My first drone - DJI Spark

If you haven't noticed a lot more aerial footage on social media these days then you must be living under a rock! 

I recently joined the drone craze myself, after talking about it for months! I was constantly grilling a workmate about his DJI Mavic Pro, and one day he mentioned that DJI were going to release a new, smaller drone. I researched the Spark and found that it had everything I was after - a small, portable drone with good specs for its size - perfect for a beginner like myself. 

My first aerial photo, unedited - Snells Beach

My first aerial photo, unedited - Snells Beach

The main reason I went with the Spark over the Mavic Pro, in the end, was the price tag. In New Zealand, the Spark alone sells for around $900 and the Mavic Pro for about $1800, and then you can get combos for a few hundred more each. I paid $1299 for the Spark Fly More bundle, which includes the drone, remote, spare battery, propellors and guards, and a charging hub.  

Me and my DJI Spark

Me and my DJI Spark

I don't really know a lot about technical specs, but I know the Spark offers pretty much all I need to take cool photos and decent quality videos. The camera lens is 12 megapixels with a 1/2.3 inch sensor and the video is 1920x1080, which is fine because I'm only using it for a hobby. The camera is on a 2 axis gimbal so the footage remains stable when flying. It does take a little bit longer to stabilize when in Sports mode, however.

It has some cool features that I'm just getting the hang of. There's Active Tracking, which is great for following a moving object which remaining smooth and steady. A big selling point, which I haven't really mastered yet, is the Hand Gesture setting. I have managed to get it to follow my hand side to side once, but I haven't mastered the "dronie" - you gesture for it to take a selfie. I should probably read the instructions a bit more, so that's probably just as much my own fault. 

My favourite thing about it is that I can launch it from my palm! Yes, it would be just as easy to place it on the ground to launch, but it comes in handy if the ground is uneven or wet. I like to think of myself as the Mother of Drones. Anyway...

Landing my DJI Spark in the palm of my hand - Kitekite Falls

Landing my DJI Spark in the palm of my hand - Kitekite Falls

The short fly time is definitely one of the negatives I've found so far - the maximum it'll do is 16 mins, which is enough to do a fair bit of filming somewhere, but if I want to shoot a second location in one outing I'll need to make sure my spare battery is charged.

Aerial shot of Okura Reserve, unedited

Aerial shot of Okura Reserve, unedited

Also, often the video signal drops out and once I had the whole aircraft disconnect when it was out at the beach, around the rocks and out of sight. When that happened, I wasn't sure if I had any control over it or not, or whether it still had its Obstacle Avoidance on so I just pushed the joystick to fly it upwards, and prayed to God it would appear over the top of everything rather than fly into it when it "returned to home". Luckily it did, and once it was in sight I let the GPS guide it back to me. 

Te Arai point, unedited

Te Arai point, unedited

Overall, the DJI Spark is a neat little toy, and it does everything a part-time blogger like myself needs. If you are looking at getting a drone for professional use you might want to look at something with better specs from DJI but if not, then the DJI Spark is a great option. 

Have you got a drone? Any advice?

Travel to Slovenia

For this next instalment of "Travel to...", let's cast our eyes up to the European continent, and take a look at Slovenia. Why Slovenia? Because it looks like a picturesque country that may not be as well travelled as some of its neighbours, but from what I've heard it really should be! 

A mountainous country, Slovenia is surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, with a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea. It has a small population, with just over 2 million people, the majority of whom speak Slovene. It is part of the UN so if you've travelling through Europe, you won't need to change your Euros to a different currency.  

Lake Bled - Our escape clause

Lake Bled - Our escape clause

Kate and Jeremy from Our Escape Clause pegged the country as one that they'd most like to return to, up there with Madrid and Dubrovnik! They also have another post about 8 stunning sights in Slovenia, which is a great read if you're interested in seeing some parts of Slovenia outside Ljubljana as well. The Skocjan Caves sound really interesting in particular, and although you aren't allowed to take photos inside but a quick Google search will show how stunning they are! 

