dirt tracks to Gobi are busy with adventurous tourists but travel out of season and you will find far fewer people enjoying this bleak dusty steppe. The Gobi highlights are staying in traditional Nomadic gers, meeting Mongolians and sampling their unbelievable hospitality, climbing the epic Khongor sand dunes and riding camels. The minimum amount of days to visit Gobi is 7 and you’ll visit interesting rock formations, White Stupe, Yol Valley and the Flaming Cliffs on the way. If you have more time and money you should explore more of Central Mongolia. Any tour operator can help you choose the right tour for your time and budget. That said, we would whole heartedly recommend Camel Track. For more information on picking a Mongolian tour read our guide here: 

Plan And Survive A Mongolian Tour


Lake Baikal

Shaman rock on Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal

Shaman rock on Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is a hidden in gem in the huge expanse of Siberia. Firstly, it has the interesting historic backdrop of once being part of Mongolia, as such the array of cultures around the deepest lake in the world is an odd mixture of Russian, Mongol and Asian. Shamanic and Buddhist beliefs are deeply ingrained in it’s history and it's people, which makes the lakes attractions and populace spiritual and quite mysterious. Gazing over the lake you’d believe you were on a beach facing the sea not land locked in the largest country in the world! 

Two weeks near the lake will give you ample time to explore Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Olkhon Island and Arshan, not forgetting the many smaller villages near the Mongolian border. Many people choose to wild camp in these places, we can certainly recommend doing that. If you need something a little more civilised there are many hostels, guesthouses and inns to choose from. The most scenic way to get to Irkutsk is by Trans Siberian from Moscow or Trans Mongolian from Ulaanbaator, they take 4 or 1 day respectively. You’ll remember those journeys forever. Otherwise a flight from Moscow or Ulaanbaator is the quickest way in and out of Siberia. Summer will always be busier but the weather is normally, and surprisingly very pleasant, hot even! Read about our experiences here:

Lake Baikal - A Journey Into Shamanic Siberia

Arshan - An Escape To The Siberian Mountains


Torres Del Paine

Peaks in Patagonia

Peaks in Patagonia

There is nowhere quite as remote, grand and wild as the ‘end of the world’s’ Torres Del Paine National Park in the Chilean side of Patagonia. Not so easy to get to and yet still busy during peak season it offers one of the worlds best 4/5 day hikes in the ‘W’ trek. Although found in Chile, the easiest way to access the park from Europe is via Argentina. A cheap trip this is not; an initial flight from Europe to Buenos Aires and a second flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafante gets you to Argentina’s half of Patagonia. You’ll need to catch another 8hr bus to into Chile and then another bus into the park! It took us 39 hours, almost continually, to get there but it was worth every second.  Once in the park it’s just you, nature and a 5 day trek (or longer if you take the ‘O’ route). You can choose between setting up camp each night in the large campsites or stay in refugee dorms. You’ll be trekking up mountains, spotting wildlife, drinking from the fresh streams and cooking outside on a hob. A walk in the park this is not but a beautiful and simple existence this is. There are plenty of other areas to explore in Patagonia; see Puerto Natales, Ushuaia, El Chaltan and Perito Moreno Glacier or just get lost in this foreign landscape of badlands, peaks and guanacos (llamas').  We have listed some useful information on our trip around Patagonia here:

https://studio-mali.com/patagonia/


The Great Wall Of China

Trekking across the Great Wall has been one of our most cherished memories from our travels. We managed to avoid the Chinese crowds by seeking out one of the undeveloped sections of wall. We visited the Jainkou section, which gave us three days of walking routes on the historic wall meeting only a handful of other trekkers. To have a wonder of the world to yourself is as about as amazing as it sounds. The treks themselves are relatively challenging and provide stunning views throughout, the only barriers are getting there and the weather! We have listed all the information you’ll need to get to Xizhazi Village where we started our treks from. In regards to weather mid October is the most reliable, as monsoon season has ended along with China’s annual and national holiday, ‘Golden Week’. Warning, travel in the first week of October at your peril! When you’ve enjoyed the wall for a few days make sure you grab a flight down Kunming on the road to the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

https://studio-mali.com/great-wall-of-china


Tiger Leaping Gorge

Ali facing the mighty Tiger Leaping Gorge

Ali facing the mighty Tiger Leaping Gorge

If you made it to China, love the great outdoors and want to trek one of the worlds most rated routes then get yourself to the deepest gorge in the world. Especially before the government turns it into a fully commercial National, Disneyland, Park. Read our piece on changes in China to understand how beautiful national parks are being ruined. The walk, as it is now, is a raw uncomplicated affair that can be completed over two days. An early start from Lijiang will get you to the parks entrance by 9am. Take the upper route and follow it along the inside of this huge gorge, sandwiched next to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range. The route provides some challenge but the reason to climb is the continuous view of mountains that will rarely leave your sight over the two days. We stayed at the Half Way Guesthouse, the same place Michael Palin stayed whilst making ‘Himalayas’. Dining on pancakes and beer before finishing the route downwards towards Tina’s Guesthouse and the ferocious water at the base of the gorge. We met some great people on way bound by a worship of this amazing trek, stick it on your bucket list.

