Take the Time Out – And See Where it Takes You

Take the time out?
Humph – you’ve got to be kidding!
I’m way too busy to sit around and study my navel.

Drawing of a Mangrove trunk

Working from home is in so many ways a blessing –
I love the flexibility and fluidity to my day; but there’s rarely a moment where I feel I have time on my hands to indulge in ‘me’ time.

However, I recently experienced a bout of cabin fever!
It crept up on me quite unexpectedly and screamed in my ear –
You need to get out of here –
And no – Not go and do your usual walk, or ride your bike, or kayak across the Bay –
No, you need some time out to be totally in the moment.

Drawing of mangrove flowers and leaves

Taking the time out to smell the mangroves

Take the Time Out

1 . But Where to Start?

With no idea where this was leading I employed ‘my go to’ in these situations which is to follow the inkling gnawing at my stomach.

I grabbed a small stool, a blank journal and a pen and headed down to the muddy manky mangroves with no intention, no objective, no expectation, no ambition, no goal of going there to achieve anything –
I simply gave myself 20 minutes to go and be.

In business circles there’s an emphasis that there should always be a plan – If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
But if you’re innovative and creating new concepts from fresh ideas do you always know the end result before you get there?!
I feel giving serendipity an opportunity to come and play will take you to places you’d never have been able to imagine, so I like Lewis Carrol’s take on it –

“If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there”

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there"Lewis Carrol

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”                    Lewis Carrol


2. One Thing Leads to Another

In other words if you allow yourself the simple act of starting who knows where you’ll end up and the chances are it’ll be a place you most likely could never have envisioned.

Essentially – One thing always leads to another!

And before you know what has happened you have something like the images on this page unravelling before you.

Hand drawing of mangrove roots

3. 20 mins + 20 mins + 20 mins = an hour

I, like most of you reading this I suspect, don’t have the luxury of taking off for hours at a time –
But I do stop to make a cup of tea a couple of times a day –

On that initial foray fleeing from the cabin-fever I also grabbed my afternoon cup of tea to take with me which I sipped as I studied the sculptural forms of the mangroves.
Then, for 20 minutes I perched on my stool and started the image at the top of this post – the one of the gnarled mangrove trunk.

Now, if I’d said I was going to take the time out to do some drawing – being a tad puritanical  – I doubt I’d have given myself permission!
But I headed off down there first and foremost to have my afternoon tea and while I was there I spent 20 minutes observing – being in the moment.

20 minutes is nothing when it comes to drawing – which is why I suspect so many people think they can’t draw as they never apply the time required to produce anything – but because I was drawing something I could return to at a later time, after 20 minutes I left off where I’d got to and returned to my work day refreshed.

A couple of times a week thereafter I’d make a cup of tea and head off back to my gnarled tree trunk for just 20 minutes each time as I sipped my tea –
Surprisingly – 20 mins and 20 minutes and 20 minutes adds up, and before I knew it I had a body of work evolving before me – All in the space of a tea break!

It’s so obvious, but I have to ask – Have you ever tried stepping out of your usual day and applying a 20 minute tea break to a project you’re perhaps putting off – or heaven forbid actually give yourself 20 minutes to spend being mindful of a moment?

Hand drawing of a mangrove branch

20 mins + 20 mins + 20 mins = this drawing!

4. The Process is More Important than the Product

The result or quality of the drawing you produce in this scenario is totally immaterial –

It is not for the product that you are intricately observing your subject –
It is the focus on the moment – being 100% present in the now –
How often can you honestly say you are fully aware of the ‘now’ rather than busily thinking about what you are about to do or contemplating something that happened in the past?


Hand drawing of an old mangrove tree trunk bearing the words 'Take the Time Out'

Take the Time Out

5. Mindfulness in the Mangroves

As a country bumpkin I’m most at ease when in nature –
So for me heading into an area of nature makes me feel the most relaxed.
I had never realised until a few years ago that there was a term for this – biophilia.

But for those of you who don’t have a patch of mangroves at the bottom of your garden most cities have Parks not too far apart where you can absorb yourself in blades of grass and the tactile textures of tree trunks.

So the next time you’re having a tea or coffee break – staring out at the view – consider the fact that after 20 mins both the tea and the view will be gone unless perhaps you too devote 20 mins to mindfully transcribing what you see before you.

And before you know it – You too will have a journal of sketches you never thought you had time to do!



“willingness or ability to show up fully in our lives and live them as if they really mattered, in the only moment we ever get, which is this one”
Mark Williams – Author of ‘Mindfulness – Finding Peace in a Frantic World’

Are you ever consciously fully present in the moment or are you always too busy thinking and projecting yourself off into the next thing?

Or, if you have tried mindfulness – do you feel it has improved your well being?

Do share your experiences and comment below 🙂

Uluru Facts – The Beginner’s Guide to Visiting Uluru

Uluru Facts – What is Uluru

Uluru is Australia’s most iconic landform.

Most popularly photographed at sunrise and sunset to capture the rock’s changing hues of rust, crimson and purple, Uluru has way more to offer the visitor than just a souvenir photograph.

The purpose of this post is to provide you with all the Uluru facts you’ll want (or need) prior to your first Uluru visit –

  • Where is Uluru
  • When is the best time to go
  • How to get to Uluru
  • Where to stay – Accommodation at Uluru
  • What to do there.
Uluru sunset

The Rock lights up as the sun gets lower in the sky

Situated in the heart of the arid red centre of Australia, Uluru is a majestic monolith that rises 348 meters (1,142ft) above the surrounding spiky spinifex grass.
If you’re thinking of taking a hike around its base its circumference is 9.4 km (5.85 miles).

