How to Visit the Uvac River Meanders in Serbia

The Uvac River is an international trans-boundary river that flows for 115 km (71 miles), through Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Uvac River carves a deep and winding valley through a dramatic landscape. Along the river you can find staggering mountains, expansive caves, and interesting wildlife, including Griffon vultures.

The Meanders were formed as the river flowed through limestone over many years. Today, they are in impressive series of tightly packed looping turns below tall canyon walls. The Meanders is one of the most photogenic places in Serbia, and I highly recommend visiting if you have the opportunity.

Visiting the Meanders wasn’t as straightforward as I expected, so I put together this post with some helpful information on how to get there.

Where to Stay

We were coming from Bosnia, and Užice, Serbia was a convenient place for us to stay. The Meanders are about a 2:15 drive from Užice, and since the walk to the viewpoint is not long at all, it was easy to drive there and back in a day. Družiniće is closer to the Meanders, but there isn’t as much to do there.

How to Get to the Uvac River Meanders

If you’re looking at a map, the viewpoints are located here:

There are actually two viewpoints that are quite near each other. You can put “Видиковац” or “Vintage Point Uvats” in Google Maps for the first viewpoint and “Видиковац Молитва 2” in Google Maps for the second viewpoint. You can walk between the two viewpoints if you want to see both.

The last 30 or so minutes is along a dirt road filled with rocks and potholes. Be careful! We had a tiny car and there were several times when we were worried we wouldn’t make it. I would definitely recommend using a high clearance vehicle.

This is the easy part of the dirt road. I was too focused on driving to take photos at the bad parts.

Once you park, it is a fairly short (but not well marked) walk to the viewpoint. Follow the little dirt path in the direction of the river (it’s fairly obvious where the river is), and remember which path you came from.

You’ll come to a wooden lookout. This is the viewpoint.

Feel free to leave a comment here or message me on Instagram if you have any questions!

How to Get the Best View of Kozjak Lake from Mount Jasen Observatory

Mount Jasen Observatory offers a great view of Kozjak Lake with no hiking required, but you can hike around if you want to! It’s about an hour car ride from Skopje, and well worth the drive.

Google Maps and Waze both have the location as “Kozjak Lake Observation Point. There is cell phone service most of the way, including at the top. We only lost service for a few minutes right before the top.

There are several pull outs on the road, and I recommend stopping at a few to get different views. I also highly recommend hiking around a bit if you’re up for it.

A few of my favorite photos are below:

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Roadtripping around the South Island of New Zealand with Mad Campers NZ

Meandering down windy roads with each turn giving us a glimpse of staggering peaks and breathtaking fjords was a routine that was easy to get used to as Caroline and I spent a week roadtripping around New Zealand in a Mad Campers NZ van.

One of the first things I learned upon arrival in New Zealand is how quickly the weather can change. While it’s a good idea to have some hikes in mind, it’s important to realize that sticking to a firm schedule likely won’t work out. We had a list of ideas and adjusted our schedule day-by-day based on the weather. Our Mad Campers NZ van gave us the flexibility to keep our plans loose and take full advantage of the good weather when it came. No pre-booked hotels, nothing holding us to a certain place at a certain time – we drove the van around and slept wherever it ended up being convenient. New Zealand is full of “holiday parks” where you can sleep in your van, so van life is quite easy.

Hike Outside of Queenstown

Our first overnight hike (which I promised not to disclose the location of) was a few hours outside of Queenstown. Five hours of slogging through mud and climbing over fallen trees led us to a peaceful river where we set up camp. The next morning we hiked up the river to the glacier for some absolutely stunning views. The hike ended up taking much longer than we anticipated and we didn’t get out until around 10pm. We were SO excited to be back at the van. We immediately cooked ourselves a nice dinner, drove to the nearest holiday park with availability, set up our bed in the van, and went to sleep. It was cold outside, but the van was nice and warm. My tired and sore body really appreciated the padding of the bed.

