Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Long Awaited Road Trip | Episode 2 - Italy

Click here for Episode 1 

Germany and Austria: Covered! Now, off to Italy to went...

Day 3 of le road trip | Monday, 15th August, 2016

          The journey was long; everyone was tired with the occasional dozing off during the 3-hour long drive, well, except for Anup and myself. The driver didn't have the luxury of sleeping and as for Anup, whom I have introduced you to before, he had his own paranoiac reasons. When I encouraged him to sleep he replied, “Bro, if I close my eyes, I might not wake up. Who knows what’ll happen.” That was a kick of confidence boost for me. Thanks Anup.
After a while, I pulled over at a small service station to stretch my legs and get myself a cold drink. I asked everyone if they wanted anything from the shop. Manish was fast asleep so, being the good friends we are, we nudged him, and with his eyes half open/shut, he said “Cheese”One of the most random moments, hahaha .

        It took about 4 hours when we finally reached Lake Garda. Within these few hours we witnessed the transition in our surroundings from the luscious green of nature to terraced golden fields and then bursts of vineyards. The whole ride seemed familiar and nostalgic, as some parts resembled my village back in Nepal.

            Regrettably, these are the only photos I have of Lake Garda, which I took from my phone.
            Around 4pm, we reached Lake Garda and the lake was freaking huge! We were planning to swim in the lake and again, my good friend, Anup said. “Bro, this isn't a lake, it’s a freaking sea. I will not be swimming in this.” Which to be honest I did understand as the magnitude of that lake is just huge. So, we decided to hire a boat to explore and find somewhere suitable to swim anyway.
The level of excitement was high with anticipation of good times, especially for Manish. There is this where the story of Manish and his boats comes along. Whenever there is a boat involved anywhere, his level of enthusiasm goes off the roof. Not long ago, we bought an inflatable boat for our camping trip which was only used once. No one knows where that boat is now.

        Anyway, with hopes and excitement, we started to walk towards the lake. Boy O boy! The whole shore was jam-packed with tourists and to make matters worse, all the boats were booked. Although disappointed, we tried not to let that ruin our holiday, Manish, on the other hand, was not having it. He wanted a boat! So he went for a boat hunt, asked almost each and every vendor on our side of the lake yet, he couldn't find a single available boat. This place was super busy.

        After all the swimming and sunbathing, we were pooped. As for dinner, Sumit and I decided on steak burgers and Manish and Anup picked some random dishes from the Italian menu. It was a gamble for them (because we don't know any Italian) and Manish felt victim for having oysters only. 
We bought some wine and some banana alcohol…yes, banana alcohol (which no one liked) and had our dinner overlooking the lake. One would really like this ambience. Drinking with a group of friends, enjoying the view of the grand lake and chatting about random things... but it was short lived.
Manish and Anup now wanted to go on the lively part of the lake. They even asked me to drive them there, while we were drinking alcohol. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friends for their consideration.


Day 4 | en route to Cinque Terre, Italy: Cinque Terre, I have always wanted to witness the beauty and culture of this little village with my own eyes. It’s amazing how those colourful houses sitting on top of an Italian riviera overlooking the azure sea, it can be alluring to many. I am one of those fanatics who wanted to immerse in its beauty. Ever since I saw the picture of Cinque Terre, I’ve always wanted to go there.

        It’s a 4 hour drive from Lake Garda to Cinque Terre. The road to Cinque Terre is no joke, numerous mountainous winding roads dotted with steep hairpins, which required extra attention and space for oncoming vehicles, as you get closer to villages. One side is inclined and the other, a sheer drop to the bottom. Whatever it is, this road was deteriorating Anup’s confidence and enhancing his paranoia. After a while, he had enough and suggested I should just drive to the inner side of the road even if we were to crash with oncoming vehicles, and not to drive on the edge of the mountains. His reason was; ‘It’s better to break a few bones by colliding than losing life from falling off the cliff.’  Great words of wisdom from our legend? Haha, funny fella.

I thought Cinque Terre was just one village but it consists of 5 villages; they are Monterosso al Mare, Cernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. If you translate Cinque Terre to English, it literally means 5 villages. Duh, should’ve done more research before visiting.

         After we checked-in we decided to just chill on the beach but does a trip ever go as planned? Of course not! As soon as Manish saw boats, he went ballistic and wanted one. His unquenching thirst for boats had taken over him. Like a mad man, he enquired every boatman on the shore and fetched the price details. Sumit wasn’t in the mood for a boat ride, Anup wasn’t keen either and as for me, I drove for 4 hours, I just wanted to lie down and sunbath. But Manish was adamant and we lost to his stubbornness. So we hired one wooden boat, which included a panoramic tour of the 5 villages (we only hired for 2 hours), some swimming in the sea and to a cliff jumping spot.

