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Are you planning a trip to Ostrava and looking for things to do? Perhaps you could consider visiting the Jeseniky Mountains. If you like nature, hiking, adventurous activities or sunbathing on the shores of a lake, the Jeseniky Mountains will be perfect for you.

The Jeseniky Mountains are a little over 60 miles northwest of Ostrava near the Polish border and take about two hours to reach by car or bus…although there aren’t a lot of direct trains or buses. Better to rent a car. Rental companies from the Ostrava airport are as little as $15 a day (plus insurance).

I had the chance to visit the Jeseniky Mountains on a day tour with a group of other bloggers through TBEX. Within ten hours, we learned all about the mountains, what kickscooters were and how much fun (and dangerous) they could be, and how the Slezská Harta Dam helped to save the region.

Praděd National Nature Reserve

Our first stop was at the Praděd National Nature Reserve. At 4,893 feet high, Praded is the highest mountain the Jeseniky Mountains, and the fifth-highest in the Czech Republic. Our bus had to wait quite a while for the final stretch of the road as it narrows down to a single-lane up in the mountains. We parked at the Chata Sabinka chateau and from there hiked to the radio tower atop the summit of Praded.

The radio tower was completed in 1983 and rises another 531 feet above the summit. You can buy a ticket for the viewing platform halfway up for about $5. Unfortunately, the platform is fully encased in rather dirty windows and the photos from there aren’t the best. The tower also has accommodations you can rent. A group of my friends did so a week after I was there, although I don’t think they had the best experience. It’s not exactly a 5-star hotel.

Jeseniky Mountains from the Radio Tower

The best views were from the base of the tower, which afforded a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Our guide pointed out a particularly interesting rock formation to the south called Petrovy Kameny (Peter’s Stones). Locals used to believe that witches lived there and practiced rites among the stones, kinda like the standing stones in the UK. Nowadays the area around the stones is off-limits due to the rare flora (plant species) growing there.

A Crash Course on a Kickscooter

How do I describe the kickscooter we used. I used to think of a kickscooter as one of those little Razors that kids would race around on. The Czech version is quite different. It looks more like a bicycle, with a regular-sized wheel on the front, a smaller one in the back, and a skateboard-like platform between.

Kickscooer in the Jeseniky Mountains

We rented our kickscooters from the radio tower at the top and without further ado, took off down the mountain trail. Kickscooters are popular on the trail, and the hikers are used to making room for them. There was a small section at the beginning of the trail when we actually had to “kick” our way up a short incline, and then it got fast. Really fast. There were a couple of bloggers who took it easy. A couple others, myself included, went all out, barely using the breaks at all! We continued down the road far beyond where the bus was parked, learning that the single-track road also afforded us more safety on our way down without having to dodge oncoming vehicles.

At one point, I attempted to get a selfie video while riding. I captured just a few seconds before I started really picking up speed and had to put the phone away. Later I found out that another blogger on a different tour had tried the same stunt, but with less success. When I saw him a couple days later in Prague, he was missing significant patches of skin on his arms. Yet another girl had been run off the road when a car got too close to her. Not that kickscooters are inherently dangerous, but you need to know what you’re doing on them…just like a bicycle.

To book your own tour on the kickscooters in the Jeseniky mountains, click here.

Lunch at Centrum Slezska Harta

Having worked up an appetite, we went for lunch at Centrum Slezska Harta. After a week in the Czech Republic, I was thoroughly in love with the local cuisine. I started with a beef broth soup with noodles, and then went for the pork schnitzel with french fries and vegetables. For dessert, I had the apple strudel. Somehow with all the fried food and french fries that I had while in the Czech Republic, I still managed to lose ten pounds within three weeks!

Lunch in the Jeseniky Mountains

Boating on Slezska Harta Dam

Our next stop was the picturesque village of Leskovec nad Moravici on the shores of Slezska Harta Dam – the newest reservoir in the region. When it was finished in 1998, it was said it would take ten years to fill. Instead, later that year there were heavy rains which filled the reservoir completely. At the same time, it’s believed that the dam saved Ostrava and other cities from severe flooding. Also, there were six villages at the site of the dam. Five were partially flooded, while the sixth was completely destroyed.

