Ota 20 ilmaiskierrosta

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perjantai, 18. toukokuu 2012

Dakhla, Morocco 4. - 11.5.2012

 As our little girl is almost one year, it was a time to make our first kitetrip as a family.  Destination: Dakhla, Morocco – here we come !!!

 

Choosing the destination... 

It was not easy to decide where to go – to Caribbean, Egypt, Mauritius or somewhere else…  So many places  and so many things to consider - not only because of the small child but also to find good connections, good hotel and of course good wind & perfect kite spot. As we have a very good spot (Flag beach) here at home, we are quite demanding when choosing a place to go – has to be something better, of course… And for us it means good % of wind and flatwater – lagoon, if possible.. And of course beautiful, clear water…

All this exist in the Caribbean but this time we decided to forget it because of the long flight and big time difference. We know that small children adapt to everything but we didn´t want to take any risks as our girl has been always sleeping well and has a good rhythm with her daily routines. Mauritius would have been a good option - we went there couple of years ago and enjoyed a lot so we know that it´s a place to repeat, even with a child. Flight is long but the time difference is just couple of hours, so it´s not so bad. But we found out that the best located hotel, Indian Resort in Le Morne, was closed because of the renovation so it made our decision easier. Next time… But once they will open the hotel again, we will definitely go there again. It is such a good place for a family kite trip as the hotel is just on the kitespot with a Mistral center located in the hotel and there were also things to do for the children and non-kiters.

Egypt we didn´t see very clear - if will be good wind and where to go.. and also the connections were not so good and staying a night in Cairo was not very tempting idea..  We were in Ras Sudr  some years ago and it was good experience but is not very suitable to go with children as it´s very far away from Cairo and there is nothing else to do than kiteing. And anyway this time Ras Sudr was not even an option as the center there is closed temporarily because of the current situation in Egypt. This time we were considering El Gouna as there is a very good hotel (Mövenpick) directly on the kite spot but at the end the forecast of the wind didn´t convince us enough.

So, at the end we decided to go to Dakhla, Morocco. Many reasons for choosing it- probability of the wind was very high, direct flights from Gran Canaria, big flatwater lagoon, just one hour flight and no time difference etc.. Of course it´s in the middle of the desert so we were doubting if it´s a good place to go with child but at the end we decided to go and see.. Luckily because we had a great holiday – everything went well and we had 6 days of great kiteing (first 4 days perfect wind and last 2 days more gusty but still ok).  Again, one place to repeat…

Where is Dakhla????

Dahkla is located in the most southern point of Morocco, in the Western Sahara. It is a small town in the middle of nowhere – just sand and sea around.. But it is one the best locations in the world for kitesurfing.  Dakhla has a 50km flat-water shallow sand basin lagoon and perfect wind conditions. The constant and strong northwesterly winds are caused by the natural thermals rising from the desert and meeting the cold temperatures from the Canary current in the Atlantic Ocean next to Morocco. Place is perfect for kitesurfing.  If you are staying in the camp next to lagoon,  you are basicly few steps from the spot.  What else can you wish for?? Well, the wind of course. 

 

Choosing the hotel... 

First you have to decide if you want to stay next to the kitespot or in the town of Dakhla? Both has pros and cons. Anyway, there are many options for everybody.

Hotel in the town:

+more quality option

+more space in the room

+close to the farmacies and hospital 

+closer to the wave spot

-30 min drive from the kitespot

Kitecamp:

+ next to the lagoon, just few steps away from the spot

+ Fullboard included (breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant of the kitecenter)

+ more chill-out, other kiters around

-smaller rooms

-nothing to do if there is no wind

There are couple of better hotels in Dakhla:  SaharaRegency http://www.sahararegency.com/ and Bab al bahar http://www.bab-al-bahar.com/  in the center of the town and Calipau Sahara http://www.dakhla-hotel-sahara.com/index.html?lang=en which is located little bit outside of the town, closer to the kitespot (but still 20min drive there..)  In the hotels you can choose between the breakfast or halfboard but HB is better option as there are not many restaurants in the town and anyway after a long day of kiteing, is so confortable to stay in the hotel, enjoy the dinner and then go to bed to take energies for the next day.

There are also many cheaper hotels in Dakhla like Palais Touareg, Al Massira, Tirs and Sahara, Doumss.

Around the lagoon and kite spot there are three bigger camps (Rio Aguila, Ocean Vagabond and Dakhla attitude) and couple of smaller ones.  In the camps there are cottages and tents available and all the camps provide full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The best one is Ocean Vagabond that was opened couple of years ago. They have also a big Mistral –center there so everything is very well organized. They have equipment rental, courses & classes available, excursions (downwind and wave) and of course rescue service and kite storage. The 10 euros rescue and storage payment is obligatory if you want to kite there. We went there every day as for us it was the best place to be with a baby – good restaurant to stay inside with a baby and the spot just few steps away.

http://www.oceanvagabond.com/dakhla-en.html

http://www.dakhla-attitude.ma/index_en.php

http://www.kitecampmaroc.com/

We decided to stay in Bab-al-Bahar, which is a good quality hotel in the center of Dakhla. Maybe not 4* but not far away either. Rooms were very spacious and clean - it was nice to arrive in a clean and fresh hotel room after spending the whole day outside and kiteing. Hotel has about 34 rooms and most of them are facing to the sea but there was also rooms without any wiew - just windows to the corridor. We booked normal seaview room but finally we got a more spacious room with better view and fridge in the room. We had a HB so breakfast and dinner - breakfast was like a small buffet with bread, some cakes, cereals, yogurt, fruit, coffee/tea and juice. For the dinner there was mainly a menu (couple of options where you could choose) but during the weekend they had very nice buffets (morocco evening and sea food evening). Drinks are not included (1.5 litre of water was about 30 dirhams, coca-cola 25 dirhams, wine 40 dirhams etc). During the weekend they had also live music that was very loud and lasted until very late (friday night until 02.30 and saturday night until 24). Staff was very polite but not all of them speak english very well. The manager of the hotel was around almost all the time, taking care that things are going fine. 

     

Because we stayed in town, we had to drive every day 30 minutes per way to arrive to the spot... but we organized all the transfers with the hotel so there was always driver with 4x4 waiting for us. They charge 10 € / day / person of this service. We saw also few car rentals in the town (for example Imouzzan car in the Doumss hotel) but we didn´t check any prices. But it´s possible and there is a quite good paved road until the lagoon (just the last km was sandy but there was lot of normal cars driving there every day).

How to arrive there...

There is a direct flight from Gran Canaria with Canary fly  - two times a week, mondays and fridays. The tickets can be booked through el Sahariano travel -agency, http://www.elsahariano.com/. Price of the flight is about 230-250 € / return ticket. Flight is operated with a very small plane (just 17 seats) so they accept only small carry-on-luggage of 5 kg / person (normal trolley is too big to take inside…).  You can also check-in one bag of 20kg for free.  For extra kilos they charge 2.5 € / kg. We had all together 2 bags (each 20kg) and a kitebag (30 kg). On the way to Dakhla we had to pay 50 € for that but luckily coming back, they didn´t charged anything.

Flight from Gran Canaria to Dakhla takes 1h and 10 minutes. The airport of Dakhla is located directly in the middle of the town and from there is about 30 min drive to the lagoon and kitecamps. Both hotels and camps can organize a transfer from/to airport.

There are also flights from Casablanca and Agadir couple of times per week. Normally these flights arrive to Dakhla in the evening so on the way back you have obligatory overnight in Casablanca as the flight arrives there very late. 

Lagoon – kitesurfing spot…  wind…

The Spot


The spot is a 40km long and13 km wide lagoon, created by the peninsula of Dakhla which stretches into the Atlantic Ocean. All the camps and the kite spots are located on the north coast of that lagoon. Thanks to the side-shore winds from the north, the water is almost flat and thus offers perfect conditions for practicing and learning, as well as freestyle and racing. There are no rocks, reef or anything dangerous in the lagoon.

Depending on high and low tide there is an up to 300 meter long shallow water area right in front of the centers. During the low tide, the lagoon is much smaller but still kiteable. But the best moment is definitely with a high tide when the lagoon is huge. 

http://www.tablademareas.com/af/marocco-atlantic/ad-dakhla

About 5 minutes drive from the town of Dakhla to the other side of the peninsula, you reach fantastic wave spot, perfect for wave riding and surfing.

Wind & Waves
The wind blows constantly throughout the whole year. The main wind direction is north-easterly, so the wind blows side-shore from the right. Thanks to this the water inside the lagoon is flat close to the beach and gets a little bit choppier the farther you are away from the shore. At the wave the wind blows slightly side-onshore, and is normally a few knots weaker than inside the lagoon.

Windiest months are from May until October but even in December & January, the lowest wind season, it is still 60 % reliable.

 
The Ocean vagabond center


There are five centers around the lagoon but the Ocean Vagabond is definitely the best one. It´s also a Mistral center, so very well organized. There are classes and courses available, equipment rental, excursions (downwind, waves) and a big restaurant with chill-out corner. From the center it is only a few steps to the water.  The terrace of the center is protected from the wind, so that families and partners who don´t sail can comfortably stay on the beach and watch the action on the water from there. Showers, WC’s and changing rooms can also be found in the center. If you are kiteing with your own equipment, you have to pay 10 € / day for the storage and rescue fee. They have a boat all the time in the water so if you need help, is always available.