 https://wikitravel.org/en/Tiger_Leaping_Gorge

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Must Visit Destinations For Nature Lovers, by Studio Mali
 

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Norway: 5 Things To Do In Oslo

Walk on the roof of the Opera House

The Norwegians have an open door policy to exploring nature and climbing mountains, so when the Oslo Opera House was unveiled in 2008 the same concept was to be applied.  Visitors are encouraged to step onto the roof of the building, exploring the various angles, levels and views of the city it has to offer.  The building is modern and slick, finished with a stunning white marble roof that gleams in the daylight.  On sunny days you can sit out on the roof and enjoy a drink, you may even be lucky to see one of the scheduled outdoor plays and concerts that are scattered across the Summer months.  Inside is a performance hall for internationally renowned ballet and opera, you can find out all details of upcoming shows on their website.....

www.operaen.no

The Oslo Opera House

 

Explore the Ekebergenparken

This stunning sculpture garden is situated up in the forest about half an hours walk from the city centre.  From there you can see panaramic views of Oslo, and there is plenty of green space to get lost in for hours.  The individual sculptures are dotted around the park, and are mostly contemporary in style by world renowned artists. Expect to see work from Damian Hirst, Salvador Dali, Sarah Lucas and James Turrell.  Entry is free and the park is open day and night.  This is a perfect place to have a picnic, go for a run or just to relax in on a summers day.  We only saw a very small amount of the park on our visit to Oslo but it's somewhere we would like to come back to if we are ever in Oslo again.  If you are into contemporary sculpture rather than classic then we would recommend this park over the Vigepark.

www.ekebergparken.com

 
Ekebergparken Sculpture Park
 

 

Get Immersed in Contemporary Art 

Overlooking the Fjord, the Astrup Fearnley Museet is a private contemporary art gallery designed by world renowned architect Renzo Piano (the guy who designed the Shard).  The gallery is complete with a modern sculpture garden, indoor/outdoor cafe, trendy shop and it makes a lovely setting for a read on a sunny afternoon.  There are two parts to the building; the permanent collection which specialises in art from 1960s to the present day including European and American pop art, post-modern appropriation art from 1980s and contemporary international art, and the temporary collection which changes every couple of months.  We saw the 'Chinese Summer' exhibition on our visit which was work from the first generation of Chinese artists in the 1980s who rejected traditional formal appoaches to making art.  There were definitely some interesting pieces in there which were thought provoking, and so we would recommend coming here to check out one of the shows.  Both the permanent and temporary galleries are included in the ticket price, and discount is offered to students with a valid ID card.  The gallery is closed on Mondays.

www.afmuseet.no

Zhang Ding in the Chinese Summer Exhibition

Zhang Ding in the Chinese Summer Exhibition

 

Get Nobel at the Peace Centre

A visit to the Nobel Peace Centre is a couple of hours well spent.  The museum is home to the internationally renowned Nobel Peace prize awardees and their work, and it tells the story of Alfred Nobel who founded the peace prize.  The centre aims to foster engagement and thought on challenging topics such as war, peace and conflict through a series of permanent and temporary exhibitions.  The shows are extremely well curated and interactively displayed which makes for a thought-provoking experience.  We were lucky enough to see a show on this years Nobel Peace prize winner President Juan Manuel Santos and the Colombian people, and 'Detours' which is a temporary exhibition showing the stories of people displaced by war.  Students get a good discount, as do families and seniors.  Children under 16 go free. Visit the website here for more details....

www.nobelpeacecenter.org

 

Admire the Barcode

Those who love modern architecture will be blown away by the slick geometric design of the Barcode Project by the Bjørvika waterfront in central Oslo.  The Barcode consists of 12 high-rise buildings which are differently proportioned in width and height, giving the illusion of a Barcode from afar.  The space in between each building has been cleverly curated for public use and includes gardens, bike lock-ups, seating and outdoor restaurants, and importantly allows in light to the street behind.  Each building has been designed by a different architectural firm, making each one have its own individual character and quirks.  Walk along Dronning Eufemias Gate to admire them up close, nipping into each side street as you go, and then cross over Nylandsvien bridge to admire them from the front.

www.barcodeoslo.no

 
The Barcode Project
 

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Norway - 5 Things To Do In Oslo, by Studio Mali
 

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Norway Video

We spent the two weeks travelling around Norway by coach, train and foot. See our adventures through the Jotunheimen National park, the Western Fjords, the Nigardsbreen Glacier and the capital, Oslo.