           Ok, I think I should explain now about Manish's love-hate relationship with swimming.  He has very unpredictable swimming skills. He can swim fine… however, there are numerous occasions where he doubted his own skills while underwater and PANICKED. I don’t know how his mind works but he is adventurous, fearless and eager to swim or jump off the cliff and that’s where it all goes downhill. After swimming for 5 minutes, he starts to panic and scream, “I CAN’T SWIM!”  But that never ceases to dissuade his determination to have fun. Now the question is, he sure is having fun but what about his compadres?? O_O

Except for Manish, everyone was meh... about the boat ride but soon, that all changed when the boat started to move and we felt the fresh but salty breeze and saw the magnificent view of the little villages from afar. It was freaking amazing! Everyone loved it. If it weren't for Manish, we would've missed big time. Bravo to you Manish. I won’t resent you on this.  AAAaannnd there was Anup, who got seasick.

         After a while, the boatman took us to a diving spot and we dove like crazy. By the way, upon diving, Manish and I got stung by a jellyfish. Aaaaannnnnddd of course...Manish was panicking while trying to swim towards the boat. As we were swimming or shall we say splashing water with panic, the boatman leans towards us and with a gentle smile (to me it looked more like a smirk) apologised and notified of the jellyfish's existence around us. That was some experience...

So what do you think we did to counteract the jellyfish sting?............nothing lol J

A church painted with black and white stripes! 

          By the way, if you are driving it’s advisable to park your car in La Spezia and use the train to visit these villages. We made the mistake of taking our car.  The villages do not allow any vehicle entry except for governmental purposes or if you're a local so, parking is scarce. Consequently, we parked just outside the village on a road and for that brilliant idea the Cinque Terre municipality left us a little souvenir in the form of a parking fine. And this is the municipality office where we paid for that little souvenir.    

The only place where pizza is both cheap and good.  Thumbs up.

Seafood platter....

All the platters gone...nom nom nom.. 

So, there is going to be a third part as well. I will try my best to finish it next week or you can judge the time for my power of procrastination. J

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Long Awaited Road Trip | Episode 1

Saturday, 13th August 2016

There is this certain fascination with the whole idea of a road trip. The thought of a never-ending road, uniting this beautiful world one habitation at a time, in a diverse panorama is bound to capture everyone’s attention. Not that we get its idea from the fact of rigorous unintentional promotion by conventional medias in the form of movies and documentaries.

One of such a road-trip dreamer is myself. I've picked up numerous hobbies in my life so far, some of which only lasted for short periods due to my own dissatisfaction. In such cases, I had always felt that there was something missing or out of place even thought I didn't know what it was. I was seeking for, I suppose, this thirst for contentment. And this search for fulfilment led me to photography (challenge accepted!!) which, I've come to realise, I've been thoroughly following and content with. Then came travelling! For me, photography and travelling are like 2 sides of a coin. Never in my dream have I ever thought I would be passionate about something until I started seeing this beautiful world both, through my eyes and my lens. I am now always seeking opportunities to hone my skills and travelling has kept me moving in my endeavour. Wow! That went deeper than I expected. Anyway, the main point is I love my camera and travelling, be it by plane, foot or any form of vehicle, and a road-trip had always been on my bucket list.

So, I proposed a mini one to my friends and after their agreement and meticulous planning, I now share here the best times of our lives, or shall we say adventures. Why adventure? Well… firstly, my confidence level on right-hand driving was low to none, and to make matters… lets say exciting, we hired a manual car. Secondly, I was the only driver and lastly but most important of all, the line up for our road trip (4 people with 4 interesting personalities). Spending 24 hours a day with this lot for 10 days in foreign countries was pretty fun.

Our Trip Itinerary
Duration: 10 Days

Germany Austria | Italy | France | Spain | France | Switzerland & Germany again.

Day 1 Munich: Since time was of essence, I booked an early flight to Munich, which we (one of our compadre) nearly missed on due to unforeseen circumstances (phone dead/no alarm on our compadre). Perhaps, a morning flight was not a good idea. After we picked Manish, we rushed towards Gatwick. Tensions were rising as our flight time was approaching and we encountered some minor road works, which intensified the cold atmosphere. I was in no condition to chitchat, neither was Sumit and Manish, however, Anup started cracking up some lame jokes which I suppose lightened the mood. Bravo to you my friend, Anup. 
As soon as we reached Gatwick, I rushed to check my bags in and dashed towards our gate. Phew! We made it on time, although Manish had to pay £45 for his over sized bag, which was a bummer for him. 

Also, I would like to give my gratitude to Sumit; if it weren't for him we'd end up in some random taxi, probably get there late and would've missed our flight. hahaha.
Thank you Sumit.

So, the plan was to get our booked car, visit Munich Town centre, spend a couple of hours there and drive towards Austria where we would rest for the night. And without any knowledge of Munich, we just followed our Satnav and drove. Personally, I like Munich, for me cities with architecture and history has always been fascinating and of course there is great food and beer. Now, I have come to the conclusion that I just love travelling, be it city or countryside.
After an hour, we were in Munich which seemed a bit posh, filled with branded stores and sports cars (we were highly likely in the luxurious part of town). For an hour we aimlessly walked around and scouted some restaurants for lunch. As for me, I am happy with delicious food regardless of venue or standards. My friends on the other hand, Jesus, their requirements: no street food, good restaurant, delicious food and of course somewhere that gave 1 litre beers. So, we settled on a good looking restaurant which they regretted, as they did not sell beer by the litre. Food was good; I had sausages and Wagyu burger (nom…nom…nom) that Sumit was not fond of. 