There is a lunch available in the restaurant between 13.00-15.00 with charge of 15 €  (small buffet, including some salads and main course, which is mainly fish.. ). Outside of the lunch time there are also some snacks (crepes, sandwiches) available between 16.00-18.00.  The restaurant is very big so there is enough space to be protected from the sun and wind, if you staying with a small child.

Other things to do.. 

There are not many things to do for non-kiters as Dakhla is not a tourist town. But of course there are some things to see around. There are some excursions available like visit to the thermal sulfur spring, sightseeing Dakhla, camel trek in the dunes, sightseeing boat trip to Dragon island, sightseeing boat trip to the “white dune” and fishing boat trip. On the lagoon is possible to do wakeboarding, stand up paddle and kayaking.

Good to know…

internet: There is wifi available at the Ocean Vagabond and also in the hotel Bab al Bahar.

mobile phone: The network was very good both in the town and in the Ocean Vagabond.

supermarket: There is a small supermarket in Dakhla (supermarche Ait Oubaha) where you can buy food, cosmetics, hygiene & baby products ( diapers of Pampers, cereals of Nestle ) etc.

Farmacy: There are a lot of farmacies in Dakhla and also a new hospital.

Passport & visa: Eu citizens need to have a passport that is valid at least another 6 months at the date of entry. For all stays with touristic purpose up to 90 days there is no visa required.

Health regulations: No vaccinations are required but immunization against tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A+B is recommended. To prevent problems with diarrhea be careful with food and hygiene. Tap water is not good for drinking but bottled water is sold everywhere.

Climate

Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Average high °C (°F)

21
(70)

20
(68)

22
(72)

21
(70)

22
(72)

23
(73)

23
(73)

25
(77)

25
(77)

25
(77)

23
(73)

21
(70)

22
(72)

Daily mean °C (°F)

18
(64)

18
(64)

20
(68)

19
(66)

20
(68)

21
(70)

22
(72)

22
(72)

23
(73)

22
(72)

21
(70)

19
(66)

20
(68)

Average low °C (°F)

15
(59)

15
(59)

17
(63)

17
(63)

17
(63)

18
(64)

20
(68)

20
(68)

20
(68)

20
(68)

18
(64)

16
(61)

18
(64)

 


Currency/mode of payment:
Local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (DHM).  1 EUR = approx. 11 DHM.
Money can be exchanged at the hotels or at the bank. Credit & Maestro are accepted at most hotels and also at any ATM. 

Time difference: Summer - CET -2 hours and winter – CET -1 hours

tiistai, 27. joulukuu 2011

Sierra Nevada, 28.11. - 2.12.2011

   It has been a long time since we travelled to do some snow or kite but we had a good reason - our little daughter was born 6 months ago :-)  But now it is time to start travelling again…  

We wanted to go snowboarding,mainly because we didn´t wanted to fly too far away and this time of the year normally is already good for snowboarding, but unfortunately this winter has started very strange way  - no snow anywhere in the Europe!  Not in the Alps, not even in the north... 

We were waiting until the last moment to make any arrangments so that we could find the best place. But unfortunately winter didn´t want to arrive…  And at the end it seemed that our only hopes were Cervinia, Italy or some glaciers and Obergurgl in Austria, which had quite many slopes open even it´s not a glacier.  The situation we were checking mainly through the webpages of the resorts and there are also many webpages with some information (for example skiclub.co.uk or igluski.com and onthesnow.com - which had also nice article that gave us information about the glaciers... http://www.onthesnow.com/news/15/a/58503/where-to-ski-in-october 

We had already booked a hotel in Obergurgl (hotel Chrystal, which was very expensive but looked really, really nice with spa and excellent location) but at the last moment we decided to change our plans and head to Sierra Nevada, Spain because some friends told us that there should be quite good conditions and they are preparing to open in the end of November. Also nevasport.com was writing that Sierra Nevada is ready to be open and they had very nice photos from there. http://www.nevasport.com/noticias/art/33963/Sierra-Nevada-abre-temporada-con-27-kms-esquiables/tag/Sierra%20Nevada/

Yes, sounds really strange to travel to south of Spain to do snowboarding especially if there is not snow even in Finland.. But for some reason this year the weather has been very  strange and has been raining a lot in Spain. And as Sierra Nevada is the highest mountain of Spain (3400m) , there has been cold enough  for snowing. It was little bit risky but we decided to take that risk and just few days before our trip, we got information from the Sierra Nevada webpage (http://sierranevada.es/) , that they are going to open almost 50km of pistes. So, we were happy to start our trip J 

We decided to start our trip already in the end of November so that we could avoid the busy week of "puente de Deciembre" which is normally very busy in the spanish resorts as many people are enjoying the few extra freedays. So, we book our accommodation from 28.11 until 2.12.  

We didn´t had any problems to book the hotel because most of the hotels were half empty. There was very good offers (3 nights with 100  € or similar...) but most of the cheepest hotels / apartments are up on the hill and quite a long way from the center and lifts. And we wanted to be as close as possible to the lifts, so that we could change "shifts" as quick as possible because one of us had to be with our little girl while other was snowboarding (we still didn´t want to leave her with daycare for a longer time).

So, for us the location was one of the most important things when we were choosing the hotel. Also we wanted to have little bit more quality as this was a first trip for a long time. So, spa was another important thing.. At the end we decided to stay in Sol Melia y nieve, which is very well located  (just two minutes walk from the lift) and they have also a very good spa (also a small pool for children, which our 6 months old girl was enjoying a lot). http://www.solmelia.com/hotels/spain/sierra-nevada/melia-sol-y-nieve/en/index.html 

 

This hotel is definitely one of the most expensive ones  (basic double room 150 € / room/ night with HB, superior room 190 € / room / night with HB) but is worth of the money. We had halfboard as we didn´t want to move around in the evening. And it was a good decision because it was very comfortable to go for a hotels dinner, while our girl was already sleeping in her baby trolley.  And the food in the hotel was also very good so worth of the money.

             

We rented a car from Malaga airport and this time we used Goldcar. They are one of the cheapest company and we paid about 40 € of 5 days rental. But be careful – they always charge the full tank of petrol when you take the car and you have to return it empty ( they don´t return any money back even if the tank is full).

Our drive from Malaga to Sierra Nevada took about 1h 45 min. The road until Granada is very good but from there up to Sierra Nevada is more narrow and curvy. Luckily there was no snow yet so we didn´t need any chains for the tires.

Sierra Nevada resort is closed from traffic so you have to leave your car in parking. There is one parking in the hotel Melia Sol y nieve and price is  about 18 € / day (low season price). But there are also cheaper places to park. But this is very comfortable as you can access directly to the hotel and it´s covered parking.

http://en.sierranevada.es/descargas/pdf/planourba_09-10.pdf

We bought our tickets from the ticket office, located in the main square of Sierra Nevada. As it was low season, there was no queues at all but on a busy days, it´s better to be ready for some waiting… Ticket for the 3 days was 103 € or 4 days 133 € (season opening price).  You have to pay also the deposit of the card which you will get back when returning the card.

There are plenty of rental shops with good variety of skies and boards,  you can even rent clothes… We used a small place called Veleta Ski, which is located next to the Melia hotel. Service was good and prices ok so we didn´t even checked other places. Snowboard equipment rental was 28 € / 3 days or 35 € / 4 days. http://www.veletaski.com/

We had perfect trip and we were enjoying of the very good conditions during the whole stay. It was no crowded, snow and slopes in very good condition, enough kilometers to ski and perfect, sunny weather.

As it was low season, there was not many people so no queues for the lifts and all the slopes were half empty. But during the high season, the weekends and public holidays should be avoided, as it is very crowded.

Skiing area Sierra Nevada

Resort Base Level

2100m

Top Station

3300m (Veleta peak 3398m)

Vertical Drop

1200m

Slope Orientation

NW & W

Pisted Runs

102.89 kilometres (inc. Snowboard Park) over 115 runs

Green Runs

16

Blue Runs

40

Red Runs

50

Black Runs

9

Longest Run

"El Aguila" - 6.18 kms

Number of Lifts

29 (2 Gondolas; 16 Chairlifts (6 Detachable); 2 T-bar drag lift; 8 Conveyer Belt, 1 rope drag)

Lift Opening Times

09.00 to 17.00 (Last lift up 16.45)

Total Lift Capacity

47,141 skiers per hour

No. of Ski Areas

6 (Veleta; Laguna De Las Yeguas; Borreguiles; Lomar de Dilar; Rio Monachil; Parador)

Snow Making

350 canons & 725 hydrants over 33 kms of piste on 32 runs.

Child Care

2 options: 1 - The "Snow Garden" in Borreguiles main ski area, 2 - The crèche at the base of Al-Andalus Gondola)

Night Skiing

Saturdays from 19.00 to 21.30hrs (subject to weather /snow conditions)

Freestyle Parks

1 with half-pipe, full range of jumps & rails plus a small lift. 1 Mini-Park with a small selection of ramps and rails.

