Tag Archives: travel

Uber – the traveller’s transportation lifeline

I love technology and simplicity and get very excited when I find new stuff that helps my life run a bit more smoothly – which is why I am sharing with anyone who will listen about my UBER experience.  Yes I have found UBER and am now wondering how I ever existed beforehand.  Well I do know really, I existed in a travellers world where I walked miles and searched for a taxi stand only to find myself joining the end of a queue so long I audibly groaned.  Yeah that was me.  Or I called a cab company with appalling attempts to explain my location in Malay/Chinese/Spanish/French/Thai.. you get my gist, only to wait eternally for the appointed car to arrive, or not arrive as was often the case.

Here’s my shameless plug – if reading this inspires you to create an UBER account please enter my referal invite code ubersalty123 and we will both receive free rides!

In Asia the cabs with the TAXI lamp on top are not always in the best condition, often no seat-belts or air-conditioning and with questionable cleanliness.  All over the world these branded Taxis charge such inflated rates I never get that ‘value for money’ feeling. Taxis in Perth, Australia wins this title with a $55 fare for a mere 13 minute and 14km drive.  Ok they did have seatbelts and I get they have to cover various license costs but I don’t really want to foot this if I don’t have to.

Then I found UBER.  This company uses technology to link registered drivers in their own vehicles operating their car as a small business with passengers like me and everything is managed through an App on your smartphone.  UBER determines the fare – not you or the driver – which is calculated by distance and estimated in advance and you know EXACTLY how long it will be before your driver arrives.  If this wasn’t enough good stuff the awesomest part is they are often over 50% cheaper than the corresponding taxi quote. Yep! that’s 50% travellers transport savings. Here’s a recent test quote for a ride I took towards Singapore – minimum fare for Taxi was $17 vs UBER $7 and I was actually charged $7.40 when I completed the journey.

Fare comparison for a 22 minute journey.
Fare comparison for a 22 minute journey.  The exact fare eventually charged by UBER was $7.40

For the booking you can choose what type of car you’d like from standard UBER-X through to UBER XL (Executive Luxury) depending on what is locally available.  Then you enter the pick-up point and destination (both with GPS locations) and this not only tells your driver where to find you but gives them the map navigation route to follow to your destination.  If there is more than one route option they will ask which one you prefer when they collect you.  But for me the real travellers magic is the that it conveniently manages the payment through your registered Credit Card or PayPal. Absolutely no cash is exchanged, no fare negotiation is required.  You simply get charged on the milage and demand rate.  If you are someone who likes to know these things upfront the fare can easily be estimated before you book.

There is no taxi rank here but I can see two UBER cars available within 2 minutes of me.  Once I book they get my GPS and I can track their arrival in real time.
There is no taxi rank here but I can see two UBER cars available within 2 minutes of me. Once I book they get my GPS and I can track their arrival in real time.

Travelling UBER feels very safe to me compared to flagging down any marked cab on the road.  Before the car arrives I have the name and photo of my driver, the car make/model and plate number to identify them with. In Malaysia I’ve been transported by Mums who do it part-time when the kids are at school, supply teachers making up the hours, Uni students supplementing their cash to study, people in-between jobs and similar friendly and interesting drivers were encountered in the UK and Singapore.  In Australia we met an entrepreneurial driver who had his own limousine hire company in Sydney but had recently relocated to Perth.  He had taken the decision to drive with UBER for 6 months to learn the streets and obtain first hand knowledge of the transport trends and anticipated costs in order to establish a similar set-up to his Sydney business.

My experiences so far have all been exceptionally good.  Beautifully maintained new cars sometimes bottled water, mints and even the daily paper have been offered.  Sure UBER is not everywhere (we found none in Spain) but for travellers and especially boating cruisers with no wheels and often no knowledge of the local area it is a real godsend.  Hey, if you look on the UBER map and there are no cars available you can always revert to old-school taxi/bus/pre-UBER existence!

So how do you get it? Easy! Log on to uber.com or Install the free Android or iOS app to your phone, launch it and follow the steps to set up your account and you are ready to go.  Here’s my plug – if reading this inspires you to create an UBER account please enter my referal invite code ubersalty123 and we will both receive free rides – now that’s UBER love 🙂

GooglePlay Applestore

GR11 Adventure – Day 10 R&R time to reflect

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Wild camp on top of the world - GR11 Cuello Petraficha

The travelling saltygardener is on a true adventure of a different, much less watery kind. This is an adventure over the beautiful Pyrenees mountains which join the two great oceans of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. We have around 6 weeks to hike as much as possible of the 840km route through the Spanish Pyrenees known as the GR11 – or in Spain the travesia pirenaica.

