A Travellerspoint blog

New beginnings!

The birth of ShaTaraTravel.com

sunny 29 °C

Hi guys! So I always planned to slowly update this blog and turn it into something a little more polished! As luck would have it, my current university assignment is asking that I launch an online presence! I have now commenced work on www.ShaTaraTravel.com. This will be where I post my updates from now on, so If you are interested- head on over there, I'll get a subscription option up and running just as soon as I figure out how! For now you can subscribe to my RSS feed! Read about how to use RSS here

As 2015 draws to a close, I am preparing financially and drafting a rough plan of travels for Shabir (my bf) and I for 2016 and beyond, so check in regularly if you're curious as to how I get inspiration for my trips, what I've been up to since my last posts, and what the future might hold!

Posted by TaraHarry 20:17 Archived in Australia Tagged #travel #blog #plans #freshleaf #newbeginnings #shatara #shataratravel #shataratravel.com #uni Comments (0)

Midsummer in Croatia

From Budva, Montenegro where I left off I bused straight through to Dubrovnik in Croatia.
For being such a well know tourist destination, Croatia didn't disappoint in Nature, History and Scenery.
I stayed in a pension, basically a lady named Sylvia rented out her back bedrooms to travellers at a low rate for Dubrovnik standards. It was on a bus route to town, but was a long walks distance from the down town area.

I spent hours exploring the old city walls and taking in the views of the city, the ocean and nearby Lokrum Island. I really enjoyed taking in the history and getting lost in some of the winding alleys with stairs and balconies leading in all directions (and I did get lost!) I still have my ticket stub in my scrap book and this was 70kn for entry.
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After a seafood lunch and a beer I took a ferry over to Lokrum which is an island nature reserve within sight of the city. There is an entry fee, but I can't remember how much this was. The island is overrun with PEACOCKS!
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Who would have thought? I think I remember correctly that it was a royal residence many many years ago before being converted for nature lovers, and the royals obviously loved the beautiful, regal peacocks.
The island is home to a lot of wildlife and also beautiful beaches on most sides. There are parts with sand, parts with cliffs, some places with rock pools and even a slightly inland pool where you were completely surrounded by rocks. There was a cave you could swim into and this was where the ocean fed into the pool. Although you couldn't see the ocean you could feel the waves!
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I waited until the evening to catch the cable car up Srd Mountain which has panoramic views over the city and ocean- amazingly picturesque place to view Dubrovnik! This cost me 87kn for a return trip.
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I watched that beautiful sunset over the many islands nearby and explored the top of the mountain- which is still riddled with trenches still in place after the war in the 90s.
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Such an eye opening experience to be standing where war took place during my own lifetime... Many 20 something's in the western world haven't experienced that and I definitely was in awe at the stories about this place- it's not something that's advertised to tourists before they get up there and it was unexpected and so very interesting.
There is a stunning restaurant with huge windows up top where I treated myself to a seafood risotto with THE best view!
A dusk trip up mount Srd is definitely some thing I recommend!

The next day I caught a bus to Split, and then a ferry to arrive at my next destination, Hvar.
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A very popular, beautiful, party island. I stayed at a hostel called Hvar Out! (Get it?!) I met some amazing people at this hostel, some Aussies, some Brits and some Irish girls, as well as a couple of boys who knew my boyfriend back in Perth. Even though they were all strangers, it was nice to have a small connection to my boyfriend.

We partied each night, had some interesting adventures- involving a creepy drug dealer, a guy ending up causing a fiasco when he ended up on the roof of the hostel- he wasn't sure how or why he was up there haha I also ran into the famous Croatian Angelina Jolie look alike!
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Kinda crazy! But she was nice enough to take a photo with me! During the day the boys hired a tinny and we drove around the island with some beers, and swam in some beautiful secluded places. I remember us feeding ham to some fish... Not sure if that's a nice thing to do but oh well!

Leaving Hvar involved a very queasy ferry ride back to Split on the main land. Ugh! But this quick trip was well worth the hangovers.

Next up- Cres! An island full of nature, history and much learning and discovery.