Boat Rental on the Slezska Harta Dam

Unfortunately, our lunch ran way too long and we arrived an hour after we were scheduled to take the boats out. We were initially told that we had missed our window and there were no boats left for us, but I pleaded with them and found that there was one boat available. They were small, electric boats and I had 20 minutes to take three other bloggers out onto the lake for relaxation and some wonderful shots. We couldn’t get too far as there were strong winds that day and the manager of the boat hire was concerned we wouldn’t be able to get back in time.

Selfie on Boat Ride on the Slezska Harta Dam

The lake is massive, and a very popular vacation spot for the locals. Even though it was a Wednesday, the shores of the lake were packed with families and sunbathers, and the boat rental was fully booked.

Summary

Our tour got us back in Ostrava by 7 p.m., an hour later than scheduled. Although the tour lasted nearly ten hours and we had a wonderful adventure, it wasn’t nearly long enough to really enjoy the Jeseniky Mountains. If you’re planning to go, consider going for more than just a day. Besides the radio tower and Centrum Slezska Harta, there are plenty of other accommodations available in the region.

Click here to book your accommodations in the Jeseniky Mountains.

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Further Reading

Are you visiting Ostrava and looking for other activities? Here are some other articles to help you out.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Day two of my tour through central Portugal brought me to Peniche. If you’re a surfer or enjoy other water sports, this small town is your best choice in Europe.

The city of Peniche is built on a small peninsula about an hour and a half north of Lisbon. With barely 15,000 people, it doesn’t even make the top 50 cities in Portugal. While the city itself has its own attractions, it’s Baleal Beach just to the north which is the main event.

Surfing Lessons with Naturexperience

Peniche is already considered the best surfing location in location, due to the design of the beaches, and as far as I can tell, Baleal Beach is the best location in the world to have surfing lessons. There are actually three beaches all next to each other (Baleal North, Baleal South and Dunas Beach), but facing different directions so that you can get lessons almost regardless of the direction of the wind and surf. An artificial spit was built out to an island with several rental homes on it, and with beaches on either side of the spit. Then there is a third beach a mile or so further south, closer to the city itself.

It had been many years since I was last on a surfboard – not since the days I lived in Oxnard on the Californian coast and my dad had passed on his longboard to me. At the time I was a regular Boogie boarder and body surfer. I tried out the longboard, but without organized surfing lessons, I didn’t advance too far.

Joao of Naturexperience was not only my tour guide, but the co-founder of his surf school, and the top instructor as well. While the two pro surfers of my tour went off to catch some waves on their own, Jose and I received surfing lessons. We were given boards made of a buoyant foam, which are the easiest to start off with. Donning wetsuits the school provided, we first drilled the motions on the sand, and then went out into the water for an hour to catch our first waves. I can’t say I actually landed any waves correctly (I used the knee for two), and my arms were killing me by the end of the hour. I had no idea those would be the muscles hurting the most.

Peniche Beaches

High Performance Surfing Center of Peniche
(Centro de Alto Rendimento de Surf de Peniche)

On our way to lunch, we stopped at the Surfing Center. This really interesting building essentially accommodates the technicians and athletes who participate and manage the organized surfing in Peniche. Whether hosting the surfing championships or organizing surfing schools, this place is the hub. The structure contains berthing facilities, a common area, a kitchen, a sauna, a massage room and a conference room. There is also a display for the WaveRoller, an eco-friendly alternative energy machine harnessing the kinetic energy from the waves along the ocean floor.

Press Tour in Central Portugal

Lunch at Xakra Beach Bar

Finally we were headed for lunch. We drove to a parking lot with a couple other cars, a deserted building and a rather unpleasant odor of old fish. It seemed we were in the wrong place entirely, until we walked across the dunes out to the beach and there found the actual restaurant. It’s a good thing we had reservations, since the place was absolutely packed! I wasn’t ready for more sardines with the fish bone still in my throat from Nazaré, but I helped myself to plenty of shrimp, bread and fish soup before devouring a hamburger.

Starters at Xakra Beach Bar

Net Repairs at the Peniche Fishing Port

Our next stop was a rare treat, and not usually available for tourists. Our tour guide got us in to see the retired fisherman repairing old fishing nets at the port. As it was the summer, most of the nets were out on the ships. In winter, I was told that the warehouses are full to the brim with nets waiting to be repaired. Off-duty and retired fisherman work in the sun or the shade of the warehouse to fix the nets by hand, stitch after stitch. They didn’t speak any English, but they were certainly fascinating to watch.

