Simply Sri Lanka !

A jewel fit for the Evenstar

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

This site is a travel blog with a difference. There is a “Lord of the Rings” adventure theme that encourages people to challenge themselves and become explorers.

Sri Lanka is a land of alluring beauty.  Evenstar and I were interested in discovering what made the island unique and interesting . Our research confirmed that a guide would be needed to drive us to our chosen destinations as part of a ten day tour; first of all we booked our hotels and flights using our website. After this we used srilankantours.org to supply the car and driver.  This was a good move on our part as the roads and driving conditions were surreal at times.

Day 1  :Negombo This lively fishing village relies on traditional methods to catch and preserve fish; the fish market is the focal point. It is also a place of many churches and choirs and this makes for a relaxing evening listening to song. We chose Negombo to start our tour as it is near the airport.

Negombo Canals

Day 2 : Kandy   The drive to Kandy through lush rainforest was a magical experience. The herb lore and knowledge of spices in this hill town area is second to none. Many household spices such as cinnamon are common and widespread. If temples and cultural shows are your thing then you will find much to interest you here. A nice way to see the tea estates and travel between towns is the scenic railway which needs to be booked in advance.

Scenic train near Ella

Day 3/4: Nuwara Eliya and Ella The hills become mountains and on the  slopes are found endless carpets of tea. The scenic beauty and relaxing charm are intoxicating. We tasted various teas and observed traditional ways of producing it. The air is cooler here; a welcome break from the tropical heat. 

Freshly harvested tea.

Day 5-8 :Udawalawe and Tissamaharama For me this was the highlight of the trip. We based ourselves in “Tissa” and from here we had jeep Safari tours of the Udawalawe and Yala National Parks. These tours are similar to African Safari tours and in our experience cheaper but just as interesting. If anything the Indian Elephants are more temperamental and noisier than their African cousins. Yala also has a large population of Leopards.

Our Wild leopard experience

Day 9 : Galle This  coastal town is famous for its Dutch colonial fort. Staying on the colonial theme it is also known for its international cricket ground. I particularly liked watching the local fisherman who have mastered the art of fishing from a makeshift  stilted platform. I must give this method a try sometime.

local stilt fishermen

Day 10 : Colombo

The Evenstar Gemstone

  Evenstar was delighted when we chose a star Sapphire gemstone and had a silversmith make it into a pendant for her. This gem twinkles like a star when a light shines on it. A beautiful and very elvish thing to do and to own. These sapphires are found locally and are therefore reasonably priced. Ours was purchased in the capital Colombo as a souvenir of our visit.

Hint :Colombo International Airport (Bandaranaika) is a busy place to arrive.  A throng of people await you  even late at night.  It is therefore wise to book transport in advance.  You will also need local currency which can be purchased at the airport on arrival. However, on departure american dollars are needed for souvenirs etc. 

Boxing Day Tsunami : It is truly humbling to visit a site of sorrow and tragedy.  

The above statue was erected to commemorate the destruction of the village of Pereliya near Galle. At least 2500 people lost their lives including 1500 passengers on a train. The statue stands at the spot where the train was struck and is an exact replica of the Bhamian Buddha destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  This monument is a serene and poignant memorial. 

Aragorn

 

 

Beautiful Borneo

Friendly Orangutan

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

Regular visitors will know that this site is a travel blog with a difference. There is a “Lord of the Rings” adventure theme that encourages people to challenge themselves and become explorers.

It has been some time since I posted; but as you know this site is about quality rather than quantity.  The chance to get up close to wild Orangutan and other primates was too much temptation.  I was in Singapore with Evenstar and we decided the short flight from Singapore to the Sarawak region of Borneo would be worth the detour.  We were not disappointed. This friendly Orangutan was found in a nature reserve near Kuching which is in the Malaysian sector of Borneo and which can be reached from Singapore or Kuala Lumpar.

Borneo is an island paradise

The Island is vast with a rich and varied biodiversity including this bearded pig which reminded me of Gimli. 

I called him Gimli

 The most impressive sighting on the week long tour was of a rare Proboscis monkey The species owe this name to the long nosed males who seem to rely on the length of their nose to attract females. They are extremely rare with only about 1000 left in the wild. They live in Mangrove forests in coastal areas of Borneo.

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Proboscis Monkey in Sarawak

Borneo is a charming place and it is a must see if you are in the vicinity of Singapore or Malaysia. It has long attracted explorers including Alfred Wallace who wrote the Sarawak Law which may have influenced the  writings of Charles Darwin and evolutionary theory. Small wonder when you encounter the strange animals and plants that are found in this paradise lost.

 

 

Middle Earth : England or New Zealand ?

 

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Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

Regular visitors will know that this site is a travel blog with a difference. There is an obvious “Lord of the Rings” twist that adds a sense of adventure and surprise. There are many who would like to visit Middle Earth if that were possible; with that in mind a good starting point is to reflect upon the influences and inspirations that motivated J.R.R Tolkien.

