Thursday 28 August 2014

YHA Patterdale - Lake District

We hike 13 miles from Windermere to Patterdale. A previously enthusiastic idea turned into a spiritless tread by the roadside. Having arrived on a Saturday, we're greeted with no buses and expensive taxis to get to our Youth Hostel. The leaden weight of my rucksack digs painfully into my shoulders as we shuffle onwards, intent on reaching our accommodation before nightfall. 

An ironic sign mocking our efforts along the way.

I press my hands underneath my rucksack straps in a vague attempt to stop the pack weight rubbing against my shoulders. The sky, acting as nature's clock, progressively got darker and darker. 
We eventually reached Patterdale Youth Hostel in the early evening. I unclip my bag away from me and feel instant relief as I peel the burdensome weight off my back. My knees throb painfully, protesting against the unplanned, concrete walk. 

I feel at home at the Youth Hostel. The lounge area looks out towards flour white mountains and the room is full of soft, squashy blue arm-chairs and nut brown coffee tables. I retire to bed straight away, ready to embrace our planned hike up to Helvellyn (950m). 

YHA Patterdale Lounge 
Bed! (female dorms available)


After breakfast we set off, following a trail towards Glenridding. We pass Red Tarn and Grismere tarn but we decide against ascending Helvellyn via Striding Edge due to the winter conditions. 

The view of Striding Edge from Helvellyn 
Overall, it was a beautiful days walk within easy access of our hostel. We returned back to Patterdale via a circular route through Glenridding and we felt that it was a trip made possible due to convenience of location and good value accommodation.

Travel Tips  

  • You can get cheap train tickets by booking as far in advance as possible with lots of flexibility. I paid for x2 singles at £22.10 each from London Euston to Oxenholme, Lake District. 
  • Lake District is notoriously expensive for accommodation, and even camping is quite pricey (around £8.00 per night). We stayed at a Youth Hostel (YHA Patterdale), for £15.00 per night. Buy membership for £3.00 off per nights stay. 
  • A single bus ticket from Patterdale to Windermere is £6.25. Although buses are irregular (around 1 every 2 hours) they are definitely manageable. Just pick up a bus timetable and plan in advance instead of turning up at a bus stop.

Monday 11 August 2014

Community Development and Tourism in Kerala, India

We drifted quietly through the coastal backwaters of Kerala. The sunlight casts a golden glow that illuminates both the silken water and the riverbank carpeted in a moss of tropical undergrowth. High reaching palm trees overlook over us and soft pillows of water hyacinths drift beside the boat. I feel a deep sense of tranquillity and a spark of inherent curiosity.

My pre-trip reading described Kerala as ‘The Model of Development’ (Parayil, 2000).  It is a state in India which has, in three decades, thrived and developed to bypass all expectations and exemplify that even in the absence of globalisation, industrialisation and westernisation, a Third World country is able to rise beyond all expectation and become an iconic paradigm of successive development.

We disembark at a rubber plantation and we hike together as a group; passing lines of pale, spindly trees affixed with modest sized coconut bowls that collect the milky liquid form of rubber. Kerala accounts for 92% of rubber exports in India. The extensive plantation belt in Kerala has created an emerging market known as homestay tourism.

Homestay tourism is where travellers are invited to experience staying in community homes. Situated away from bustling urban hubs and resort style hotels, travellers are given the opportunity to live amongst the agricultural workers, thus providing invaluable insight into rural living and cross cultural exchange. Eco-tourism companies such as ‘Stay Homz’ have tapped into this market, describing their ethos as providing an “in depth holiday experience for the intrepid traveller”. 

For primary production, the shell of the coconut has also resulted in increased community development in Kerala through initiatives such as selling craftwork in local tourist markets. The husk of the coconut is broken down into tough filaments and weaved into products such as door mats, ropes and fishing nets. 