I wanted to document some of my experience as all the blogs I found seem to be written by seasoned hikers or pseudo mountain goats set to break the record time.  I am not in any race it is our personal annual challenge. Day 1 at sea level alongside the Atlantic ocean I was not at all prepared for this journey. Sure, I had a backpack filled with hiking goodies and #thebesthusbandintheworld who is an experienced mountaineer so there was no danger involved. We’d even had a trial run and pitched the tent in a Swedish apartment 🙂  What I mean is I live a fairly sedentary life which largely involves lounging in a cockpit trying to keep cool, eating a lot of yummy asian fried food and drinking our way through the latest duty free hoard. On the other hand without transport other than our dinghy we explore everywhere on foot and recently covered some jungle day-hikes on Tioman Island. I also swim quite a bit and have almost developed gills from snorkelling yet still manage to hover around 15kg over the top end of what those charts deem ‘normal’. I take no medications and am physically very healthy but in no way fit. I’m usually the one who groans loudest when the up escalator in the shopping mall isn’t working.

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The GR11 hiking route from sea to sea

In 8 walking days we have covered 140km and started to ascend some of the introductory smaller peaks and passes around 1200m – the highest so far was yesterday and at 1495m was around the same height as Ben Nevis!

This recap is from our Day 10 and not any suggested GR11 itinerary. A well earned R&R day in a campsite where I have chance to reflect on the journey so far. This is the most demanding adventure I have under-taken and I’ve come a long way in distance, physically and emotionally and it is still a huge roller coaster.  I hope to post in more detail if connectivity allows, but no doubt Facebook will be there even if the Internet isn’t. Please feel free to follow along via our Sailing with Tiki page.

To start we eased in Days 1&2 with some long flat sections to get used to wearing 12-14kg on our backs and walking extended distances. Since then there have been higher highs, longer days and lower lows. The walking is good, the climbs are tough. Lots of breather stops but fitness is improving leaps and bounds and I’m starting to accept that I can really do this.

We have a little evening routine where Captain Crackers reads ahead and plans the daily route,  schedules in the rest stops and breaks the stage down. This is essential for me as after 2-3 hour stints I’m starting to sway, a little fatigued, I need some rest. Rest stops involve backpacks off, shoes and socks off to cool down and a good stretch of all these muscles. My favourite stretch is the downward dog with those amazing mountain views upside down! Also a refueling snack of cheese,  baguette and juicy summer stone fruits which are simply divine. After a gorgeous peach/nectarine/apricot I can just feel the fructose filling me with energy for the next section.

But these are just the physical practicalities. The real challenge comes when the hill gets really tough, or the slippery downward limestone terrain terrifies me. Then I need to dig a whole lot deeper than any peach can provide.  That’s when I bring out my calvary – all the family and friends supporting us in this adventure.  I place them in a line alongside me. Can you hear it guys? I’m calling on you regularly!

It’s this ‘something altogether different than muscles’ that carries me up to the top to look at these breathtakingly stunning views, so really just wanted to say thanks for being here – all of you xxx

Saltygardener in Sweden?

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I’m not sure exactly where this post sits in saltygardener world. Definitely under travel but also very much under food as I didn’t seem to stop eating the whole time. Either way it was a wonderful, unexpected and very welcome diversion to Stockholm!
We started out in pure hotel luxury and although the room was awesome there were such little things that I appreciated so much more.  The first being an electric kettle for a cup of tea and a Nescafe pod coffee maker which I am not ashamed to admit I needed to call on the concierge for driving lessons. This simple level of ‘instant’ was a bit of a rush coming from our gas cooker for boiled water tropical lifestyle. Then came satellite TV, fresh sheets, a cloud for a pillow, a lovely cool room, a HOT shower with a head I didn’t have to hold up over me. Oh boy we were almost in nirvana folks and then I found the gourmet ROOM SERVICE menu and literally cried. As I said, it’s the little things.