Uluru is a world heritage site for both its natural attributes as an impressive geological landform (listed 1987) and for its traditional (Tjurkurpa) significance to the Indigenous Anangu people (listed 1994).
The first European to sight it was William Gosse in 1873 who named it Ayers Rock (after Henry Ayers, the Chief Secretary to South Australia), and which it was known by for many years.
The Resort at Yulara still bears that name.

Today, the Rock is known by its traditional name – Uluru.

Uluru Facts – Where is Uluru

Uluru is situated virtually at the central point of Australia –
It is like a beating heart in the Red Centre.

Map showing Uluru situated in the centre of Austalia

Uluru is situated in the centre of Australia

It is between 1,600 and 3,600 km (1,000 and 2,200 miles) from all the coastal state capitals – As an example, by road it is 2,800 km (1,700 miles) from Sydney and 3,600 km (2,225 miles) from Perth on the west coast.

Where is Uluru on a map

Sydney is 2,800km/1,700miles; Adelaide is 1,600km/1,000miles; Perth is 3,600km/2,200miles; Darwin is 2,000km/1,200miles; Cairns is 2,900km/1,800miles; Brisbane is 2,200/2,000miles away from Uluru

Getting there by road requires time!

The nearest town to Yulara is Alice Springs (pop 27,480), which is 460 km (285 miles) to the north-east.

Map showing Uluru and Alice Springs

Uluru Facts – When is the best time to visit Uluru?

April – October are the more favourable months to visit when the days are sunny and warm, and the clear desert air turns crisp and cold at night.

The summer months (November – March) are hot, so activities are best organised for early morning and late afternoon/evening.

Average Monthly Maximum temperatures:






































The average rainfall is 307.7 mm (12”) per year


Uluru Facts – How to get to Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara

Ayers Rock Resort is situated in Yulara, which being 8 km (5 miles) from the entrance to Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park, is the closest you’ll get when it comes to accommodation. Ayers Rock Resort is also the sole provider of accommodation for visiting Uluru if you’re looking for convenience and accessibility to the Rock.
The Park is only open to visitors during daylight hours – About 5am to 8pm depending on the time of year and based entirely on when the sun rises and sets –
If you’re usually a late riser this is one of those places that it is worth breaking the habit for in order to be up before sun-up to get out in the Park in time to catch the sun rising (and in the summer to beat the heat).
Check the Uluru sunrise/sunset times here.

  •  Air to Yulara

Three airlines fly direct into Yulara – Qantas, Jetstar & Virgin.
Fares start at about Aus$250 one-way from Sydney, increasing at prime times and closer to the departure date.
Bear in mind when comparing prices that Qantas includes a luggage allowance in the quoted price – whereas Jetstar will add on a fee during the booking process. And while Qantas offer a complimentary drink and snack, other airlines will charge for refreshments on board.

Flying time to Yulara from Sydney is 3 hours; from Darwin it is 2 hours.

  • Road to the Red Centre

Uluru is in the central heart of Australia so is a looooooog way from anywhere.

If you’re coming by car or campervan allow 3 days of non stop driving from any of the State capitals.

Desert plants silhouetted against Uluru in the setting sun

  •  Rail to Alice Springs

The closest railway station to Uluru is at Alice Springs (460 km/ (285 miles) so if coming by train you’ll need to then make further arrangements for a flight, a bus, a tour or a hire car.

The Ghan (named after the Afghan cameleers who traversed the same route) is one of Australia’s great train journeys traversing the country north – south between Darwin and Adelaide, total distance 2,979 km (1,846 miles), and takes 48 hours, with Alice Springs being about mid way –
A one way fare on the Ghan train either Darwin – Alice, or Adelaide – Alice, starts at Aus$390 for an adult seat, and goes up to over Aus$3,700 for a platinum sleeper.

  • Bus to Yulara

Bus from Alice (as Alice Springs is locally known) with AAT coaches is Aus$149 one way

Greyhound offer a 3 day/2 night tour from Alice for Aus$375 incl all meals, camping, and tours of Uluru and Kings Canyon on the way

  • Air & Coach Summary sheet:

Ayers Rock Resort summarises this on their page – air and coach transfers to Yulara.

Uluru Facts – How to get to see The Rock 

While the Resort provides a complimentary shuttle bus service for getting to and from the airport, and around the accommodation options, restaurants and shopping square, additional transportation needs to be arranged for getting out to the Rock, which is 18 km (11 miles) away.

  • Bus to Uluru

The Uluru Express bus service operates a shuttle for Aus$60 return. But if you want to see the sunset or sunrise or drive all the way around the Rock there’s an additional selection of tours to choose from for Aus$70 each.

  • Hire Car

I’d strongly recommend hiring a car for flexibility, convenience and in the end – it is a money saver. There’s a lot to see and do spread over a wide space and a vehicle is the most enjoyable way to make the most of your time, having come all this way.

Vehicles can be rented at Yulara airport, or one way rentals can be arranged collecting and/or dropping off from either Yulara or Alice –

  • Avis Tel: (08) 8956 2266
  • Hertz Tel: (08) 8956 2244
  • Thrifty Tel: (08) 8956 2030

Yulara camping ground

Uluru Facts – Uluru Accommodation – Where to Stay

Ayers Rock Resort offers eight accommodation options that start at Aus$36 per night for two people on an un-powered site at the camping ground – and end at Aus$2,000 per night for 5 star glamping at Latitude 131.

Enjoying a glass in the camp ground at Uluru

You don’t have to spend $2,000 a night to enjoy the simple pleasure of sleeping out under the stars at Uluru – Last time there, we camped!

