Posts Tagged With: Bridal Veil Falls

Rabbie’s Highland’s Tour- Day 2

Living it up on the Isle of SkyeI would be lying if I told you that all days on this trip were created equal. Some days are just simply better -more enjoyable, more interesting – than others. Today was one of those fantastic gems of a day. Brooke and I are on our second day of a three day tour of the Scottish Highlands through the impeccable Rabbie’s tour company. It was an extensive, full day of tramping around the Isle of Skye in our comfortable tour van. Traveling among the company of a small, but enthusiastic group of fellow explorers, we managed to hit all of the highlights of Skye by crisscrossing the island over the course of the day. We accomplished it all while enjoying a soundtrack provided by an animated guide (and top notch storyteller) who delivered memorable, captivating stories on topics ranging from Scottish folklore, sports, history, clan chieftains and more. The accompaniment for the ride was a solid playlist of tunes by Scottish artists and beyond which played between the commentary. And that’s all of the good stuff before we get into the amazing landscapes and dazzling vistas. Not too mention dinner, drinks and live music at the pub. And then evening pub hopping in the sleepy town of Portree. It was the perfect way to spend any Sunday. The sights here are largely made up of the natural beauty of glens, lochs, hills and rolling valleys. All combined, they make up some of the most beautiful views we’ve seen on the trip. And we don’t toss out such accolades lightly; beneath clouds or under bright sunshine, it is friggin’ gorgeous here. The Isle of Skye is remote and sparsely populated but has a more diverse topography than you might find over three states back home. Thankfully, our venerable guide Doug made plenty of stops so we could enjoy every photo opportunity that ranged from an old brock to a waterfall stepped in superstition.

Glen of the Faeries!

Our first stop today was at a 2,000 year old brock (an old stone tower) just off the side of the road. I’m sure everyone has their own benchmark, but I know I’m in middle of a good day when I’m conquering ancient castle remains all before 10:00 AM. After dodging both loose rocks and sheep droppings, we climbed our way to the top to soak in the first of several stunning views of the day. A short drive down the road took us to the seaside cliffs of the Neist Point Lighthouse on the Western Coast of the island. We all shrugged off the winds and clouds to meander down the walkway and up a steep hill. Again, amazing view. Woooo.... After another quick stop, we enjoyed a quick rest and tasty lunch in Uig. Before long, the sun was out and we were off to my favorite stop of the day: The Faeries Glen. Doug gave us three strict rules when visiting the fabled land of the mythical Scottish faeries: We were warned not to whistle, not to leave any gifts made of iron and not to remove anything from the glen or else we might risk a curse. I was just afraid that Brooke might fall somewhere through time after entering a stone circle. Legends and fairies aside, the place was relatively magical in its setting alone. Green as far as they eye can see and steep, sloping grassy hills punctuated with a towering stone formation. Amazing landscapes are tricky because short of an IMAX camera, words and a few photos really fall short. Serene, beautiful and solitary (aside from the loud group of student tourists), I could have spent another hour there. By the by, this is like the third bridal veil falls we've seen in this tripThe day only got better from there. Our van made it’s next stop at an overlook with an astounding view of the east coast of Skye. Looking down into the valley and beyond, we where able to catch a glimpse of the mainland. The steep cliffs als would have doubled for a terrific golf driving range or hang gliding starting point. From there, it was on to see Kilt Rock, The Old Man Of Storr (complete with its own amazing story) and then Bride’s Veil Falls. It was there that Doug convinced a handful of us that an old legend states that dipping your head into the falls is certain to gaurantee…hmm…satisfying romantic encounters for seven years for every second you can stand the cold water. Not wanting to take any changes, Brooke and I both drenched our heads in the water. We ended our tour day with live music and drinks in a neighboring pub.A great day from start to finish. We really can’t say enough great stuff about Doug and Rabbies. It’s safe to say that I’ve absorbed more quality, wonderful information about Scotland in the last few days than I learned in some college courses. Next time we meet up, ask me to tell you the tale of the shirtless clan battle or the Archie Gemmel’s legendary 3rd goal against Holland during the 1978 World Cup. I can know speak in depth to the Scottish origin of the phrases “To tie the knot” and “armed to the teeth.” Under pressure, I could even draw a realistic looking dirk and tell you why it’s best not to hit on the girl at the bar whom your Scottish friend are calling a Minger. I’m loving this exposure to every single ounce of trivia and new vocabulary. Odds are strong that I’m going to bursting with Scotitsh pride by the time we blow town on Tuesday evening. Just like New Zealand, we’re back to seeing sheep every time we turn our head. We’ve been told that the sheep outnumber the human residents eight to in Skye. Contented, slow moving sheep certainly have the run of the place and, thanks to Scottish law, the right of way in the roads. There is no shortage of gentle honking to prod them to move on but since all of the other wildlife (bears, wolfs and more) are long gone from this area, the sheep don’t have a lot to sweat. Thier only threat is blank stares from the occasional neighboring cow. To top it off, this visit has had a bit of special significance because I’ve wanted to visit the Scottish Highlands for as long as I can remember. After all of the photos I’ve seen and all the stories I’ve heard from those who had visited, it’s been a wish of min to see this part of the world in person. Today, I’m able to write about it from a table in a hostel in the middle of Portree. Pretty dang cool. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve met some awesome people during our trip to the Highlands. I look forward to tomorrow: another day in the tour van and a chance to see Loch Ness up close and personal. As we wind down our time in Sottland, I think it’s time to start downing some prime Scotch Whisky and sample the Hagis, but we’ll cross that particular bridge tomorrow. -Phil

