When the place you discover by accident becomes one of the most beautiful places you have visited: Tioga Pass / Tenaya Lake

Most of you know by now that Yosemite is my favourite place in the world (so far!). You can read our posts on Mirror Lake and Camping for some background on our trips. I’m working my way up to a big post on the Half Dome hike – there is so much to share on this topic that it has been in progress for a while!

Around every corner is a stunning new view and the way the park has retained its ‘wildness’ just adds to its allure. Even after a couple of visits to the park, we have still found something new each time.

We just had to pull in to the side of the road for this view!

On our last trip, we were leaving Yosemite by a different exit, crossing Tioga Pass to make our way towards Death Valley. We had passed over Tioga Pass before, but we had done it at 2am in the thickness of night and therefore missed the views. This time, we were leaving Yosemite in the early morning and had enough light to see all of the sights on offer.

Tioga Pass is the highest highway pass in California and the Sierra Nevada. Due to its height, it’s usually the last road to open in summer and the first road to close in winter due to the ice and snow. On the journey, our ears were soon popping and the first time we made the trip, our bag of crisps burst open due to the altitude pressure: making us pull the car over, half in shock, half grateful that it wasn’t the gas canister for the camping stove!

The lake was like a perfect piece of paradise - we didn’t want to leave!

On this trip in the daylight, the trip probably took us twice as long as we stopped every ten minutes or so to pull over and admire the surroundings.

One place in particular really captured our attention: Tenaya Lake. Located at an elevation of 8,150 feet, this alpine lake is incredible. As we drove towards it in the car, both Wandering Beeb and I were lost for words, with “wow” being the only thing we had to say.

We weren’t expecting to see this glacial lake on our route through from Yosemite to Death Valley

Set back from the road, the little sandy beach and picnic table framed the water perfectly. The lake was formed by a glacier and the cliffs in the background stood out against the blue of the waters.

We didn’t know the lake was there, we hadn’t read any reviews and we certainly hadn’t built our route around visiting the lake. This was one of those occasions where going with the flow and meandering to our next destination had paid off, revealing a view we’d never intended to see and one that never left our minds.

Lokrum Island and the Iron Throne

Peacocks and the Iron Throne – all in one location!

During our stay in Dubrovnik, our bedroom window looked out across the sea towards Lokrum Island. Every morning we would wake to the ships passing by, taking visitors to and from the island. Although the island looked fairly small, our Croatian host had told us tales of peacock inhabitants and Game of Thrones scenery, making us curious and eager to explore.

Lokrum is an island nature reserve, around 15 minutes away from the Dubrovnik coast. Boat rides run regularly throughout the day and cost around 35HRK, which also includes entrance to the island.

As we were visiting in Autumn, the weather was a little hit and miss, so we waited for a sunny day and headed off to the boat. Visiting in Autumn did us a huge favour, as the boat was only about three quarters full, giving us room to spread out. The motion of the boat and the sun reflecting off the deep blue waters made for a stunning ride.

There are no overnight stays allowed on Lokrum and cars are also banned, so the first thing that struck us when we got off the boat was just how quiet it is! The second thing we noticed was the abundance of the island’s only inhabitants – the peacocks! Introduced to the island around 150 years ago, these stunning birds now rule the roost. There is something quite majestic about them and the colours they display are captivating. Just be sure to follow the usual rules of photographing / observing wildlife – don’t get too close or you might find that they take a snap at you!

Exploring, we stuck to the coastal path, which took us most of the way round the island. The views were stunning, made even more impressive by the sparkling sea surrounding us. Having this nature reserve on your door step must be amazing for people living in Dubrovnik – no wonder people were really proud of it. It was immaculate and felt just the right mix of natural and well maintained.