  • Camping Ground Cabins

For the budget conscious the best option after camping (or if you’re not travelling with a tent) is one of the 14 air-conditioned camp-ground cabins that sleep 6 and cost Aus$160 per night – There are often specials so stay 4 nights and pay for 3 ($480 for 4 nights!)
Here, you also have the advantage of being able to self-cater to keep costs down further.
Cabins are compact with a double bed at one end and 2 sets of single bunks at the other end with a small kitchenette/diner in the middle.
Shower and toilet are in the camp-ground amenities block.
There’s also a swimming pool.

  • Dormitory Accommodation

The Outback Pioneer Lodge offers what they refer to as backpacker dormitory accommodation.

For Aus$38 per person you get a bed in a 20-bed single sex dormitory.
For Aus$46 per bed there are mixed 4-bed dorms (Aus$184 for the room).
Both have shared bathroom amenities and a communal self-catering kitchen. All facilities of the resort are included.

Moving up from this there are options in 2 star, 3.5 star, 4 star, 4.5 star and 5 star:

  •  2 star to 5 star options

Here’s a link to Ayers Rock Resort accommodation options

All you need to know for a first time visit to Uluru


Uluru Facts – Where to Eat and Drink at Uluru

  • Self-Catering

The cheapest way to eat and drink is to self-cater.

There’s a small, but comprehensive supermarket in the equally small Yulara shopping precinct. This is the most economical place to buy food and drinks where, considering the distance the products have travelled are competitively priced to the rest of Australia.
Water, out here, should always be top of the list and the supermarket, like the petrol station, sells cartons of water to allow regular water bottle fill ups!

The shopping centre is about a 10 minute walk from the Outback Pioneer Hotel or the Camping Ground.

Ayers Rock Resort Map


  • Economic Eating-Out Options in Yulara
  • Gecko’s café (and take-away), the
  • Kulata Academy Café (for sandwiches and snacks) and
  • Ayers Wok Noodle bar are all in the Resort Shopping Centre/Town Square.
  • At the Outback Pioneer Lodge there is a do-it-yourself Bar-B-Q (meat must be purchased from the BBQ bar).
  • The Outback Pioneer Kitchen offers a cheaper alternative to the Resort’s restaurants/buffets.

Here’s a comprehensive list of Ayers Rock Resort dining options.


Out in the National Park at the Cultural Centre the Ininti Café serves light snacks in air conditioned comfort with views to Uluru.

Uluru Facts – What to Do at Uluru

Entry to the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park costs Aus$25 per person for a 3-day consecutive pass. The Park is closed at night.

A souvenir hard copy of the wonderfully informative 36-page Visitor Guide: Palya! used to be given with each ticket – but the last time I went, no such luck.
It is still well worth downloading the pdf on line as it’s full of great information.

So, now we’re here, what beyond the iconic view of Uluru at sunset (or sunrise) is there to do and see in this remarkable place –

1. The Cultural Centre offers a truly enlightening experience. It is located at a viewable distance to Uluru (about 1.6 km (1 mile) away), 13 km (8 miles) in from the National Park entrance.

Built from locally made mud bricks the organic flowing shape represents two ancestral snakes – Kuniya the woma python woman and Liru the poisonous snake man. Their stories are told in the Tjukurpa tunnel as you enter the building – Tjukurpa (pronounced ‘chook-orr-pa’) being the traditional law that guides the lives of the local Anangu (pronounced arn-ung-oo) people.
The Cultural Centre offers a wealth of knowledge regarding Indigenous culture via wall displays and film footage including a film showing an inma (Pitjantjatjara for ‘ceremony’).
Also information on the local flora (over 400 species) and fauna of which there are 21 species of mammals, 73 different reptiles, 170 varieties of birds, and 4 types of frog.

2. Drives

From Yulara to the Rock is 18 km (11 miles). The drive around Uluru itself is then a further 11 km (6.8 miles).

Kata Tjuta is 25 km (16 miles) to the west of Uluru and well worth a visit. Read my post about Kata Tjut

Uluru map


3. Walks

There is a FREE ranger guided tour along the Mala Walk every day at 10 am May – September and the earlier time of 8am during the warmer months of October – April. Starting at the Mala car park the ranger takes you part way along the north side of the rock offering insights into traditional Anangu culture and interpretations of rock art seen on the underside of overhangs.

All the walks at Uluru are stunning. Getting up close and personal the Rock takes on many guises, so different from the distant image seen in sunset photographs. There are areas where the rock folds softly with a surface smoothed by wind and water erosion, and areas where boulders are piled high. From a distance one has the impression it sits on a sparsely vegetated plain yet, in places, there are river red gums tucked into its base.
The short Kuniya Walk on the south side is a delight, as you penetrate a gully that opens up to a tranquil waterhole at the Rock’s base – Read my post Did you know there were waterholes at Uluru?.

Uluru waterhole

  • The Uluru Base Walk is 10.6 km (6.5 miles) and takes about 3.5 hours.
  • There is now also the opportunity to hire a bike and cycle around it.
  • Liru Walk from the Cultural Centre to the start of the Mala Walk is 4 km (2.5 miles) return – allow 1.5 hours.
  • Mala Walk to Kantju Gorge is 2 km (1.25 miles) return – allow 1.5 hours
  • Lungkata Walk is 4 km (2.5 miles) return – 1.5 hours
  • Kuniya Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole is 1 km (0.6 mile) return – allow 0.75 hour

A little away from the rock is Talinguru Nyakunytjaku (‘place to look from the sand dune’), which is the designated spot for watching the sunrise.
But is also an interesting alternative for taking in the sunset as the sun from here will go down behind the rock.
There are also two short walking loops here –

  • Minymaku Walk 1 km (0.6 miles) and
  • Watiku Walk 1.5 km (0.95 mile) both lovely to do as the sun comes up over the horizon and starts to warm the rock for the day.
 Although the objective of coming to Uluru is to see the Rock – Make time to also go out to Kata Tjuta –
  • Kata Tjuta Walks – There are two walks here – The Valley of the Winds 7.4 km (4.6 miles) and Walpa 2.6 km (1.6 miles)
    I have written posts about those with lots of photos – so do click through.

