A weekend in East Yorkshire

Recently returned from a wonderful weekend in East Yorkshire. After flying back from Greece late last Thursday, I spent the night in Gatwick Airport before catching an early morning train back to Devon. At the flat, I changed backpacks, threw in a few clothes and jumped on a long train bound for Hull on the east coast of England.

I arrived in Hull around 21:30 after a 6 hour journey that included changing in Taunton, Somerset and Sheffield, South Yorkshire. In Hull, I took a taxi into the town and stayed at the lovely independent Trinity Backpackers, a hostel I highly recommend. Next morning I got a lift back to Hull train station and met up with my best friend, Will, a school friend of some 30 years and began our adventure! Will is blind in one eye and has a dodgy left foot and hand. He lives alone and is completely independent – a great bloke, very funny! :). Because he can only see out of his left eye, when he guides me, we always go around in circles!

Will found a bus and we headed to the charming seaside town of Withernsea, roughly an hours’ journey from hull. This part of Yorkshire is known as the East Riding.

Once at the beach town, we went for a wander, Will following the streets and I following the sent of the salty sea air. We had brunch in a nice cafe before going to search for Withernsea’s white, tall, inland lighthouse. After stumbling around the busy streets for several minutes, Will spotted the way to its museum. We entered by the back door, not unusual for us, and had a quick nosy around. The museum is largel dedicated to 1950s actress Kay Kendall, who was born in the town. However, as everything was in glass, there was little of interest apart from a few old photographs. We paid the UK£4.50 entry fee, located the door to the lighthouse, entered and began the ascent of the 127 feet (39 metre) cylindrical building. The first hundred steps were easy enough, but to reach the highest platform, we had to climb a narrow, vertical metal ladder. that was fun! Once at the top, Will admired the view and I enjoyed the fresh air. Several minutes later, we descended. Back on terrafirma, it was yet another tea stop before taking one last bus to the village of Holmpton, our base for the weekend.

Incidentally, the Prime Meridian crosses the coast north-west of Withernsea.

Holmpton is a small spread-out village situated approximately 3 miles (5 km) south of Withernsea town centre and 3 miles (5 km) east of the village of Patrington. It lies just inland from the North Sea coast.

Holmpton parish had a population of 228 in 2011. St Nicholas parish church is Grade II listed. The Greenwich Prime Zero meridian line passes through the parish, but we didn’t know this at the time of visit.

The village is home to RAF Holmpton, built originally as an early warning radar station, and now refurbished to act as museum and archive in Cold War built buildings, including a command bunker which is about 100 feet (30 m) below ground.

On a ramble around the quiet village on our first evening, Will noticed a round stone memorial to the crew of RAF Avro Manchester bomber L7523 that crashed just south of the village on the night of 14 January 1942, killing all 7 crew. The bomber was returning from a rade on Hamburg, Germany.

Our reason for staying in Holmpton for two nights was to visit and walk around Spurn Point and climb its lighthouse.

Coordinates: 53.575955°North 0.111454°East. Spurn is a narrow sand tidal island located off the tip of the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England that reaches into the North Sea and forms the north bank of the mouth of the Humber Estuary.

The island is over three miles (five kilometres) long, almost half the width of the estuary at that point, and as little as 50 yards (45 metres) wide in places. The southernmost tip is known as Spurn Head or Spurn Point and was, until early 2023, the home to an RNLI lifeboat station and two disused lighthouses.

It has been owned since 1960 by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and is a designated national nature reserve, heritage coast and is part of the Humber Flats, Marshes and Coast Special Protection Area.