A Couple of Days of Relaxation

After our first hike, the weather turned bad and it rained for two days straight. We took advantage of the downtime to catch up on work, edit photos, and let our bodies recharge. Sometimes we ate at cafes and sometimes we cooked in the van. And let me tell you, sleeping in a van is soooo much nicer than sleeping in a tent when it’s raining!

Mitre Peak

When the weather got nice again, we drove down to Milford Sound. After taking a few photos at the sound, we got on a Milford Helicopters flight to the foothill of Mitre Peak. We camped there that night and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. We hiked the rest of the morning and got picked up that afternoon. Mitre Peak is a beautiful mountain that rises directly out of the ocean. It is peaceful and not heavily trafficked, so you’re likely to have the mountain all to yourself. Be careful if you hike – it’s easy to get lost near the bottom and it’s very exposed.

Gertrude Saddle

Gertrude Saddle has gotten extremely popular in the last few years – and for good reason. It’s a fun hike with gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. The hike is about 8.6 miles out and back and took me 5.5 hours with an overnight backpack and sprained ankle. The beginning of the hike is through some trees, but the remainder follows a river/river bed until a short scramble and then a boulder field before reaching the saddle. The trail is fairly well marked, though I did get briefly lost coming out of the trees on the way back. I’d recommend downloading the AllTrails map just in case. The beginning of the hike is basically walking over loose rocks, so if you have a bad ankle like I do, be careful! The scramble section has cables, so it’s fairly easy even if you aren’t comfortable on rocks. The boulder field is well marked with cairns and markers and if you follow them, it’s not bad. While Gertrude Saddle is very safe on a dry day, people have died when the weather has been bad. Numerous signs along the trail warn hikers of the danger. Do not attempt Gertrude if it has been raining! We were the only campers the night we stayed at Gertrude Saddle. It was peaceful, but very windy and cold! Be prepared if you plan to camp.

Why I Loved Traveling in the Mad Campers NZ Van

Our van was the perfect little home for our weeklong road trip. It was a great combination of convenience and comfort. We had the flexibility to travel as we pleased, but always had a comfortable warm bed, a mini kitchen, running water, and even a bathroom. I wouldn’t travel around New Zealand any other way!

French Polynesia on a Budget

A place where honeymooners flock to stay in extravagant overwater bungalows that can run up to thousands of dollars per night. It seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but French Polynesia can be a budget-friendly destination.

Of course, going on a budget trip is not the same experience as going on a luxury vacation, but you will still get to enjoy the beauty of French Polynesia, which I can promise you is more than fancy resorts.

I traveled to Tahiti and Mo’orea with two other people for a week. We shared accommodations and rental cars. My total cost for the trip was $1,620.43.

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Islands to Visit

We visited Tahiti and Mo’orea, which I believe are the most budget-friendly. Even getting to some of the outer islands can be pricey.

Flights

I flew United, which now offers direct flights from SFO. A round trip flight from DC cost me $1,170.

Getting Around

The ferry from Tahiti to Mo’orea is relatively cheap and convenient. It costs $15 each way, so $30 round trip.

Car rentals are expensive, but I highly recommend having a car. The car in Tahiti cost $199 for three days. The car in Mo’orea cost $242.53 for three days.

Accomodations

We found that Airbnb is the the most affordable way to book accommodations. Our Airbnb in Tahiti cost $219 for three nights. In Mo’orea, we stayed at a cute Airbnb called Mark’s Place that cost us $237.76 for three nights.

Food

Food can be expensive or cheap. I’m a vegan, so my options were somewhat limited. We mostly got our meals from the grocery store. I spent $121 on food for the week.

Total = $ 1,620.43

Flights = $1,170

Ferry = $30

Car rentals (199 + 242.53) / 3 = $147.18

Airbnb (219 + 237.76) / 3 = $152.25

Food = $121

The Perfect Five Day Cuba Itinerary

I know from experience that planning a Cuba trip can be intimidating. If you want to travel to Cuba but haven’t done much research yet, check out a few general tips here. Figuring out the travel logistics can be complicated and confusing, and itinerary planning isn’t much easier. There is not much information out there on Cuba. Websites are sparse or nonexistent. Figuring out just how to get from point A to point B isn’t easy. After A LOT of research, Britton and I went to Cuba and had an incredible time during our five day trip. From a show in Havana to waterfalls near Trinidad, we got a great taste of what Cuba has to offer. Here is our itinerary:

Day One: Arrive in Havana and stay the night.