Fisherman in Peniche Repairing Nets

Surfing Lessons, Round Two

Hardly waiting for the food to settle, Jose and I hit the waves again with Joao continuing our lessons. We did much better this time, and both of us caught several waves, working on our form each time. I was pleased to have made one great ride in good form before our hour was up. We were offered an extended lesson, but our muscles were screaming and we opted to call it a day.

Baleil Beach

One Night at Hotel Soleil

Our accommodations that night were at Hotel Soleil, halfway between Peniche and Baleal Beach. There wasn’t really anything special about the hotel, other than providing a good location to stay. The buffet dinner was good, but unfortunately a couple members of my tour took umbrage to the signing of the large Polish tour in the dining hall and the mood of the evening soured considerably. The pools at the hotel closed at 9:30, long before we finished dinner, so it was an early night to bed, and an early morning up for another buffet breakfast and jumping on the van. Next stop: Santa Cruz! Stay tuned.

Hotel Soleil Bedroom

Resources

Additional articles for central Portugal:

Planning to visit Portugal?

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Disclaimer: My endless thanks to Visit Portugal, Madomis Tours, Naturexperience, High Performance Surfing Center, Xakra Beach Bar and Hotel Soleil for inviting me to these amazing locations. As always, my views and opinions are completely my own.

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure who in my family decided to call me Skye. I’ve had my own story for most of my life, but there are conflicting opinions and it seems to have been a universal decision (as it usually is). However, I am fairly certain it was my dad who chose to spell it after the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I’m glad he did, since it’s my favorite place in the world, but unfortuntely he had never been himself. Well, I’m happy to report that the situation has finally been rectified.

For the second time in my travels, I surprised my dad by showing up on his doorstep when he thought I was still in Thailand. It had been nearly 18 months since I had sent myself to him as a Christmas present.

To get to my dad, I actually had nearly 96 hours of travel! On May 2nd, I was in the Chinese village of Mae Salong in northern Thailand drinking tea. At 3 PM, I rode my motorcycle 5 hours back to Chiang Mai, and that night caught the bus for 9 hours down to Bangkok. I was able to rest for a few hours and get some work done at a cafe until the evening when I left for the airport to wait for my 5 AM flight. I flew 3 hours to Kuala Lumpur, and then another 14.5 hours to London. I then took the tube from Heathrow to Victoria station, walked to the coach station, and had a 9 hour overnight bus to Edinburgh. The next morning I had a couple hours to sit at a cafe and catch up some more, and then it was another 3-hour bus ride to Aberdeen, followed by a 2-hour bus ride to Banff, the small Scottish village where my dad has found a home to live in.

Selfie on Plane to London From KL

On the evening of May 5th, I knocked on my dad’s door. When he opened the door, he had absolutely no idea I was going to be there. Although he has many friends where he lives, he doesn’t get a lot of visitors at night in his town of 4000 people. He was thrilled to see me, and even more so when I announced I had plans to take him to the Isle of Skye.

The next morning we packed our bags and took a bus to Inverness, where I had a car reserved with Europcar (since I’ll never work with Easirent again). I had booked a little Fiat 500, but they were out of stock when I arrived. So we were upgraded to a Nissan XTrail (for a small fee). It was certainly much nicer to sleep in, but far too big for comfort, especially on the small streets of Scotland and the Isle of Skye.

First, I took my dad up to Clootie Well, a pilgrimage site where the bubbling spring is believed to have curative properties. My dad dutifully had his sip of the ice-cold water, but we’ll have to wait to see if he gets any younger.

Dad at Clootie Well

Next was Rogie Falls, known as the Black Water Falls due to the black, opaque quality of the water which has being filtered through peat in the Scottish Highlands. Both Clootie Well and Rogie Falls were shown to me by Haggis Adventures, during my amazing week on the Hebridean Hopper.

Dad at Rogie Falls

Next, I took my dad along Loch Ness with a brief stop at Urquhart Castle. Another stop at Eileen Donan Castle, and one final one in Kyleakin to see the Skye Bridge. So many attractions to see in Scotland! Read about all my articles on Scotland.

Selfie with Dad at Invermoriston

Dad at Eileen Donan Castle

Finally we made it to Portree, the “capital” of the Isle of Skye. I cooked my dad dinner at the Portree Independent Hostel, which unfortunately raised their price for day-use from £2 to £3 (how dare they!).

We slept comfortably in the car that night, and the next morning were ready to go at 9:30 in the main square for a tour with Tour Skye. Rob, the owner, actually gave my dad and I a private tour around the island, as the scheduled tour of the day went to several locations which my dad would be unable to hike at his age.