 

There are two main lifts from the Pradollano (resort center) up to the skiing area. Both lifts are located next to the main square, Plaza Andalucia. There are 6 skiing areas (Veleta, Laguna, Borreguiles, Loma Dilar, Rio and Parador)  and everything is quite well connected.  All together there are 22 runs, about 120 km. But in the beginning of the season there was 50 km open but even that was enough for 3 days. When all the runs are open, there is plenty of skiing for many days.

 

For beginners there are many green and blue runs but the resort is probably best suited for intermediates. For example all  the runs in the Laguna area are just red and black. For snowboarders there is well kept halfpipe and boardpark. 

 

Sierra Nevada has also very modern snow making system and  the humidity + low temperatures are ideal for the cannons to work. So, the snow conditions were perfect during our whole stay  - from the first moment of the morning until the end.. Also weather was great the whole time  - sunny, sunny, sunny. This is actually one of the best things in Sierra Nevada – almost guaranteed sunshine during the whole season.

 

 

Sierra Nevada is also a good family destination as it offers quality hotel accommodation and children´s facilities, like the Mirlo Blanco recreation zone with different kind of activities (ski bike, ice skating, roller sledge). There is also the crèche and snow garden with trained staff (our 6months old baby spent some ours in the centro Ludico infantil, which is located directly next to Al-Andalus lift station.  Price for ½ day was 30 € + there is 10 € extra for the babies under 12 months.  Places are limited so it´s good to book place in advance, especially during the high season (tel. 958 481 081). It´s also good to know that all the babies (less than 18months) has to show their vaccination card before entering to the daycare.

 

 

 

 

 

tiistai, 6. heinäkuu 2010

Mauritius and Rodrigues 2010

KITESURF & DIVE TRIP TO MAURITIUS & RODRIGUES 21.6. - 5.7.2010

 This was pure ex-tempore trip as we decided our destination just about week before departure. It was not easy to decide where to go as it was not easy to find a “perfect” place for this kind of holiday. To have good wind, beautiful beach, flat water (as we wanted to learn new tricks and jumps), good diving opportunities and also everything with reasonable price. But after spending hours and hours in the internet, the "final four" destinations were: Mauritius, Los Roques, Aruba and Mombasa (Kenya). After putting + and - things of each place, checking the prices, wind forecasts and contacting kitescenters in each destination, we finally decided to go to Mauritius. And actually it was our first option, when we started to think where to go this summer. It wasn't the perfect option either but as we got the flights with good price, we decided to go.
 
 
We book everything with the very last moment but no problem with anything as it's not the high season in Mauritius. Hotels for the first 4 nights we book through from www.hotels.com and decided to stay in the east coast, at the Palmeraie/Palmar beach. In the kitebeaches.com they say, that it's one of the best beaches with flat water so it was the main reason for deciding that place. Hotel for the first 4 nights was La Palmeraie and price of 100€ /room / night  with halfboard was quite good to be a **** hotel.  Nothing luxurius but good standard and the best thing was the location directly on the beach and even kitecenter located next to the hotel.
 
The prices of the flights we were comparing a lot, trying to find the most economical way to travel with a kitebag and without too many stops. We knew it's going to be a long trip, as we had to travel from Fuerteventura (Canary islands) to Mauritius, stopping in Madrid and also some other place in Europe as there are no direct flights from Spain to Mauritius. Basicly options were through London (British airways), Paris (Air France and  Air Mauritius ), Frankfurt (Condor) and Milan (Air mauritius and Meridiana). As it was little bit "stupid" to flight first to the north and then fly back to the south, we considered Milan as the best option and it's also very well connected with Madrid.
 
Air Mauritius had a good offer from Milan (direct flight), just 520 € / person but unfortunately we were too slow and the price was higher in the moment when we decided to book it. And also because of the waiting, we lost the flights to Rodrigues island where we wanted to go directly after arriving to Mauritius. But as there is only one, some days even two, flight per day and with very small plane, this can happen... So, it was time for plan B which ment instead of going to Rodrigues, we had to stay some days in Mauritius and we managed to book the tickets to Rodrigues 26.6. But more about the Rodrigues later...
 
At the end, the cheapest option was to buy easyjet tickets Madrid-Milan-Madrid, just 100 € / person and 25 € / way for the kitebag. (by the way, be careful.. booking the kitebag with Easyjet, you only buy one extra bag and 12 kg more. But at least we didn't had any problems and they didn't even checked the weight of the kitebag but can happen..) The flights from Milan to Mauritius we booked through Meridiana and was only 490 € / person. But for the kitebag we had to pay 100 € / way extra, but no problems at the check-in with the bags or kilos. The reason for the cheap price was probably the stop in Rome on a way to Mauritius, which we had to do. But at the end it was not bad, even we waited almost 2 hours in the plane. But the plane was not full so we got 4 seats for us and we managed to spend the night-flight sleeping and relaxing. Flight back was directly to Milan.
 
day 1.  The trip starts: Mauritius - here we come!!!
After arriving to Mauritius airport, the representative of Alphacar was waiting for us, as agreed. We booked the cheapest car that we could find, Huyndai Atos for 4 days with 125 €. Very small but totally still totally enough to put all our things – 2 normal bags, 1 big kitebag and small handluggage
 
Only challencing thing of the carrental is, that driving is on the left side!! If you do n't have experience for that, be ready to drive extra, extra carefully. As the traffic is quite disaster here, you need to watch out, not only the other cars but also the dogs, people walking or bicycling in the middle of the street, motorbikes etc. But it's ok after you get used to it and it's also easy way to move around. And good way to see the normal life, as you are passing by all the small villages. You probably you need to ask help from the locals few times on your way to the hotel as the roads are not very well signed and there can be many signs in one crossroad to go to one direction – it's more or less good luck if you choose the correct one. But going without no hurries, it's not so bad..It took about 1.5 hrs to drive from the airport to  the Palmeraie/Palmar beach, even making few mistakes.. but was nice drive and part of the road was following just the east coast of the island.. Finding the hotel was quite easy as there was a sign from the mainroad.
 
Hotel  Le Palmeraie was very nice – small but very nice atmosphere and rooms nicely decorated and quite spacious. We got the room with the view to the parking place but it was ok as the plan was not the spend time in the hotelroom. Most of the nights we had buffet dinner with different kind of themes like Mauritius buffet, indian buffet, mediterranean buffet, chinese bugget etc. But sometimes the dinner can be also menu, like we had the first  night. But generally the food was delicious and portions big enough. Drinks we had to pay separately and bottle of water was 2€, glass of beer 3 € and glass of redwine 5 €. Also the lunchmenu in the poolbar was very good, we had one of the best hamburgers of our life there.
 
Room of the Le Palmeraie -hotel
 
 
Day 2 – wind or no wind?
After sleeping very well and getting energies from the good breakfast, it was time to go to check the situation. How is the beach, is there wind etc? Unfortunately it was not enough and the forecast was not very good either, so it was time to make plan B. It was too late for diving already, as they depart just in the morning at 9 and 11 o'clock, so options were beach and snorkkeling or sightseeing. We decided to make most of the time and to go to see other beaches of the island and at the same time we could drive around the whole north-east coast of the island.
 
We started following the eascoast to the north from the Palmeraie beach, first stop being just hundred meters north. Basicly Palmeraie and the next beach Palmar / Belle Mare is just one big lagoon and you can ride from the beach to another. Just be careful when changing the beach, as the are few rocks on the shore and appear especially on the low tide. And be also careful with the swimmers and boats, which are doing waterskiing and other activities. Beach here is quite narrow and there are trees close, so be careful when launching and landing the kite. But anyway good place to do kite and not many people.  Next was was Cocobeach, maybe 5 min driving to the north. It was not the easy to find, as there was no sign of the public beach on the road, just narrow alley going towards the beach. But the beach seemed to be quite nice, lagoon good size and reef protecting from the big waves. Seemed like very quiet place so could be good for kiteing, even there was few boats in anchor. Beach was quite narrow but good enough for launching and landing. Following the coast about 10 min more, we arrived to Poste Lafayette, which was a big bay appr. 2.5 km wide. The entrance to the beach is from the north part of the bay. Here was actually some locals kiteing and seemed like a nice spot and beach is more wide here so launching and landing should be easy here. But wind was and normally is south-east, so totally onshore. Anyway, another good spot for kiteing and just short distance from the hotel.
 
Poste Lafayette beach:
 
 
Next we tried to find access to Roches Noires but it was totally impossible to find a place to enter as the whole coast is full of private houses. It's a shame because lagoon in front is very wide so would be perfect for kiteing. There is also public beach but not suitable for kiteing.
 
After this we decided to head to the north, where is the biggest resort of the island, Grand Baie. During winter months the winds don't enter here so probably this is the reason why most of hotels are located here as most of the tourist don't go for a holiday following the winds... Place seemed to be quite nice though, more restaurants, some shops and big supermarket. There are also few kitespots around, for example Mont Choisy, about 10 min drive to the west from the center of Grand Baie. Now totally flat and no wind at all, but with northeast wind could be nice place to ride.
 
From the north it was time to head back to the hotel after late lunch as it gets dark very early at this time of the year (around 18 o'clock is totally dark already and there are no lights on the smaller roads). After seeing the whole coast it was interesting to drive through the inland. Small villages, local life and a lot of sugarcane fields. Interesting day but also hard, as driving here takes a lot of energy. Roads are very narrow, traffic totally disaster, especially in the villages where people are walking, biking and driving without any rules. Cars are parked in the middle of the road, dogs running around and basicly anything can happen so you need to be 100 % careful all the time. But renting a car is quite cheap here so it's a good option for those, who want to go around with own plans and timetable. It's also possible to rent a taxi for the whole day and it's not difficult to organize it and prices are quite ok. And definitely spending one day seeing all the nice kitebeaches, is good option for the days without wind.