Day Two: After breakfast in Havana, drive 2.5 hours to the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. Go scuba diving with a local dive company. There is beautiful shore diving and you’ll get a chance to see deep blue water and a vibrant reef. If you have your own mask, I highly recommend bringing it, as most of the dive shops have worn out gear and the masks are scratched and not easy to see out of. Stay the night in Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos is relatively small, and food options are limited.

Day Three: Drive one hour to El Nicho waterfalls. Spend a few hours hiking and swimming around this lush, tropical paradise. There are several spots where you can take photos and go swimming, and I recommend taking your time and visiting all of them. Try to get to El Nicho early, as it is a popular tourist spot that gets very crowded by mid morning.DSC09543 After El Nicho, drive one hour to Trinidad and stay the night. Trinidad is my favorite city in Cuba! The colonial old town and cobblestone streets have a historic charm and I could have easily spent hours aimlessly wandering around. For dinner in Trinidad, go to Cafe Bistro Madeley. It is hands-down the best food we had in Cuba. The chef told us that he developed his menu by asking guests what they would like to eat and working with the limited ingredients available in Cuba to come up with something similar. The food options are diverse and creative, which is hard to come by in Cuba. Better yet, there are labeled vegan options!img_1649-1

Day Four: Drive back to Havana. Have a late lunch at El Cafe – an open-air cafe in Old Havana with healthy food and vegan options. In the evening, go to a show at Buena Vista Social Club. Buy your tickets as soon as you get back to Havana, as shows often sell out. Buena Vista Social Club is a world-famous ensemble of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to revive the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. The show is excellent; the food, not the other hand, is subpar. But the exceptionally talented performances will make you quickly forget how terrible your dinner was.

Day Five: Start the day driving around in a 1950s convertible in the morning, before it gets too hot.

Spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon wandering around Havana before you fly out.

Hiking Mount Rōtui in Mo’orea

If you’ve heard of Mo’orea, you probably associate it with beautiful beaches, sting-ray filled lagoons, and fancy resorts. But you may not have heard about the rugged mountains and stunning views they offer. During my visit to Mo’orea, we decided to hike a mountain and chose Mount Rōtui – a magnificent mountain that overlooks Cook’s Bay and offers a stunning view of the amphitheater of an old volcano. Fun fact: In Polynesian mythology, Mount Rōtui is purgatory for dead souls before their rise into Paradise.

About Mount Rōtui

Mount Rōtui is an 899 meters/2949 foot high mountain located on Mo’orea. It is the second highest peak on the island and, though challenging, is possible to hike (many of the mountains on Mo’orea are not hikeable).

Mount Rōtui’s narrow ridges ridges and steep sides can be intimidating, so you should be comfortable with easy scrambling and a lot of exposure. There are fixed ropes in two places, but they don’t look well-maintained so don’t rely solely on the ropes. We hiked Rōtui on a dry day and there were some very slippery areas, so be extremely careful if you hike after or during the rain.

Be prepared for a full day – it takes about 5 hours to get to the summit and 2 or 3 to hike back down.

How to Get There

From the Hilton, walk west on the road toward Opunohu Bay and walk down the third driveway, which has a sign that says “Art Deko.” A bit down the driveway, there is another sign which says “Rotui.”

At this sign, walk to the right along a fence next to a house. Once you pass the fence, the trail will become apparent and is easy to follow for the rest of the hike.

You can hire a guide, which I highly recommend if you are not experienced or are uncomfortable with scrambling and/or exposure.

What to Wear

Choosing the right clothing is crucial for hiking Mount Rōtui – there is a lot of growth on the trail that can scrape your legs if not covered and the heat is brutal.