Dad on Tour with Rob

However, our tour did start off with the Fairy Pools, which brought my dad to his limits. He made it to the first pool, where I’ve jumped in several times (but not this time), and then we went back to the car. I ended up carrying him up the final hill on my back. It’s about time I got to return the favor to him for all the years I rode his shoulders on hikes in the US.

Dad and Rob at the Fairy Pools

After that, we went to the Oyster Shed. Unfortunately my dad wasn’t too keen on the oysters (he tried them half a century ago in Singapore and wasn’t fond of them then), but he loved the rest of the sample platter I got him – langoustines, lobster, salmon and other fish.

Dad at The Oyster Shed

We finished lunch off with a trip to the Talisker Distillery. Rob got my dad and I a dram of Talisker 57, a 57% whiskey which also signifies Talisker being located on the 57th parallel. My dad might not have had a lot to drink in the past few decades, but that didn’t stop him from downing is dram.

After that, we went up to Skyeskyns, the only manually-operated tanning facility in the world for a tour and a tea in their new yurt cafe. Not that I need any more reasons to move to the Isle of Skye, but I’d love to sit in that cafe a few days a week to work on my blog.

Coffee in the Skyskyns Yurt

Dad on the Skyskyns Tour

Our final two stops were Trumpan Church and St. Columba Isle, both of which you can read about in my blog post on the Isle of Skye.

Dad and Rob at Trumpan Church

Dad and I at St Columba's Island

For the second day on the island, I first took my dad to the Fairy Glen. This is my favorite spot in the world. It was slightly spoiled last year when I found a couple hundred people crowded around this small, magical location tucked away in the middle of the island. However, the morning with my dad couldn’t have been better. There were a whopping two other people when we arrived, and only six other people appeared in the half-hour or so that we stayed. The climb wasn’t too steep for my dad, although he didn’t make it to the top of castle Ewen.

Dad at the Fairy Glen #1

Dad at the Fairy Glen #2

Our next stop was the Quiraing where we took in the breathtaking view. My dad was starting to get a little disoriented from all the driving around the island, so we shortly moved on and had a quick bite at The Village Shop before returning to Portree.

Dad and I at the Quiraing

Dad Eating Ice Cream

Dad at Mealt Falls

For the afternoon, I drove up with my dad to The Old Man of Storr. The hike was out of the question for him, so he had a nap in the car while I jogged up to the top. It’s only slightly below the Fairy Glen as one of my favorite places in the world.

Old Man of Storr Panorama

That evening, we were joined by Rob and his family for a fish and chips dinner at Stein Inn, the oldest tavern on the island. My dad was in bliss. I was keeping a perfect store on finding dishes he could enjoy without his teeth.

Dad and Friends at Stein Inn

After dinner we hustled out to Neist Point, the western-most tip of the island. We tried to make it there for sunset, and we would have if it weren’t for the thick layer of clouds on the horizon. We missed it by just a couple minutes, but it was still beautiful. It was the final highlight on the island for my dad to see. I forgot to take the photos, but you can see them in the aforementioned posts. Here’s what my dad looked like by the end of the day. That’s what I called satisfied.

Dad at Rob's Home

We spent a final night with Rob, and took off the next morning back to my dad’s home in Banff. I drove straight there, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. While my dad loved getting to explore the Isle of Skye with me, he was also happy to be back in the small village he now calls home.

Finally I had to say goodbye again to my dad. It’s the fourth time in two and a half years that we’ve parted, and it gets harder each time. But I couldn’t stay any longer. I had a press trip in Romania to get to, and a whole day of travel to get there.

Selfie with Dad in Banff #1

Leaving my dad’s home on Thursday morning, I left myself plenty of time to get to the Inverness Airport. Unfortunately, I made a wrong-turn halfway there and was 30 km off my course before I noticed my mistake. Ironically, I hit a seagull when I took the wrong exit at a roundabout. It was the first road-kill of my life, but who will miss a seagull? I should have just taken the omen when it happened!

Somehow I was able to get back on course without losing too much time, but just before I got to the airport, I learned that there were no petrol (gas to you Americans) stations at the airport. I had to drive another 15 minutes to the city to fill up the car before returning it. I got the gas, high-tailed it to the airport and dropped off the car twenty minutes before my flight. When I entered the terminal, I heard them calling the final boarding call as I ran up to the security lines. Thank god I picked a really small airport to travel from. Five minutes and I was walking up the stairs to the plane. I certainly know how to cut it close!