As part of our Development Geography fieldwork project, we were also given the opportunity to interview Kudumbarees: A women’s self help/community based project. The project implemented strategies to tackle development issues through micro-enterprising, training and providing low interest loans. Our visit to the Jeevan Kudumbashree in Kannakara proved very valuable as it gave firsthand experience into how the Kudumbashree’s play a critical role in addressing the problem of under-represented women in the community.  The availability of microfinance loans to rural groups invoked entrepreneurial qualities to women, as the credit was used to fund small scale businesses producing goods such as incense sticks, coir and soap powder. This community production ties hand in hand with tourism as the Kudumbashrees were able to supply the goods on demand to hotels in Kerala.

Overall, despite the unprecedented boom in tourism, Kerala still maintains its sense of cultural and community identity. Commonly referred to as ‘God’s Paradise’, sustainable tourism has benefited the economic development of the region. More importantly, the cultural integrity of the local people has been maintained through community tourism initiatives such as home stays, plantation tours and skilled craftwork production.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

6 Top Tips for Malta

1) Food
Soft and on the inside, crisp on the outside and brimming with melted cheese or a delicate pea mixture, pastizzi shops are dotted everywhere in Malta. From approximately €1.00, you can buy yourself one of these:
Sphinx - a Popular Maltese Bakery Chain 
I can't recommend these enough, dangerously delicious, cheap and widely available, they're a great snack to have whilst you're on the go. 

The best calzone I've ever had was in Valletta in Malta. 

The restaurant is situated just a stone throw away from the central Valletta, straight down from the main street, Tri Ir Repubblika. Don't forget to give the local delicacies a try such as rabbit stew, Fisherman's soup and octopus. 

2). Transportation
Public transport abroad can be a little daunting - but not in Malta! The bus service is extensive, regular and cheap. We purchased a weekly bus ticket for just €7.00 and we were able to travel to all the destinations we wanted to across the island. Tip: Bring a little plastic card holder as the paper ticket is small and it can be easily lost. Gozo, a island north of Malta, has a separate bus service. Far south of Malta, the buses are a little more irregular.

3). Must See Sights
The Blue Lagoon, Camino 
Blue Grotto, Zurrieq
Mdina, Rabat
 4.) Accommodation 

I paid £150 (April, 2012) for a 7 day package of flights, transfers and a self-catering hotel (White Dolphin Complex). Hotels have sprung up everywhere on Malta due to the growing popularity of package holidays. I highly recommend Teletext Holidays for those on a budget. Yes, your call will be transferred to a warehouse call centre somewhere in the world and you will be asked to confirm everything over and over. Its cheap and cheerful at its best, go to the website and grab yourself a good deal. 

5.) Don'ts in Malta

  • The drivers are crazy in Malta. Be weary as a pedestrian as the cars do appear out of nowhere. There are sharp corner turns and steep roads. 
  • Tap water: perfectly drinkable but tastes horrible. I'd suggest going for bottled water this time round. 

6.) Must-do Activities 
Malta is a outdoor playground. Although the island is only 17 miles, there is enough to keep you busy for weeks. Some suggested activities are:
  • Scuba-Diving in Cirkewwa 
  • Walking in Gozo
  • Kayaking at the Azure Window 
  • Mountain Biking with Gozo Adventures 

 All in all, I went to Malta as a one week pre exam break with my sister. It was stress-free, beautiful and just a short flight away from the UK. 

Trip Tips

  • If you are a cat lover, cats are everywhere in Malta.
  • We went in April and the temperature was approximately 17 degrees on average. It was a little cold, but the whole island was blooming with flowers.
  • A ferry service to Gozo costs approximately 5 euros. You pay for the ferry on your return journey. 
  •  I enjoy the freedom the self-catering option gives you, if you do opt for this, be sure to buy some fresh Maltese bread for breakfast.
  •  I brought approximately 150 euros with me as a holiday budget. This covered all optional activities such as kayaking and mountain biking, meals, tranportation and shopping. 
  • If you have any further questions about Malta, feel free to comment here or email me.