Take Action For A Better Weekend | Can You Have An Adventure With Just 72 Hours In Morocco?

Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains and more, all in three days? Here’s our ultimate guide to visiting North Africa over the weekend…

The best parts of life, are the bits that you put the most work into. Whether it be friendships, health, work, free time or family, it’s always clear which areas of a person’s life to which they give the most of their energy.

With this in mind, the adventurous brand KEEN has launched ‘Better Takes Action’, a campaign that aims to inspire people to put passion and energy into the areas of life that matter. This idea can include your own self-improvement, cultivating the life of those around you, or helping the world at large. It can be through protecting the environment, living sustainably, or just raising money for causes close to your heart. As long as it makes the world a little bit of a better place, it counts towards KEEN’s awesome initiative.

One easy way that we can all take action to better our lives, is by looking at the quality of how we spend our free time. Recently, KEEN asked us to take action ourselves by setting us the challenge of creating the most amazing adventure possible over one long weekend, all with time to get back to our desk by 9am Monday morning. Accepting their bet, we enlisted KEEN ambassador Sophe Everard and jumped on an early flight to Morocco to find what new experiences we could have in 72 hours in Africa. Yalla!

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Friday

While a million miles from us in culture and landscape, Morocco is actually just a little three hour flight from the UK, and the regular flights that run from many airports each day also make it a very affordable option. Booking a 6am flight from Gatwick in April, we threw a couple of outfits, some sturdy Terradora Ethos shoes and hiking boots into hand luggage and travelled to Marrakech, a walled city of Morocco, arriving on a sunny Friday morning.

Marrakech Airport is fifteen minutes away from the middle of the walled city centre where our riad was based. Taxis take a while to flag down, but are affordable at usually around 150 dirham (about £10) and take you straight into the centre of the city’s hustle and bustle so we threw our backpacks into a car and headed towards the madness, looking forward to what our mini adventure had in store for us.

After paying the taxi we entered Jemaa el-Fnaa, the square and market place in the middle of the walled city, for the first time. This square is overwhelming, full of snake charmers, henna artists, fruit stalls and all types of wandering hawkers, it throws you straight into the anarchic and creative vibe that’s earned Marrakech the nickname “Jewel of the South”.

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Through the busy maze like streets, people, animals and especially scooters, which fly down tiny alleyways at a dangerous speeds and from every angle. We made our way through the labyrinth of backstreets, past the cart pulling donkeys, makeshift bread stalls and local children playing ball games to our riad door, happy to lose our bags and collapse in the middle courtyard space for a few minutes, before heading out to explore some more.

“The Atlas Mountains, named after a Greek god that holds up the skies”

That afternoon we entered the city for our first experience of Moroccan cuisine as settling into a kerbside café, we nibbled on Khobz (a traditional circular bread) and rich black olives, before ordering a traditional tagine and watching the street performers moving past our seats. In the late afternoon acrobats and circus performers entertained the crowds, then as the sun set we watched in awe as the crowds transformed and storytellers, music and drum circles and interactive games began to appear all around us. If we thought that the streets were manic during the day, they were nothing compared to the madness of Marrakech’s nightlife.

The streets and bazaars spill over with artistry and after just a few hours in the madness, we’re already smitten with the unfamiliar Arabic culture. Heading back to the Riad feeling drained, we head straight to bed, disbelieving of how much we had already found and excited about the new day.

Saturday

We could have easily spent our whole three days exploring the different areas of Morocco’s most enchanting city, however we had KEEN’s challenge to complete, so the next morning we were up at dawn and out of both the riad and the city, to find other adventures.

Any adventurer worth their salt will have one main Morocco experience they need to achieve during their trip – The Atlas Mountains, named after a Greek god that holds up the skies. Researching hikes up Mount Toubkal and similar peaks, it was obvious that the time restraints on this trip ruled out any serious expeditions, so we decided to explore the country’s amazing landscape and stretch our legs on a hike of the foothills that belong to those gorgeous snowy peaks.

We chose to travel by a combination of car and hikes for the day, a choice made to allow us to explore the maximum amount of the country, while also getting the achey legs of a good hike, with the hot weather versatility and hike ready sturdiness of the Ethos shoes powering us through our journey. Driving out of the city, the first place we aimed for was Amizmiz, a big Berber village around 54 km from Marrakech, nested between olive trees and fruit trees in the mountains. While a larger village, Amizmiz has the feel of a real working town, with adhān calls to prayer echoing over the buildings regularly, as locals go about their daily work on the main street. If you’re looking for a great low lands hike, this is a destination to aim for, that has some very good traditional eateries for a satisfying post hike lunch.

Jumping in the car we left our first destination and travelled down long roads and through tiny Berber villages and the mountain life they contain towards our main hike for the day. The cloudy weather of the morning had cleared and the hike to Imin Tala, one of three Berber villages on the climb to the highest peak at Djebel Toubkal, was clear and beautiful. This village is sat at 4800ft and the route is equally as beautiful as it is terrifying, with hairpin turns, sharp drops and expansive mountain streams and orchards in front and around us. At this level you can see the Atlas Mountain’s peaks in all of their glory. Walking along the sublime and immersive landscape, our boots gripping to the clay and stone paths, and with only the odd shepherd passing us on our route, it was impossible to imagine that we were soon to return to the commotion of the city walls in which we were staying, with its music, merriment and brilliant chaos.