Selfie Boarding Easijet at Inverness

I made a transfer at Luton to my Wizz Air flight to Bucharest, where I joined Experience Bucharest for a four day press trip. Stay tuned, as that story is coming next.

Some photos of my dad and I.

Selfie with Dad in Banff #2

Dad on the Isle of Skye

Selfie on the Way to the Isle of Skye with Dad

My most recent adventure in Chiang Mai was accidentally stumbling upon the Huay Kaew Waterfall in Doi Suthep National Park. The only problem was I had planned to do something completely different.

My original plan was to hike the Monk’s Trail to Doi Suthep temple, as detailed in my friends’ website Tieland to Thailand. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out of my condo until noon, and halfway to where I thought the trail started, I saw on the map I was nearly two miles away from where the trail began. Not wanting to add an extra half an hour to my hike, I decided to continue in the direction I had started.

I passed by a night market that sells really good sushi, the Chiang Mai University where I watched a soccer game longingly, and the Chiang Mai Zoo which I have yet to visit. From there I had no idea where I was going to walk.

Chiang Mai Zoo

To the right of the zoo entrance was a small residential road which had probably never seen a farang (foreigner) walk down it. The curious adventurer in me won out, and I decided to explore.

The road dropped down to the bottom of a gully where a creek with fish meandered. On the other side, the road rose steeply with barking dogs behind fences on either side. I walked up while Thais in their yards looked at me curiously. They probably thought I was hopelessly lost. In a sense I was, but I believe you’re never really lost. You always know what planet, country and city you’re in!

Unknown Road to Huay Kaew Waterfall

At the end of the street, a quasi-trail led over some rocks. After a couple minutes, I came to a large area of flat boulders where locals were having picnics with their kids. This was my kind of place, as it makes you feel like you’ve left the city far behind, despite it being just a couple minutes away.

Huay Kaew Park

Then I saw the sign for the Huay Kaew waterfall. First of all, why didn’t I know there was a waterfall so close to where I lived? Second, it wasn’t until a couple days after my hike when I realized Huay Kaew was the name of the street I lived on! The falls are literally just up the street from me.

From there, the path got steeper. I had to scramble up a couple steep slopes. I found later there was an easier path nearby but I preferred the challenge; this was an adventure after all.

Huay Kaew Waterfall Trail

Finally, I stumbled upon a group of young monks bathing in the water. There is a small spot where the water falls a few feet into a deep pool, where the monks could dive and escape the Thailand heat. Another foreigner was there taking photos. He mentioned that in the rainy season there is a lot more water and local kids will come up to use the rocks as a natural slide. From that, I got the idea that the best time to visit the Huay Kaew waterfall is October, after the heavy rains.

Monks Swimming at Huay Kaew Waterfall

I hadn’t expected to find a waterfall on my hike, and I had neither my hiking boots nor my swimming suit. Not only could I not go swimming, my shoes were also very slippery. The one time I was unable to keep my footing, I toppled down into a spot which had shattered beer bottles. Somehow my hand found the only spot on the rocks without broken glass! So my advice: wear shoes with a grip and watch where you’re walking – or falling.

Finally, you come upon the actual Huay Kaew waterfall. It tumbles down the rocks about 10 meters into a series of pools. Several foreigners were sunbathing there, one with his playful pug dog. There is just enough shade for those who want less heat, and other spots for those who want a tan.

Huay Kaew Waterfall

Just a little bit further up the trail, you come upon the road again leading up to Doi Suthep. This is where most people park to visit the Huay Kaew waterfall. The parking spot is also known as the Wang Bua Ban lookout. It seems my way was simply a shortcut, skipping the 2 km walk along the road with traffic whizzing by.

Wang Bua Ban Lookout

Instead of retracing my steps, I went down the other side of the river, where the path is rockier. On one side of you is a several-meter cliff down to the falls. The other side affords you with an excellent view of Chiang Mai. I never really realized how big the city was before seeing it from this vantage. From Doi Suthep temple several kilometers higher up on the mountain where I’ve been several times, the city looks much smaller.

Selfie at Huay Kaew Waterfall

And that was the Huay Kaew waterfall. I’ll be back another day with better shoes and a bathing suit, especially now that I know it’s so close to my condo. Perhaps I’ll see you there.