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Tolkien loved nature and was against industrialisation and machinery. The Shire would resemble a country town and surrounding farms from an English County in Victorian times .

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As a professor at Oxford University specialising in Anglo-Saxon, Tolkien was aware that England lacked a folklore. This was partly due to invasion (Norman Conquest) and the mythology of Middle Earth was his attempt at creating a replacement.

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He was encouraged in this task by fellow author and Oxford don C.S Lewis who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. Both men were founder members of the Inklings club that met weekly in an Oxford pub the “Eagle and Child” to read extracts of their unpublished works and to drink beer and smoke pipes.

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An excellent interpretation of Middle Earth has been created in New Zealand for the filming of the books. Some of the film sets remain and it is well worth the trip to visit the “Shire” in Matamata in the North Island where the town of Hobbiton remains as a permanent tourist attraction. These  photographs are from a recent adventure in Matamata.  The ale in the Green Dragon pub is highly recommended.

Shire
   

There are other parts of New Zealand that were used in the filming of the Lord of the Rings including Wellington in the North Island and Queenstown and Fiordland (below) which are in the South Island.

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However, Tolkien never visited New Zealand. His Shire and Middle Earth were likely based on the Midlands of England sometimes called Middle England. Tolkien spent much of his childhood in the Birmingham area. The black lands of Mordor are probably influenced by the nearby “Black Country” which once was a rural area that became industrialised and polluted due to mining activities.

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At one time Tolkien had a neighbour who was the widow of Cotton Wool dressing inventor, Dr Sampson Gamgee. Samwise Gamgee married Rosie Cotton in the book! Nearby in Edgbaston there are two Victorian Towers that dominated the landscape. The Dead Marshes are quite likely to be inspired by unpleasant memories of trench warfare and the Battle of the Somme in France.

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The nicer parts of Middle Earth the Shire, Ithilien and Lothlorien are possibly based on places where Tolkien lived and visited such as Sarehole Village near Birmingham, Great Haywood in Staffordshire, the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales, Shakespeare Country in Warwickshire and rural parts of Oxfordshire and Worcestershire.

Shire
Shire

Tolkien was also fond of Wales and the Welsh language and he would have been aware of the Brecon Beacons which could have influenced the idea of the Beacons of Minas Tirith. It may be that the coastal scenes and Havens are associated with memories of the Dorset coast frequented by Tolkien throughout his life. He spent happy times in Lyme Regis, Poole and Bournemouth where he stayed at the Miramar Hotel.

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On one overseas hiking trip in 1911 Tolkien visited Switzerland which is meant to have inspired the Misty Mountains and Rivendell which is almost certainly based upon the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The fictional Bruinen River is a clear reference to that beauty spot. Compare the photograph below  of Lauterbrunnen valley with Tolkien’s  own painting of Rivendell in 1937 (from the Hobbit).

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As you can see they are very similar. Tolkien’s vision of Rivendell is an authentic reproduction of a Swiss Valley.

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In the words of Tolkien  “No author can remain unaffected by his influences”.  So,  Middle Earth is more than just England;  it is reflective of  parts of France and Switzerland.  It is also now to be forever associated with New Zealand.  However, If you do decide to visit the Midlands of England; take note, you are probably wandering around parts of Middle Earth.

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Booking a Flight ? How to avoid the Vultures.

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Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

These days there are many options when you wish to  travel overseas by air.  To avoid the vultures and orcs and end up in a place of beauty and tranquillity you need to spend some time planning. Here are some tips from a seasoned adventurer that will help you. Follow this advice and you too will see the contrast (just like the contrast in these recent photographs from an African adventure)

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  1.   Cheapest flights are  available between 4 months and 1 month before departure. Cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  2. Shop around for the best deals for your preferred dates. Avoid school holidays if you can. Tuesdays at 3 pm are a recommended time to book.
  3. Use reliable search engines such as our partners  here  :- Skyscanner, Momondo, Expedia, Lookupfare, E-Dreams, Jetradar, tripadvisor and CheapAir.com. Click on their advertisements and compare and contrast.
  4. Some search engines will allow you to enter “Everywhere” as an option. That gives you an idea of price range.
  5. Register for price alerts and sales.
  6. Buy on sale days. Fly at dawn or at meal times (cheaper flights )
  7. Budget Airlines are cheap and cheerful but consider also Business and Premium class sales if you want to arrive in style.
  8. More adventurous ? Take a pot luck standby deal at the airport.
  9. Save more on combined flight/hotel searches. But always check these deals stack up. Our Hotel partner search engines can help with comparisons.
  10. Compare and Contrast. Fly from larger airports if possible.

 

 

Egypt : Land of Contrasts

 

The Sphinx from an unusual angle
The Sphinx from an unusual angle

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

 

TRAVEL IDEAS 

Egypt is really Indiana Jones country; however Aragorn and Evenstar couldn’t resist the recent opportunity to visit the monuments and museums. The above photograph was taken with the Pyramids behind Aragorn rather than the more common view of Sphinx plus Pyramids. “This is another bucket list trip ” said Aragorn. ” Although I  am more of a Trekker and Ranger the chance to gaze on ancient relics is restful and rejuvenating. Just like a stay in Rivendell. The  Egyptian Museum in Cairo is fascinating and contains many historical tablets and carvings as well as arguably the World’s most famous relic; the mask of Tutankhamun. Treat yourself and just go; sometimes life is too short to put these things off”.