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Sunday

One Marrakech experience that everyone should seek out while visiting the city, is a traditional medina breakfast. On Sunday, with a flight booked later that day, we ventured out early into the square, looking for some sustenance to fuel our last day of exploration.

On the side of the main square, an open fronted cafe was serving breakfast to dozens of locals, the is kitchen nothing more than a small metal cooking cart, with four people running the cookers and food preparation. Baked eggs are a morning staple in Marrakech, served in a low metal dish with plenty of olive oil, so we ordered ours with cheese and tomatoes,with a side of msemen (an unrisen pancake like bread) as well as large amounts of coffee. Looking around at the other tables in the space, it’s obvious that this kind of outdoor communal breakfast is a normal part of city life. It occurs to us that it’s much nicer than our lonely kitchen cereal routine back home.

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After eating and paying our 60 dirham (around £4.50) we finally make our way to arguably the most famous part of this city, its Souks.

The covered marketplaces are a constant flurry of trading, haggling and excitement. Walking through the Souk Semmarine, you can find rugs, jewellery, ornaments and lighting, as well as traditional formal wear. Moving through and to Souk Cherratin, the streets are full of high quality leather products, with the smell of tanned leather becoming more and more potent in the midday sun.

After exploring the larger market, we ventured towards the smaller Souk des Teinturiers, which is becoming famous in the city for it’s showcasing of new local artists and designers and for offering more unique souvenirs than the more tourist focused areas. Haggling is a matter of course here and the traders are not shy about engaging with their customers. As we looked at a ring, the shopkeepers came over and offered us a price. “No thanks, too pricey for us” we say. “No” he replied, “Now you give me your price and we work it out. That’s how it’s done.”

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Late in the afternoon, with a new ring and other little souvenirs, we escape the markets and after being spat out into the hot sun of the central square, find a cafe rooftop for one last mint tea before we had to collect our things from the Riad and head back to the Airport.

KEEN’s challenge to us was to create the best adventure possible in 72 hours, no matter what kind of adventure that might be. What we found, was that with such little time away from our work, we could find many new experiences, explore new continents, and encounter uncommon cultures, just through being mindful of the fact that these experiences were to be worked for, savouring every moment of the time we had. Better Takes Action doesn’t have to be a huge adventure every time. Simply by being aware of putting you passion and time into what really matters, you reap massive rewards.

Back at the office at 9am the next morning, it’s like we were never away at all. Inside our heads however, we are full of memories of hot desert landscapes, Arabian nights of theatre and music and wide open hikes in the sublimity of the Atlas Mountains. We took our weekend, took action to make it the best it could be, and transformed it into a real adventure.

Want to take action in your own life? Check out our Better Takes Action series below!

The post Take Action For A Better Weekend | Can You Have An Adventure With Just 72 Hours In Morocco? appeared first on Mpora.

Akela.World, Travelling Photographers | Adventure-gram

This awesome Austrian family are doing things differently

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All photos by Akela.World

“I think everybody dreams of making a world trip, or something like this,” says Leander Nardin, his face slightly pixelated on my phone screen as he dials in from Eastern Siberia. Lots of people dream of making a world trip, sure. But not everyone finds themselves driving a converted 1977 Mercedes truck halfway across the world.

Yet this is exactly what Austrian photographer Leander, his girlfriend Maria and their six-year-old son Lennox have been doing for that past year and a bit. “I think it started five years ago,” says Leander, explaining the genesis of this crazy journey. “We went to Thailand when Lennox was one year old. We just went with backpacks for a few weeks but you know when you’re traveling with children, you have lots of stuff. It was way too exhausting and complicated.”

“He was just laughing, he said: ‘No mechanic is coming into the desert.’”

“Our dream destination was always New Zealand,” he explains, but after the Thailand experience they realised that it would be difficult enough as a couple, let alone with a young kid. “Flights only and the campervan for two or three months in New Zealand is about 10 or 15 thousand euros.

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Maria, Lennox, Leander and Akela.

“So I came up with the idea to buy a small bus and drive all the way down to New Zealand. Maria was like ‘man that’s a crazy idea, it’s bullshit’. But somehow it worked out.” So far this ‘bullshit’ idea has taken them almost 40,000km, and through some of the most incredible landscapes on earth. “My favourite has definitely been Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia,” says Maria. “Kyrgyzstan felt a little bit like home, like Austria – all the beautiful lakes and mountains”.

Follow the family on Instagram and you can see instantly why they have no regrets about their decision to pack up and go. Leander is a talented snapper, whose photos include portraits of interesting locals (“the eagle hunters in Kyrgyzstan were people I always wanted to shoot”, he says), and incredible landscapes. In fact, he says, “the only thing I regret is that we travelled through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan way too fast.”

Certainly on the surface, their life looks pretty perfect. Leander’s shots include plenty of Lennox, who’s an almost unbelievably photogenic kid with a cheeky smile and a mop of blonde hair. As we speak, he occasionally chips in in impressively fluent English.

There are also a lot of photos of what they refer to as “the fourth member of our family,” the truck itself. “The truck is named Akela because he’s our leading wolf,” explains Maria. Like the leader of the pack from the Jungle Book, “he protects us when it’s hot outside, when it’s raining, when it’s cold outside”.

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Tajikistan, home to the highest peaks in former-Soviet Central Asia.