Day 3 – finally wind and kiteing

Already early in the morning it was possible to hear the beautiful sound of wind that was knocking the windows. So, breakfast and to the beach!! The team of the Kitesurf Paradise -Center was already at the beach putting their gear ready so we joined the group. We got very good advices from Maude and Jerome, who are running the kiteschool here in the Palmeraie beach. As the lagoons can be tricky with corals, currents etc so it's good to get some tips from the locals about the place.

Palmeraie/Palmar beach is very good place for kiteing. Not only for experienced kiters but it's good for the beginners too ast there is space to go downwind and walk up again so lot of space to practise and not many kiters in the water.  The lagoon here is not very wide but it's long and actually there is the whole area from the north of the Palmeraie until many km to the south, so you ride up and down and back up again. Reef is protecting from most of the waves, just some choppy inside of the lagoon. Going outside of the lagoon is really not a wise idea here..  Beach is also perfect for the beginners, as there is space to go downwind and walk up again, so lot of space to practise.

Palmeraie/Palmar beach:

Launching and landind was ok, even there are some trees close to the water but still enough space to do it safely. We had very nice session of kiteing, good wind from the southeast,which is perfect cross-onshore here. Later in the afternoon it got cloudy and after 15 o'clock started to arrive very dark clouds so it was time to go out very quickly. These clouds mean a rain here and not consistent winds. We were fast but not enough as the strom came incredibly fast. But we managed to get back to the beach before wind dropped totally. It was actually good lesson about the local weather - first you see some dark clouds in the horizon, then wind get stronger and when the first drops are falling, it's time to get out because rains stopps the wind totally. Normally the showers are quite short at this time of the year but this seemed to be longer one so it was time to pack things and go back to the hotel. Luckily our hotel was just next to the spot so it was a pleasure to walk one minute and be in a hotelroom already. As we were guessing, the storm was quite strong and lasted the whole evening and night.

day 4 – downwind excursion

Day started very well as it was quite windy, so we pack all the things and drived just 5 min to the next village, Trou d'Eau Douche. From there departs many boats to the Ile des auxCerf-islands, paradise looking place between the coast and the reef. It's actually like 2 island, just small channel between the islands. In the low tide it`s possible to walk from the island to the other and in the high tide it's possible to do it swimming. Unfortunately kiteing is not possible here, as it's protected from the wind and it's also very exploited by tourists. But the lagoon behind the island is incredibly big, you can kite kilometers following the reef and the water is very flat.
 
Ile aux cerf 
 
To kite here, the best possibility is the agree a kitetrip with the local kitecenter, as we did. First we got a nice drive through the islands and mangrove trees and after 20 min you will arrive to the small beach where it's possible to set up your things and launch. In here you need to have some skills because from the beach is best to ride little bit upwind. If you go downwind, you will end up next to mangrove forest and there are quite nasty fishes swimming around.. so, if you end up there, don't put your feet on the bottom!! And generally this is always a good advise here, as there can be corals on the bottom or rockfishes (which are very, very poisonous). So, what ever happens, don't put your feet on the bottom.
 
Unfortunately we were not very lucky with the wind as it dropped immeadiately when we arrived to the island. And we didn't take our biggest kite with us, as there was supposed to be very good wind. So, after fighting about 30 min we had to give up and the kitecenters boat came to pick us from the lagoon as it was impossible to ride back to the beach. This is the reason why it's good to go there with a rescueboat around. If the wind dropps in the middle of the lagoon, it's a long way to swim back.. And here you don't feel like staying close to the shore as the lagoons are calling you to explore the area.
 
Luckily the owners of the kitecenter were kind and went  pick up our 12m kite from the shore and meanwhile we were having a picnic at the beach. With the 12m kite and 10 m kite we managed to finish our excursion and we did a downwind session from the ile des aux Cerf islands back to the Trou d'Eau Douche. The boat of the kitecenter followed us the whole way but there was no need for the rescue this time, although the wind was not very good. It was nice excursion but would had been even nicer if the wind had been better but for that we cannot do anything. At least we managed to do something – better a bad day of kiteing and no kiteing at all :-)
               
It's really highly recommended to do at least one downwind session here on the east coast because it's very unique experience. Price for this trip was 50 € and included the picnic, we booked it through www. mauritius-kitesurf.com (kitesurf paradise center).
 
day 5 – Rodrigues calling...
After spending 4 nights and 3 days in Mauritius, it was time to change the island. After reading many articles about the Rodrigues island, it was a definitely place that we had to see. In all the articles it's called like a paradise of kitesurf, with a huge lagoon around the island and very good wind conditions. The photos of the place were just too amazing to be true – we had to go and see it ourself.
 
We booked the flight in advance through internet as it's not very well connected place – basicly just one or two flights / day from Mauritius and not even every day.. so, it's good to book the seats in advance. Price was 180 € / person. You cannot book sport equipment in advance and they don't even promise that will fit on the plane... So, be careful... For us they told first the kitebag will be on standby, which means that they will take it if there is place but if not, will come with some other flight and maybe not even the same day. But after explaining who long trip we have done to come until Mauritius and this has been our dream etc. they promised that we can take it with us even the flight was fullybooked. Charge for the extra kilos are 1 € / kg, so quite reasonable.
 
Hotel we booked through www.holidays-rodrigues.travel,  as they had the cheapest price for the Mourouk Ebony – hotel, 100 €/ night. As the island is still very original and not touristic at all, there are not many hotels available. Basicly just one hotel in the south (Mourouk Ebony), one hotel in the east (Cotton bay) and few hotels in the north. The only good ones for kiteing are Mourouk and Cotton bay and both hotels has also kitecenters.
 
View from the pool area of Mourouk Ebony- hotel
 
We decided to be in the south, as the lagoon is the biggest there. And it's big – from the beach you can kite kilometers in the turqoise flat water... Inbeliveble place!! We were totally impressed when landing to the island, the lagoon around the island was maybe 2-3 bigger than the whole island. It took about 20-30 min to drive from the airport to the hotel and we booked the transfer already with the hotel reservation. The location of the hotel is the best – Osmosis Kitecenter at the beach of the hotel and the big lagoon just in front of you. What else can you wish for? Ok, the wind... of course... But it was supposed to be the best time of the year and wind forecast very good so we were totally in love with the place after arriving. It was already late for kiteing but we had 4 days in the paradise in front of us!!
 
Osmosis kitecenter in the Mourouk Ebony -hotel 
 
day 6  – first day in Rodrigues
After a very good sleep (this is really a place to relax – no tv in the rooms, no bars around, no music or other noise, actually nothing at all around... just the sounds of the nature) we woke up with full of energy and our minds ready for the kiteing. Seemed like little bit windy in the morning so we had all the hope in the world that later will be more and we will have a perfect session in the kiteparadise. We pumped the kites, put everything ready and started to wait the wind to rise. And we waited. And we waited more.. What happened here, no wind at all??? Well, maybe will rise in the afternoon, with the high tide. So, lunch in the beachbar and more waiting... But no wind, not at all. So, at 16 o'clock we put the our gear in the storage and took the kayaks that hotel offered for free. At least to do something, so 45 min kayaking around the lagoon testings the currents and back to the room. Well, forecast for the next days is better so tomorrow there should be good wind.
 
 
Day 7 – day two in Rodrigues and still no wind
Unfortunately the morning didn't looked very good, no wind at all... And the locals said that will not be until the afternoon – so time to make plan B. We booked a dive with the Bouba -diving center of the hotel and departed for a dive at 11 o'clock. Very nice, at least we could do something this morning and not just wait at the beach. Even it's not the best time for diving, it was nice to go diving and we managed to see some corals and fishes during our 50 min dive outside of the reef. First plan was to dive inside, in the channel that is in the middle of the lagoon but the sea was very rough and visibility was not very good so we went outside of the reef, about 200 m out from the entrance of the lagoon. Kiteing here probably wouldn't be very good idea, even the waves looked very nice. But the current is very strong and takes you very easily outside and coming back inside of the reef is not so easy... So, seeing the reef by diving was better idea. Visibility was not very good here either and we didn't see anything very, very special but anyway it was nice experience. Price was about 45 € / person, including the equipment. There are lot of place for diving around the island but the summer season is the best here as the sea is warmer and not so strong.
 
Diving places around Mourouk Ebony- hotel
 
 
Unfortunately the wind was not any better when we arrived back from the dive so we had to decide what to do. As the forecast was ok for the afternoon, we didn't want to miss the opportunity of kiteing so instead of going for a excursion, we decided to wait in the hotel if the wind would rise. But at the end it wasn´t  very good decision.. Wind didn't rise so we spent the whole afternoon waiting for nothing... But luckily the beach is nice so you can always relax doing anything special but anyway, it's a good idea to take some good books with you or laptop with films or something to do as there is no tv in the rooms, internet of the hotel is very, very slow and there are not many things to do here. 
 