Will and I caught an early bus from Holmpton to the start of Spurn on the Sunday morning, alighted at the final stop, headed to the nearby visitor centre, had a drink, listened to a short audio infromation screen about Spurn, its history, nature and lighthouse before setting off to find the trail that would, eventually, lead us to the lighthouse. However, finding the rocky trail was difficult. We ended up following a grassy trail that lead onto the large sand dunes. As this was soft giving sand, we slid our way to the left, slid down on to harder flatter sand and followed the off-shore sea around the tidle island for, supposedly, 3 miles (5 km). The atmosphere was idilic, we were almost the only people there. The wind blew cool and strong and the sun made the air warm but not hot. We trudged along, enjoying the peace and nature. The sound of the sea was delightful. I had to stop every 0.1 mile to rest my legs, but otherwise, we made steady progress. Will could see the lighthouse in the distance to our right most of the time and he used that as a baring. After roughly 3 miles walking, Will said we need to go up by way of the sand dunes, but judge them too steep. Thus we continued to the point, another 1.5 miles or so, maybe more. As we neared the point, the terrain became more rough and rocky. Stones and rocks everywhere, pieces of wood, clumps of seaweed. Walking became difficult. We both tripped and stumbled. But, eventually, we reach the point. Then we trekked up onto higher ground, found a wooden seat and had a rest. 20 minutes later, we set off again, this time to reach the lighthouse. Several buildings were spotted, including offices of the heritage trust, the former lifeboat station, the broken pier, from where the lifeboat was launch, and a World War II gun emplacement. 15 or 20 minutes later, after trekking along a few more rough roads, we reached the lighthouse. We ascended two stone steps, entered, chatted with the friendly guys on the ticket desck and began the climb of 144 steps. Like the lighthouse in Withernsea, the first sets of steps had handrails and were fairly easy. But the last two levels were reached by vertical ladders. First a brass ladder of some 20 vertical steps, followed by another ladder of 4 runs. Finally, we were at the top. The gentleman who’d followed us up, pointed out various viewpoints to Will, whilst I simply enjoyed being there. This lighthouse is 1 foot (30 centimetres) taller than Withernsea Lighthouse. A quick rest before we descended to the ground. The other gentleman at the lighthouse, kindly gave us a lift back to the start of the tidle island, by the visitor centre. We grabbed a final drink before taking the last bus back to Holmpton. A great day successfully completed. A second night of Chinese take-away was followed before a good nights’ sleep was taken. The following morning, the Monday, 24th June, we packed our bags, took the first bus back to Withernsea, then another bus to Hornsea, one more bus to Bridlington before wandering through that town to the train station. I headed to Sheffield and onwards to Exeter and Teignmouth, Will caught a bus to York and onto Leeds. A fantastic weekend with lots of walking and climbing. What fun. Cheers, Tony :).

Guided Day Tour, Lebanon!