However, Akela is not always the infallible guiding force the guys might have hoped for. “When he doesn’t work,” says Maria, “it’s pretty shitty.” But this is the great thing about Leander, Maria and the Akela.World Instagram account and blog they run, and what makes them really worth following.

They don’t try to project the always-perfect #VanLife cliché, they’re more real than that. Neither of them are about to pretend that life on the road doesn’t come with problems, and their account is full of pictures of the truck breaking down at inopportune moments. “Engine overheated with outside temperatures of -10 degree Celsius!! Really?? In the middle of nowhere in Siberia – on a Sunday!” reads one post.

Leander tells another story of a breakdown in rural Iran, “300 kilometres from the last big city. There are not many people on this road so we just waited and stopped a truck driver. Truck drivers actually know about other trucks. But my Farsi is pretty shitty so it was quite difficult. We figured out it’s a big problem, and he couldn’t help us. I asked him if he could call a mechanic. He was just laughing, he said: ‘No mechanic is coming into the desert.’”

As well as the truck the couple also worry about Lennox’s wellbeing. He’s homeschooled, and life on the road has been great for his English, which far outstrips the level you’d expect from a regular 6-year-old Austrian kid. But at the same time, Maria says, “meeting other children on the road is not the same like having friends at home. It’s only for a very short time and language is always a problem.

“He’s missing all his friends. We are two adults so we can speak on the same level, but Lennox is alone, and he misses his friends.”

But for all that life on the road can be tough, overall the experience has been a massively positive one according to Leander. “It’s more intense, for sure,” he says when I ask if it’s brought them closer together. “But more so in positive than in negative ways I think.”

Leander and Lennox take a spin on the motorbike.

Even back in Austria, the family was adventurous. And having brought a motorbike, snowboards, and even Leander’s wingsuit with them, they get out into the mountains at every available opportunity. But for every shot they post of skiing in Japan, or hiking up hills in Mongolia, there’s something self-deprecating to bring things their Instagram account back to earth.

“Let’s start with a kistchy sunset at one of Borneo’s beautiful beaches,” reads one post – which sums up exactly why we love Akela.World and why you should follow them. In an environment characterised by ‘hashtag influencers’ on ‘hashtag adventures’, these guys are the real deal.

They’re going all the places we wish we could get to, and taking better photos than we ever could. But they’re not taking any of it – or themselves – too seriously.

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A shot from the Siberian leg of the journey.

Follow Akela.World on Instagram here, check out their Akela.World blog here and their profile on Stocksy here.

To read the rest of Mpora’s Remote Issue head here

To read the rest of the Adventure-gram series go here

You may also like:

Adventure-gram | Ed Stafford, Explorer
My Life In Pictures | Josh Cunningham, Adventure Photographer

The post Akela.World, Travelling Photographers | Adventure-gram appeared first on Mpora.

Leaving Las Vegas | Going From Neon To Nature In The American West

Discovering an adventure paradise in southern Utah, just four hours drive from Sin City

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

I’ve been on the Las Vegas Strip for less than ten seconds before I see four women, naked save for diamante nipple-tassels and tiny thongs. They’re posing for photographs with tourists, before asking for a not-so voluntary tip.

Dance music plays loudly. Initially, I assume, from the stereo of the many nearby sports cars that appear to be everywhere. Only after a short walk south on the Strip do I realise that the music isn’t coming from a car at all. It’s being pumped out into the street, seemingly from the ether.

From a distance, the vast hotel casinos that line the Las Vegas Strip glitter and shimmer in the bright sun, creating an enticing mirage in the middle of the desert. Up close, and at street level, they’re dizzying, 250 foot tall intimidating monoliths – save for the entrances that are designed to entice you in.

“Everyone appears to be getting drunk, already drunk, or high on what I can only assume is excitement and definitely not drugs”

Away from the entrance – and therefore the ability to separate visitors from their money – they are just towering, solid white walls, only interrupted by occasional posters for shows featuring young women, the likes of who I saw earlier, or young men wearing cowboy hats and thongs, but who look like they have little experience of herding cattle. Although, arguably, maybe that’s exactly what they do.

Outside, literally thousands of people walk slowly around on the Strip, clutching over-sized cans of American lager or brightly coloured frozen daiquiris in thin, five foot long, novelty plastic containers. The air is thick with the saccharine combination of sun-beaten tarmac, generously applied aftershave, and the vapour from a million e-cigarettes. Everyone appears to be getting drunk, already drunk, or high on what I can only assume is excitement, and definitely not amphetamines and cocaine. It’s 7.30pm on a Monday evening.

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Slot-fiends feed the machines – Photo: Getty

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Gamblers play in the Las Vegas casino’s around the clock – Photo: James Renhard

It’s like Freshers week for adults, but with cheap cider and innuendo-themed club nights replaced with the availability of anything you want, if you’re willing to pay the price for it. Vans drive past towing advertising hoardings offering the opportunity to have, what they claim to be, Las Vegas’ best looking women delivered direct to your hotel room. There are gigantic billboards advertising the chance to shoot guns, fly helicopters or a combination of the two. I’ve still only been in Las Vegas for 15 minutes and I find myself confused, and slightly intimidated.

It’s time for a drink.

