Travel and World-Schoolingj

Our 6-7 month trip is coming to an end, and we have had the most amazing time! Lots of ups and downs, lots of last minute plan changes and we have all grown so close.

We have all learnt so much as a family and as individuals, and we are very grateful to be able to experience everything that we have, we feel very lucky.

Here are some things that me and Glen have learnt:

  1. Never plan ahead just take each day as it comes
  2. Possessions are not important
  3. Life is for living and loving
  4. You only live once
  5. Take risks
  6. It’s important to say “I love you” everyday
  7. Surround yourself with people who are happy and smile alot
  8. People can be incredibly generous
  9. Animal therapy is an actual thing, and cuddling a dog, cat, rabbit or petting a horse will make you happy
  10. It’s always best just to laugh at everything that goes wrong (especially if you break a bed in a lovely hotel)
  11. You will never get 1 minute to yourself when travelling with your children
  12. You can love and hate your children at the same time
  13. Our girls are more demanding and strong willed than we realised, and could probably run for prime-mister one day.
  14. You can teach maths pretty much anywhere everyday, using sugar sachets, counting objects under water, and lift buttons
  15. There is never a “language barrier” when you are a pro at charades….
  16. ….And you have google translate
  17. Booking.com will take your money regardless if you like your hotel or not
  18. Americans’ and Thais’ are the happiest people we have met on our travels
  19. Baths, dressing gowns and Yorkshire puddings are missed everyday (by Gemma)
  20. Glen has learnt how to play the ukulele
  21. The girls are now ready to settle somewhere for a while

What Ellie and Maisie have Learnt:

  1. To swim like mermaids
  2. They have both learnt how to belly surf and now they want to learn to do real surfing
  3. Both learnt how to horse ride
  4. Leant how to fish, gut and cook a fish
  5. How to feed a baby goat
  6. How to make friends and play with children from all over the world with out worrying about language. They have friends from China, India, Thailand, Japan, France, Russia, Netherlands, Germany, America, Fiji, New Zealand….
  7. How to say hello, goodbye and thank you in many languages
  8. How to get used to change and constant moving around, nothing fazes them now!
  9. How to pose for photos around 5 times a day for Indians, Thais And Chinese as they love their skin and hair colour!
  10. Learnt how to say goodbye without getting upset
  11. How to get used to only having a small bag of cheap 7-11 plastic toys
  12. Both can now walk for 3-4 miles with out complaining
  13. Both have tried new foods and realised they like new things
  14. Both of them are a lot closer as sisters than they were before we left
  15. Both of them want cats, dogs, rabbits, horses as pets, they have a list…
  16. Academic Lessons America– History, Cowboys, Tectonic Plates and mountains, astronomy, weather, wildlife, art, music
  17. Academic Lessons New Zealand– earth quakes, tectonic plates, and Thermal activity, wildlife, the sun and the moon
  18. Academic Lessons Thailand– Language, friendships, religion, culture, cooking and food, swimming,
  19. I’m sure they have learnt so much more than this list!

But now it’s time for a new adventure, in a new country with a different language that we have been practicing as much as we can!

Keep reading our blogs to find out what we are doing next!

Love Gem, Glen, Ellie and Maisie

Xxx

8

 

The Big Bend National Park, BBNP for absolute beginners, children and non-hikers!

The Big Bend is an 801,163 acre park at the border of Mexico, separated by the 100 mile Rio Grande River; the park is named Big Bend after the bend in the river in west Texas. The BBNP has been attracting tourists for many years, who either choose to cycle, hike, or drive miles through the park to see the beautiful mountains, waterfalls and forests.

“No fire can burn so bright, no projection can duplicate the colours that dance over the desert or the bare rock formations that form the backdrop. No words can tell you, and no painter can hold it. Its only to be visited and looked at with awe” Ledwig Bemelmans 1956.

Imagine smelling the sweet smell of bluebonnets perfuming the air as you drive through the long smooth roads, surrounded by miles of monstrous mountains; This place is not just for full time enthusiastic hikers, it’s also suitable for young children, the elderly and ofcourse photographers/artists – This is The Big Bend National Park, Texas!

In this blog we will be going over The Big Bend National Park for absolute beginners/Non-hikers telling you where to stay, where to go, what roads you can access with an RV, roads to avoid with an RV, how to get amazing photos of stars and landscapes, and finally where to hire a 4 x 4 (which is an absolute must!)

Is there anything I need to know before I go down to the Big Bend?

