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Our 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

Posted January 4th, 2010

We were nominated by the lovely Nora of The Professional Hobo to share our 3 best travel secrets, as part of a Tripbase project to bring some great tips together from across the net.

My only problem with this mission is that I could probably list 20 secret travel places but in keeping with the theme, here are 3 that spring to mind. And yes, the ride there is as wonderful as the destination.

Aphrodisias, Turkey

Aphrodisias

Most tourists in Turkey head straight for Troy and Ephesus, the archaeological sites along the coast but when we tried to visit we were overrun by tour groups, who kindly made sure they also provided entertainment in the form of actors dressed as Romans (in fetching plastic capes), jumping off the ampitheatre and just being generally annoying. The solution? Head inland to Aphrodisias and enjoy the peace? The amazing theatre and stadium are some of the best we’ve seen anywhere and you can marvel at the architecture in silence.

How to get there: Highway E87 leads from the coast towards Nazilli. In Nazilli, head south briefly, then east on a back road that goes through many small villages (Pirlibey is one of them and has a shop and cafe) before hooking up with the D585, which will take you straight to Aphrodisias. Nearby is the village of Geyre, where you can camp and get a room or a meal.

Kobarid on the Soca River, Slovenia

59-socariver.jpg

Slovenia’s Soca River takes top prize for the most beautiful river we’ve seen anywhere and the variety of activities you can do in this corner of Slovenia is impressive. Go hiking, rafting, rock climbing, diving or just visit the local towns. Kobarid has a great museum. It’s just across the mountains from Italy. Why don’t more people come here?

How to get there: Take Route 52 out of Amaro, then the SS646 in Italy, up and over the mountains to the small town of Kobarid. Just beware the hills after Lischiazze!

Titirangi Bay, New Zealand

It took a long slog up a dirt road to get here but when we crested the top of the hill and saw this view of Titirangi Bay, our jaws dropped open. Here, at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, you get to savour  this landscape mostly on your own. The majority of tourists don’t come right to the top of the Marlborough Sounds or, if they do, they don’t stay the night. There’s only a rustic campsite (cold water, no showers) but you do get the use of a stunning beach and plenty of inquisitive weka birds circling your tent.

How to get here: Go to Kenepuru Head in the Queen Charlotte Sounds and follow Titirangi Road until it runs out.

Part of the object of this post is to get other blogs to do the same. I’m hoping these travellers will participate:

69km Maribor to Veržej

Posted July 8th, 2007

Bora and LeopoldFireworks in MariborWe had a great time with our new friends in Maribor but today it was time to move on. Thanks to everyone, but especially Bora who picked us up off the street and took us home and his girlfriend Metka. Between the two of them we were treated to many interesting chats about Slovenia and the world in general over glasses of beer. We drooled over a home cooked meal of stuffed peppers and mashed potatoes and we saw the fireworks for the end of the Lent Festival. Experiences like this always remind us what a kind place the world really is. By the time we got on our bikes and rolled out of Slovenia’s second city it was nearly noon and already getting quite hot. The saving grace of the day was that the Sunday traffic wasn’t nearly as heavy as it might have been otherwise on the main road running towards Hungary. According to our map, a motorway should have in place several years ago, but so far it’s still little more than piles of dirt by the side of the road, so all the trucks heading east clog up the smaller routes during the week. We lunched under some trees and then headed out again in the early afternoon but we took a wrong turn and soon found ourselves going more south than east. There’s just something about backtracking though that’s hard to do so instead of turning around we carried on regardless, still towards Hungary but not via the most direct route. Late in the day we stopped at a swish spa and campground to see about spending the night but the price was too rich for our taste. Instead we rolled on just a few more kilometers and found a large field that was perfect for our tent. Tomorrow we should easily reach Hungary and then, a few days later, Budapest.

50km Studenice to Maribor

Posted July 6th, 2007

Who could resist??It’s not every day you get picked up off the street and treated to a coffee in someone’s home but today turned out to be our lucky day. We were just sitting in the university town of Maribor, having lunch on a bench in the city centre, when a man came up to us and asked if we’d like to share a drink with him. He was also a cyclist, about our age, and had noticed us eating sandwiches from his apartment several floors up in a nearby building. Soon we were chatting together in Bora’s flat, which he shares with 7 other students. It brought back some memories of living in student accommodation for us, not so long ago, with the odd posters, fun music and very interesting people. We got on very well and before long he offered us a place for the night so we could go out in the evening and enjoy a music and arts festival going on in Maribor at the moment. Well, we had a great night out drinking beer with our new Slovenian friends and have decided to stay at least one more day in the city with them. What a wonderful chance meeting. Who knows when we will get to Budapest at this rate, but at least we are having fun along the way!

Some random things we have learned so far from our new friends:

  • Albanians make the best ice cream
  • Slovenia is a very equal country
  • Polka music is actually very popular (yes, really — check out the Atomik Harmonik picture)
  • There is no mass exodus to Britain now that they are part of the EU
  • Liquor with less than 25% alcohol is considered a “light” drink
  • Many people have stills in their back yards and make their own brandy
  • If there is a crazy sports person out there, they are probably Slovenian (like Martin Strel)

43km Celje to Studenice

Posted July 5th, 2007

Church on a hillAhh, clear skies. A cyclist’s friend, especially after it just wouldn’t stop raining since noon yesterday. We left our hotel and ended up finding a very cheap Internet cafe and catching up on the important details of our online life. The cafe was full of very friendly people, who tried to convince us to stay a few more days since the town was going to be hosting a film festival and number of bands but instead we decided to carry on and eventually we got going down the road by midday. Since it was a gorgeous sunny day it seemed a crime not to cycle in it. Most of the afternoon was spend winding our way up and down a rural road, which was nicely shaded. We had to cross the railway tracks several times and it seemed we were forever stopping at the crossing for the next train or just getting over the tracks before the barriers went down. Near supper time we turned on to a more minor road where we had dinner and watched a farmer fertilise his field; thankfully not with manure or our dinner might have been abandoned! We listened to the radio for a while and then crawled up further into the field and behind a few trees, where we found the perfect spot for our tent.

Show 9: Slovenia

Posted July 5th, 2007

Bridge over the Soca riverAfter a long break, it’s finally time for another radio show! This time we talk about our first few days in Slovenia (what a wonderful country, so many waterfalls and stunning rivers!!) and also feature an interview with Andrew and Eider, a couple we met in a French campground. They share tales and advice from their overland tour from Australia to Spain, not on bicycle but very interesting all the same, especially since they collected stories from locals as they travelled in a project that got funding and support from the UN. You can read more about Andrew and Eider’s project Environmental Memoirs, and also take a look at their personal blog, which features some stories from their travels.