Finding a drink in Las Vegas is like finding a spray-tan in Liverpool. However, what proves significantly harder is finding a bar that will sell you a beer while not encouraging you to gamble in some form or other. Getting to a casino bar involves walking past endless roulette tables and slot machines, and even then, there are gaming machines embedded in the actual bar themselves. Eventually, I opt for a sports bar that sold American lager in plastic cups. One beer later and it’s time for bed.

Las Vegas casino Bryce Canyon Utah guide

“You’re under arrest, and I’m under a vest. Just.” – Photo: Getty

The next morning I head back to the airport to collect my rental car. It means a short walk south on the Strip again. It’s quieter than last night, but still busy. There are less people drinking, and more people jogging. Dance music still pumps out of, well, I don’t know where. One homeless man urinates in the street while another is curled away from the Strip, leaning up against one of the many towering walls, lighter in one hand, a glass pipe in the other. I notice people still pumping money into slot machines, some with suitcases next to them, presumably trying one last time to win big before traveling home to normality. Las Vegas, baby!

I’m leaving.

***

Driving out of Las Vegas is a little like the minutes immediately after an argument with a loved one. The noise, chaos, and mild fear that’s gone immediately before is suddenly replaced with a still, quiet limbo. As the casinos, crowds and round-the-clock music disappear, I find myself braced for it to suddenly emerge again until long after the Strip has disappeared in the rear view mirror.

On the road from Las Vegas into southern Utah and Bryce Canyon, I ponder what I’m really trying to discover. I’m staying within reach of Sin City, but want something entirely removed from it. I want peace, nature and, most of all, space. At this point, I’d have no idea how different southern Utah would be to Las Vegas. Or quite how much it would be the same.

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Fiery red rocks flank the road – Photo: James Renhard

The long nothingness of Nevada suddenly erupts into massive, otherworldly mountains of Utah. Just two hours from Las Vegas, and the road is flanked by imposing, fire red rocks. These give way to forests, then fields and plains, then rocks again. It’s a mesmerising pattern that continues until I pull into Snow Canyon State Park.

After stopping, I glance up from the map on my phone to the rearview mirror and notice a stranger approaching the car with some intent. It’s hard to tell if he genuinely looks like Old Man Marley from Home Alone, or if that’s just in my head. Either way, he’s getting closer, and I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do when this inevitably goes south.

“A natural energy seemingly pours out of the environment here”

“I can see from your licence plate you’re a foreigner” drawls the stranger, spotting the rental car’s California plates. A bellowing laugh follows a short pause, which does little to settle my nerves.

Despite my initial fear, the stranger was a Snow Canyon trail steward named Rich. Within minutes we’re both laughing, and he’s is suggesting local hikes and trails to take. His enthusiasm and love for his surrounding is obvious – something I’d later find out is not unique to Rich.

“Johnson Canyon is a nice short hike. You can go up to Scotts Cave. It’s a little bit longer, but an interesting hike” he tells me with the wide-eyed expression of a kid at Christmas. “We’ve got lava tubes!” he adds with the kind of gasp that suggests he almost forgot to mention them. “They’re really cool!”

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The walls of slot canyons tower high above hikers below – Photo: James Renhard

In fact, his childlike joy only seems to drop when I mention that, after three nights in Utah, I’d be heading back to Las Vegas to fly home. “Oh. Okay.” The disappointment is audible in Rich’s voice before he quickly shifts the attention back to Snow Canyon.

“Do you know about the petroglyphs in the area? Oh wow. We’ve got some really cool petroglyphs here. It’s not a terribly difficult hike to get to them.” If Rich had a tail, it would be wagging. His warmth and enthusiasm is infectious. And it’s not in the hope of a tip, it’s not service with a smile. It seems to be the energy he gets from his surroundings.

Eventually, Rich bounds away, and I drive in the other direction, through Snow Canyon Park, stopping to explore. Before long the massive walls of Jenny’s Canyon tower high above as I walk deeper and deeper into it. Daylight is just a scratch in the darkness above, as the rock around me is dizzyingly high.

The next morning begins early and with an unusual freshness. I tell myself it’s the natural energy that seemingly pours out of the environment here, but Utah’s strict alcohol licensing laws may also be a factor.

As the journey continues towards Bryce Canyon, the sheer otherworldliness of the surroundings gets increasingly, well, otherworldly. On the way, I stop at Red Canyon with it’s gigantic rusty rocks that line the road on either side, broken up by patches of green trees. Two arches of rock reach over the road, like arms trying to rip the tarmac from the floor. It’s a psychedelic experience – a completely natural splash of colours and vivid imagery.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once roamed this area, back when the west was wild, often hiding out for days at a time in a hut along what is now imaginatively called the Cassidy Trail. I can’t help but think that, with such wild imagery and views around me, mixed with the exciting brush of criminal history, this place feels like everything Las Vegas tries so hard to convince you it is.

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

The archways in Red Canyon, Utah – Photo: James Renhard

As noon approached, I’m back on the road, heading along Byway 12 to Kodachrome Basin State Park. At over 2000 acres, it’s a huge expanse of canyons and plains, disrupted by over 60 burnt orange stone spires that reach up towards the sky from the ground, some reaching 52 metres in the air.

So taken with the beauty and vivid colours of the area when they explored it in 1949, the US National Geographic Society named the park Kodachrome Flat, after the then relatively new range of Kodak film they used. It was later changed to the more literal Chimney Rock State Park, before National Geographic successfully had the name returned to Kodachrome Basin State Park.