4. Here is a link listing additional tour options offered by Ayers Rock Resort for a fee.

5. And a must read link explaining why it is important not to climb Uluru.



Uluru Facts – Who to meet

For a better understanding of the local Anangu Indigenous culture spend some time at the Cultural Centre in the National Park.
There’re also a few shops selling Aboriginal works of art, where sometimes the artists can be seen working on their paintings.

As Ayers Rock Resort is a subsidiary to the Indigenous Land Corporation they have a commitment to employ the Indigenous community. Taking on 50 trainees a year their aim is to be employing 350 Indigenous people by the end of 2018.

There aren’t many places you can say, having heard so much about it before your visit that when you finally get there –
It doesn’t disappoint‘…

but Uluru is one of them!

And if you’re looking for the perfect way to spend 6 days in the Red Centre and get the most out of your time, I pulled together the best parts from two separate trips to the region and wrote this post:
The Ultimate 6 day Guide to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Watarrka National Parks

 And if you’ve already been?
What was your highlight?
Do tell and share in the comments below 🙂

Plan for the Future & Review your Year at a Glance

We all love the feeling of a fresh start, so when the 1st of January approaches each year there’s a scrambling frenzy to set New Year’s Resolutions and plummet on what ‘three words‘ or ‘one word‘ will encapsulate one’s hopes, dreams and aspirations for the year ahead.

I love this concept in theory, but in practice how many people give their ‘One/Three word focus‘ a second thought once January’s dreamy long summer holidays (down here in Oz!) fades into February and the real work of the year gets under way?

Plan for the Future

Last year I attended my third ProBlogger conference on the Gold Coast –
Darren Rowse talked of how he had mapped out a time chart to ensure all bases of his hectic schedule were covered, with appropriate allocations made for the Creation of fresh content alongside spending time with his young family..

Weekly calendar schedule to aid workflow

Click on this image to hear Darren’s podcast on productivity

I’ve tried drawing up similar charts in the past, where blocks of time are allocated out, but somehow my days don’t ever pan out into such neat 2 hour chunks like his!
Do yours?
I’ve therefore put these chart creation efforts down to just another sneaky procrastination technique that have me thinking I’m being busy organising myself when in fact it’s just another case of theory not matching up to the practice 🙁

The thing is, as every small business owner knows, demands on one’s time gets busier and more manic as the number of plates one has to keep up spinning on sticks increases; so one races ever faster and more frantically from one end to the other endeavouring to save each plate before it topples.

Yet, there is one plate that quietly and gently swirls, never vying for your attention or making a fuss that it may fall –
It is the one plate that holds your really important work –
The core of your business, without which you’d just have an admin department.

Aware that those noisy urgent plates about to clatter together were keeping me away from the succulent plate of important work, I knew deep down a schedule was the answer, but how to devise one that would work for me and… not turn out to be just another distraction that looked perfect on paper but the practice was simply not going to happen.

One word for 2016 - Schedule

Schedule – My action word for 2016

Reviewing your Important Work

So I took all the plates down and put them on the table to see what exactly I was doing with my time?

And I came up with this list.
I have five main business areas that all need my attention in equal parts – on top of caring for my mind, body and soul.

How to divide my time so the important work gets done

My business has 5 areas that vie for my attention – over and above caring for my mind, body and soul

Having ascertained that blocking off hours in my day for tasks doesn’t work because pulling me out of the zone to focus on Peter when I was making good headway attending to Paul wastes more time than it gains while making the switch, not to mention the clock watching or listening to the sound of my timer ticking –
So, I’ve chosen to apply a day a week to each sector so even when life gets in the way of my well laid out plans there’ll still be time to get back on track and get some real work ticked off on my focus area for the day.

Maybe its a case of as you get older and time goes quicker having a solid focus for the day as a whole is more productive than switching between five fragmented shards?

Breakdown your Work into 5 Groups – One for each day of the week.

My 5 main groups each cover a large area –
I therefore created sub groups under those headings, which will mean focusing on each on alternate weeks –

Such as:

Production – The Important work

  • There’s the checking of stock levels and re-ordering of the 68 products we currently retail, as well as
  • Working on fresh ideas and the design and development of new lines.
Diagram showing my focus to plan for the future

Production and Sales are two major segments of my working week


  • There’s our wholesaling and distribution to retailers, as well as
  • Our end-users – the customers who are travelling and want to keep that holiday smile on their face, forever, so need to buy direct when they get home. 😉


  • Blog posts that need to be written for SEO, and
  • Social Media posts for connecting with customers and colleagues on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
Image: Behind the scenes of running a business

I allocated 2 days to Marketing – One for my blog stories, and one for social media

Accounts & Admin

  • Reviewing figures to ensure we’re heading forever upwards!
  • And the admin, which is all the bits that fall down the cracks and I drawstring together in a net – fish out and file.

The Importance of Mind, Body and Soul

While I don’t have a specific time each day to nurture my mind, body and soul – I allow my natural rhythm to guide me –
Mornings – well first thing – are not my most productive when it comes to work! So I’m much better off using this time in a way that feeds my creative well, so I’ll often start out with some mindfullness –

Doing a morning sketch down in the mangroves

Mindfullness in the mangroves

We have such interesting sculptural mangroves near our island office so I love spending half an hour or forty minutes observing the intricacies of their root details and conveying my observations to paper, which focusses my attention and reminds me to stay in the moment when I get back to the office.