Skocjan caves - Our Escape Clause

Skocjan caves - Our Escape Clause

Bordering Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary, Slovenia is a relatively small country, but that just means you'll be able to see a lot more of it in a short period of time. If you aren't staying there for a long time, Yulia's quick guide to Slovenia is a really helpful source to help you maximise your stay. I hate going somewhere and finding out later what I should've seen or done! 

tivoli park, slovenia - miss tourist

tivoli park, slovenia - miss tourist

Angela from The Sunday Chapter calls its capital, Ljubljana one of Europe's best kept secrets, and lists the country as one of Europe's most overlooked. Her reasons are quite compelling and paint the small country as a real fairy tale place. I've said this in some of my previous posts, but I'm a real sucker for pretty architecture, and it looks like Slovenia delivers! As you can see, the buildings in Ljubljana are just so lovely, with a variety of colours and styles! 

Ljubljana - the sunday chapter

Ljubljana - the sunday chapter

Queenstown Highlights Video

How much can you cram into a 4 day weekend in Queenstown? Well, quite a lot it turns out! 

Check out my Queenstown highlights video for an idea of all the adventures you can have in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and this isn't even half of what I would like to do down there! Four days crammed into a 6 minute video, it was hard cutting it all down. If you want a bit more info, you can read the full post about my 4 days in Queenstown here

Travel to Colombia

There are definitely a few particular things that come to mind when you mention Colombia, and not all of them are positive, particularly thanks to the popularity of Narcos and the extensive guerrilla warfare which plagued the nation for so long. But the more I read about it, the more I've discovered that the Colombian people are looking to put that all behind them and welcome the world to their beautiful country. 

Sunset in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

Sunset in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

Carly from Curly Bird Travel has written a lovely article about why Colombia is becoming more popular with tourists, which is a pretty good place to start! She's also found some really fascinating videos about Colombia and the changes it has been going through in the last few decades. 

Carly in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Curly Bird Travel

Carly in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Curly Bird Travel

I'm a bit of a sucker for architecture, especially when it's so bright and cheerful! I'm kinda in love with the amazing buildings in Guatapè. travelsandmore has a great post by Bryony about the town which was once a regular holiday spot for the infamous Pablo Escobar but is now a big hit with backpackers and tourists, as well as Colombian families. She also has a helpful posts about flying in Colombia, which apparently can be about the same price as a bus ride which takes about 10x longer! 

The colourful buildings of Guatape, Colombia. Photo: travelsandmore

The colourful buildings of Guatape, Colombia. Photo: travelsandmore

When you've been aptly inspired and are ready to start booking, definitely check out Lia's post about where to stay on Practical Wanderlust! The name says it all, but her practical article about hostels in Colombia is really detailed and some of the places look awesome. There's also a good read about the food in Colombia; I had no idea what it was like so found this really interesting to read. The fruit looks to die for! 

Eco Hostel Yuluka, Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust.

Eco Hostel Yuluka, Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust.

Street food in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

Street food in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

If you like practical help, also check out Claire's Colombia posts on Tales of a backpacker, she has heaps on informative posts like this practical, yet inspiring, post on Tayrona National Park, or this helpful one about what to pack if you do the Lost City Trek to Ciudad Perdida.

Hammocks with the best view, Tayrona National Park, Colombia. Photo: Tales of a backpacker.

Hammocks with the best view, Tayrona National Park, Colombia. Photo: Tales of a backpacker.

One of my absolute favourite things is chasing waterfalls [insert TLC joke here]. So of course, I love this post by Girl Astray's Karin on waterfalls in Putumayo, Colombia. In such a lush country it would be amazing to adventure through the jungle and find some beautiful falls. She also has a really interesting read about how to avoid Dengue Fever, which you may be at risk of if you're chasing waterfalls in the Colombian jungle. Always be prepared! 

Hornoyaco Waterfall, Colombia. Photo: Girl Astray.

Hornoyaco Waterfall, Colombia. Photo: Girl Astray.

So, Colombia might seem scary, but after doing some more research and reading about all it has to offer, it sounds like a really fascinating place with a colourful past but bright future. I will definitely not let urban legends and fear mongers stop me from going there one day! 

 

4 days in Queenstown

4 Days In Queenstown

When I saw a great deal on flights to Queenstown late last year I knew I had to buy them, 24 years old and I'd never visited the "adventure capital of the world"! 