There are a lot of things that we come across that we wasn’t aware of before we left, and we would like to share this with you to make sure you are fully prepared!

  1. There is no Wifi and no service what’s so ever within a 50 mile radius away from the park, as soon as you start your way down there you will find even when you are an hour away you will not be able to make any phone calls or check on places to stay. (you can get Wifi in the park at Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, and Rio Grand Visitors centre)
  2. Do not rely on RV park Wifi If you need to make bookings for later on in your trip, the Wifi is also limited here too (we spent 24hours without Wifi at our RV park)
  3. With the above two points in mind, we would advise to Book up and make all your calls you need to do before you leave, as if there isn’t any space, you will not be able to call or email any other park as you wont have wifi or service. Once you are there you are off the Grid.
  4. The RV parks inside the Big Bend are booked up weeks in advance.
  5. First stop you should make is Panther Junction Visitors centre – or any Visitor Centre that you past first, they will give you all the information about what places are suited for you.
  6. The winter is still hot (esp for us Brits) it will get cold at night, as cold as -2 degrees but during February it has been 18-25 degrees. If you are planning on going in the summer be prepared, as it will be extremely hot.
  7. End of Winter/Spring is highly recommended as all the flowers begin to blossom.
  8. It will take you a long time to get through the park, the first road is 20 miles before you get anywhere so if you are planning lots in one day just take that into account.
  9. You can’t drive an RV over 24 foot down some of the roads, take this into account when planning your day.
  10. If you are a photography enthusiast take a tripod.

Do I need to be a Hiker to Visit Big Bend National Park?

Our children are 8 and 4, and not good at long walks and we spent 4 days at the park and still felt as though we could of done more! There are plenty of overlooks, mini trials, drives you can do so don’t worry if you cant walk for long you should still visit!

How Much does it cost to visit the Big Bend National Park?

It cost us $30 for a 7 day pass into the park, you can go in and out as you please for the whole 7 days.

What are the Gas/Petrol Prices at Big Bend National Park?

Gas is very expensive at the Big Bend, Marathon was at $3.79 and Sturdy Butte was $2.77 so I would suggest waiting until you got to Sturdy Butte before you fill up. There is another in the park at Panther Junction if you are getting empty.

Where can I sleep over night with an RV in Big Bend National Park?

Rio Grand Village is a very popular RV site, if you cant get booked up there (we would advise booking well before you arrive as this one is always fully booked) any of the RV parks along the 118 from Sturdy Butte/ Terlingua, or within the Ghost Town (approx. 5 mile radius around that area) is a great “base”. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that we would need to book beforehand, and we ended up in a beautiful RV park called Terlingua Ranch, we had 2 nights here. It was within the mountains, absolutely fantastic stars to see, but it was down a long 16 mile road to nowhere, and then 3 miles off road! We had to drive 30 miles before ending up anywhere near the park.

We then stayed at Big Bend Rv Resort and Adventures, which is a lot closer to big bend national park, we opted for dry camp at $20, and our last night we asked to hook up so we could dump/get water. This cost $39.

How many days should I plan to spend at Big Bend National Park?

We spent 5 nights at the Park and we found something to do and see everyday – and this did not include hiking, you can easily drive around in a day and see a few spots but if you want to explore and see some back roads we would suggest at least 3 days.

Can I drive my RV round the whole of Big Bend National Park?

We were unaware of the difficulties driving around Big Bend with an RV/ motorhome until we arrived. We just assumed we could turn up, find a spot and that’s it. You can only drive on around 2 roads with an RV over 24 foot – for example you can’t get to Chisos Basin (access to the Window) with a larger vehicle, or close up to the Hot Springs. These routes are either full of sharp twists and turns, or off road. We were advised not to drive down Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive but we found that ok with our RV which is 28 foot.

If you are wanting to explore more of the park and have an RV over 20 foot we would highly recommend renting a 4×4 Jeep!

How do I rent a Jeep and what Roads can I drive down off road at Big Bend?

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We rented a Jeep from “Far Flung” which is along the 170, off of the 118 (opposite the Petrol Garage, and RV Park) They charge $189 for a days hire from 9am to 7am the next day. It sounds like a lot, but honestly this was by far the best day of our travels so far! We left our RV in their carpark, and picked up our RV at 6pm (posted the keys in the letter box)

Our first trip was off to the Window, driving down Chisos Basin Road, this road has sharp turnings, and is not recommended for RVs over 24 foot. We then travelled down a road called Glenn Springs Road, onto River Road East towards the Hot Springs. The map says its around 22 miles, but this thrilling off road drive took us around 3 hours, and was unforgettable! The Road is very off road so do not attempt this unless you have a 4 wheel drive, you will drive along narrow roads full of gravel and stones hanging over a cliffs edge! The views are spectacular and felt like we were ontop of the world.

