South African Road trip – Storms River and Wilderness

Place:  Storms River  Accomodation: Tube n Axe Lodge Backpackers  Time Spent:  1 night

Storms River is a small little town allows access to the famous Tsitsikama National Park and is from where you can sign up for many activities such as canyoning, blackwater tubing, tree top ziplining,  hiking and the infamous Bloukrans bungy (the highest bungy jump in the world).

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South African road trip- Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys Bay

Place: Port Elizabeth     Accomodation: Island Vibe Beach House   Time spent: 1 night

I flew into Port Elizabeth early in the morning and spent the whole day and the night. There is not much to do at Port Elizabeth. It an industrial town and the town centre has a lot of industry and factories. The hostel is nice and near the beach and you can also walk to the casino/waterfront/pier area which has some shops and restaurants. The pier and casino/ waterfront area is all accessible.

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A South African Road Trip – The Logistics

My plan after landing in South Africa was to spend the next 8 days travelling down South Africa’s Eastern Coast from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town.

How I got around: I landed into Johannesburg, after loosing a day due to delayed flights. The good thing about Johannesburg airport is, as a person with a disability you get an assigned ‘helper’, so while I was running around trying to sort out my flights, my helper was following me around with my bags. After sorting everything out I then caught a plane to Port Elizabeth to commence my road trip.

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What to do when things go wrong?

When you travel, things are always going to go wrong no matter how well you plan every detail of your trip. Planes get cancelled or delayed, bags get lost, mistakes are made when booking accommodation etc. These things happen regardless of whether you have a disability or not. But having a disability does mean that it can be a bit more difficult. I have complied a list of tips below and also a compilation of everything that went wrong on my trip and what I did about it.

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Bath

I was meant to spend 2 whole days in Bath. One catching up with an old friend and another day exploring the old town. However instead of spending my Sunday in Bath it was spent in Dublin airport waiting for my flight, due to an earlier weather cancellation. By the time I got to bath the Sunday was pretty much over.

I flew into Bristol and from Bristol you can get a bus that takes you to Bath. The bus company I used was Air Decker . It is supposed to have an accessible ramp, however because I was having such a great day (sarcasm intended), the ramp didn’t work. The bus driver was also incredibly unhelpful and so some lovely passengers carried me on.

Finally after a terrible bad luck day I got to Bath, had a one hour dinner with my friend and fell asleep determined to have better luck the next day.

Bath is a beautiful old town. It originated during Roman times when the city became a spa due to heated springs and also became a religious centre. In Georgian times it was thought that the water from the springs had curative properties and so the town became a medical resort. Most of the architecture is from Georgian times.

I started with my favourite a good old walking tour. I chose this company http://www.bathguides.org.uk/group-walks.html, which is run by local volunteers and is totally free – they don’t even accept tips. They were extremely accessible and helpful. They even run walking tours of Bath for those who are visually impaired which has a focus on texture, with all attractions able to be touched – how cool is that!

We started outside of the pump house of the original Roman Baths, then walked across the square to Bath Abbey which was beautiful. We walked over to the Pultney wier and bridge and then up to the Royal Crescent and Circus. Both the Circus and Crescent are excellent examples of beautiful Georgian architecture and walking around bath you actually feel like you have gone back in time.

 

After the walking tour of all the main architectural and tourist land marks went to the Roman Baths Museum. The Museum is very informative. It details the life and times of the ancient Romans and has a lot of original artifact. The crowning glory of the museum are the original Roman Baths. The museum is largely accessible with several lifts. Entry is discounted and upon entry you are given an easy to read and follow map which outlines the accessible route around the museum. The pathway around the bath themselves (as they were built in 43 AD) are very uneven and can be a little difficult to get around in a wheelchair. The museum has a good website outlining it’s accessibility. You can find it here; https://www.romanbaths.co.uk/accessibility

After exploring the Christmas markets around Bath a little bit more it was time to get on my train to London. The train between Bath and London is easy enough to organise. I got my ticket from this site https://www.gwr.com/tickets/.  I would recommend buying your train tickets well in advance as they can be a bit pricey. When buying your ticket you can select that you need assistance into the train and that you need a wheelchair accessible carriage. When you arrive at the station just check that there will be someone on the other end to help you off. I didn’t double check and alas when I arrived in London there was no ramp waiting.