Beach in front of the hotel
 
Well, luckily the forecast promised very good wind for the  next days so hopefully two good days of kiteing still in front. 
 
Day 8 – Finally kiteing and what a day!!!
The forecast for the day was strong, 25-30 knots but at the end it was beautiful 20 knots the whole day. Some moments maybe even stronger but anyway from the morning until the evening gooood wind and during the day we had three nice sessions of kiteing. This is the reason to come here...
 
 
The lagoon in incredibly big and in the busiest moment there was 10 people in the water. So, you have all the space in the world to do kiteing, learn new tricks and jumps etc. The place is not maybe the best for learning as there are some boats near the shore but depending of the wind direction, can be good also. Now wind was cross-onshore and the current makes it little bit harder for the beginners to go upwind but otherwise it's very nice place to learn and specially improve your skills. The kitescenter also organice downwind sessions which can be useful if you are still learning.
 
In the morning we had lowtide but still there was enough water to kite without any problem. There are places with coral in the bottom of the sea, so as always in the lagoon be careful not to touch the bottom if you loose your board or your kite is going to the water.
 
The area in front of the hotel is very big and you can ride from the reef until the Hermitage-island without no problem. Further away there is a channel where the water goes out from the lagoon so the current there is taking you out – be careful, especially closer to the reef because the current can take you out very quickly and rescue is not always possible... Crossing the channel is possible but after that you are on your own risk as the kitecenters rescuearea covers only the area until the channel.
 
 
Price for the rescue/storage/help is 7 € per day or 21 € per week. There is storage room where you can leave your kites (not inflated) and other material during the night, there is also compression pump available to inflate the kites. Center is renting equipment just for the people who are attending a course so you should bring your own kites and boards with you.
 
For the kiteing this place is a paradise – beach just in front of the hotel, nice beachbar offering  lunch or snack during the day, kitecenter located in the hotel to have lessons or to do excursions and, when there is wind, the wind is good. Normally at this time of the year wind comes in cycles, depending of the low and high pressures. When the wind starts, it can blow perfectly one week. But maybe later will be days without wind until the it starts again. But anyway, the wind % is quite high at this time of the year. And kiteing here is so good that even with just this one day of kiteing, it was definitely worth to come.
 
Day 9 – and the wind blows and blows even more..
Starting from the early morning it was clear, that will be another good day of kiteing – wind was even stronger than yesterday. So, 7m and 10 m ready and kiteing!!! In the morning sea was more flat as it was still low tide but during the hide, it got more choppy as the high tide brought more water inside of the lagoon and wind was strong enough to create small waves. But was just nice – I managed to do my first jumpings (small but a jump anyway) and J. was taking first wave-excursion in the afternoon. There is a nice spot called "skatepark" at the north part of the lagoon where you can go riding and there are nice waves when the tide is good. Waves are clean and you can choose where you want to enter, so bigger for more experienced riders and smaller for the beginners. But it's good to go there with the center as there are some tricky places, currents and channels outside,  that you may not see, etc so it's good to know where you can go and what you can do. Beside the waves, there is totally flat water so perfect place for all kind of playing.
 
 
 
Another perfect day of kiteing and after these 2 days, we were ready to stay here for longer time. But we had flight back to Mauritius booked already and we couldn't change it, so it was time to pack the things and change the destination again. Unfortunately we booked the tickets through agency, not directly from air Mauritius, so we should had called to the agency to change our flight and was too difficult and also calling very expensive. But if you book your ticket directly from Air Mauritius, it's not a problem to change your ticket – just have to pay small fee to do that. 
 
And where to go now??  We didn't had any hotel booked for Mauritius so the evening we spent in the internet checking the options and trying to decide where to go. And it was not easy!!! It was very temptating idea to return to Palmeraie/Palmar beach, where we stayed at the beginning, as the hotel was very nice with very good price and in front of the hotel was very nice spot for kiteing. But on the other way we were curious to see the Bluebay / Point d'esny area, which we saw from the airplane. It's on of the biggest lagoons in the island and looked like a paradise. But we couldn't find much information about the kiteing there so it was little bit risky – maybe it's not very good for the kiteing at the end.. So, instead of booking a hotel for the last 4 days, we just booked for one night. Then later we could book more nights, if the kiteing is good there or if not, then we could change the place after one night. It was also good option because it's just few minutes from the airport and arriving back before midday, we could maybe go kiteing in the afternoon.
 
Bluebay / Poin´t desny from the airplane:
 
It was little bit sad to leave Rodrigues as the kiteing was so epic there but on the other way it was interesting to see other places also – to make this report more complete...
 
day 10 – back to Mauritius and checking the Bluebay-Point d'esny area
We had flight in the morning at 9.40 but as the airport is very small and not busy at all, we departed to the airport just 1h15 min before departure. It takes about 30 min to drive from Mourouk to the airport and it was nice to see the local life in the villages that we were passing. Unfortunately we didn't had time to do any excursions around the island but now we have a reason to come back - still something to see..  At the airport we didn't had any problems with the boardbag as there was only 11 passangers in the plane :-)
 
Gate 1, which is actually the only gate of the Rodrigues airport:
 
Taxi from the airport to Blue lagoon hotel (only bigger hotel in the Bluebay-Point d'esny area) was about 20 euros. Immeadiately after arriving we went to check the beach and wind, hoping to go kiteing later in the afternoon.
 
Bluebay lagoon in front of the hotel:
 
In front of the hotel it was not possible to kite so we walked more north following the beach. There was few places where it would be possible to enter but with the high tide the beach is very narrow so you have to be careful when launching and landing the kite as most of the time wind is onshore here and there are trees are around. It's also quite long way from the hotel to walk with all the equipment but there are no other places to enter to the beach. So, you just have to walk by the beach about 5-15 minutes until you are in the good spot (in the first beach there was many boats so it was not possible but further away there was another beach but about 15 min walk from the hotel). 
 
The spot about 15 min walk from the hotel:
 
 
Unfortunately we didn´t took our kites with us, so we had to walk back to the hotel to take kites and boards and again walking back to the beach. When we finally got everything ready, the wind was not so strong anymore and at the end we couldn't enter. So, deflating the kites and again walking the 15 min back to the hotel. And time to make some decisions... As this was not the best place (too much walking, no other kiters around, onshore wind) we decided to find another place for the last 3 nights. And of course the direction was Le Morne, the famous kitespot of Mauritius. So, again to the internet – first to check the forecast and then to find a hotel. There are just 4 or 5 star hotels in the peninsula of Le Morne so staying close to the kitebeach is not cheap. The cheapest option that we found, was 220 € / night in Indian Resort and spa- hotel, which is located in the best possible place: the spot just in front of the hotel. Expensive but location was the essential thing.. and it was also nice to spend the last 3 nights in a good hotel and even with the all inclusive (which we normally never use). The reservation we made directly from the hotel webpage. 
 
There are cheaper options to stay but more further away and you will need a car or taxi to go to the beach. If you want to stay directly next to the spot, Indian Resort -hotel is the place to be. 
 
Day 11 – Le Morne
We took a taxi to Le Morne, it cost 40€ and took about 1.5 hrs. Luckily the hotel wasn't full so we got the room immeadiately even it was only 11 o'clock in the morning. Room was just in front of the beach and we could already see kites in the water. Our room was on the first floor but maybe downstairs would had been better – easier access with the equipment from the room to the beach and back. And almost all the kiters of the hotel seemed to stay in downstairs and keep their kites and equipment drying outside during the night.
 
 
There is a Mistral and Skydivers kitecenters in the hotel and we went there first to get some advices and to get more information about the spot, as we had heard many stories about the place and the dangerous currents of the lagoon. But after talking with many people, we got the idea that it wasn't too dangerous. Just need to be careful in some places.
 
Le Morne kitearea:
 
 
 
Le Morne- kitelagoon for beginners:
 
 
So, things ready and kiteing.. We started just in front of the hotel, where the lagoon is not very wide but anyway still big enough. This wasn´t the busiest day as there wasn´t too many people in the water but heard that it can get sometimes very crowded and somebody had counted about 150 kiters and windsurfers being in the water at the same time on busy day.. But there is more space upwind from the center as there is a bigger area called kitelagoon. That they use for teaching and for beginners it offers a safer place to practise too. So, close to the beach it's really busy as there are many different schools teaching but when you head more upwind, you have the whole lagoon just for yourself and there is plenty of space to ride upwind and enjoy the long rides. It's more shallow than the area in front of the hotel but still enough water to kite even with the low tide.
 
The kitelagoon practising area
 
 
 
The wind in the kitelagoon is normally onshore and in front of Mistral central cross-on, but can be also cross-of or offshore, depending of the winddirection.There is good warning system at the beach and also rescue is depending of the conditions. So, always good to check the tide, currents, wind etc. from the kitecenter before heading to the water first time.
 
 
 
We had very nice afternoon session in the water but there is no rescue available after 17pm so it was good time to go out of the water. Although many people stayed in water until the sunset, which actually comes very early, around 18 pm. After that it's nice to relax and enjoy the buffet dinner of the hotel...
 
day 11 – Le Morne, diving day...
There is also good diving school in the hotel and as there was no wind in the morning, we decided to see underwaterworld of Le Morne. Unfortunately we missed the first dive, as it was already at 8.30 so we needed to wait until the second, which departed 11.45. We were heading north through the lagoon and the diving place was called Cathedrale, just outside of the reef. Very nice and beautiful dive, max. 16 meters and good visibility. Much better experience than diving in Rodrigues, where the visibility was very bad and current strong. But here diving was a big pleasure, even we didn't see any big fishes. But the reef was nice, a lot of life to follow. And after the dive we managed to see even whale swimming quite close to our boat. Would had been really incredible exprience to see that during the dive..
 