Boatlife in SE Asia for a year has me fairly accustomed to going without the familiar and I guess I wasn’t at all prepared for the reverse culture shock. Take the simple experience of walking into a European (or even Swedish) supermarket.  I know, I know, not the height of adventure for most but that first aisle of mega bread choices with rustic, wholewheat, dark, cereals, spelt, crusty, baguettes and more OMG sent my head spinning.  Then came th cheese and meat choices and variety and oh yes – even with the foreign to me Swedish packaging – that lovely sense of familiarityDairy,red meats and any tinned foods (can you even imagine?) are not part of my local store that’s for sure.  As a bonus we had now moved into a self-contained apartment and this is where I confess to being both a market AND supermarket addict. I love nothing better than cruising aisles of ingredients imagining all the interesting local dishes that are created with them. Drives Captain Crackers (CC)bonkers as I literally can spend hours doing this… let’s just say he sent me out alone on the first excursion.

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Two cheese aisles was simply overwhelming

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With dinner secured it was great to join all the other summer tourists walking though cobbled streets of the city centre, waterside buildings had classical boats moored alongside,  ferries touted their river trips. The 3 hour  Shrimp and Tacos evening trip sounded intriguing if not authentically Swedish! The Royal Palace changed the guard and we walked the city, absorbed it,  rubber necked and loved every bit.

Having crossed the supermarket fix off it was time to drag Captain Crackers to the local market area in pursuit of the Östermalms Korvspecialist streetfood stall I had read about in visit sweden.  We found it Nybrogatan 55 and persevered with the massive list in Swedish until the girl took pity on us and offered an English version from behind the counter. I tried the house special which was suprisingly spicy even to my chilli loving taste and served with sauerkraut, potato salad, mustard and pickles. CC had one called The Austrian in a baguette and gave it a thumbs up. The sun was shining and we were able to use one of the 2 small tables by this roadside cafe which served us well to watch a steady stream of customers proving it was equally popular with the locals.

Next stop and pure foodie heaven was the Östermalmshallen at Östermalmstorg.  The prior sausage refuel was so we (ok, I) didn’t tackle this place on an empty stomach and buy a ton of food which would be impossible to consume in 1 day. Oh boy what a good tactic as danger hit the minute we entered and found some of the best of Swedish produce in reindeer, beef, pork, seafoods, smoked fish, gravadlax, roe/caviar, cakes, fruit, vegetables, beers, coffee and ready meals . All this inside a beautiful vaulted and skylit 1880’s building. It was wonderfully traditional, even CC loved it and rather than hinting to leave actually looked for a table to grab a beer and soak in the wonderful atmosphere. I crumbled and purchased traditional pickled herrings and fresh roe to add to our dinner menu and with that the budget was blown so we headed out for more foot touring.

I was only in Stockholm for 3 nights yet managed to put a mighty dint in my bucket list of ‘must try’ local delights. It really was an impressive degustation of cured meats, the classic shrimp sandwich,  local beers, cheeses, specialty crispbreads, pickles,  mustards, meatballs (of coarse!) and even salt liquorice. All I can say it was a very good thing the next stop on my travels was to be a mountain fitness boot camp. Thank you Stockholm,  you were wonderful!

Laughter really is the best medicine

Oh boy I love it when I get to have a good giggle. A while ago I read a blog post that tickled so much it continues to make me grin if I mentally picture the post even now. To me that is priceless and it was delivered free of charge straight to my navigation station laptop 🙂  
I love that about reading new blogs which I have been doing a LOT of since joining the Blogging101 course.  My interests were always diverse but I never thought to add randomness to my reading.  I now get updates not only from sailing blogs but from travellers, writers, comedians, cooks, food bloggersrunners, artists, students, retirees and many more.  This role call looks a lot like the one on my recent Fixing Bloggers Block post of who I wanted to follow me, it really is interesting that it is me following them!  I’ve highlighted via link to only a few as the list of awesome is rather long and invite you to go and explore.
The one that tickled? 5 Yoga poses for sailors – especially good for beginners to improve balance. My goal is to refine the Warrior 3 or ‘wind indicator’ as my signature anchoring signal for “the freaking reef is just there!” and of coarse pictures of said signal will need to follow but I haven’t had the energy for practising that one yet. On my hiking adventure the Downward Dog aka ‘fendering the boat’ gives both amazing upside down mountain views and an awesome leg stretch, ‘the chair’ is an essential requirement of wild camping and to re quote Dawn “nuff said” and ‘the corpse’ pretty much sums me up on every rest stop. So far I’m doing great!

Sailing into the wind – why would anyone do it?