Image how I care for my mind body and soul

How I nourish my mind and body, satiating my curiosity while saturating my soul

Then in the afternoons, about an hour before I know it’ll be dark and I’ll have missed my window of opportunity I’ll either head out in my kayak (if the tide is right), on my bike (if its not too hot), take a walk on the wild-side (if the first two are not applicable) or stretch and flow with an evening yoga class on the deck with Yogi Nora directing me by video 😉

How to Plan for the Future - SCHEDULE

And when the Day is Done

I read an end of year newspaper piece by a journalist who was taking down last year’s wall calendar to replace it with this year’s and his heart sank as he observed all the vacant empty squares and he was left pondering –
“What did I do on those unmarked days? Where did the time go?

While formulating a plan for the future keeps us (hopefully) heading purposefully towards our vision over there on that horizon –

Diagram showing my schedule for this coming year

My Plan for the Future – Mapping out my Intentions and Objectives for 2016

Acknowledging the progress we’re making – however minuscule, or seemingly insignificant is motivating –
So I love to keep a Year at a Glance!
Where at the end of each month I reflect on a highlight – or appreciate an advancement of some form, and record it in one of the 11 boxes that surround one of my pictorial maps of Australia – a symbol of my journey through life.

Showing you how to record a highlight at the end of each month - See more at: http://journeyjottings.com/blog/2016/02/plan-for-the-future/#sthash.NOjZyjN4.dpuf

My Year at a Glance for 2015


Where, at year’s end I relish the reward of seeing my year laid out before me – simply summarising on a single sheet all my victories, so I can celebrate my advancements.

I’ve kept a Year at a Glance for many years –
Being able to visualise my hard earned efforts makes it all so satisfying and worthwhile.

If you’d like a Journal Map to summarise your year as it unfolds –
Grab one here 🙂

Then tell me –
Do you have a schedule to keep you on track to ensure you keep all your important bases covered
(and not just the noisy ones?!)

Woodland Walk to a Meteora Monastery in the Sky

Meteora’s Magnificent Monasteries 

For several hours we’d been winding our way up through ancient woodland when we broached the top of a hill and the largest and oldest of Meteora’s monasteries – The Great Meteoron – came into view.
Perched on the top of its sandstone pillar it appeared to float in the sky against a backdrop of snow capped mountains.

meteora monastery against a snow capped mountain landscape

You only have to have seen an image of any one of the monasteries at Meteora in northern central Greece, either perched atop a sandstone pillar

Varlaam Monastery Greece

Varlaam Monastery

or clinging to the side of a precipice…

Cliff hanging monastery in Meteora

The Monastery of Ypapanti

…to be captivated by both the magical landscape and the mystical stories of the monasteries’ creation 700 years ago, when monks hauled building materials up via pulley net systems to build these remarkable religious refuges on top of and in the sides of these unique landforms.

Hiking Meteora

Pictorial map showing the hike to Great Meteora

The 8km woodland walk up to a Meteora Monastery

While you can of course drive the circuit that circumnavigates the 6 remaining monasteries that are open to the public (there were 24 originally built in the region), I liked the feeling of making my first approach on foot, giving myself the opportunity to immerse myself in the landscape and experience a sense of connection with those who had walked this way before – a mini pilgrimage of sorts!

The sandstone pillars form a labyrinth of paths in between their bases, so I joined a comfortable 8km walking/hiking tour run by the local Visit Meteora office, whose guide led us through the beautiful wooded landscape along a maze of zigzagging paths otherwise only used by shepherds and their dogs.

Autumn colours in Meteora

A bus picked us up before 9 taking us out to the other side of the neighbouring village of Kastraki, where we were dropped off beneath a canopy of trees showing their first signs of autumn.

Pictorial map showing the hike at Meteora

We had barely begun when Lazarus pointed up to a cave in the dome shaped rock above us where the remains of a hermit’s dwelling could be seen – While telling us a fabled tale of its early day occupant (left photo above) I squirmed at the thought of the rock climbing skills required to gain access!

Rounding a few more bends, our path wound around and below another hermit cave, this time ‘boarded’ up with sticks and logs (centre photo), before being lead between Meteora’s characteristic tall steep sided sandstone pillars.

The ground was bursting with toadstools and edible mushrooms, which our guide promptly picked for dinner.

Toadstools and mushrooms found in the woodland below Meteora

Toadstools are left standing, while the edible mushrooms are gathered for dinner


One of the greatest joys of approaching the more well known monasteries on foot is the hidden gems you find along the way that are only viewable by taking this less travelled walking track – ie they’re tucked away off the main tourist route.

Our first sight of the Monastery of Ypapanti was from below –
Looking up the sheer cliff face we could see the struts supporting the hermitage’s overhang out from the ledge it was perched on (top left photo below).

Monastery of Ypapanti

The Monastery of Ypapanti

The path then meandered up and around to reach a plateau, which gave us a wonderful eye-level view directly across the chasm below to the hermitage on the opposite cliff face.
What a sight!

Despite our steady ascent the walking tracks we followed all rose remarkably gently taking us through sections of barren rocky outcrops…

Sandstone landforms at Meteora Greece

…that contrasted with the soft leafy woodland, which was a biophilac’s delight!

Gnarled old trees covered in mosses and ivy beside babbling streams…

Ancient woodland on the way to Meteora

The ancient woodland was a biophiliac’s dream


…with splashes of pink cyclamen and lilac crocuses – the source of saffron – popping out from the leafy forest floor.