Queenstown 1

I feel like I did my first trip really well, I managed to get spectacular weather, saw a lot of the highlights of Queenstown and the surrounding areas and did some adventure things too. I will admit right here and now that I didn't do one of the infamous bungy jumps; I've done one in my life which was huge for someone with a fear of heights, so I've decided that's it for me!

Anyway, here's what my 4 days looked like. I've also put some other ideas at the bottom for you, including some of the things on my to-do list for next time that I missed out on. 

Day 1

Queenstown 2

Arrived and picked up my rental car from Ace at the airport, they were the cheapest I could find. Always looking for a bargain! I think it was about $50NZ for 4 days, not including petrol. 

Drove to Queenstown and after a recommendation from the lady at Ace, had a late breakfast at Vudu, which was amazing! It had a really similar vibe to little and friday, but healthier. After that I wandered around town then headed to Skyline for some fun. The special of the day was $59NZ for a gondola pass and 6 luge rides which was only a few more than the regular 3 ride pass. The gondola is about a 5 minute ride up the mountain, with spectacular views of Queenstown, passing the bungy on the way up. 

It was a mild day, with a solid cover of cloud hanging over Queenstown, creating a strange effect. It almost looked like a border on my photos! 

Queenstown 5

The luge was lots of fun, though a bit short, and there is a beginners and fast track. There's a chairlift to the start of the track, which is also located near the start of the Ben Lomond walk, and the takeoff spot for the paragliders. It was a really cool place, you could watch the paragliders launch off the side of the mountain and soar down towards Queenstown. 

Dinner was pizza at The London, cheap and cheerful! Also good for breakfast the next day (I never said I was on a diet OK!!). I went to the Queenstown Gardens and just so happened to be there at the same time as the LUMA festival! It was a lovely festival of interactive light displays, but I couldn't capture them very well unfortunately.

Queenstown LUMA

Day 2

The High Country Horses Rees River Trail half day ride was definitely the highlight of my trip! The morning was brisk but there were few clouds in the sky, and the drive out to Glenorchy was stunning in the early hours of the day. 

Queenstown 6

The horse ride itself cost $138 and it was well worth it for half a day of riding through some of the most spectacular scenery. We were nearly entirely surrounded by mountains and crossed over the Rees River in several places. The riverbed is covered in lupin plants, which looked quite ugly and lifeless in the cold, but in spring and summer are famous for their beautiful purple flowers. I would love to go back and see them in the warmer weather.

Queenstown 3

My horses name was Snoopy, and although he was one of the more handsome horses, he was a bit of a lazy boy, reluctant to trot and constantly eating. I actually felt like he was a kindred spirit. 

Day 3

My day started off great; a burger for breakfast. A Fergburger burger to be precise! Even though I ordered the wrong one (Cockadoodle Doo not Cockadoodle Oink), it was still delicious, and a very filling breakfast. By going in the morning I beat the crowds, but later found out you can just call up and order which is just as efficient. 

I wandered around for a bit then headed to Arrowtown, where I met a school friend who is living nearby, for lunch. I had a look around the place a bit first, venturing down to the river where they have some of the remnants from the gold mining days. There were parts of the town that were still covered in frost, as the midday sun was yet to reach them. 

Queenstown Arrowtown

For lunch we went to a little French cafe and had crepes (I thought I should have something healthy for lunch to follow the great breakfast I had ;) ) and afterwards she showed me around. We went into a couple of the famous sweet stores, including Patagonia, which is famous for its fudge and chocolates, and Remarkables Sweet Store, which had all sorts of treats. They weren't cheap though, and I only bought a little 6 pack of fudge to share with the family. 

That afternoon I thought I would walk up the Ben Lomond track, apparently it's only a few hours to the saddle, which isn't too bad. But I got to the Mid-way Clearing where a bunch of paths and mountain bike trails met, and it was already dark at 3pm and a local lady warned me not to do it in the dark by myself. Reluctantly I went back down and checked into my hostel. 

Queenstown 6

When I was there I met a nice Aussie girl who wanted to come out with me so we wandered around trying to find good spots to take photos of the sunset. It wasn't the best but it was nice just chilling out and meeting someone new. We had curry for dinner then talked to some people in the hostel for a while then it was bed time. 