Posted by TaraHarry 20:17 Comments (0)

Catching up on time!!

I definitely lost steam with all this blogging!
After reading back on my entries- I've sadly already forgotten so many details!!
So, to prepare my old mind for the loss of the remaining memories I'm going to make a come back!
The upcoming entries will cover 11 countries and countless adventures; and there's no way they can possibly be as detailed as they have been- but that will probably make them more friend and family friendly!
Coming up to my 2 year anniversary of leaving home I think it's a perfect time to recount my travels and count all my blessings <3

Posted by TaraHarry 18:40 Comments (0)

"Wild Beauty" in Montenergo Bro!

sunny 27 °C

On my first morning in Budva, I headed straight to the beach! Typical me! But this time it was part of the master plan- most of the attractions of this wee resort town are centralised around the water. I hit the coast after a brief walk, and then followed the promenade all the way along to the Stari Grad (walled old town). The views of the blue ocean on my left, and the lush mountains on my right were amazing to say the least, but I resolved to do a little sightseeing before jumping in the water. I had decided to head to Montenegro as it has the rep of being as beautiful as croatia, but much cheaper, and it did not disappoint on either count.
I reached the old town and walked the upper walls, which gave great views and also make you feel a little bit like a princess, an ocean-side princess in denim short shorts, that is!

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After wandering around the old town a little and buying the most outstanding icecream Ive ever had, I headed back down to the beach. On the way I was heartbroken when my lovely pina colada icecream fell straight off its cone onto the ground! :'( It was like being 5 years old all over again.
I purchased a very 'European' straw beach matt, and claimed some rock a little away form the crowded areas- hard to do in Budva- the whole stretch of beach was packed every day! The main beach is a little dirty, and definitely the busiest, but a short stroll around to the other side of the old town and through a little passage way takes you to another beach where you can jump off some cliffs and it is less crowded- and stunning!

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I decided to get dolled up and take myself out for an evening meal, put on some red lippy and did my hair. I scoured around and found a nice place right on the water, and ordered calamari stuffed with ham and cheese- to die for! I even had a giant sundae for desert, Talk about a hot date ;)

For my 3rd and 4th nights I decided to stay elsewhere. My hostel was lovely, but there was no one else staying there, and none of the staff spoke english, and they couldnt hep me book the next part of my adventure.
So I packed up early and walked literally 100 metres down the road to Hippo Hostel :) They even had a puppy to play with! On top of that they booked my entrire Tara River Rafting trip for me, and advised me on all the bus connections I would need to get out to the Bosnian Border where the trip started- magic!
I spent the rest of my day at St Nikolas Island, after paying 5 euro for a panorama boat trip which took me down to see the beautiful 'almost island' Stevi Stefan, and then gave me door to door service to St Nik.

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If I liked the pokey little beaches off Budva- Hawaii beach on St Nik blew my socks off! hardly anyone was there, the water was impeccably clear and clean, and there were little caves to explore aswell. The rocks were much bigger, and therefore slippery which was a challenge, but other than that it made for a perfect day of relaxation.
I grabbed a giant slice of pizza for $1.50 on my way home for a skype date, and a night in before my adventure the following morning.
I woke up at 4.45 to catch my first bus (6 euro) which was to take me to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, where I purchased a ticket to the stop of scepan polje (11 euro), on the Bosnian border. After a total of 5 hours of travel we reached the border, and although I had asked to be told when we reached my stop, the host was a little slow in telling me- the border officials had already taken my passport! Now I wasnt being entirely clueless- I knew tht the rafting trip took us through part of Bosnia, so the border crossing wasnt entirely out of the question.
Luckily they remembered me just in time, and I was able to jump off the bus and get my passport back; and a gentleman by the name of Zlafko from the rafting company was there to meet me. Myself and the other rafters were taken back to the campsite (you could arrange multiple days of rafting from this base if you wanted) and were fed a lovely breakfast, before the 10 minute drive to our starting place.