Yesterday, 31st May, I did a guided tour to a couple of historical sites in Lebanon. With a driver-guide, booked online through Viator, we visited Anjar ruins, Baalbeck Archaeological site and Chateau Ksara, where wine is produced.
I was collected from my accommodation, The Colony Hostel around 8 am and off we sped out of Beirut and up in to the valleys and mountains, twisting and turning at pace with the wind blowing my ragged beard this way and that.
A quick stop for petral and a shot of strong Arabic coffee and we were off again. My driver, Mr Wissam, knew the way and put his foot down where possible. A quiet friendly Lebanese guy, he helped me take photos at each site and gave info when possible. Although his lack of descriptive English prevented him from explaining the sites in full detail.
First stop after roughly 40 mins was the ancient site of Anjar.
It's located in the Zahle District of Beqaa Governate, east Lebanon. Roughly 60 km from Beirut.
The ruins of the Umayyad settlement of Anjar have been a UNESCO Site since 1984.
Anjar, apparently,  means “unresolved or running river”. It's a town of Lebanon, near the Syrian border, located in the Bekaa Valley. Wissam said most of the people here are Armenian, but he didn't know how long they'd resided in the area.
According to the brief information Wissam was able to read from the small hand-out offered at the entrance and supported by Wikipedia, The town's foundation is normally attributed to the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I, at the beginning of the 8th century AD, as a palace-city. Syriac graffiti found in the quarry from which the best stone was extracted offer the year 714. But no exact date is given.
The Ummayad city ruins cover 114,000 square meters and are surrounded by large, fortified stone walls over two meters thick and seven meters high. The rectangular city design of 370 m by 310 m is based on Roman city planning and architecture with stonework borrowed from the Byzantines. Two large avenues, the Cardo maximum, probably the descending rough path Wissam and I walked, running north to south, and the Decumanus Maximus, running east to west, divide the city into four quadrants. The two main avenues, decorated with colonnades and flanked by about 600 shops, intersect under a tetrapylon. (A rectangular form of monument with arched passages in two directions, at right angles, generally built on a crossroads).The tetrapylon's plinths, shafts and capitals are spolia (stones taken from an older structure) reused in the Umayyad period. Smaller streets subdivide the western half of the city in different size quarters .
However, we only spent 10 or so minutes there and Wissam wasn't really able to describe the layout. Although he did mention broken arches. Upon purchasing a fridge magnet, something I like to do at places I visit, someone kindly gave me a postcard showing the ruins with mountains in the background. A guy at the hostel described it to me later.
After a small orange juice and a loo stop, we headed to the famous ruins of Baalbek. Roughly a 45 minute drive from Anjar.
For anyone wishing to visit/view Anjar, according to Wikipedia and UNESCO, there are four main sites.
The partially rebuilt Grand Palace, 59 m by 70 m, includes a wall and is preceded by a series of arcades. Its central hosh (courtyard) is surrounded by a peristyle (a continuous porch formed by a row of columns surrounding the perimeter of a building or courtyard). The almost square Small Palace, 46 m by 47 m, stands out for its numerous ornamental fragments and its richly decorated central entrance. A Mosque, 45 m by 32 m, is located between the two palaces. There are phermal baths, built on the Roman model.
The drive to Baalbek was magnificent. We turned and twisted our way up hills and descended valleys at speed, with me being thrown about in the back seat!
Baalbeck is a medium city and an ancient site, at an elevation of 1,170 m (3,840 ft). It's located east of the Litani River in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley, about 67 km (42 mi) northeast of Beirut.
 The knoledgable, local, female guide, who I paid US$20 for 45 minutes, explained about the history. Baalbek has a history that dates back at least 11,000 years, encompassing significant periods such as Prehistoric, Canaanite, Hellenistic, and Roman eras. After Alexander the Great conquered the city in 334 BCE, he renamed it Heliopolis (Ἡλιούπολις, Greek for “Sun City”). The city flourished under Roman rule. However, it underwent transformations during the Christianization period and the subsequent rise of Islam following the Arab conquest in the 7th century. In later periods, the city was sacked by the Mongols and faced a series of earthquakes, resulting in a decline in importance during the Ottoman and modern periodsThere
there are the remains and ruins of three  temples, Jupiter, one of the largest temples of the Roman empire,Temple of Bacchus (Goddess of Wine) and Temple of Venus (Goddess of Love).
I was able to touch one of the few remaining tall stone Corinthian colomns at the Temple of Jupiter. One side was smooth granite but most of it was rough and damaged by the elements. I also touched tactile stone decoration illustrating life and deaf through an egg and an arrow and other such symbols. The guide mentioned the eagle at the top of the decorated limestone entrance, denoting power. She said local influences are seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which differ from classic Roman design.
 The Roman pagan temples were transformed into christian churches under the Byzantines in the 4th/5th centuries AD and a tactile cross can be seen cut into some of the square stone pillars at the site. I was able to feel one such cross. My guide concluded by explaining that Justinian had eight of the complex's Corinthian columns disassembled and shipped to Constantinople for incorporation in the rebuilt Hagia Sophia church, sometime between 532 and 537 AD.
Just to finish, in the summer of 2014, a team from the German Archaeological Institute of the Lebanese University discovered a sixth, much larger stone suggested to be the world's largest ancient block. The stone was found underneath and next to the Stone of the Pregnant Woman. Wissam hopped out the car and photographed it just before we departed. Naturally, I was persuaded to buy some souvenirs and was overcharged, like most foreign tourists!
Our last stop was at the Château Ksara, another fast drive of about 30 minutes.
  This winery in the Beqaa Valley was Founded in 1857 by Jesuit priests, who developed the first dry red wine in Lebanon.
The winery distributes its wines both nationally and internationally. It's open to the public and wine tasting is offered. According the film, Château Ksara is Lebanon's oldest, largest and most visited winery.
I popped in to get a brief experience of its wine. I had one small glass whilst I listened to a short history of the wine making. The wine tasted somewhat sharp and asidic to me, but then, I don't normally drink any alcohol! It was a different experience and I learned something. Finally, it was back in the car for the onward twisting descent of the valley to Beirut and an interesting day enjoyed.

Tony’s Latest Book

Hello dear followers, friends and fans. I hope this finds you all well this Monday?
Please kindly consider buying, downloading and reading my latest fascinating travel bio and adventure.
Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way
An enlightening journey
(Seeing The World Book 3)
By Tony Giles, blind, world, solo traveller.
ISBN 9781839781544
Published 31 December 2020

Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way is the third in the Seeing The World series, by Tony Giles. It offers a unique insight into travelling in Southern Africa from a blind person’s perspective.
It is a journey of continued self-discovery for the author as he plots his way from multi-cultural South Africa with its complex society, to Malawi, with its picturesque and peaceful nature. This fascinating travel biography takes the reader through parts of Southern Africa, and offers a brief glimpse into a little of Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The history, culture, geography and nature of these nations is described through the author’s other senses and provides an alternative insight to travelling in a fascinating and, somewhat, dangerous region of Africa.
How does the author cope travelling around countries that lack the conventional infrastructures of the UK whilst blind? What skills does he use to tackle the many challenges that are encountered in such impoverished countries like Zimbabwe? These, alongside many more questions, are answered in the pages of this compact and, often, emotional story.
There are moments of the usual dare-devil adrenaline activities associated with this author, including an incident that leaves Tony in an extremely dangerous situation!
Buy this enthralling eBook to discover how he survives!