Pictorial story map Meteora

Cyclamen and crocuses popped up on the woodland’s leafy floor

The Great Meteoron

Great Meteoron Greece

When the final ascent brought us out over the top brow of a hill to reveal below the largest and oldest monastery in the region – The Great Meteron – I felt quietly awe struck.

Steps up to Great Meteoron

It was not until the 1920’s that stairs were added to the monasteries to allow easier access – So rather than have to winch ourselves up in a net, we went down to a small bridge that precariously crossed the chasm across to its isolated sandstone pillar and clambered up the steps that clung to the cliff face, having gained access through a tunnel hewn out of the rock – (You can see the tunnel entrance in the bottom right of the above photo.)   

Skulls, candles and decoration inside the Meteora Monastery

We now joined the masses who had arrived by car and coach –
You can understand why the monks are not open 7 days a week! (The monasteries operate on a rotating schedule to ensure they’re not all closed on the same day, yet giving the monks solitary time to fulfil their life’s work) 

Inside was a glimpse into the monks’ sacred world.
The simple fundamentals required to nourish the body with the original ancient kitchen left as it must have been for 100’s of years prior for providing sustenance to the religious occupants; there was exquisite ornate decoration expected in a place of contemplation and worship, candles, and a remarkable room of homage to the monastery’s forebears – a room of skulls.


Meteora is situated in northern central Greece – about 360 km (225 miles) north west of Athens.

Map of Greece showing location Meteora

The unique landscape rises above the small township of Kalampaka (pop 22,000)…

Approaching Kalampaka Meteora

where even the chimney pots atop of the houses in the main street are in the shape of a monastery.

Kalampaka houses with monastery chimney pots

Meteora is an UNESCO site that is listed under 5 of a possible 6 Cultural Criteria, the first of which is that it “represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance”.

To appreciate the essence of the region I loved this leisurely walk through the sandstone pillars up to Meteora’s Monasteries in the sky, while seeing hidden hermit caves and hermitages along the way. This hiking tour was with Visit Meteora and cost 35 Euro per person or 60 Euros for a couple –

We were out for 4 or 5 hours, which included time in the Great Meteoron Monastery (3 Euro entry), followed by a gentle walk back down along a stone paved path through the woods to be picked up by the bus, beneath the adjacent Varlaam Monastery.

Have you seen photos of Meteora and been entranced?
(and thought like me – I have to go!)

Or more exciting – have you already been?

Do share your experience, or hopes and dreams in the comments below 🙂

Thirst Quenching – Photo Roulette *114

Who doesn’t love stunning travel photos?

Photo Roulette is an ongoing game and an opportunity for travel bloggers to show off examples from their travel photo portfolio –
Earlier this year I won Photo Roulette #97 that had the theme “Frozen” –

Hoar frost on the top of a gate in Scptland

As the winner, I selected and hosted the next round, It’s all in the Detail
Click through to see the 14 entries I received, and whose image I chose as winner!

Well, I’ve done it again!
In the last round hosted by Dare2Go the theme was Reflection.
Here is my winning entry 🙂

Kings Canyon

 A reflection of Kings Canyon in Australia’s Red Centre.

The theme for Photo Roulette #114 is
Thirst Quenching

While we all have to drink for survival…

Kangaroo and her joey quenching their thirst at a creek

Quenching our thirst is tied into cultures across the globe through ceremonies and social gatherings. We meet in cafés and pubs to talk and share ideas, and raise a glass to celebrate beginnings, unions and ends –

Many a travel memory is formed partaking in a local beverage …

Glass of wine and a pastry

And our thirst for travel adventures is permanently being quenched as we view wonders of the world – Such as cooling luscious waterfalls in luxuriant rainforests.

Image of waterfalls that cool and refresh

And the winner is…

I received thirst quenching entries from Australia, Morocco, Thailand, Hawaii and New York all illustrating luscious images of waterholes, waterfalls, water speckled flowers, coconuts, coffee making and Japanese slipper cocktails that all quenched my thirst in different ways so it was tricky selecting one!

But the winner of this round is:

Amanda ~ Not a Ballerina

Thai tea maker pouring at arms length

Travel Photo Roulette Guidelines

  • One submission per blog, so sites that have 2+ authors only get one entry.
  • Post processing is permitted, but photo altering (i.e. using Photoshop to remove elements) is not.
  • Abstract submissions welcomed as long as it fits within the interpretation of the chosen phrase – And the connection is comprehensible!
  • Keep your images medium-sized and web-optimized (800 pixels wide is good)
  • If you win, you will host the next round (runs for 7 days) and so choose the next theme: Keep phrases general so that all bloggers can participate. Specific items like “Eiffel Tower” should be avoided but rather made open-ended like “monuments” or with a dash of focus such as “monuments at night”, which most of us have pictures of. Phrases can be generic ‘signs’, or abstract ‘religion’, but keep it within the realm that all readers will understand. No “Kafka-esque,” or “Overlooking Creation.” Themes can be reused after 1 year, however new photos must be submitted.
  • No obscene pictures or phrases allowed. Suggestive phrases and photography can be accepted, but please keep it within reason.
  • Keep the ideas and photos fresh!
  • Pictures from your entire portfolio are fair to submit. You do not have to take the photo within the week of the contest period to submit it.
  • Most importantly, all photographs must be your own.
  • One last rule, since this is a competition for travel and photography bloggers, you must have a travel/photography blog to enter. Sorry!

How to Submit Your Entry

To enter the Travel Photo Roulette competition simply leave a comment below with:

  • a link to the image (whether Flickr, 500px, Trover, Smugmug, etc. or your own site) and
  • a short description/background/caption as to where/why/how this image quenches your thirst.

I’ll be uploading *your* photos into the post during the week so check back to watch the competition grow.