To follow in Aragorn’s footsteps you should visit Cairo and stay in a Hotel on the River Nile. From there you can easily visit the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. More adventurous travellers can cruise down the Nile to Luxor  and visit the Archaeological sites in the Valley of the Kings, where for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed. It all reminded  Aragorn of The Argonath which are located on either side of the River Anduin sometimes called the Pillars of the Kings or Gate of Kings.


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For more information visit our Travel Website and click on our Worldwide page.

The Great Barrier Reef

Aerial view of Reef
Aerial view of Reef

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

 

INSPIRING PLACES

Aragorn and Evenstar have just returned from a visit to the iconic Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The beauty of the Reef was appreciated from the air aboard a small plane that flew over several of the outer reefs. These reefs can reached by air  (helicopter) or by sea (charter boats) and on arrival you will be able to snorkel for hours or take diving tours.  The best starting point for a trip to the reef is Cairns which has an International Airport. Beauty spots nearby include Trinity Beach and Port Douglas. A trip to the Daintree Rainforest is highly recommended as is a visit to the tableland settlement of Kuranda reached via the longest cable car journey in the World or by scenic railway.  The Biodiversity in this part of the World is stunning.

African Safari Adventure

The Big Five
The Big Five

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.

TRAVEL IDEAS 

A Safari in Africa  is a Once in a Lifetime experience for those fortunate enough to be able to make that trip. An ideal time to travel is during the migration of Wildebeest which happens in Kenya from July to October. Most visitors will be hoping to see the Big Five; Leopard, Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Water Buffalo. I took the photograph above from a Safari Lodge in the Masai Mara. My advice is that you fly to your Safari lodges; many have airstrips and once there you can book your Game Drives. This saves money and time. Evenstar and I stayed for a few days in Nairobi from where we flew, from Wilson Airport,  to Amboseli which has a fabulous lodge (Ol Tukai Lodge) ideal for spotting Elephants. We then returned to Wilson Airport and flew to the Masai Mara and stayed at Keekorok lodge. This is ideal for spotting Lions and other big cats. Lucky for us we were able to photograph all of the Big Five on our Safari Adventure.


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For more information visit our Travel Website and click on our Safari Page.

No rules; just the whims of idiots.

St Andrews Old Course
St Andrews Old Course

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.


INSPIRING PEOPLE 

On an occasion I am known to enjoy the game of Golf. There are many fantastic Golf Courses and clubs around the World. I have graced (or should I say disgraced) the Old Course at St Andrews; an historic place of  justified worldwide significance.  I will produce a page dedicated to Golf travel in the near future.   

 

Aragorn

 

Scotland a Celtic Land of History and Beauty

 Banks of Loch Lomond
Banks of Loch Lomond

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.


TRAVEL IDEAS 

Aragorn and Evenstar frequently visit Scotland.  This is a place of peace and happiness; a beautiful place. Aragorn has spent many happy hours travelling this land of charm and  serenity.

The majestic capital city of  Edinburgh is hard to beat for historic landscape and rich culture. This festival city is a favourite for tourists. Not to be outdone however is the vibrant city of Glasgow which a few years ago was the European City of Culture. The peaceful Loch Lomond near Glasgow is one of my most treasured destinations; it captivates the senses and restores a person. Take your time when visiting Scotland and its Lochs. There is an Elvishness about the place; some say there are even Monsters and Dragons. Inverness is the perfect starting point for a Monster Hunt . Enjoy at your own leisure.


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Queenstown, New Zealand

Ford at Bruinen
Ford of Bruinen

Aragorn and Evenstar are here to help you with your travel plans. They are worldwide adventure travellers and operate a travel advice company called Magic Memories Holidays.


INSPIRING PLACES 

Aragorn and Evenstar visited Queenstown, New Zealand in January this year.  The photograph above was taken by Aragorn at the Ford of Bruinen (Skippers Canyon near Arrowtown).

The beauty of Queenstown is hard to describe. It is a venue for skiing  in Winter and Adventure holidays in Summer. There are rivers and rapids to navigate and mountains to admire and explore. Some of the most magnificent scenery on Earth ( Middle Earth if you prefer) is within easy access of Queenstown.  Evenstar and I explored the Kawarau River, the site of the Pillars of the Kings known as the Argonath. We also crossed the Ford of Bruinen, the famous gateway to Rivendell. This time Evenstar’s crossing was uneventful. You will not be disappointed by the South Island of New Zealand; Queenstown is highly recommended for thrill seekers of all ages. Visit our website  above and see the Australasia page for more details


Aragorn

Aragorn writes wittily on many subjects including Adventure Travel, Business Investment, Education, Music and Culture