Apple Books:

Please tell your friends, family, anyone you meet to check it out. It's a hilarious read, if nothing else.
To anyone who does buy and download it, I thank you.
Have a wonderful day, one and all, Tony :).

Tony Giles, blind solo traveller, author and public speaker.
Author of latest eBook:
Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way
ISBN 9781839781544
Published 31 December 2020

Author of eBooks:

*Seeing The Americas My Way*
An emotional journey (September 2016)
ISBN 9781912022625
Available from
Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M14JY50
Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/seeing-the-americas-my-way

*Seeing The World My Way*
A totally blind and partially deaf guy's global adventures (2010, repub as eBook only, 2016)
ISBN 9781912022861
The first eBook in the trilogy.
Second edition is available from all eBook sites.
Amazon –

Website: www.tonythetraveller.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/theblindbackpacker
YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/TonyGilesTraveller
Tony at Armenia Travel Fest vid.

South Sudan Trip Report

I've just returned from a short trip to South Sudan: 11th March-15th March 2024.
Brief facts: officially the Republic of South Sudan
Capital and largest city: Juba, located in the Equatoria region and centrally located.
Currency: South Sudanese Pound, although US Dollars is the de facto currency and used almost everywhere.
Location: Eastern Central Africa or East Africa.
Coordinates: 8°N 30°E
A landlocked country, bordered by:
Sudan to the north, the Central African Republic to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest, Uganda to the south, Kenya to the southeast and Ethiopia to the east.
 Official language: English
Recognised national languages:
Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Murle, and many others.
Spoken languages include Juba Arabic
Christianity appears to be the dominant religion at roughly 60%.
Government: Federal transitional presidential republic.
Salva Kiir Mayardit is the first, and current, President.
Independence from Sudan:
Autonomy: 9 July 2005
Declared and recognised: 9 July 2011
Independence Day: 9 July
Population: 12,118,379 (2023 estimate).
South Sudan has more than 60 indigenous ethnicities. The Dinka comprise 40% of the population.
Driving side: right.
Many, if not all, foreign nationals appear to need a visa to enter South Sudan.
As a blind solo traveller, I needed help completing the online form.
The online visa form appears reasonably easy as long as one has the necessary documents:
Copy of passport page, Yellow Fever Certificate, Invitation Letter from a hotel or tour agency/company, passport image of sponsor/hotel manager, proof of Covid 19 Vaccination.
Passport size photo of the applicant, square shaped, 2 inches by 2 inches (5.08 cm by 5.08 cm).
Online payment by credit/debit card of USD$116 for United Kingdom applicants.
Print visa in colour and present on arrival at Juba international airport or border crossing.
I flew to Juba by a convoluted route in an attempt to reduce flight costs!
I first flew from London Gatwick to Milan Malpensa with Wizz Air Malta early on 10th March. On arrival in Milan, with special airport assistance, I changed planes and flew with Air Cairo to Cairo International, landing on the evening of the same day.
After several hours waiting in Cairo Airport, I caught an Egypt Air flight to Juba, arriving mid afternoon on Monday 11th March.
I'd booked a 3 night, 4 day guided tour with BomaHills Tourism and was met by their owner, the charming and helpful, David Jook Nyang. He welcomed me and drove me to my accommodation, afex River camp, a 15-20 minute journey from the airport.
I'd been in contact with several afex River camp staff members and residence, so had some idea of what to expect; a tranquell stay in comfy surroundings beside the banks of the River Nile.
For anyone wishing to contact Afex River Camp:
 email: generalmanager@river-camp.com
Rooms comprise individual cottage like structures with single beds or double beds and en-suite bathrooms, towels and hand soap included. The least expensive rooms are as low as USD$70 per night without breakfast, USD$80 per night per person with breakfast. Prices increase for rooms with two people and meals included, etc. The room I had cost USD$120 per night with breakfast. The hotel has an on-site restaurant where lunch and dinner can be purchased for reasonable fees. Average cost for a main dish is approximately USD$16 without drinks.
 I went on a 3 night, 4 day guided excursion with BomaHills Tourism to visit and stay at a cattle camp for a night and also undertake a city tour of Juba. With guide fees, transport, camping equipment, payment to the tribe for entering and camping on their land, meals for me, my guide and two support guides, plus two nights accommodation in Juba, cost me USD$1,400, with the first 20% to be paid by transfer in advance.
Contact BomaHills Tourism: info@bomahills.com
Extras were all meals when in Juba City, any souvenirs and the visa.
Before my trip, I learned that both Juba and South Sudan in general are potentially quite dangerous. Juba is subject to car jackings, and welthy-looking individuals have been robbed and even attacked. Landmines dot the land all over South Sudan, so travelling around the country could be quite precarious, especially with armed groups near the border areas and sparadic fighting on-going. Kidnappings of foreigners have happened.
However, I found my brief stay in the country to be peaceful, quiet and uneventful. Although totally blind, and therefore, not privy to all activities occurring around me, I felt Juba to be mainly a quiet city with fairly few people on the streets at any one time. This maybe due to the intense heat that occurs during March and other months. I found the people I met quiet, helpful, friendly and hospitable. The roads are extremely rough, bumpy and full of potholes! Travelling across both the  Freedom Bridge and the older, Juba Nile Bridge by vehicle was even bumpier and a tremendous thrill. Every jolt went through my body!The heat was dry and intense, both during the day and at night. Flies and moskitoes were endemic at the cattle camp, though less so in Juba.
Camping on Mundari Trible land at their cattle camp on my second day in the country was fascinating; hot and dry, sandy underfoot and dust in the air, intensely hot with a temperature over 40 degrees celcius on that first afternoon and reaching up to 50 degrees c on my second day at the camp – remarkable.
Not much to do at the camp during the day, just sit in the shade and relax. But in the late afternoon-early evening, when the Mundari cattle are driven into camp, the excitement and fun begins. Over 300 cattle I'm told, many of them mooing loudly, running about swinging their unusual shaped horns this way and that, was a spectical to behold, smell and hear. I was told that the Mundari tribe cut their cows horns in a particular way so they grow at an unusual angle, thus identifying them as Mundari cattle. I heard the cowbells jangling and their bellowing to one another at high volume. I even got to touch a few cows as they sped past. Again, in the following morning at 6 am, I was treated to more mooing as the cows readied for another day's grassing on their grounds, some 10 kilometres (7 miles) distance.
 That experience alone was worth paying the money for the tour.
Other companies that offer guided tours throughout South Sudan include:
Rocky Road Travel
Email: info@rockyroadtravel.com
One contact is Shane.
BomaHills Tourism Ltd, based in South Sudan.
Email: info@bomahills.com
Contact/owner, David Jook Nyang
Website:    Bomahills.com