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10 minutes doesnt seem like much.... but Im fairly certain we were all fearing for our lives during this 10-minutes-felt-like-three-hours. We went ccareening around the narrow mountain side roads which were barely wide enough for 1 large car to fit comfortably. There were a couple of near misses in terms of head on collisions, and I felt thoroughly nauseus when we were finally able to climb out of the jeep!
My rafting team were 2 Australians from Melbourne, and a Polish couple and their little girl who was just too cute learning English commands to tell us to go faster or to the left or right. The water that feeds the Tara river comes from the Glaciers at the top of the mountain range, so the water is beautiful and clear- but also freezing! The river is at its highest in spring time, May especially, so we had a fun ride down through the rapids, but there was no danger or scares on the way.

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We stopped for a little breather along the way, and decided to swim across the river to jump off some rocks into the water. This was a bit hectic as Im not a strong swimmer and the current was very strong! But, I made it and had to psych myself up to jump off a 2 metre rock into the river (I was super scared?!). The water was so cold my arms were burning (I was in a wet suit but it had no arms) and it took me a while to thaw back out in the sun. We kept a-paddling down the river, where we stopped again at a beautiful waterfall. We had five minutes to explore a little of the Bosnian wilderness before we continued on to our final destination, just minutes from our campsite.

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The tour concluded at the Bosnian-Montenegrin border (where my bus dropped me off) at the base of a 13 metre bridge. We went up the top for the view down the river, when one of our Aussie team mates decided he was going to jump off the top! Not to let our country down- as the Montenegrins already thought we were a bit crazy- the last 2 aussies decided that we too, would jump off the 13 metre bridge! Eeep! after much debate on the safe road, we decided not to think about it, but to simply climb the barrier and jump straight away.
We climbed, we paused, I thought, my partner in crime jumped, she landed, and I thought- "shit!", and jumped anyway!
So, so scary! About half way down I felt myself gathering real speed and luckily we hadour neopreen shoes on and wetsuits so the landing didnt hurt us too much! What a rush!

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After our adrenalin seeking, we were chaufeur driven back to the cammpsite for a slow cooked meal of beef and potatoes, which was included with our breaky for 45 euro with the tour. I had to scoff my meal as it was 4.15 and I had just half an hour before I had to be back at the bridge to catch my bus back to Podgorica, and then Budva.
I arrived at the hostel at about 10pm and I slept like a baby after all that adventure. I also had to be up at 6am for my next leg to Croatia.

Posted by TaraHarry 03:16 Archived in Montenegro Tagged #montenegro #tarariver #raftmyriverbitch #rafting #budva #beaches #summer Comments (0)

Istanbul to Budva

48 hours on the Road!!

sunny 26 °C

Having loved every minute of my time in Turkey, and spending a bit more time there than I had anticipated, I had just 10 days until I had to be on Cres Island in the north of Croatia. This may not seem like such an issue, its not exactly a huge distance to cover for someone from a country as big as Australia- but train and bus travel through this area is a little bit of a challenge, and a little unreliable. I had taken this into account and decided to make stops in Sofia, Bulgaria, as well as Nis, Serbia on my way to Montenegro, before moving onto Croatia.

With only 10 days this became a little harder and so I decided to take the mammoth journey straight from Istanbul to Budva, Montenegro. There arent many photos for this entry- the inside of bus's and train cabins dont make for the best pictures! ;)

The first leg, an overnight Train to Sofia- didnt run so smoothly. My research had indicated that there was a train which ran all the way from Istanbul to Belgrade, with stops at Sofia and Nis on the way. When I bought my ticket in Turkey however, I was told that i could only buy a ticket as far as Sofia, and would have to change and buy the next ticket there. Fair enough- I could do that!
When I left from Istanbul there were construction works on the train line, and so everyone was loaded onto a bus at 10pm to the Turkish-Bulgarian boarder. Here we changed onto our sleeper train at 4am. We actually arrived at the border at 1.30am and waited around in a completely empty train station- with no further info on what was going on until 4! There were no border officials, no staff members, nothing! it was only at exactly 3.55 when the train arrived, that a police officer entered the passport control room and started processing our exit from Turkey. We had been waiting there for so long, it couldve been done hours ago!