After the hearty lunch we started our journey towards Werfen, Austria but before that we detoured to Berchtesgaden. Best decision ever! The impact of this picturesque (as I would like to pronounce picture-skeee) landscape was numbingly immense. Definitely coming here again!! Probably alone though.

Konigssee Lake

Finally got their 1ltr beer although, 1ltr of Radler was not to Manish's liking. As for me, I was stuck with fanta since you know...designated driver O_O!

Day 2 Werfen, Austria: Second day of our road-trip, everything’s going according to my awesome plan. However, I have to mention, driving from Berchtesgaden to Werfen was not easy, especially in pitch dark, severely uphill/downhill country road. Did I stall my car? Yes. Was I scared of darkness outside? Yes. Was I confused on which lane to drive on? Undoubtedly. Was it adventurous? F**k yes. Regardless of my feelings, I drove safely, which I am proud of. So thumbs up for that.

All in all, it was well worth it. Wouldn't you like to wake up to this magnificent vista of mountains under those beautiful azure sky? 

Seriously! every time I whip out my camera, they are always ready for photos uninvited. Ruining my money shot. Anyway, this was taken in front of hotel Weissess Rossl Werfen, where we stayed; surrounded by picturesque mountains and river.
Let me have this opportunity to properly introduce my travel companions (misfits) in this photo.  From left Sumit aka Psycho (per to his history which he defends adamantly), Manish aka Crazy (always been! I was just slow to notice), Anup aka gorey aka Pussy (Abundantly filled with negativeness, always thinks worse than it actually is) and of course yours truly, me, aka Damber; lets just say only normal one in this bunch. :)

Eisriesenwelt, world's largest ice cave, natural fridge I might add. This world never ceases to surprise us with its remarkable creation.
This is also where my friend’s Anup legend started. Of course I am exaggerating a bit but he did something out of his personality that shocked all of us.
When the plan was to visit the ice cave where you require hiking, what would any ordinary person do? Let me just emphasize ICE CAVE again. Of course, prepare to hike with warm clothes. However, my good friend Anup decided to wear his sandals and when we insisted him on wearing shoes? He answered, “These are trekking sandals bro. Any terrain would be fine with these.” We even saw people changing into proper gear for the Ice Cave but that didn’t influence him either.
So, we hiked, used a cable car and then we reached the cave. There is a door at the entrance of the cave! A freaking door! Hodor! Every time the door opens, the gust of freezing air charges from it, which put Anup in great predicament. Finally, he regretted his choice of footwear but there was no turning back.  He hesitantly asked the tour guide if his shoes were adequate for cave, to which the guide replied, people had done the tour with those sorts of footwear. I think that eased his mind but the joke's about frostbite, cutting his toes and people staring at his foot and laughing were not helping.

Decision time for him, either he waits outside for an hour until the tour finishes or comes in with us with his trekking sandals and that’s where the Legend was born. He decided to go in and even came out with his toes perfectly fine. Bravo to him. It was a good laugh. 

En route to Grossglockner High Alpine Road/Austrian Apls

One word “Amazing!”. Relaxing yet thrilling to be driving on this spectacular road enjoying mountains vista. As we passed several bikers, it just ignited the flame inside me for riding a motorbike. This place would be perfect to explore with motorbike. Just imagine feeling the fresh breeze of air, enjoying the majestic view of the mountains turning one hairpin road a time, elevating towards the peak unfolding different panoramas.
Simply the best...but I was in a car this time and struggling a bit with my manual gear. Let's just say, I could not afford a mistake on those mountainous roads. One mistake and...bye...bye...world. O_O

Epic pose for epic landscape 1 (Ready to rumble) 

Epic pose for epic landscape 2 (Boys are back in town)

Epic pose for epic landscape 3 (Back to school)

Day 3, en route to Lake Garda, Italy.

Berggasthof Wallackhaus, hotel we stayed  in, which is located between the High Alpine roads. 

Something funny occurred here, or maybe slightly dangerous I suppose. It was during the evening after we checked-in, we decided to explore. We were chilling on a small hill in front of our hotel, laughing, giggling, some photo shooting and drinking while admiring the pleasing views of Austria. Suddenly, we heard a lightning and my hair (regardless of the quantity) was lifting a bit or rather bounced. I turned to the others and I was not alone on this occurrence. All of us, except Sumit (he was wearing hat), felt this. So, we sprinted towards our hotel.
When we were on the parking lot, we encountered a guy who did not speak a word of English but saw the whole thing and with all his hands flying around tried to explain what had happened.  We were a bit unsure but with his level of shock on his face and gestures, we could say, we nearly got struck by lightning. The rage of Zeus nearly got to us. Thank heavens for this lucky escape.

This is where stranger tried to explain that we nearly got struck by lightning. Calls for a group photo. 

Episode-2 will be up next week...or week after where we visit Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. ^_^