“The three state parks we have in Bryce rival national parks in other states”

Pulling into the carpark of the visitors centre, I’m greeted by Park Manager, Jon Wikan. “Do you mind if I record” I ask Jon, taking my dictaphone out as I walk into his office. Every other American I’ve ever met has an ability to be stern, yet polite. Wikan didn’t get the memo. “I will not be recorded” he insisted bluntly, simultaneously channeling both Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and a mid-tantrum Elton John.

Wikan talks through the history of Kodachrome, the name changes, the geology, and the slightly terrifying natural inhabitants , including cougars, coyotes and rattlesnakes. None of them are as frightening as Wikan himself. However, when I ask him for recommendations for trails, he warms. It’s as if he now sees somebody who’s here to enjoy this amazing, natural playground, and not just stand in an office asking questions.

Wanting to capitalise on this change of atmosphere, I ask Wikan – who lives in the state park itself – what he does when he wants a break from it all. Confusion at the notion of not being in the park is briefly written across his face until he replies, “Well, I go and visit other national parks.” I stifle an unfair chuckle. After all, it’s clear Wikan is deeply in love with this very special place he calls home.

Risking displeasing him just as we’d brokered as close to a friendship as Wikan and I will ever have, I confess that, after my brief stay in the area, I’m heading back to Las Vegas. “Las Vegas?” he retorts in a tone with far less disgust that I’d imagined, “On your way in, check out Valley Of Fire State Park. It’s got some really good terrain.”

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

The incredible red chimney-like formations at Kodachrome Basin State Park – Photo: Getty

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

The arid, petrified foliage in Kodachrome – Photo: James Renhard

I leave Park Manager Wikan and continue exploring the park he clearly loves. Now well into the afternoon, I head to the two-mile Grand Parade Trail, wandering between the huge red chimneys and petrified trees, listening for wildlife rustling in the arid bushes, and really hoping not to hear those rattlesnakes.

That evening I head back on myself to Bryce Canyon to meet local resident and history buff Falyn Owens for dinner in a suitable wild west-feeling roadside restaurant. I want to know what she thinks makes this part of Utah so special.

“Honestly, I don’t think there is any place like it anywhere.” replies Falyn with gushing enthusiasm “Around every turn, there’s something different. There’s the red rocks of Bryce, the forest, the desert… ”

“People relocate here because of the energy, and the peacefulness”

Just like everybody I’ve spoken to since leaving Las Vegas and crossing into Utah, Falyn’s enthusiasm for her environment is boundless, and infectious. I try to hide what I’m sure is wide-eyed wonder on my face. With things going so well, I can’t help but see if mention of my Las Vegas origins changes the tone. Still smiling, Owens shifts to what appears to be a more diplomatic approach. “Vegas is iconic,” she admits, “ and everyone wants to do the Vegas thing at least once. Most people fly into Vegas for Bryce Canyon. It’s actually our biggest gateway city. We call it Neon to Nature!”

I try to hide my disappointment at realising this particular adventure is maybe not as original as I once thought. I broach the strange, peaceful energy that there seems to be in the area. “I think people relocate here because of that energy, and that peacefulness that it brings. A lot of people like to get out into the desert area just because of that.”

“Bryce is the hook – the three state parks we have rival national parks in other states – but we have so many hidden gems. The Thunder Mountain trail is very popular for mountain biking. Disney has a ride called Thunder Mountain that’s actually based on that trail. Canyoneering, horseback riding, we’ve hosted the Tour de Utah in the past…”

Before we part ways, Falyn recommends a few hiking trails to try, including Lower Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is apparently a must.

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

Hoodoo’s in the Amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National Park – Photo: Getty

It’s the morning of my last full day in Utah and, again, I’m awake with an energy and freshness I’m not usually accustomed to, especially prior to coffee. I drive down to Bryce Canyon State Park. This natural, orange and red theatre is home to hoodoo’s: long spires of rock that point skywards, the product of millions of years of geological magic and weather erosion.

There are over 50 miles of hikeable trails, twisting and turning like veins through the network of hoodoos and other geological anomalies. However, the words of Falyn are still ringing in my ears, and the pull of Lower Calf Creek Falls proves irresistible.

From Byway 12, the pink, orange, and white rock formation that staggers up to the sky giving Grand Staircase it’s name is clear. It looks like it’s specifically designed for some deity, or a giant to use to ascend into the heavens. I’m around a four hour drive from Las Vegas, but it seems like a million years away.

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is worth a lot in Scrabble if you can get it – Photo: James Renhard

I arrive at the trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls. Jon Wikan had told me it was an easy hike. The sign at the start of the trail said it was an easy hike. Scrambling up the side of a sandstone boulder, 20 minutes in suggested that my definition of easy differed from that of other people. The variable terrain, switching from deep soft sand, to hard rock, to small climbs was enough to eat the hours away. Being sunk deep into the gorge that makes up a lot of the trail felt slightly intimidating, but also strangely affirming, in the same way that being in the ocean, or at the top of a mountain can.

Some hours later, I find the reward for my excursion; a 65 metre high waterfall. The rock behind it shines with a thousand different colours, the afternoon sun constantly changing it like a giant kaleidoscope. I spend a few minutes there, which feel genuinely special.

These falls somehow sum up the entire Bryce Canyon area. Intimidatingly powerful, yet calm. Vast, yet intimate. Awash with incredible, psychedelic pallet that no photograph can ever do justice.