I wore my Vast Terrain Excel 7/8 Leggings in Black and Aeris Technical Tank in Purple.  Vast Terrain’s premium activewear is perfect for hiking in the tropics because the technical fabrics wick away sweat and are soft, stretchy, and easy to move in – a necessity when scrambling! Vast Terrain’s fabric also reduces odor with EPA registered silver salts that are embedded at the fiber level and kill 99.99% of odor-causing bacteria! I’m sure my hiking parters appreciated that 😉 An added bonus is that Vast Terrain is entirely made in the USA!

Wear hiking boots or sneakers with good traction. The ground can be slippery and the hike is exposed.

I also recommend bringing a hat and light long-sleeved layer for sun protection.

What to Bring

Mo’orea can get VERY hot and the sun is strong, so be prepared! Below is what I brought on my hike:

 

I partnered with Vast Terrain in writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Two Perfect Summer Days in Vail

I had always thought of Vail as a winter destination, so when I was invited to spend three summer days in Vail, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can now confidently say that Vail is an excellent summer destination, offering fun mountain activities and stunning views. I will definitely be back.

We stayed at the Sonnenalp, which is a gorgeous, conveniently located hotel with four restaurants, a golf course, and a spa. I could have spent three days at the hotel alone!

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Arrival Night Dinner – Bully Ranch

Bully Ranch is one of the restaurants in the Sonnenalp. We got in late, so it was easy and convenient to have the restaurant right there. The restaurant has a cowboy vibe and the portions are large and filling.

Breakfast at the Sonnenalp

Staying at the Sonnenalp, heading downstairs for breakfast is easy. The buffet is filled with options – from hash browns to waffles to smoothies to açaí bowls. Yum! I enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice every morning. It didn’t hurt that the breakfast room looks out over the pool and hot tubs – what a view!

I loved that as a vegan, there were plenty of options for me. I had freshly squeezed orange juice, mini açaí bowls, and dairy free oatmeal to which I added raisins, cherries, chia seeds, almonds, goji berries, and soy milk.

A Day at Piney River Ranch

We spent our first day at Piney River Ranch and it was wonderful. Everyone at the ranch is so friendly. It’s such a hidden gem.

We had lunch then went horseback riding with NuNu. The horses were incredibly sweet and well taken care of. NuNu was knowledgeable and her love for the horses was apparent. She talked to us about the personality type of each horse and matched us with horses based on our experiences and personalities. We had a great ride and she even let us go on a little trot! Plus, the view of the mountains was fantastic.

After we finished riding, we went for a canoe ride on the lake. The stunning mountain backdrop combined with the serenity of the isolated lake made for an unforgettable ride.

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Although we didn’t get to stay at the cabins or glamping tents at Piney River this time, I highly recommend staying for a night or two if your schedule allows. We already have plans to go back next summer and stay overnight!

Dinner in Vail

Vail is a cute town with a European vibe. We walked around after our day and ended up eating at Tavern on the Square. We started with freshly made artisan bread that was fluffy and delicious. They even had a vegan menu, so ordering was easy for me. The food tasted fresh and the restaurant had a cool vibe. Our server was friendly and talkative. He gave us great recommendations for our trip.

Second Morning

We started our morning with a quick walk around the town then had breakfast at the Sonnenalp again. It was just as good as the first day!

Rock Climbing with Paragon Guides

We spent our second day in Vail rock climbing with Paragon Guides. We requested “easy climbing with good views” and Jim, our guide, delivered. It was clear that Paragon put safety first – we wore helmets and although we knew how to climb, Jim explained all of the safety equipment. He also checked with us the night before and made sure to bring food we liked for lunch the next day.

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We talked with Jim about some other tours Paragon offers – including mountain biking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and multi-day backpacking. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing Paragon again!

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Climbing photos by Caroline Foster

Dinner at Matsuhisa

We had dinner at Matsuhisa, an upscale sushi restaurant in Vail village. We enjoyed cocktails, wine, and sushi in a hip environment. Our waitress was very helpful and gave us great recommendations. There were plenty of vegan options (yay) and the food was delicious. The portions were perfect for sharing and we got to try a bunch of different dishes.

It was an excellent finish to an amazing trip, and we can’t wait to get back to Vail!