Submissions closed on Sunday October 25th at midnight GMT.
I’ll select and announce (plus notify by email) the winner on Monday 26th October.
The winner will then host the next round of Travel Photo Roulette #115.

And don’t forget to show the love sharing on your social media channels
with the hashtag #photoroulette
The more participants, the better the array of images and the more fun for viewing 😀

The Entries for this round are now closed 🙂

1.) Red Nomad Oz

“The day was hot and muggy as only the sub-tropics can be.  Then the shimmering reflections of the melaleucas in a little lake behind the beach drew me closer – and tempted me to quench the thirst threatening to overcome me.  And feet in the water, camera in hand, water dancing before me, my thirst magically disappeared!”

Reflections in the water

………. ***** ……….

2.) Anne ~ Let Me Be Free

“Sitting by the camp fire makes me want to have a drink and a good old chat!”

Campfire by a lake

………. ***** ……….

3.) Cindy ~ A Move to Morocco

“Here I am drenched by waterfalls and ambushed by monkeys. Ouzoud Falls, located 150 kilometers from the homes of my coworkers and me in Marrakech, looks like a set for yet another Indiana Jones movie to be filmed in Morocco. These super-sized cascades crashing from rocks where monkeys rule quench my thirst for adventure, beauty, and relationship. The Atlas hideaway hydrates with adrenaline, awe, and laughter each time we row into the spray.”

Ouzoud Falls Quench Thirst for Adventure

………. ***** ……….

4.) Jo ~ Zigazag 

“With blistering hot summers and (apparently) more sunshine per day than any other city in Australia, Perth can be hot and hard on flora. When I see morning droplets of rain or dew on flowers I feel as if their thirst for life is being quenched and it makes me feel at peace with the world. This photo was taken on an early morning walk in a stunning botanical park, Araleun, 30 mins from Perth where shady glades and tulips begged to be photographed at every turn.”

Image: pink tulip with droplets of dew

………. ***** ……….

5.) Suzanne ~ Boomeresque

“I had to choose between two photos: one of immense amount of water pouring over the impressive Iguazu Falls in Argentina or almost the polar opposite, a beautiful hibiscus by the side of a busy street in Honolulu (Waikiki) after one of the fleeting, sudden showers common on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. I chose the more subtle rain kissed hibiscus—just enough thirst quenching rain to keep the flowers blooming year round.”

Orange Hibiscus with water droplets on it

………. ***** ……….

6.) Kathy ~ 50 Shades of Age

“We had just driven across the centre of Australia from the Northern Territory to the border into Queensland. The landscape was flat, dry and barren without a creek or river in sight, as the outback was undergoing a severe drought. We arrived at Camooweal and the Georgina Billabong which was bursting with waterbirds and beautiful water lilies. Such a delight after so much dry terrain.”

Billabong with lilies and birdlife in northern Australia

………. ***** ……….

7.) Amanda ~ Not a Ballerina

“In the bustle of Bangkok’s massive Chatuchak Markets, my friends and I stood staring at this coffee maker and marvelling at his ability to mix the drinks without spilling a drop. And then, just as we too were jostled by some of the crowd walking by, he actually did let a little spill over the sides. Sadly we’d just come from a cafe and didn’t need to buy a drink, but next time our first stop would be his stall.”

Tea making in Bangkok

………. ***** ……….

8.) Carol ~ Berkeley and Beyond

“Feeling the summer heat in NYC, these three compadres are refreshing their systems with coconut water sipped from a coconut purchased at a Chinatown produce stand. Even with that plastic wrapping, the coconut still manages to do the job.”

Drinking from coconuts through a straw

………. ***** ……….

9.) Kate ~ Adventure Mumma

“It was taken recently on a weekend break with the kids up at my girlfriends house on the Atherton Tablelands. As you can guess, having kids can be thirsty work & it’s nice to chill with friends & be able to unwind & let the kids play freely (you can see them in the background saying hi to the cow)”

green cocktail that looks thirst quenching

………. ***** ……….

10.) Amy ~Two Drifters

“After weeks of driving across the dusty Australian outback, we came to an oasis in the Northern Territory: Katherine. Sweet and refreshing as her name would suggest, this town is home to stunning, magnificent gorges. In an area where many lakes and rivers are infested with saltwater crocodiles, the Katherine Gorges remain a place free of danger where the most blissful swim awaits.”

Katherine Gorge Northern Territory Australia

………. ***** ……….