I head back to the car where, en route, a hiker stops and asks if I’ve seen any cougars on the trail. She seems disappointed when I say no, adding that they’re quite common in the area. My pace quickened.

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

The breathtaking Lower Calf Creek Falls – Photo: James Renhard

After a final night in Bryce Canyon, I find myself back on the road, headed towards Las Vegas, the town I’d been so keen to escape. I wanted to find somewhere that offered the opposite of Sin City, but stay within reasonable reach. In Bryce Canyon I certainly found that.

Gone were the crowds of slow moving, slot-machine devotees. Hell, for the most part, gone were people all together. There was no facade of service with a smile. The bluff and puff of showmanship was absent. Bryce Canyon offers the kind of space and tranquility that’s simply unimaginable when standing four hours away on the Las Vegas Strip. The two places couldn’t be more different. I was prepared for that. What I didn’t expect was to find that they were also kind of the same.

Looking up at those Las Vegas casinos is much like standing at the base of a hoodoo, or in a slot canyon, looking up at the tiny slither of sky above. Both places can easily confound and bewilder visitors, with their sheer size and vast array of options. Las Vegas has a kind of sickly, synthetic conveyor-belt energy to it. Bryce Canyon has a more holistic, natural pulse that seems to seep into your skin.

Hours pass and eventually Las Vegas appears on the horizon. My eyes are fixed on the glistening, shimmering mirage in the desert ahead, but my heart is still a few hours behind, among the fire red rocks, and the peace and quiet of Bryce Canyon.

Getting There

Bryce Canyon Utah guide

Norwegian fly a winter service from London Gatwick to Las Vegas using brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with a choice of Premium or Economy cabins.

Economy fares start from £200 one way, £350 return. For more information see the Norwegian website.

Bon Voyage offer a seven night stay in Utah, flying from London Gatwick to Las Vegas with Norwegian from £1095 per person, based on two people traveling. The price included the above mentioned flights, three nights B&B at Inn on the Cliff, St. George, three nights room only at Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and one night room only at the Canyon’s Boutique Hotel in Kanab. The price is valid for travel between November 2018 and March 2019

From Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon is about a four hour drive north-east along Interstate 15, via a 50 mile stretch of Arizona and on to the infinitely photogrenic Byway 12. We used Rhino Car Hire to rent an SUV. A seven day car rental starts from £190. For more information see RhinoCarHire.com

For more information about Bruce Canyon Country and Utah, see visitutah.com

Read the rest of the April ‘Remote’ issue here

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The post Leaving Las Vegas | Going From Neon To Nature In The American West appeared first on Mpora.

Best Travel Quotes | 101 Inspirational Quotes Guaranteed To Give You Wanderlust

A definitive list of the most inspiring travel quotes in the history of the world

travel-quotes-inspirational

Picture via Getty Images.

Travel is great. It can take us to places we’ve never been, show us things we’ve never seen, and show us a side to ourselves we never knew existed. But in amongst the hustle and bustle of working to pay rent, sorting out utility bills, and binge-watching Netflix it can be easy to lose sight of travel’s magic.

In a bid to inspire you to get up off the sofa and get back in touch with your love for exploration, we’ve compiled together 101 of the most inspirational quotes about travelling. Quotes from famous writers, ancient Chinese philosophers, mountaineering legends, aviation pioneers, YouTube personalities, poets, Karl Pilkington and so many others. They’re all here. Adventure awaits.

1) “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

2) “I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” – Bill Bryson

3) “Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin

4) “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – J.K. Rowling

travel-quotes-inspirational

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” – J.K. Rowling. Photo via Getty Images.

5) “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking things.” – Henry Miller

6) “The journey not the arrival matters.” – T.S. Eliot 

7) “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac

8) “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” – Roald Dahl 

9) “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

10) “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

11) “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

12) “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville

13) “Like all great travellers I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

travel-quotes-inspirational

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Hellen Keller. Photo via Getty Images.

14) “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Hellen Keller

15) “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley

16) “Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

17) “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

18) “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Dr. Seuss

19) “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai

20) “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Sir Terry Pratchett

21) “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anaïs Nin

22) “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” – Mark Twain

23) “I heard an airplane passing overhead. I wished I was on it.” – Charles Bukowski

24) “Tourists went on holidays while travellers did something else. They travelled.” – Alex Garland

travel-quotes-inspirational

“Tourists went on holidays while travellers did something else. They travelled.” – Alex Garland. Photo via Getty Images.

25) “I’d be smiling and chatting away, and my mind would be floating around somewhere else, like a balloon with a broken string.” – Haruki Murakami

26) “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

27) “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” – Neil Gaiman 

28) “Anyone who needs more than one suitcase is a tourist, not a traveler.” – Ira Levin

29) “The journey is the destination.” – Dan Eldon

30) “Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.” – John Steinbeck 

31) “To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen 

32) “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.” – André Gide 

33) “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.” – Freya Stark

34) “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell

35) “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

travel-quotes-inspirational

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert. Photo via Getty Images.

36) “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

37) “I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.” – Caskie Stinnett

38) “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

39) “A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.” – Henry Rollins

40) “Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” – Matthew Karsten

41) “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.” – Paulo Coelho

42) “I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

43) “A wise man travels to discover himself.” – James Russell Lowell

44) “Experience does for the soul what education does for the mind.” – Casey Neistat

45) “I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better.” – Paul Theroux

travel-quotes-inspirational

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde. Photo via Getty Images.