I had been told in Istanbul that unless you had a group with you, it was not a good idea to sleep on the train to Sofia- so I slept all I could on the short bus trip and was still a little sleepy at the train station. I was then put in a cabin with an Australian girl, and her Argentinian boyfriend, and an English girl. We all got along pretty well and so we locked ourselves in and had a pretty decent sleep apart from when the passport control officers came hammering on our doors. The first time it seemed it was just to check that one of us had a passport, as they just scanned through mine and then walked away. The second time they took all of our passports, and then gave us all heart attacks as they train lurched forward before we had recieved them back! Thankfully there was nothing dodggy going on and the train did not start moving. We all sat on edge at 5.30am waiting until we got them back!

Something we quickly noticed was that there are no signs at most Balkan train stations, and so, at around 9.30am we had stopped at a station for quite some time, with no announcements (not even in Bulgarian) as to what was happening. We eventually figured out we were at our final destination of Sofia. I couldnt help but feel that I was in some abandonded communist area whilst at Sofia Station- Chenobyl definitely popped into mind- was rather intriguing! Dont expect anything modern or fancy at this stop!

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An american guy who knew some German (Bulgarians seem to know a decent amount of German too) had figured out where we were, and offered to take me and another guy to the ticket office so we could buy our ongoing tickets. The next flaw in our plans became apparent when the 11am train to Nis we were counting on didn't exist, and we were to wait in Sofia until 8pm.
We chucked our bags in storage and all headed out to see what we could of the city with the time we had. The Russian Churchs as well as numerous memorials from the Balkan wars were beautiful and we had arrived just after some sort of holiday, so there were flowers and wreaths laid out at some of them. We refreshed ourselves serveral times- sampling the beers which cost just 50c. It was also my first exposure to the 2 litre beer bottles which cost like $2! So much Beeeeer!

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We also ate some Kevapci's which are a very tasty spiced sausage- they are found through most of the Balkan countries under slightly different names each time. We also snacked on some other Bulgarian street foods between beers throughout the day. I had planned ahead- a little, so I was able to change into a new shirt and underwear whilst in Sofia, and used a wet wipe to clean my disgustingly dirty feet! Closest thing to a shower I was going to get!

As we headed back into the train station to leave the country, we each had a couple of Lev left over, and decided to grab some juice for the train ride. This is when I noticed that for just 2.90 lev you could buy a 200ml bottle of vodka. I had withdrawn 50 lev at the start of the day- which ended up being $21 aussie dollars, so this was ridiculously cheap, and I couldnt resist!

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(The inside foyer of Sofia station is much nicer than the platforms- but still feels like the 80s or something)

The train to Nis was an interesting one. At first take, it seemed as though there were no remianing seats- everyone was very keen to keep compartments to themselves, which was frustrating in itself, but add to that that people spoke very little english and it was a nightmare! Eventually we sat in a compartment with a surly looking couple who said nothing the entire trip and stared at the floor, later, 2 men came in briefly but they didnt sit down.
Then enters Miloush- the Serbian IT guy, who had been visiting his Bulgarian girlfriend, but hated Bulgarians; and who had been drunk for 3 days, with 4 litres of beer to keep him that way for the journey! He enquired wether there was a free seat in our compartment, and accused the Bulgarian guys of being smugglers (they did have an absurd amount of T-Shirts, but surely T-Shirt smuggling isn't going to make you the moolah?)
Much of the trip passed without event, until Miloush and the Bulgarian men got a little upset with each other. I woke from a lovely sleep to the men yelling blaringly at each other, and the Bulagrians hastily moving their things around, including all of our things which was a worry. They took their things to the outside corridor, and Miloush told us they were about to throw everything off, and jump off the train! These guys were pretty old, so I didnt really believe him, and before I could think about it, as we were double checking that all of our belongings were in the compartment- I was showered with beer from the fresh 2 Litre bottle Miloush was opening. It had been shaken up in all the fuss and we were all now wearing it! Fun!
Next thing we know, the train has stopped and the guards are in the field outside with flashlights- looking for the now AWOL smugglers it would seem! Good old Miloush was on the money!
When we eventually arrived in Nis, Serbia at 2.30am, Miloush asked us for our email addresses which we politely declined. The floor was ridiculously sticky from the beer, and my $5 Turkish thongs broke after sticking and being pulled too violently- I had to amble off the train with no shoes! I was able to fix them just well enough to get e through the mornng though.