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Subscribe to our Youtube channel for a video on our jeep adventure: The England Family Travels

I am not a Hiker what Trials can I go on at the Big Bend National Park?

We went to the following:

  • Talinguar Ghost Town before Big Bend off 118, along the 170
  • Santa Elena Canyon Trail – 1.2 miles 1 hour (but we just walked ¼ mile to the river/opening)
  • Chisos Basin Over Look Trial – 0.5 miles ¼ hour walk
  • Hot Springs – 1 mile ½ hour walk
  • Rio Grand Overlook – Park and look
  • Boquillas Canyon Overlook – Park and look
  • River Road East Scenic River (4x4s only) Scenic Drive with a Jeep
  • Boquillas Del Carmen Port of Entry to Mexico

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You could do but we run out of time; Basin Loop – 1.8 miles one hour walk, Sam Nail Ranch – 0.5 miles half hour walk, Fossil Discovery – 0.2 miles 15 minutes walk, Rio Grande Village Nature Trial – 1.2 miles 1 hour walk

Is it worth doing the Boquillas Del Carmen Port of Entry to Mexico?

We were not sure if we wanted to go across to Mexico –

  1. We were not sure if it would be safe for children
  2. We were told by others its just a old run down town and there is nothing to see

The Port of Entry to Mexico was probably the most random day we have ever experienced, ever! and so glad we did it! You start off by showing your passports at the Port at Texas (this is only open Wednesday – Sunday 9-5pm) You then go to the river, get onto a small rowing boat. The little Mexican man will then row you over the river (approx. 30 seconds) when you get to the other side you are then Mexico – you can choose from walking ¼ mile, or taking a DONKEY ride to town. If you opt for a donkey you will also get a guided tour, we had a man called Lopo, he was fantastic!

On our return we had to check in in Texas like you do at the airport, but via one of them digital passport machines, a camera and a telephone call – also a very strange experience!

There isn’t a lot to see in town (people are right) just a few old Mexican restaurants and lots of locals trying to sell handmade items – but the experience of being about to hop over to another country in 30 seconds, and doing that via a boat and a donkey is an experience like no other!

You must do it, but remember if you go over there on a Sunday, and miss the last boat back you’ll be in Mexico until the Wednesday.

Subscribe to our Youtube channel for a video on the crossing – The England Family Travels https://youtu.be/I2vlV382tyQ

Will I see Stars?

Pictures abov: 1st picture just after sunset, 2nd picure 2-3 hours after sunset.

When it gets dark, look up and you will see millions of stars; there isn’t any light pollution at the Big Bend so you will be able to see the Milky Way. If you would like to photograph the stars, you will need a tripod with you, and preferably a Mirrorless camera – I have a Sony 7 II its absolutely fantastic!.

To achieve the photos below I set my Sony camera up using the following settings:

– Photo Style: Night Sky

-Shutter Speed “25

-ISO 4000

-I have a 14mm 2.8 Stigma Lens so I was able to put the F stops right down to 2.8, if you have other lenses just put it to the lowest F stop possible (usually F4.5)

Point the camera up at the sky, on the tripod and take the photo! You might have to adjust the settings depending on the outcome. Please comment below if you have any other photography questions.

Before you leave, don’t forget to take a visit to Talingua Ghost Town

Driving through the local Ghost Town is a very unique experience, lots of old fallen down derelict buildings contrasting with new buildings, and residence staying in teepees, cool RVs and some of the old buildings! If you fancy eating there, we ate at Starlight Restaurant and Saloon www.thestarlighttheatre.com it has a calming atmosphere tables with candle light and warming décor. We were there on a Thursday evening, as the sunset, with live music playing – it felt as though we were somewhere else intown! Our food was absolutely perfect, probably the best meal we have had yet! Highly recommended.

Final Words

The Big Bend is a must on your to do list while visiting Texas, its suitable for all ages/abilities and is rated one of the top place to go to escape every day life. The vast contrast between mountain, desert, and river will dazel you, the bendy roads will excite you and the nature will amaze you. If you are one of them that are able to trek miles to the top of mountains, the views will be out of this world.