46) “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

47) “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.” – John Augustus Shedd

48) “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou 

49) “Adventure without risk is Disneyland.” – Douglas Coupland

50) “I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro

51) “Make voyagesAttempt them. There’s nothing else.” – Tennessee Williams

52) “We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.” – Hilaire Belloc

inspirational-travel-quotes

“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.” – Hilaire Belloc. Photo via Getty Images.

53) “Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” – Sir Tom Stoppard

54) “While armchair travellers dream of going places, travelling armchairs dream of staying put.” – Anne Tyler

55) “Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.” – Walt Whitman

56) “Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends… the mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

57) “A lazy, bored brain latches on to negativity and problems and exaggerates them until they become out of perspective and all-consuming.” – Ed Stafford

58) “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

59) “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” – James A. Michener

60) “I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new” – Jules Verne

travel-quotes-inspirational

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” – Ernest Hemingway. Photo via Getty Images.

61) “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” – Ernest Hemingway

62) “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

63) “He who is brave is free.”  – Seneca

64) “You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor 

65) “When you’re travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

66) “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” – Sir David Attenborough

67) “Boldness be my friend.” – William Shakespeare

68) “Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.” – Danny Wallace

69) “Now more than ever do I realise that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” – Isabelle Eberhardt

travel-quotes-inspirational

“Now more than ever do I realise that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” –
Isabelle Eberhardt. Photo via Getty Images.

70) “I read; I travel; I become.” – Derek Walcott

71) “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” – Judith Thurman

72) “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” – George Moore 

73) “The Wanderlust has got me… by the belly-aching fire.” – Robert W. Service 

74) “You can’t control the past, but you can control where you go next.” – Kirsten Hubbard

75) “They spoke less and less between them until at last they were silent altogether as is often the way with travellers approaching the end of a journey.” – Cormac McCarthy

76) “Traveling-to-a-place energy and living-in-a-place energy are two fundamentally different energies.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

77) “There we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world.” – Ernesto Che Guevara

78) “Where you come from does matter – but not nearly as much as where you are headed.”  – Jodi Picoult

79) “Always stay sharp on railways and cruise ships for transit has a way of making everything clear.” – Anna Godbersen

80) “Running, you should know, is a kind of stillness.” – Tiphanie Yanique

travel-quotes-inspirational

“Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealised dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely.” – Tim Cahill. Photo via Getty Images.

81) “Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealised dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely.” – Tim Cahill

82) “Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

83) “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” – Pascal Mercier

84) “Life is beautiful if you are on the road to somewhere” – Orhan Pamuk

85) “The advantage of travel is that after a while you begin to realise that wherever you go, most people aren’t really all that much different.” – Joanne Harris

86) “Early morning: set off at dawn. Travel round in front of the sun, steal a day’s march on him. Keep it up for ever never grow a day older technically.” – James Joyce 

87) “Time to leave now, get out of this room, go somewhere, anywhere; sharpen this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes, be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore.” – Stefan Zweig

88) “Every traveller has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” – Charles Dickens

89) “All adventures happen in that damned and magical space, wherever it may be found or chanced upon, which least resembles one’s home.” – Michael Chabon

90) “Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.” – Hunter S. Thompson

best-travel-quotes

“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.” – Hunter S. Thompson. Photo via Getty Images.

91) “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought.” – Matsuo Bashō

92) “Travel, which is like a greater and a graver science, brings us back to ourselves.” – Albert Camus

93) “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

94) “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

95) “Let those who wish have their respectability- I wanted freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice struck my fancy, freedom to search in the farthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” – Richard Halliburton

96) “You only get one chance at life and you have to grab it boldly.” – Bear Grylls

97) “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

98) “Because it’s there.” – George Mallory (when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest)

99) “Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

100) “Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

101) “I’ve never liked wedding cake due to the amount of icing, but then imagine a wedding cake without it; just a dark, stodgy, horrible dry sponge. The icing covers up the mess, and that’s how I feel about most of the Wonders. They use them to get people to visit a place that you probably wouldn’t think about visiting.” – Karl Pilkington

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Camping with Kids in Winter | A South Downs Bothy Adventure

Two mothers, five kids, and a lot of mist. What could possibly go wrong?

Words by Sam Haddad | Photos by Sam Haddad & Jonquil Pinto 

We’re walking through a world that is almost entirely white, save the bark-brown skeleton of an oak tree looming large to our right. At this point I’m not sure the pack of kids I’m with, which includes two of my own, have even noticed. They’re too busy telling ghost tales that are “definitely true, 100 per cent, for real, this actually happened…” Though maybe the fact we’re marching through the thickest, most soupy of fogs is precisely why they’re telling such spooky stories in the first place.

We drop into a patch of trees where the mist clears but the shadows darken. The path narrows to single-file and the story pace quickens. Before long the group is borderline hysterical, in a kind of kids from Stranger Things way, albeit without the BMXs or ever-present Demagorgan threat.

“It’s easy to take your children camping in summer and emerge all-smiles. But this winter, we wanted to experience the outdoors in an opposite season. To dive into the weather headlong…”

Still, I’m not complaining, and nor is the other mother I’m with. Eerie stories are a rite of passage and we’re just happy with how far they’ve walked in the dank without fussing. Especially as the five of them have ages ranging from four to eight and no one slept excellently in our stone manger-style bothy last night.