 
It was already 13.30 when we came back from diving so time to go for lunch and later the plan was to have a short session of kiteing in the afternoon. But at last we were too tired after all the travelling, kiteing and diving, so decided to have relaxing afternoon in the hotelarea and to do some souvenirshopping as we didn't had time for that earlier. There was just few shops in the hotel but when arriving to Le Morne, we saw few kiteshops about 30 min walk from the hotel. We went to check those and managed to buy some nice t-shirts (good quality, 10 € each) for the friends and family. I also bought a new harness - very nice ION neox- vasteharness with 130 €. Finally I managed to find a good and confortable harness and just waited to go to the water to trie it. Hopefully tomorrow...
 
day 12 – last day of the trip, last day of kiteing in Mauritius
Forecast for the day was quite good but didn't look very good in the morning. But as it was the last day of our trip, we wanted to make most of the day. So, at 9am we were already sitting in a taxi to do some seightseeing. There is place called La Chamarel, about 30 min drive from Le Morne and is nice place to visit. There is one viewpoint on a way  where you can take nice photos of the lagoon and Le Morne and up on the mountain you can visit some waterfalls and famous “coloured earth” of Mauritus.
 
Chamarel, coloured earth of Mauritius
 
 
We paid 15 euros for the taxidriver and it was about 2 hrs trip altogether. We didn't want to spend more time  as we wanted to do also some kiteing. Unfortunately the wind was quite gusty, changing between 9knots and 19 knots, so it made the thing little bit tricky. First trying with 7m but not enough, then 10m but not good either.. So, back to the beach and waiting for the better moment. Unfortunately there was some very dark clouds coming from the south and looked like it was going to rain later so was not much hope of kiteing.. At the end wind was rising just before the rain and there was good 30 min of kiteing. But that was all for that day – when the rain is coming, the wind is dropping very quickly so out of the water, lunch and packing the equipment for the journey back home.
 
 
Le Morne kitespot: 
 
Even we couldn´t do so much kiteing in Le Morne, it was nice and we were happy that we went there – definitely a place to visit. Not maybe to stay 2 weeks just there but we were really happy for the trip that we had done. Seeing many places around Mauritius and also Rodrigues, it was a complete trip. Not maybe us much of kiteing as we wanted but 5 days of 12 was not bad either and also 2 dives during the trip and some sightseeing. Definitely a trip worth to do and a place to come back. Maybe next time doing the things little bit differently. We learned many things during this trip and maybe next time we will head directly to Rodrigue after arriving to Mauritius and would stay there for more time. And then maybe another week in Mauritius, either on the northeast coast or Le Morne, depending of the other people travelling with us. If just couples, then the Palmar area is very nice as the hotel Palmeraie was very nice, boutique-style hotel and perfect for the couples but not good for families. Also the beach of Palmar is very good if there are beginners in the group, as the beach is quite long and not crowded at all. But if there area children and non-kiters going with the group, maybe then the Le Morne is better option as there are more things to do for the children and non-kiters (playground and childrens club, activities, excursions).
 
 
 
 

sunnuntai, 16. toukokuu 2010

Cervinia - April 2010

CERVINIA 15.- 20.4.2010 

 
This year we wanted to spend our springholiday doing snowboarding but we had doubts if we could find good conditions anywhere, as the winter in the Alps wasn´t very good. But after  following  the weather and snow forecasts during the whole March, we were finally sure that there would be more or less good conditions as the spring seemed to be late.  Just needed to decide, where to go.. Options were Cervinia (Italy), Livigno (Italy) and Tignes (France). These places had the best statistics and still a lot of snow. 
 
After checking all the options, we decided to go to Cervinia because of many reasons. First was the snow, of course. Breuil-Cervinia village is located very high, in 2050m, so the snowconditions should be the good there until the end of april. Everybody told us,  if there is snow somewhere, certainly in Cervinia. Although most of the people liked more the village of Livigno than Cervinia but  we were sure that Cervinia would be better for us. 
 
Madrid  is also very well connected with Milan so the price of the flights would be reasonable. We booked Easyjet to Malpensa 15.4. and return with Ryanair from Bergamo 20.4. As we didn´t take any boards with us, we just paid the normal luggage fee. But anyway, it´s not too expensive to take your board with you - Easyjet charges 25 € / way and Ryanair 40 € / way. 
 
Hotel we wanted to be more or less good quality, in the center of the village & close to the lift and just with breakfast. Most of the hotels offered packages with halfboard but we wanted to have our freedom to go different places for a dinner. In the springtime there are good offers in the hotels as it´s the end of the season already and not busy at all. There was many options available but decided to book hotel Grivola (www.nuovohotelgrivola.com), 90 € / night with breakfast included. Location was excellent - in the middle of the village and just few minutes walk from the Cretazi-liftstation,  which seemed to be like a  good place to start the day. There is a new chairlift to Plan Torrette that was opened for this winter. 
 
We booked also car for the whole time even we knew that we are not going to use it in Cervinia as the hotel was in the middle of the village and everything with a walking distance. But we needed to get there from Milan and go back to Bergamo and we didn´t even want to think about going there with a bus, so renting a car was the best option. We were comparing different companies but the prices were more or less the same everywhere, so we decided to take the cheapest car from Europcar, group A for 5 days was 285 € with all the possible fees and insurances included.  At the end it was very good decision as our trip got more tricky because of the volcanic ashcloud and we needed to change our plans and flights many time.. At the end we departed from Rome after spending 3 extra days in Italy. 
 
Day 1 - arriving to Cervinia 15.4.2010
We had  morning flight to Milan as we wanted to arrive to Cervinia still with the daylight. We got our car very quickly from the Europcar office at the Malpensa airport and with our Fiat Panda we started the 160 km way to Cervinia. It was easy way, no problems to find the way and good road the whole way. 
 
 
 
In the Milan it was beautiful spring day so we started to have some doubts how would be the weather and snow in Cervinia - maybe there is not much snow left?? And more closer than we got to Cervinia, our doubts were growing even more - just 20 km before the village, it was still beautiful and warm spring weather.
 
 
We arrived already to the Valtournenche, located in 1524m and just 10 km from Cervinia, and there was not many signs of snow either. And the whole village looked like totally closed and empty. This village is actually part of the Cervinia resort, as it´s formed of three different areas: Breuil-Cervinia and Valtournenche on the Italian side and Zermatt-Matterhorn on the Switzerland. We passed the ski-lift that goes from Valtournenche up to Salette skiing area, which is located in 2245 m. Lift was working so we started to have little bit more hope.. 
 
But the last 10 km until Cervinia changed the view totally and basicly when you enter to Cervinia, it´s like entering a different world. Just 5 min ago it was still like a spring but it was totally winter in Cervinia. Incredible!!! Snow everywhere and weather was perfect - sunny and -2 degrees so the slopes were in good conditions even it was already afternoon. 
 
 
 
Hotel was easy to find and the location was just what we wanted. From the room we could see the lift and the pedestrian street was in front of the hotel. Room was quite small but no smaller than normally in Italy and anyway big enough for us. And what was important, it was very clean, there was plenty of hot water in the shower and heating was working.
 
       
 
We had also late lunch in the hotel and was very good. Maybe that´s why the place was full every day.. 
 
Later we went to buy tickets and to rent boards. Tickets are available in different categories, depending where you want to ski. We took the international ticket which allows you to use all the lift in the three different area (also in the Switzerland side). It cost us 123 € / 3 days. We took the ticket just for 3 days and later we could take one or half day more, if we want to go skiing also on the last day before driving to Bergamo, where we were planning to stay the last night. 
 
There was a lot of rental shops and prices were changing little bit. At the end we decided to rent our things from the Cervinia 2001-shop, which was located on the mainstreet. They had the boards that we wanted, price was good and service very friendly. So, everything ready for the first day of skiing!! 
 
Day 2 - what a beautiful day… 
First morning in Cervinia was beautiful, little bit fresh in the morning but the sun was shining and weather was the best possible for skiing. Lifts are opening about 8.00 so it means waking up early if you want to enjoy starting from the first moment. 
 
 
In the morning all the slopes were in good condition but hard of course, after cold night. But after 1-1.5 hours all the slopes were already in perfect condition. We started our day by checking the slopes around Plan Maison area and there was a lot of nice slopes to discover. And what is the best thing, hardly no people anywhere, so no queues for the lifts either.
 
 
Later we continued to Cime Bianche area and from there was few very nice long slopes down to the mainlift of Plan Maison. 
 
 
We were so happy snowboarding that we didn´t had even time for lunch, just quick snack, because we wanted to see also the Salette-Valtournenche area. So, we took the lift up on a Plateau Rosa (3480m) and started the long way down to Valtournenche - about 1 hour of downhill. The view from the top of Plateau Rosa was incredible and also the long way down was a thing to remember. Even the last part of slope nr.1 down to Valtournenche was not in very good condition but we managed to go down still enjoying. 
 