Previous Winners…

  1. Nov 2010 Living the Dream: Animals
  2. Nov 2010 Skinny Backpacker: Road Signs
  3. Nov 2010 Dream a Little Dream: Street Art
  4. Dec 2010 Flashpacker HQ: Festival
  5. Dec 2010 Over Yonderlust: Landmarks
  6. Dec 2010 Don’t Ever Look Back: Beaches
  7. Jan 2011 ThePlanetD: Portraits
  8. Jan 2011 Travel with a Mate: Motion
  9. Jan 2011 Johnny Vagabond: Water
  10. Feb 2011 Ken Kaminesky: Urban
  11. Feb 2011 Travels of Adam: Friday Night
  12. Mar 2011 Itchy Feet Chronicles: The Journey
  13. Mar 2011 Brendan’s Adventures: Changing Seasons
  14. April 2011 Shutterfeet: Storytelling
  15. April 2011 10 Times One: Piousness
  16. April 2011 Beached Eskimo: Learning
  17. May 2011 Travel Junkies: Architecture
  18. June 2011 Destination World [-404-]: Transportation
  19. June 2011 Living the Dream: Paradise
  20. June 2011 Vagabond Quest: Clothes
  21. July 2011 The Unframed World: Symmetry
  22. July 2011 Beached Eskimo: Home
  23. July 2011 BackPackerBanter: Inspiration
  24. Aug 2011 WanderingTrader: Darkness
  25. Aug 2011 Finding the Universe: Tranquillity
  26. Sep 2011 Fearful Adventurer: Food
  27. Sep 2011 Adventures of a GoodMan: City
  28. Oct 2011 Globe-Trekking.com: Reflection
  29. Oct 2011 Scene With A Hart: Framing
  30. Nov 2011 Vagabond Quest: Silhouettes
  31. Nov 2011 Hecktic Travels: Music
  32. Dec 2011 Globetrotter Girls: Love
  33. Dec 2011 Man on the lam: Humor
  34. Jan 2012 My Walkabout: Winter
  35. Jan 2012 The Art of Slow Travel: Blue
  36. Feb 2012 Ten times One: Depth of the Field
  37. Feb 2012 Runaway Juno: … Digital Nomad Moment
  38. Mar 2012 Nomadbiba: Sunshine
  39. Mar 2012 Travel With Kat: Local Character
  40. April 2012 The Travel Bunny: Street Scene
  41. April 2012 Adventure Crow [-404-]: Spirit of the Country
  42. May 2012 Food Travel Bliss [-404-]: Evening
  43. May 2012 Matt Gibson: Adventure
  44. May 2012 Flashpacker HQ: Once In A Lifetime
  45. July 2012 Dusty Main: Surreal
  46. Aug 2012 2away: Smile

    1. Aug 2012 Bridges & Balloons: Splendour…
    2. Sep 2012 The GypsyNester: What the ?!
    3. Oct 2012 Runaway Juno: Sweet
    4. Nov 2012 GQ Trippin: Play
    5. Nov 2012 Life’s Little Victories: Friendship
    6. Dec 2012 Breakaway Backpacker: Face
    7. Jan 2013 Fly, Icarus, Fly: Serendipity
    8. Feb 2013 Travel Transmissions: Lost in Thought
    9. Feb 2013 Wanderlusters: The Natural World
    10. Mar 2013 Travel Junkies: Patterns
    11. April 2013 Living the Dream: Your First Time
    12. May 2013 Getting Stamped: The Sun Goes Down
    13. June 2013 The GypsyNester: Cheesy Tourist Diversions
    14. June 2013 Boomeresque: Revolution
    15. July 2013 Breakaway Backpacker: Colorful
    16. Aug 2013 Around This World: Mountains
    17. Aug 2013 Passports & Pamplemousse Hands at Work
    18. Sep 2013 TurtlesTravel Dance
    19. Sep 2013 Keep calm and travel The Sea
    20. Sep 2013 Travel Photo Discovery: The Market
    21. Oct 2013 Am I Nearly There Yet?: Travel Fails
    22. Oct 2013 The GypsyNester: Weird Regional Foods
    23. Nov 2013 Sophie’s World: Trees
    24. Nov 2013 SHOuTography: Party
    25. Dec 2013 Adventures of a Goodman: Ruin
    26. Dec 2013 Have Blog Will Travel: Light
    27. Jan 2014 This World Rocks: Crowds
    28. Jan 2014 Travel Past 50: Competition
    29. Feb 2014 The Working Traveller: Working
    30. Mar 2014 Travels with Carole: Umbrellas
    31. April 2014 Independent Travel Help Quirky
    32. April 2014 Quit Job Travel World Statues
    33. May 2014 Nomad is Beautiful People Sleeping
    34. May 2014 Backpack Me: Mouthwatering
    35. June 2014 20 Years Hence: The Face of A Nation
    36. July 2014 Two for the Road: Into the Wild
    37. July 2014 TurtlesTravel: Summer!
    38. Aug 2014 Adventures Around Asia: Candid
    39. Aug 2014 Travel with Kevin and Ruth: Hiking
    40. Sept 2014 Till The Money Runs Out: Transport
    41. Sept 2014 The Crowded Planet: Wild World
    42. Sept 2014 ZigZag On Earth: The 4 Elements
    43. Oct 2014 Travel Addicts: Heritage
    44. Oct 2014 Living the Dream: Your Grand Adventure
    45. Oct 2014 Getting Stamped: Inspire
    46. Nov 2014 Flashpacker HQ: Viewpoint
This list was re-formatted by dare2go.com. If you like to use this two-column layout in your post please download the code here and follow instructions on same page.

The winners and themes in 2015. Click the link to go directly to that entry to see some fab photographs.

    1. Jan 2015 Adventures of a GoodMan: WOW!
    2. Jan 2015 ZigZag On Earth: Roads and Tracks
    3. Feb 2015 Where’s The Gos?: Street Art
    4. Mar 2015 Ice Cream and Perma Frost: Frozen
    5. Mar 2015 Journey Jottings: Detail
    6. April 2015 House Sitting Travel: What’s your Angle?
    7. April 2015 JetWayz: Spiritual Beauty
    8. April 2015 The Trading Travelers: Celebrate
    9. May 2015 Street Food World Tour: Epic
    10. May 2015 Next Stop Who Knows: Landscape
    11. May 2015 We Travel Together: Wildlife
    12. May 2015 Vagabond Way: Festival
    13. June 2015 Travel Addicts: Landmarks
    14. June 2015 TravelnLass: Wrinkles
    15. July 2015 Anita’s Feast: Food Markets
    16. July 2015 Dare2Go: Dry
    17. August 2015 Travel Past 50: Home
    18. August 2015 Barefoot Nomad: Door
    19. September 2015 House Sitting Travel: Shapes
    20. September 2015 Berkeley and Beyond: Cemeteries
    21. October 2015 Dare2Go: Reflections
    22. October 2015 Journey Jottings: Thirst Quenching