If you are going to the Big Bend or have been and want to add please comment below.

 

 

 

How to Find the Perfect Ranch in Bandera Texas

While in San Antonio we found out that a close by town called Bandera was the “Cowboy Capital of The World” and at last minute decided that we had to go! We struggled finding somewhere that would take an RV, and emailed the Visitors Center. (Email director@banderacowboycapital.com) They were extremely helpful, and kindly emailed back with a list of a few good local ranches. We looked through them all, and of them was Twin Elm Ranch which luckily takes RVs (also has other accommodation so anyone can stay) After looking at their website we booked up straight away, as they looked absolutely AMAZING!

http://www.twinelmranch.com

A Typical Day at Twin Elm Ranch in Bandera

A typical day at a Ranch is totally up to you, there are a number of activities you can book, one of which is a 1 hour horse ride with the Wrangler through the forest and river. This is for Adults and children aged 6 and up, so we opted for pony rides for both of ours so Maisie aged 4 didn’t feel left out.

“There are many activities to enjoy here at the Twin Elm Ranch, from horseback riding to evening campfires and hayrides.. you are sure to have fun filled days without the stress of your typical daily life.  Take a cool dip in the swimming pool, play volleyball, horseshoes or basketball.  Hike the trails looking for arrowheads or spot wild life.  Maybe even a nice stroll to the river to dip your toes! We also have a game room for your enjoyment equipped with a pool table, ping pong and air hockey.  Relax on the couch and read a book, play a board game or watch your favorite cable TV show.  Fun for the whole familyTwin Elm Ranch

http://www.twinelmranch.com/activities.html

We only spent 24hours here, so we didn’t get to do all of the amazing things that they had to offer.

Our experience at Twin Elm Ranch

We arrived at Twin Elm Ranch mid day hooked up our RV, and took a short stroll to the horse stables. Ellie and Maisie has a pony ride booked for 1pm, and were all dressed up in cowboy hats ready to go. We had a friendly welcome from the Ranch Wranglers Nancy And Shirley, taking both the girls by the hands leading them to their horses. Both of them had help onto their horses, and were taught how ride…in just 10 mins both girls had control of them! Absolutely amazing how much children can learn in such a short space of time. All the horses were extremely well behaved, calm and friendly, and we had a lot of trust in them. We enjoyed the experience so much we booked another horse ride later in the day.

The Ranch has a calming effect, and extremely peaceful. We all felt part of the family straight away, everyone is so friendly and welcoming! We could of stayed forever!

We took a stroll after lunch, and was lucky enough to watch a horse being re-shoed by the local Farrier. He had his own mobile workshop built into van that he drove around all the local ranches. Ellie and Maisie were both fascinated and made sure they asked many questions!

Later in the day we walked back to the horse stables, the sun was setting, the light was casting over the horses- perfect opportunity for photos! Again the girls had an amazing horse ride and loved every minute.

We booked a campfire for the evening, which was worth every penny! And highly recommend that you book one if you stay at Twin Elm Ranch.

Is it worth booking a campfire at Twin Elm Ranch?

Absolutely! Twin Elm Ranch have an option of booking a camp fire- this MUST be on your to do list! We arrived at the campfire at 7pm, the logs were burning and we were greeted with a warm smile. Others join you at the campfire, so you get to make new friends and talk about your day. We had s’mores, listened to the guitar playing before being invited to try lasso throwing!

We all spent the rest of the evening being taught how to throw a lasso on a metal bull- we had so much fun!

Is it noisy at a Dude Ranch at night?

Twin Elm Ranch is probably the quietest RV stay we have ever had! Not a pin drop, or a dog bark, or a horse neeeey! Absolutely perfect! Most peaceful night yet….and a wonderfully magical morning watching the sunrise in this calm tranquil ranch.

Would you stay at a Dude Ranch again?

YES YES YES! We have a special space in our hearts for ranch life now, and could easily stay somewhere like Twin Elm Ranch forever….The most memorable experience on our whole trip yet!

We would highly recommend a Dude Ranch experience, if you like to get involved, find out about new cultures and different ways in which people live this is a must. Our whole family was welcomed with open arms at Twin Elm Ranch, And we thank each and everyone of them for an experience of a life time!

We will never forget our 24hours at Twin Elm Ranch, Bandera Texas

http://www.twinelmranch.com

810 FM 470, Bandera, Texas 78003

P. O. Box 117, Bandera, Tx 78003

Ranch: 830-796-3628    

twinelmranch@hotmail.com

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