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Norway: Sculpture in Oslo

In one of the most design-led cities in the world, there is sculpture to be found on every corner and the best thing about it is that it's free to see.  Just walk around, open your eyes and enjoy what the city has to offer.  Make sure you check out around the Astrup Fernley Museum of Modern Art, the Vigeland Sculpture Park, in between the buildings of the Barcode area and the Ekebergparken Sculpture Park.

Take a look at some of the sculpture in the city.....

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Norway: Eplet - Paradise on the Fjord

 

Our visit to Eplet came from a dear friends recommendation, so we already knew a little about this hidden treasure before arriving. We travelled from Lom via local bus (this took around 3 hours) waiting patiently until we heard the call for Galden. From here a downward 3km walk was required to find the hostel nestled in the beautiful fjordside town of Solvorn. Boasting above average temperatures and microclimate that makes it perfect for growing produce; Solvorn is a little paradise.

 
 

Eplet has space for around 15 averagely sized tents with ample facilities for all the camper's needs at 110 Nok / £11 per person per night. Whilst over in the main building there are over eight rooms for those in need of hard walls and warm beds. For those that require a little hybrid of B&B and camping, two yurts are available with bedding supplied. The site is beautiful, we woke every morning to the misty summit across the fjord, the mountain changed hourly as the weather see-sawed between wind, rain and shine. 

Solvorn from a tent

Agnethe and Trond were great hosts; super friendly and full of great tips for making the most of local area. We stayed for 5 days and we only scratched the surface of what the Sognefjord has to offer.  What we found really inspiring is how they ran both an eco hostel and a successful fruit juice business at the same time. Supporting them were a team of teenagers from across Europe who tended to the groves; picking fruit for the Eplet juices 8 - 5 everyday. Victorian, maybe, but it was great to see young people in and around nature and loving it.  

 
 

Eplet grow much of their own produce. A really neat touch was their 'weeding for free vege' idea. Guests were able to take a some organically grown vegetables from their grow boxes in return for five minutes weeding. We took a courgette and lettuce and popped it into out nightly pasta dinner, the fresh vegetables was greatly appreciated! Running relatively wild were four 'happy' sheep, free range chickens supplying eggs and acres of raspberries, apples & pears grown to make the juice, they press 15,000 litres of the stuff each year. We tried the raspberry juice and it was delicious, an energy boost that can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Weed for feed

Weed for feed

There are many activities to get involved in and around the Sognefjord. The first day we chilled in Solvorn and took two coastal walks in the morning and evening, the fjord almost looked tropical in the evening sun (see photo).

Sognefjord

 

The next day we upped the ante and cycled towards the tallest mountain in the area, Molden. To get there we had to endure an hours uphill cycle, poor Ali's little unprepared legs were suffering, as you can see from the speed of her manoeuvres in the video.

The top of Molden provided some excellent views and meant we had a downhill cycle most of the way home. This allowed us to try out our first bit of off road mountain biking down a muddy rocky track, exciting and scary.  We also voyaged out on the bikes the next day, by ferry across the fjord to the Unesco site of Urnes. Here we found Norway's oldest Stave church, an epic wooden structure built in the 13th century. This church is special for defining the rise in Stave architecture which can now be found all over Norway's churches. 

 
 

Further along the Sognefjord, the second longest waterfall can be found. Although we misfired and stopped at a smaller sibling waterfall (stopping 5km too early!). We heard from the other guests that it was pretty special, I think we'll have pop back one day to see it ;-). Here is a photo of us by the smaller one. LOL!

Lastly a trip to the Nigardsbreen Glacier is a worthy excursion, billed as the mostly accessible glacier in the world it offers walking routes, boat journeys and actual trips onto the ice with crampons etc. We got rained on pretty heavily but seeing the huge mass of a glacier is something everyone needs to see.

 
 

Surrounded by beautiful scenery it was very easy chilling in the hostels relaxed spaces; cue Skandi furniture, ambient jazz and a steady internet connection from which to write this piece.

 
 

As with everywhere in Norway, getting places takes time and includes many buses but Eplet was definitely worth the journey.  If you would like more detailed information then you can visit their website here.

 

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Norway - Eplet - Paradise On The Fjord, by Studio Mali
 

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