View from the Plateau Rosa 
 
The last ascents are about 16.30-17, depending of the area, so it was time to head back to Cervinia as it takes quite a lot of time to change place - first taking 4 lifts up from Valtournenche up to Cime Bianche and then the last long slope back to village of Cervinia. In the afternoon the snow started to be more wet in the lowest part of the slopes but was not too bad. And anyway, it´s part of the spring skiing. 
 
For sure this was the best snowboarding day that we had done, ever - beautiful and warm springday, slopes in very good conditions, no queues = just perfect. Just with this day it was worth to arrive to Cervinia!!
 
Day 3 - another beautiful day, so let´s check the Switzerland side... 
Also the second morning started with the beautiful weather and same kind of conditions. We decided to head to the Switzerland side to see how are the slopes there. So, first taking lifts up to Plateau Rosa and there is the border, just next to lift.  
 
 
First image of the Zermatt was not very good: there was much more people and slopes were more narrow. We decided to take the longest way down, to enjoy as much as possible. But unfortunately on this side the slopes are not so well connected as on Italian side, so it was not just going down but we had to take lifts also. So, not very comfortable..
 
 
We should had asked  also some advices before heading there because we took totally wrong slop to go down (53 down to Furi)  - it was not good for snowboarding as there was many parts with some uphill and the snow was very wet so it made the thing even more difficult. Especially the last par of the slope was just suffering.. But we managed to arrive to Furi lift and after that, we were ready to go back to Italian side. Even we knew that there was much more things to see but for us it was just enough. We had to take two long lifts up, until 3899 m, where is the glacier area and from there is the slope down to Italian side. It was interesting to see also this glacier as last summer we were snowboarding in the glacier of  Les Deux Alpes in France. But to be honest, this had nothing to do with that place. Less lifts, less slopes and in every way the Les Deux Alpes glacier was much better.. But was interesting to see it. But more happier was the returning on the Cervinia side.. For us it is the paradise!!
 
The slopes on the Switzerland side, coming down from Glacier
 
As we started our way down from 3899 m, we wanted to take the whole way down to Valtournenche again - even there was a risk that the lowest part of the slope would be not in good condition as it was warmer weather than day before. We had very good conditions until Salette but the last par was totally wet, as we guessed.. But we managed to go down anyway..  The rest of the afternoon we spent checking the area on that side and there are very nice slopes too. Lunch we had in cafeteria located a top of the slope 7 and it was very good - nice atmosphere, good service and good food. Very nice and relaxing break taking energies for the last few hours. 
 
 
The last moments of the day we spent in the Cielo Alto area, where the only two black slopes are located. Short ones but we were the only ones there and had a nice time. Generally the slopes of Cervinia and Valtournenche are nice blue and red, usually very wide ones. So, very good for beginner and intermediate snowboarders but on the Zermatt side, the slopes are more narrow and more black ones - for the ones, that are searching more challenge. Later in the evening we heard, that the best part of Zermatt would had been  on the other side, in Riffelberg/Gornegrat and Rothorn area. But this time we didn´t go to check those - have to leave something for the next time..  
 
 
Even the day was not so good as the previous one, still another good day of snowboarding!!
 
Day 3 - snow, snow and more snow… 
It started to snow late in the previous evening and was snowing the whole night.
 
So, a lot of new snow everywhere in the morning!! We had big hopes to ski in the fresh snow but unfortunately it wasn´t so much fun - it was just too much spring snow.. But we had a morning to remember when we tried to do our way back down. Was very funny!
 
Later came a lot of fog which made the thing more tricky as the visibility was almost zero..
 
But luckily the fog lasted maybe 1.5 hrs but after that it started to get better. And at the end it was nice afternoon. 
 
We stayed the whole day in the Cervinia area, taking the best slopes down. To enjoy the most of the last day. And we really enjoyed a lot. It was hard to say one favorite slope as there was so many nice ones and also very different ones. But maybe one of the best was one from Cime Bianche down to Cielo alto. That we did many times and was so much fun each time. 
 
Last day was the hardest as the condition in the morning were difficult because of the snow and fog. And after 3 full days of snowboarding, we were totally destroyed. For us it was definitely enough and even in the beginning we thought that maybe we could take one more extra day, these 3 days were enough. So, back to the hotel and enjoy the last evening in Cervinia.
 
Unfortunately we got “bad“ news when back in the hotel. The airport of Bergamo was closed because of the vulcanic ash cloud of Iceland. So, our flight was cancelled. Well, luckily we still had holiday left and not in a hurry to go home so we didn´t had big worries of the travelling back. The original plan was to go to Bergamo for the last day and stay overnight there. But now it was time to make new plans. As there was no hope of the airport to be open very soon, we decided to head more south because the airports were still open there. We didn´t had any problems to return the car somewhere else as with Europcar you can return the car anywhere in Italy (we booked already in advance the extra fee to return the car in different location).  So, we booked a flight from Pisa and decided to drive there next morning and when there, to find a hotel to stay overnight. 
 
Day 4 - Exploring Italy.. 
After breakfast we started our journey to Pisa, which took about 3.5-4 hrs. Traffic was not bad so we managed to drive without problems the whole way. The most beautiful part was the coastline from Genova until Pisa. We had to return the car at 17.00 so we had enough time to drive around the town and to find a hotel. At the end we decided to take a room from hotel Roma, located very close to the tower of Pisa and what was the most important thing, there was a bus stop just in front of the hotel. So, we could easily take a bus to the airport next day. Price of the hotel was 90 € / night, including Italian breakfast. 
 
Evening we spent walking around the town and enjoying the beautiful and warm spring evening. 
 
Day 5 - changing the plans again: Rome, here we come!
We had the flight booked for the afternoon and still in the morning it looked good as the airport of Pisa was still open. But before that we did some sightseeing and went to see the famous tower of Pisa. Actually it has never been in our list of  the must see-things but as we were here, of course we had to see it.
 
Beside of the tower, there are not many things to see in Pisa. But the atmosphere is quite ok as it´s a university town so there were a lot of nice cafeterias and cheap restaurants close to the university buildings. Unfortunately we didn´t had time to have lunch there because we found out, that they had closed the airport of Pisa and our flight was cancelled. So, time to make plan B again..
 
 
After checking the options, we decided to head more south because the airport of Rome was still open and there was flight with reasonable price. Only thing was, that we had to stay 2 nights in Rome but of course that wasn´t a problem at all. Even both of us has visited  Rome before, this was the first time going there together. So, nice!!
 
Train from Pisa to Rome took about 3.5 hrs as it was regional train but it was ok and we arrived in the evening to Rome. Luckily we booked the hotel just next to Termini station so we just had to walk 5 min to the Planet hotel. It was very simple hotel but clean and price was good, just 60 € / night. 
 
Day 6 - pure sightseeing… 
 The whole day going around Rome, mainly walking.. Checking the most interesting places and lunch in a typical trattoria. I´m sure that we walked at least 10 km during the day so doing kind of a sport also.. 
 
 
Day 7 - back to Spain.. 
We had the flight booked for the evening and in the morning the situation looked already good - all the airports of Italy were open again. So,  we left the luggage in the storage room of the hotel and spent the day doing more sightseeing. This time with a bus.. 
Later lunch in a small restaurant called Lagana, on Via dell`Orso -street. Very cosy, good food and service. Maybe more expensive than local trattoria but was nice ending for our nice holiday in Italy. 
 
Ristorante Lagana
 
It was a nice trip but it was also nice to go back home, after all the travelling..
 
But maybe next year back to Cervinia as it was definitely a place to repeat!! 
 
 
 
 

torstai, 1. lokakuu 2009

EGYPT September 2009 - Ras Sudr, Sharm el Sheikh and Cairo

 As the september is normally the worst month for kitesurf in Fuerteventura, it was a good time to escape from the island and go for a kitetrip somewhere. After searching all the possible information about different places, not too far away, we decided that Egypt would be the place. We haven´t been there before so many things to do and see, September should be good wind for kiteing and there are also good opportunities for diving. 

There are many places in Egypt where to go and choosing the destination was the most difficult part of  planning the trip. First idea was either Sharm el Sheikh or El Gouna, as we heard some good feedback about the places. But after spending hours in the internet searching information, comments, experiences etc. we decided to go to Ras Sudr. A place in the middle of nowhere but with very good wind statistics and nice flat water lagoon. ‘
 
Unfortunately there was no diving opportunity in Ras Sudr, so we decided to spend our holiday in two different destinations. First 6 days of kitesurf in Ras Sudr and then 2 days of diving in Sharm El Sheikh. And after that 2 days of sightseeing in Cairo.  Sounds like a mission impossible, especially because the Ras Sudr is not very well connected with other place.. But at the end it was a trip to remember! 
 
Normally we prefer to book everything individually, rent a car or hire a taxi for transport  but as the traffic is little bit chaos in Egypt and it was also very difficult, actually impossible, to book the hotel in Ras Sudr through internet, we decided to book our holiday “everything included”.  We got a nice offer from Club Mistral (www.club-mistral.com) which included transfer from Cairo airport to Ras Sudr, accommodation in Ras Sudr and later transfer to Sharm el Sheikh. Maybe we paid little bit more than it would had been doing everything separately but this case it was better option as we had a flight that arrived to Cairo after midnight.. So, it was more easier to have somebody booked to take us to the hotel without any hassle or bargaining with the taxidrivers.
 