Nearer to the centre of the island sat the Monastery, with elements remaining from a number of eras, it was fitting to its surroundings, tucked away in exotic gardens and plants. Inside the monastery, more information on the island’s history was available, including the telling of the curse on the island, placed by the Benedictine Monks who were forced to leave by the French army. Legend says that on their last night, they walked single file around the island three times, dripping wax from their up-turned candles, placing a curse on anyone who tried to seek the island for their own in the future.

A more modern exhibit in the monastery focused on Game of Thrones. The botanical gardens on Lokrum and parts of the monastery were used for the city of Qarth in the show. A full sized Iron Chair stood in the corner of the exhibit for visitors to sit in and take pictures. Given that Wandering Beeb is a big fan of the show, we took some time there for him to play at being Ned Stark (at least it wasn’t Geoffrey!!).

Although it was used as a set for one of the most famous shows of this decade, it was still the beauty of the island itself that stole my attention. Without a doubt, it’s a stunning place to visit. I’d love to go back in the summer and try out the Red Sea pool – it was a little too cold for this when we went!

Have you visited Lokrum? What was your favourite part of the island?

Happiness Only Real When Shared: Reflections From The Top of Sulphur Mountain, Banff.

We look back at our favourite image from 2017

As we hurtle towards the end of the year, we thought that we would look back on the year until now. 2017 saw the launch of this blog and it’s great to have been able to share some of our adventures with you!

Helpfully, the daily post’s photo challenge this week was on the topic of favourite photos from this year. With this in mind, me and Wandering Beeb went digging through our photos to see what we would class as our favourites.

Some of the stand out ones from this year were our ‘walking the glacier‘ set – just because the experience was so surreal and so different to our usual trips.

The photos on Sulphur Mountain in Banff grabbed us and made sense for us to share on this theme, although probably not for the reasons you would think!

Sulphur Mountain was impressive, with stunning views on a near 360 degree viewing platform. We were lucky in that the haze from the forest fires had cleared a little, moving the view of the mountains from a fuzzy outline in the distance to 3D relief, affording us some stunning vistas. We made the short trundle from the observation deck to the now defunct Cosmic Ray Station, heading up inclines made manageable for most visitors by structured steps and under-foot decking. So much so that a small child was walking confidently the length of the observation deck, loudly proclaiming ‘Eeek’ to the surrounding mountains, blissfully unconcerned with the breath-taking drop below. Looking back at the photos, the views are clearly stunning, but this wasn’t the reason for singling them out.

One of the best things about travelling is speaking to other people from different cultures, countries and perspectives – even when it’s only briefly. Those snippets of conversation are what add flavour to the otherwise routine trawl through the sightseeing gambit and it was the connections we made on this part of the trip that we were reminded of by these photos.

Whizzing along on the upward gondola trip, we found ourselves sharing the four person gondola with two guys who were catching up on a trip out to Banff. They explained that they had been neighbours 10 years earlier, with one of the pair only being a kid at the time. Learning about two people and their stories in an 8 minute ride up the mountain can only give you a flavour of their history, but we had the sense that they were two really cool guys, enjoying their time catching up. There was an easy-going banter between the two of them which helped to reduce my anxiety at being suspended above the ground by a single cable.

The way down saw us sharing the space with a couple from Sweden who were clearly as freaked out by the height as I was (you can read more about my terrible relationship with gondolas here).

Despite the anxiety, we talked about their trip, starting with Reykjavik, heading on to Quebec and learning about their observations on Toronto (a smaller version of NYC). We shared our views on Vancouver (to which they were heading soon). They took a couple of snaps and asked us about our football preferences back home in the UK (Zatan was a favourite topic of conversation). As soon as people find out we are from Manchester, the first question is always ‘are you a red or a blue?’ By the time the gondola had reached the bottom and we wished each other happy travels, we had shared travel tips, made new acquaintances and had some ideas for our future travels. It’s those memories that have made these photos some of our favourites. 

This is our favourite part of travelling and regardless of beautiful scenery and amazing experiences, it’s the people and the connections that makes the journey worthwhile.