Peru and hiking the amazing Inca Trail to Machu Picchu!

I’m home now, back in rainy Devon after an amazing trip in the Andies Mountains of Peru! I joined a group of wonderful people to try and hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, due to the mountain being too steep and full of rock steps of varying height and size, combined with the roughness of the trail and altitude, plus my lack of fitness,I failed to complete the challaenge, but I did hike roughly a third of the trek and feel proud of my attempt. I aim to return in a couple of years to complete my challenge.
Fortunately, along with 3 other amazing people, I managed to raise lots of money for Galloway’s Society For The Blind, so I’m happy for that :). People can continue to give if they wish, as Galloway’s needs all the support it can get to continue their amazing work, supporting blind and visually impaired people throughout northwest England.
I had an amazing 10 days experience in Peru, met and trekked with wonderful people from both England and Peru, who helped and supported me all the way, visited fascinating Inca ruins like Tambomachay, Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu and even rode on horseback! An unbelievable adventure to add to my collection of amazing experiences. Photos to come soon. Warmest wishes to all my friends and followers. Cheers, Tony :).
— Tony Giles, blind solo traveller, author and public speaker. Author of latest eBook: Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way ISBN 9781839781544 Published 31 December 2020 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08RWLRC2F/ books.apple.com/gb/book/seeing-a-slice-of-southern-africa-my-way/id1547073772
I’m Fund raising for Galloway’s Society for the Blind, a charity that supports blind and visually impaired people throughout the northwest of England. my challenge: to raise more money for Galloways, in order to enable them to continue their necessary work supporting blind-visually impaired people. Most money raised goes to Galloway’s to support their fine work and, the rest, to help pay for my trip to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru in April or October 2023 and show what blind people can do. My Go fund me page: www.justgiving.com/Tony-Giles4
Author of eBooks:
*Seeing The Americas My Way* An emotional journey (September 2016) ISBN 9781912022625 Available from Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M14JY50 Kobo – store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/seeing-the-americas-my-way
*Seeing The World My Way* A totally blind and partially deaf guy’s global adventures (2010, repub as eBook only, 2016) ISBN 9781912022861 The first eBook in the trilogy. Second edition is available from all eBook sites. Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NAMEO2B
Website: www.tonythetraveller.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/theblindbackpacker YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/TonyGilesTraveller Tony at Armenia Travel Fest vid. www.facebook.com/gus1thego/videos/816154536176130/