Categories: Exploring, Hiking, Music, Reflections, Scotland, Self Guided Tours, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Raglan, Waitomo Caves and Hamilton, New Zealand

Even though we’re only a few days in, our time in New Zealand continues to be as wonderful as the sites have been breathtaking. We’re quickly learning that this is a country of boundless natural beauty. Without hyperbole, this land is simply stunning. We had an opportunity to see a good portion of it first hand today. Our third full day here was made up of a trip to scenic falls, a windy drive, a guided tour through the spectacular and legendary Waitomo glow worm caves and an evening with the most hospitable and welcoming couple in New Zealand, if not the Southern Hemisphere.

We left Raglan bright and early after completing our recent routine of “Breakfast and Wi-fi” at a local cafe. The locals were celebrating The Chiefs big rugby win last night. We’re also picking up on the friendly rivalry between New Zealanders and their nearest neighbors in Australia who are just “across the ditch” (the span of ocean separating the two countries). Every Kiwi we’ve spoken with has beamed with pride when they remark that New Zealand is 14th overall in the 2012 Olympic medal count while those Aussies only have a single gold medal to their name. Funny.

One note on internet access: Every single business we’ve encountered so far is a bit peculiar about their Wi-Fi. No one has true “free” Wi-Fi. With any purchase, you receive a code that gets you online for a set amount of data (50 mb) or time (1 hour). This is a bit hard to get used to.

From Raglan, we drove a short distance to the scenic Bridal Veil Falls. After a short voyage down a windy road (oh, have we driven on some windy roads far) and an easy 10 minute hike, we were greeted with the amazing site of water streaming 150 feet to the small limestone pool below. Quite the way to start a day of travel and siteseeing. Amazing. Less amazing was the twisting, slow-going gravel road that we then had to drive on for about 45 minutes. Were we lost? Did we take the wrong road? No, that’s just the way the path goes. White knuckle, can’t-see-around-the-next-corner driving indeed. A challenging, but interesting drive. And as bonus, there were picturesque sheep and friendly cows alongside the road to greet us. And we had the enjoyably music coming from New Zealand radio. Worth mentioning that the “Pop Hits of Today” in New Zealand are pretty much the same as the “Pop Hits of Today” in the United States. Maroon 5, Gotye, Katy Perry, and Fun. have all graced the spaceship’s radio to say hello.Our spaceship wound its way up and down hills and around small mountains as part of an incredibly scenic drive. Around each corner was another bucolic, green and sensational view. I’ve really never seen anything like it.

The Waitomo caves, the highlight of our day, was another experience all together. We paid for a combo ticket to visit two caves- Rakauri and Glowworm Caves. The Rakauri cave was a long tour through a twisting, beautiful set of caverns full of stalagmites (coming from the ground that “mite” touch the ceiling), stalagtites, columns, curtains, and more. We had an exceptional tour guide who made the experience outstanding. The magnificent underground beauty was stunning and we learned about the Maori history, background on the caves and just some stunning insight. They even showcase a big chunk of limestone rock that had been carved like a sculpture by just seven years of water drips. But the best part were the glowworms. Native only to New Zealand, these caves are inhabited by glowworms – tiny creatures no longer than four centimeters long that cling to the ceiling and light up the pitch-dark caves like some type of underground constellation. Just…wow. The boat ride at the end of the Glowworm cave through an underground lake was simply amazing and made our day. I could gush for pages about these two caves and the remarkable site of the glowworms.

No room for Phil in the cave

Planning future trips with FelicityOur evening, spent in Hamilton, was a completely different experience. Against all odds, we managed to meet and befriend possibly the nicest, most generous couple in the country. We met Ken and Marinota during our layover in Guagzhou where they had invited us to their place for tea (dinner) one night. Man, are we glad we took them up on that invitation! What followed was an evening of conversation, meals and never-ending hospitality from this enthusiastic, sincerely friendly,well-traveled duo. They helped us outline some future stops in New Zealand (each place was more of a “can’t miss’ than the one before!), talked travel, gave us insight into New Zealand culture (Ken calls the remote “the zonker”) and we even chatted it up with the neighbors – Jason and Felicity – who stopped by. Jason and Felicity are planning a trip to Van Wert, Ohio in December. Where? I thought I knew all the towns in Ohio! I’ve come 7,500 miles just to learn about a town in my own backyard I’ve never heard of. We had an amazingly fun night that left us exhausted (but that might have been the many glasses of wine.) Ken and Marinota, being the wonderful people that they are, even opened up their home to us and invited us to spend the night in the guestroom. As we said, exceptionally generous and absurdly gracious. Hooray for making new friends in New Zealand.

Next, we had west to the town of Rotorua and onward!

-Phil

Categories: City Visits, Destinations, Driving, Exploring, Friends, New Zealand, Oympics, Transportation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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