There are just two hotels in Ras Sudr (and also few more hotels some km away from the “resort”  and we decided to take the Green Ras Sudr because it was just next to the kite lagoon.  The other hotel, Ramada, was located at the beach, about 15 min walk from the Green hotel. But we preffered to stay next to the lagoon because it looked like a perfect flat water spot and that´s what we wanted.
 
Flights we booked directly from the internet with Turkish airlines. It was the cheapest option and quite good connection. On a way we had a long stop in Istanbul but it was actually very nice because that way we managed to see also Istanbul. All the luggages we checked in directly to Cairo so we didn´t had to take them out in Istanbul. We took a taxi from the airport and in less than 30 min we were already in the middle of Istanbul. One day was totally enough for us and we managed to see all the important places. The plane to Cairo departed in the evening and it was also beautiful to see Istanbul from the air with all the lights. 
 
 
 
We arrived to Cairo around midnight and it took some time to go through the passport control, healthy control and custom but actually everything went without any problems. The visa we bought from the airport, just before the passport control. Price was more or less 10 € / person. There was also special health check and we needed to fill one paper because of the swine flu that going around the world.. But generally everything without queues or waiting. After getting our luggage, we went out and the representative of Midland travel was already  there waiting for us. 
 
There was no other clients going with us so we got the whole minibus just for us. Well, it would had been nice to rest and sleep a little bit but it was quite impossible.  All the roads were in very bad condition and the driver was also driving very fast (as all the locals) so the trip from Cairo to Ras Sudr was quite interesting. We have to admit, that in some points we were little bit scared… but at the end everything went ok and we arrived to Ras Sudr in the middle of the night,  after 3 hours of driving. We got our room very quickly so we managed to sleep some hours.
 
First morning was very interesting as we couldn´t see anything when we arrived in the middle of the night.. We knew that the place would be in the middle of nowhere, just desert around and it was just like that. 
 
 
Basicly there are just two hotels (Green Ras Sudr and Ramada), some other buildings under construction and a lot of sand. Nothing else.. No restaurants, no shops, not even a smallest minimarket. So, if you need some snacks, candies or what ever, take those with you. You cannot buy those from Ras Sudr.. Ok, you can arrange somebody to drive you to the town of Ras Sudr about 10 km further away and there are some restaurants and food shops. But in the resort there is basicly nothing. 
 
 
In the hotel it was included breakfast and dinner, for the lunch is possible to have some hamburgers or other snacks in the bar of the hotel. And we also bought drinks (water, coca-cola) from the restaurant to have in a room. The meals in the hotel were more or less ok, nothing special. The variety was not very big but there was enough of things both in the breakfast and dinner. Maybe the dinner gets little bit boring if you stay longer time there but for us it was ok. Only funny thing was, that they run out of coca-cola light every day. Maybe we managed to buy some cans in the morning but then later in the dinner they didn´t had anymore.. Next time we will order 50 cans already when we arrive and that way we will have it for the whole stay., Strong alcohols they were not serving at all as it was the Ramadan month but for us that wasn´t not a problem. Generally hotel was ok but nothing luxurius, basic 3*. 
 
The “program” of the day was more or less the same every day.  First breakfast, then going to the beach, putting the kites ready, then kiteing if there was wind and if not, then waiting for the wind. Later something small for lunch and more kiteing or more waiting, putting things back to storage, shower and resting in the room,  watching the beautiful sunset, dinner and then relaxing in the room. As there are no other activities, take a lot of books or laptop with movies with you. 
 
 
Ras Sudr is certainly NO party town. There is nothing else to do than kiteing. But it´s a dream spot for those, who want to spend most of their time on the water and enjoy the quiet atmosphere. Maybe  it´s quite boring for non-kiters but for example for the couples both doing kitesurf, it´s a very nice place to be. But being 2 weeks just there, maybe would be too much. Combining two or even three places, is excellent option - especially if there are non-kiters going too. Maybe one week in Ras Sudr enjoying kite surf, then 4 days for example in Sharm el Sheikh (sighseeing, diving, snorkkeling, shopping, partying  - what ever you want..)  and at the beginning or at the end, few days in Cairo. That way you can combine your kite vacation with a sighseeing. There are several flights between Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh, so going around it´s not a problem. And that´s what we did..
 
 
After 6 days in Ras Sudr it was time to pack our things are change the place, another 3.5 hour in the minibus (again just for us.. ) and we arrived to Sharm el Sheikh - the cosmopolitan capital of the peninsula of Sinai . Full of smaller and larger hotels, what ever you prefer. Lot of shops, lot of bars, lot of restaurants and a lot of activities to do. Totally different place than Ras Sudr… We decided to stay in a smaller resort called Nabq, north from the airport. Our main target was diving and there was the protected area of Nabq just in front of the hotel. We did 2 dives there, one in the house reef, just outside of the diving center and the second one was on Jackon´s reef. Both dives were very nice ones, even the one on a house reef. It´s incredibly how many things you can see just some meters from the beach. Lot of people were snorkkeling there also so if you have more days, it´s a good idea too. As the reef is very shallow, you can see many things just by snorkkeling. We used the aquarius diving center (aquariusredsea.com) as it was in our hotel. Maybe not the best one in the area but we didn´t had anything to complain either. Equipment was in good conditions and everything worked very well. For the second day we book a boat excursion to the Ras Mohamed natural park, including 2 dives and lunch on a boat. First dive was in Ras Ghozlani and the second one in Yolanda reef. Both of them very nice places. We enjoyd the dives a lot and more days would had been nice to spend there but next day was time to change destination again.
 
 
 
 
We took a Egypt air flight to Cairo and on a way we managed to see the lagoon of Ras Sudr from the air - impressive!
 
 
Just in 45 min we were in again in totally different place.  We had just 2 days to spend there but it was totally enough - Cairo is just so big city and in September a very hot city, so after 2 days you are ready to go.. But when you plan everything well, two days is enough to see all the ”basic” things like the egyptian museum Pyramids and Khan-el-Khalili bazar.  We made a deal with a taxi driver and he was taking us around the town with a very good price. It´s a nice and easy way to see things and move around, as the traffic is totally chaos in Cairo. Worth of the money, definitely.. Of course there are many, many more things to see but for us that was enough and actually the pyramids we saw two times, first in the daylight and later we went to see the light and sound show, that was in the night.  
 
As the standard of the hotels are not very high in Egypt, we decided to book a good hotel in Cairo and stayed in Hilton Ramses Cairo, located just next to the river Nile. Definitely a good option - rooms very good and clean, service was excellent, food delicious and location was very nice. Especially we enjoyed watching the busy traffic chaos going around and sunset, that was beautiful. Hotel is also located just next to the Egyptian museum. 
 
      
 
 
We really had also great time in Cairo and actually the whole trip was just excellent - definitely a place to go back.. 
 
KITESURF IN RAS SUDR
 
The conditions for the kitesurf are incredible good here. There is a huge, shallow lagoon just to Green hotel.  There you can do kite only during the high tide but it´s a perfect flat water spot. When the wind gets more stronger, it can be little bit choppy there but anyway you will have a kilometers of shallow water and basicly not other people around. The lagoon is also very good for teaching as the water is warm, very clean and flat, wind very stable, so perfect for beginners. There are no stones or corals so it´s totally safe place too. Also excellent for progressing - you will definitely go to next level kiteing here. 
 
Basicly there are 3 lagoons but kiteing is only possible in two of them. The smallest is for swimmers and the other smaller is just for the clients of Green hotel but it´s possible to kite there. It´s not very big but as there was no people at all, we had a nice session there one afternoon when the biggest lagoon was empty because of the low tide. There is always water in the smaller lagoons as they are artificial and much deeper. 
 
Main lagoon
 
Second lagoon
 
swimming lagoon
 
There is Club Mistral / Skyriders kitecenter next to the lagoon, in the Green hotel. This is basicly the 2.center, the main center is at the beach of Ramada hotel. There is also small shop and chill-out corner in the main center. There is a shuttle bus going between the hotels and it takes about 15 min by walking. Both centers were very well equipped and a lot of kites and boards to rent. Basicly most of the things were new stuff from North. They have also rescue service in both centers and also storage for the kites. 
 
Kitecenter of Green hotel
 
Maincenter in front of Ramada hotel
 
The long beach in front of center 1 is also very good place for kiteing. There you can kite all the day, no matter of the tides. Beach is about 1 km long and the shallow water area (depending upon the tide) reaches about 100m into the sea. 
 
The beach in front of Ramada hotel
 
The north to north east wind blows sideshore to side-offshore and increases during the morning hours until it reaches a peak in the afternoon. In the late afternoon the wind normally calms down again. Due to a moderate breeze and flat water, the morning hours offer perfect conditions for beginners. Best months should be from June until October, which is the main season in Ras Sudr. Actually the place is not even open in the winter months. Summer months are very warm so you can forget your wetsuit at home J but be prepared for the very, very hot days… 
 
September should be the best month and wind reliability should be more than 80 % but wind is wind, at it comes and goes as it wants.. So, be prepared to have also some no windy days. We stayed 6 days in September and we had 3 days of wind.. But those 3 days were incredibly good ones!!!