It’s easy to take your children camping in summer and emerge all-smiles. But this winter, we wanted to experience the outdoors in an opposite season. To dive into the weather headlong, and notice it in a way you rarely do when you spend the darkest months hiding indoors or bolting from one building to the next.

Credit: Sam Haddad

This is what an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty looks like in fog. Credit: Sam Haddad

I say we meaning my friend and I, I’m sure our kids would have rather gone to Legoland or Eurodisney given the choice, like many of their school friends were doing this holiday. If you can handle the crowds and the costs that kind of fun of course has its place but there’s something about being in nature and taking on a bit of a challenge that I hope might leave a more lasting impression on them, even if they’re too busy having fun with their friends to realise it.

Gumber Bothy is a National Trust Bunkhouse just off the South Downs way in West Sussex. It’s in the shadow of a hill sheep farm but you can’t drive there directly, you can only reach it via a two-mile hike through a deep forest. When we’d arrived the day before, in spite of the drizzle, the children had found the idea of needing to walk through the woods to reach their bed for the night a surprisingly enticing prospect.

“In spite of the drizzle, the children had found the idea of needing to walk through the woods to reach their bed for the night a surprisingly enticing prospect.”

And there was something quite sweet about watching them head off ahead waterproofed-up to the max, with their backpacks stuffed with soft toys and sleeping bags for the night. It was the tail end of autumn so some of the trees were still aflame with brightly-coloured leaves and we even found the odd super-sweet blackberry to power on the smallest ones.

Carrying their little lives in backpacks. Credit: Sam Haddad

Backpacks stuffed with sleeping bags and soft toys. Credit: Sam Haddad

Fortunately, we reached Gumber Bothy before morale and energy levels dipped too low. You can camp in the grounds but we’re not hardcore enough for that at this time of year so we opted for the hostel and were pleased to find we had one of the 12-bunk rooms to ourselves. It wasn’t heated though and with temperatures set to hover around four degrees the night ahead looked potentially interesting.

“We didn’t end up lost, lost, as such but…”

We’d also promised them a campfire but it had been damp and rainy for days so the prospect of finding dry wood was slim. But it felt good to let them roam free in the woods below the bothy, with the older ones in charge, in a way you could never do in the built environment back home. When they eventually returned arms full of soaking-wet sticks we persuaded them to wait until the next morning for a fire in the hope the wood might have dried out by then.

The bothy had a good basic kitchen so we loaded up on pasta for dinner. By now it was dark but too cloudy for stargazing, which was a shame as the South Downs is now an International Dark Sky Reserve, thanks its great night-time viewing opportunities. My friend then pulled out some sparklers which more than made up for it as far as the kids were concerned.

Forestxxx. Credit: Sam Haddad

It felt good to let them roam in the forest unsupervised in a way you could never do back home. Credit: Sam Haddad

To get ready for bed we put on all of our clothes like a comedy character from a storybook. We then played a few rounds of Uno and listened to some folk story podcasts I’d forgotten I had on my phone, while trying to stop the now-hyper youngest two from jumping from bed to bed. Eventually they calmed down and went to sleep, and a good few hours later my eldest son and I fell asleep too. Though both my kids woke up me a few hours later and to be taken to the toilet, which was outside and in the rain. Leaving my warm sleeping bag for that was a trip low-point for sure.

Diving headlong into winter weather. Credit: Sam Haddad

Diving headlong into winter weather. Credit: Sam Haddad

In spite of the fitful night and mist that was now enveloping this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with an even greater vigour than the day before, everyone woke up with high spirits and after a hot cocoa porridge breakfast and aborted fire-starting attempt, we headed directly into the void for a walk.

We didn’t end up “lost, lost” as such but it’s also fair to say we had no phone reception or exact idea of where we were for most of the hike, though we were also quite confident of the vague parallelogram shape we were tracing out, based on a laminated map we’d found in the bothy. There were no sights to speak of only fog, sheep and the bare bones of trees, but that didn’t matter, as there was something pure about experiencing the South Downs way and winter weather in whatever form it took.

Gumber Bothy and the author's two sons. Credit: Sam Haddad

Gumber Bothy in all its flint-stone glory and the author’s two sons. Credit: Sam Haddad

After a couple of hours of gentle walking, and many snacks, the ghost stories switched to silly songs mostly involving the kind of bum/wee-type humour kids of this age can’t get enough of. We swung past the bothy to pick up our backpacks just as the day’s next hardy guests were arriving, and hiked the final stretch out, wet, muddy and the kind of tired with rosy-cheeks that you only get from time spent in the cold outdoors.

At this time of year all instinct tells us to hole up inside and hunker down for winter. Netflix and screens, cocoons and hygge vibes, but if you do get out into the wilderness for a while you’ll always feel better for it. I know I did, as did my friend, and I’m pretty sure all our kids did too. They certainly talked about the bothy adventure for a long time afterwards, which means they probably didn’t hate it, so that’s a win in my books.

To read the rest of December’s ‘Family’ Issue head here

To read more Great British Adventures head here

Sparklers in lieu of a campfire. Credit: Sam Haddad

Sparklers in lieu of a campfire. Credit: Sam Haddad

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