The train my travel buddy was counting on to Sarajevo, and my train to (anywhere in) Montenegro, once again did not exist. So we decided to head to the bus station to enquire there about an early morning bus. I had copied down directions to a hostel just in case I decided to stay in Nis, which happened to be close to the bus station, so we walked the 15 minutes there. On arrival we then battled to communicate with the staff who spoke very little English, and found that my bus was not to arrive until 10am, where as my new friend was able to get one at 6am. We kept each other company until then and after seeing him off, I set about finding some coffee and seeing a little bit of Nis. I had a great time miming my way through storing my luggage, with such broken sleep the past few days and having no one understand me you'd think Id have been frustrated by now, but I was actually really enjoying myself at the time- maybe I was delirious?!
I found my way easily to the town square just by following my nose, and luckily there were large boards with maps of the city's attractions. I found directions to the skull tower here, and set off on a 3km walk to see the big draw card of the town of Nis (it doesnt reallyyyyyy have a lot going for it- put it that way).

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The tower is now surrounded by a little house to protect it from the elements and no doubt from people too. Years ago when Serbia was fighting to free itself from the Turks, a Turkish Sultan beheaded hundreds of rebel fighters, skinned their heads and sent them back to the Serbian King. Delightful! The king of Serbia then had these skulls (some still with flesh and bits of hair) mounted into cement as a reminder of their bravery. Some skulls have obviously disappeared over the years, but enough remain for it to be a very morbid shrine to those men.
On my return to the bus station, I had withdrawn far too much Serbian Dinar for my brief stay, so I bought some more sunscreen, replaced my broken thongs, and also purchased some new sunglasses- as my very favourite pair (you know, the ones I bought in Paris) went walk about somewhere between Istanbul and Sofia :( I also stocked up on Serbian candy and Baked goods for the 10 hour bus ride to Podgorica.
I claimed the back seat for the bus trip- and lay over 4 seats quite comfortably with my travel pillow and a sarong for a blanket. I woke up every now and then to enjoy the scenery, finish reading my book, and eat copious amounts of candy. The bus trip was really beautiful, and although I would have rather timed things better so I could have done it more comfortably overnight, I am glad I got to see the mountain-side through my window. Its one trip I would really recommend doing during the day, I couldnt help but imagine the brown bears and wolves chilling just out of site in the trees.

When I finally arrived in Podgorica at 8pm, I was able to book an ongoing bus to Budva for 8.20, and arrived at my hostel just before 10pm. Once again the scenery was amazing- when we reached the top of the mountains by the coast, the city of Budva was spread out in lights below. Wish I could have taken a picture that would do it justice!

Annoyingly, I had not booked a hostel in Budva, because when I did actually have wifi I hadnt known when I would actually reach Budva, or if I could even get there! I asked at the tourist centre at the bus station- and they they were literally useless! So I just asked a taxi driver to take me to any hostel, he did, and he didnt rip me off, nor did he take me anywhere dodgy. Win! It was a little family run place, and they offered me tea when I arrived- and I felt thoroughly rude for declining. I practically ran into my room to shower and put fresh clothes on- 48 hours without showering is not recommended!

So there you have it- my epic journey on the computer screen! It was such an adventure and although it seems like nothing went right, I met some interesting characters, saw some nice things, found out I can mime my way through Serbian conversations, and above all i survived! I would do it all again in a heart beat- though I definitely want to stay and enjoy more cheap eastern european beer next time!

Posted by TaraHarry 12:42 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged #bulgaria #serbia #montenegro #nis #sofia #transit #train #ridiculous #adventure Comments (0)

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