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My grandmother fondly refers to me as her little bird, flitting from branch to branch and migrating with an inbuilt instinct. Perhaps this translates to our sea life as we are nomadic sailors, exploring the globe however the seasonal or Trade wind dictates. I guess that’s the best way to describe the grand plan, although anyone who knows me understands my plans are often scratched in the sand of a beach with a rising tide.

Trade winds are amazing. We purchased a beautiful chart of the tall ships trading routes which inspired dreams long before we moved aboard Tiki and has become my go-to map when dream planning our global course.   Normally we would be sticking closely to these seasonal highways, after all we are nomadic and want an easy cruising life. But sometimes we go against the wind, turn on the engine and reverse course. Why?

It irked me as we sailed south away from the idyllic turquoise waters and palm fringed islands of Terengganu state. I’m green with envy talking to other cruising boats in the area which are generally headed north or east as it’s the SouthWest Monsoon season with consistent fresh winds from the south. Their destinations include Cambodia, Vietnam, Borneo and the Philippines. Oh boy am I jealous! (read inspired)

Not us we’re going south, motoring not only into a headwind but a 2-3knot opposing current and swell.  It seems like madness and after a few nasty passages into wind through Indonesia Captain Crackers and I looked each other in the eye, spat on our palms, shook and swore never again! yet here we are.

Ahh but this time the madness has an olive grove gold and mountain peaked silver lining. This time I’m not complaining at all. Because this time for all the queasy seasick, thumping discomfort associated with this beat to wind sea leg there is a huge reward at the end. We are off on a land based awesome adventure in the form of GR11 hiking in Spain, woo hoo!

So why am I sailing south into the wind? In boatlife any long departure from our salty home means Tiki needs to be looked after in a secure yard or marina. Mediocre ones simply offer a pontoon to tie to. A good one in addition has security, will check her mooring lines, watch her waterline, listen for alarms and tie down anything which works itself loose in a storm.  Tiki is my home, she’s got soul,  I talk to her, we’ve got sand-scratched plans. She HAS to be in a good one and unfortunately there isn’t a big choice in this area, so back south towards Singapore we go.

Sailing into the trade winds? Normally would never recommend it, but this time it’s all good and the distances not too far. The real beauty of the trades to this nomad is that they will be here around the same time every year so my sand scratchings are free to follow them when we return.

Fixing bloggers block 101

What is happening with saltygardener.com?

 **crickets chirping**

Well for my 10 truly devoted followers you are all in for a bumpy ride over the next 3 weeks because I have signed up for a 21 day WordPress.com kick up the blogging butt. There is a daily assignment to blow out the dusty cobwebs and bring some life into both the site and the blogger I just know is within me.

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
I’ve never kept a personal journal. Living a nomadic travelling lifestlye aboard a sailing yacht I have so many crazy things to write home about and for the past few years I have posted fairly reguarly on Social Media. But lately Updates / Instas / Tweets leave me feeling kinda hollow. So I got to thinking about family and friends who are not on Facebook and realised I have left them without news or escapism or insight into my wierdo ways for a few years now. I also really enjoy the extended writing, the composition and the story telling of the ‘old’ email days. Well actually before email I wrote and sent postcards and letters from my travels – yes I am one of those dinosaurs.

So I am going to blog with the same intention. If a post sounds like a letter home to family and friends then good, its supposed to.

What topics do you think you’ll write about?
I am passionate about how people use plants, about growing and catching my own food, self sufficiency and the natural world. I love to travel, dive, snorkel, meet people, take pictures, try anything edible, forage, buy local and cook from scratch. I aspire to live minimally, be fearless, keep my global footprint tinier than my tiny floating home and be better at fixing stuff. I miss my family and friends. I think I’ll be writing about all these topics.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
Friends, extended family, vicarious travellers, foodies, gardeners, bloggers, fellow nomads, live-aboards, minimalists, nurses, ethno-botanists, sailors, first mates & crew, farmers, sales people, scientists, cartoonists, fishermen, divers, free spirits, comedians, chefs, domestic engineers, musicians, retirees, managers, analysts, artists, drivers, students…
please see above “I love… meeting people”

If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
I really hope to have found a writing style that reflects who I am so that I can wear it comfortably and continue to write from the heart. I’ll have a larger, equally truly devoted group of followers who I feel connected to and eager to update on all the highs, low and epic parts of travelling the world by sailing boat. On the site design front I will learn more so that saltygardener.com can evolve into an organised, content rich blog which is easy to navigate and looks amazing.

Stay tuned!