Well that was Bath. A beautiful english town with a fascinating history. Bath is on a slight hill and does have quite a few deep cobblestones but overall access is pretty good for a town that was mostly built in the 18th century.

Dublin

After traipsing around the European continent I started wrapping up my journey by going to Dublin. I spent 5 nights in Dublin staying with family friends and had a great time

Accomodation: I ended up staying with some good family friends in Malahide, which is a cute coastal town about 40min outside of Dublin. There is a Generator hostel in the centre of Dublin  near Temple Bar. I had a good strike rate with Generator Hostels on my travels and found most of them accessible. I am sure they would be more than happy to answer any questions about accessibility. You can find them here

Transport: As I was staying with friends I mainly got around in their car. However I did catch a train from Malahide into Dublin and while in Dublin I caught a bus. Both were reasonably accessible. On the train I organised a ramp off and on the train which was easy enough to do with the station staff. The bus had a fold down ramp. However because I caught the bus on a weekend it was full and hard to find a spot. This website has information on accessible transport and links to the individual bus and train websites https://www.transportforireland.ie/accessible-travel/

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Wheelchair Friendly Milan

I went to Milan as I was going to Dublin next and Milan is where my plane ticket was booked from. Milan is interesting and has a lot more to offer if you look a little deeper. However It is a big city lacking a bit of Italian charm that you find in the smaller Italian towns.

Accomodation: I stayed at Ostello Bello Milan . It was probably the best hostel I stayed at, the only reason being is that I got heaps of free food. Breakfast AND dinner was included. Plus the kitchen had a range of snacks on offer. In terms of accessibility Ostello Bello had one large hostel room with a really good accessible bathroom. The lift access to the room and the rest of the hostel was also great. The only problem was there was a massive step to get into the hostel.  I had to stand  (sit) outside and a ring a buzzer for quite a while until someone came and helped me. After I explained this massive foresight in their design they were very apologetic but also didn’t do anything about it

Transport: Because the was hostel pretty much in the centre of Milan I didn’t really need to catch much transport. However on the second day I did go to Verona and to get there I had to catch a train from my hostel to the central station then a train from the central station to Milan. The train stations were all very well sign posted and the people friendly. Finding lift access down to the station was the only difficult part . On the platform the step into the train was low so you could get into the train without a ramp.

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Sit Skiing in Austria

I have always wanted to try sit skiing and because I happened to be in Austria in winter I thought why not.

My whole ski trip was organised purely by luck.  Which just illustrates that when you travel, it’s so important to keep an open mind and open plans. A friend I met in Munich managed to get hold of an Austrian para skier who lent me a sit ski and another friend of a friend to be my instructor. My friend in Munich also sent me a box of ski clothes to use.

However if you don’t serendipitously run into someone that can organise gear hire, clothes and instructors below are a couple of links that you can use;

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Fairy tale Salzburg

I had a couple of days to kill between Ljubljana and going skiing in the Austrian Alps so I decided to pay Salzburg a visit. Salzburg is  a beautiful Austrian town made famous for being the place where The Sound of Music was filmed and also where Mozart lived.

Accomodation: I stayed at the A&O Salsburg Hauptbanhof. The hostel was ok (it was only for one night), the only thing that annoyed me was I had to pay extra for sheets. There was lift access to the room but no disabled bathroom. The room however was nice and large. The good thing about it was so close to the train station which was great for me as I arrived by train and departed by train and wasn’t going to be in Salzburg for long.

Transport: Salzburg is really small so no need for any public transport. The longest distance was from the hostel/train station to the old town – about 20 minutes walk/push

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Hipster, accessible Ljubljana

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia is the most hipster city I’ve ever been too. The city itself is small and easy to get around in a couple of days.

Accomodation:  I stayed at the Celica Art Hostel in the Metelkova district. The hostel is famous for the fact that it used to be a prison and you can actually stay in a prison cell. Each cell has been individually designed by a local artist. Unfortunately the prison is down a very uneven staircase. There is a wheelchair accessible room on ground level with a nice accessible bathroom. Only problem is the bed is a bit difficult to transfer into – however overall a truly remarkable hostel experience.

Transport: The city is relatively small so there is no need to catch public transport. Even where I stayed which was considered ‘out of town’ it only took me 10min to push/walk into the main town (old town). There are some buses that run that do have wheelchair access. The funicular up to the castle is also accessible.

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