 

Havasupai Packing List

I’ve had a few people ask me what to pack on a trip to Havasupai, so I put together my suggested packing list. Hope this is helpful!

  • Overnight backpack: the 10 mile hike to and from the campsite isn’t easy, so don’t overpack and make sure your heavier items are closer to the bottom of your backpack.
  • Daypack: a backpack you can carry around during the day. If you have an overnight backpack with a removable top, even better!
  • Water bladder: there is a spring at the campsite where you can fill up.
  • Water bottle
  • Water filter: if you’re going on long day hikes and don’t feel like carrying all of your water for the day.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sun hat
  • Hiking shoes
  • Water shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking poles: the hike in/out is hilly and rocky, so poles can be helpful.
  • Bathing suit
  • Shorts
  • Long durable quick-dry pants: especially if you want to do a long hike with river crossings.
  • Short sleeved shirt
  • Long sleeved shirt: to shield from the sun
  • Socks (bring a few pairs)
  • Tent or hammock
  • Sleeping bag
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Food: snacks, and meals if you want. The village that sells food is two miles from the campground.
  • Cooking system
  • Camera
  • Solar charger: if you want to keep your electronics charged

Enjoy your trip! If you want to see some pictures from Havasupai check out my Instagram.

Egyptian Pyramids with KKday

I received a complimentary tour in exchange for writing this post. This post contains affiliate links which I may receive compensation for.

I visited the pyramids in Egypt with a guide set up by KKday. KKday made the process seamless. Our guide picked us up in a comfortable car and handed us waters before telling us all about Egyptian history. We reallllllly wanted Starbucks (typical Americans) so our guide found the nearest Starbucks and made a stop for us. Talk about good service!

We stopped at the Nile River on the way to take a photo. When we got to the pyramids, our guide gave us a safety briefing and told us everything we needed to be aware of. I’m glad I was warned not to leave my expensive camera on a tripod to take selfies! Our guide even told us which places were good for buying souvenirs. We walked around and our guide explained the history of the pyramids to us. He was so knowledgeable! He was also very patient with our obsessive photo taking and had no problem re-taking the same photo 20 times until we were satisfied 😉 We went to the Sphinx after the pyramids and our guide took us to the best photo spots and explained all of the history.

I loved that the whole trip was catered to our preferences. Our guide was great about finding out what exactly we wanted to do and making it happen. KKday was extremely helpful throughout the process and made setting up a tour with a local guide in a foreign country easy.

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How to Get to the Wave in Arizona

After receiving a handful of Instagram messages asking how to get to the Wave, I decided to it would be helpful to write a blog post on it. Going to the Wave requires a permit from the Arizona BLM.  There are 20 persons allowed to visit the Wave per day. There are three ways to get a permit:

  1. Apply for the lottery online four months in advance. 10 permits are available through the online lottery.  The online lottery is the least risky way to try to get a permit for the Wave.  The lottery is done on a monthly basis and is open four months before your desired trip month.  For example, right now (October), the lottery is open for February permits.  The lottery has been open all  month and will close at the end of the month.  Then the lottery will happen and permits will be issued.  You can only submit one application per month and the lottery fee is $5 USD.  It is non-refundable; you don’t get it back if you lose the lottery.  You can select up to three date choices.  Use the this link and the following path to apply for the lottery: Coyote Buttes Permits – Apply for a Coyote Buttes Hiking Permit – Apply for Lottery Here
  2. Check for cancellations. Your chances aren’t good with this option, but on the rare occasion there are cancellations or open dates, you can check the Coyote Buttes North calendar four months in advance.  I’ve never seen a cancelled permit available online, but it’s worth checking.  Check hereCoyote Buttes Permits – Apply for a Coyote Buttes Hiking Permit – Check Calendar
  3. Apply in person the day before your desired trip date.  10 permits are available in person the day before your desired trip.  To apply for a walk-in permit, go to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah (745 E. Highway 89 in Kanab Utah across from Walkers gas station and Wendy’s restaurant) from 8:30-9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time -Utah- (9am Daylight Savings Time in summer) to submit your application.

Read more about how to get permits at the BLM website here.