Queenstown 7

Day 4

Queenstown is not cheap, but I figured I might as well make the most of it while I was down there, so on Tuesday morning I went on the Thunder Jet. I got a deal from one of the adventure resellers in town for $110 which is why I chose Thunder over my preference which was the Skippers Canyon jet, recommended to me by my parents. It was really fun but sooooo cold. Seriously cold! I met an American girl and we got hot drinks afterwards to get the feeling back in our fingers again then went to Fergbaker to have lunch. I had a great steak and cheese pie, it was quite pricey at $7 but it was definitely worth it.

Queenstown Thunder jet

Then I had a bit of time to kill before my flight (which had been delayed by an hour) so I decided to drive out to the Kawarau Bridge to watch the bungy jumpers. I nailed the timing, there was a big Contiki tour group there so I got to see several jumpers; I'm not sure what it's normally like but it was very busy when I was there. 

Queenstown Bungy jump

After that it was bon voyage to Queenstown! 

Next time I go I will definitely do the Ben Lomond walk properly, I'd also like to do the walk up to Roy's Peak which is in Wanaka. I'll definitely be going to Milford Sound next time and maybe do one of the walks around there. I was really gutted to miss out on going to Onsen and having a nice relaxing spa day, so I'll definitely be booking that the minute I have flights sorted! 

Have you been to Queenstown? What were your highlights? 

How I plan my travels

The best and worst part of travelling is the planning. I'm not an overly organised person, and the whole theme of my blog is to get lost, but when you're only travelling somewhere for a few days or a couple of weeks you have to be realistic and plan ahead. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing out on stuff you really want to see, or not making the most of your holiday.

Here are some of the tools and sites I use when planning my travels:

Instagram

Yes, I have a whole album on Instagram of waterfall shots ;)

Yes, I have a whole album on Instagram of waterfall shots ;)

Instagram is the biggest one at the moment. I am soooooo grateful for the new feature which allows you to store up a bunch of photos that you really like. So whenever I'm scrolling through my feed and see something I like, I just save it. Then it's really easy to check the location later on and scope out other peoples' photos of the place and get a feel for it. 

Google Drive

Without sounding like a complete nerd, I seriously love Google Drive and Sheets. As I said, I'm not really a planner, but as a full time worker I only get 4 weeks a year, and I'm not one to spend half that time lounging poolside (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

I'm currently planning my trip to Myanmar and Bangkok, and I'll be meeting up with my partner when I get there. We currently have a Drive set up where we save our itineraries etc, and keep the planning Sheet. This sheet has several tabs; timetable, activities, accommodation and expenses. 

How I plan my travels - itinerary

It's cool to see it all laid out like this, to know what time slots need to be filled and when we're in one place too long etc. Because I'm really visual I added colours to the chart, then had a good laugh because my partner is colour blind and won't be able to appreciate it! 

Skyscanner

How I plan my travels - Skyscanner

I really like Skyscanner for it's visual approach. I like to travel on a budget so I'm often looking for the cheapest options, trying to squeeze a holiday around a long weekend or something similar. I really like using the map function, although it only does return flights, which can be a bit niggly, it's still really handy to see when is a good time to book somewhere, and who the cheap providers are. I haven't come across any other sites offering a similar function either, but I wonder if they will in the near future. 

TripAdvisor

Although I find TripAdvisor quite clunky and dated, it's still a really good tool for travel advise. I read a lot of reviews on it, though I take a lot of them with a grain of salt, and feel it's important to leave reviews in return (although I've been pretty slack at it). 

Other blogs

A stunning shot of bagan at sunset from the traveling honeybird

A stunning shot of bagan at sunset from the traveling honeybird

Of course, you can't have a travel blog and not get inspiration from other travel bloggers! It goes hand-in-hand with Instagram as I find a lot of great bloggers through that channel, but when I want a little more information I take to the blogging world. I have been lucky to have had the help of the wonderful Jean from The Traveling Honeybird, who has several great reads about Myanmar, where I'm heading next. Through Instagram I met Kiara from Galloping Around The Globe who has a great article about exploring the temples of Bagan, which was number 2 on my Myanmar bucketlist. There are heaps of blogs out there, so it's a great way to research a destination for future travels! 

HowIPlanMyTravels-thumb

 

What tools do you like to use when you plan your travels? Do you enjoy that side of it or do you prefer to wing it?