HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 5 – Tomb of the Eagles

We started off Day 5 of our Compass Buster tour with a wee walk and a visit to the Duncansby Stacks. Then it was time to get to the ferry terminal and head for the Orkney Islands!

The Orkney Islands are a group of 70 islands to the north of mainland Scotland. Orkney has its own distinctive culture and tradition – being influenced both by Scotland and by its Norwegian settlers during the 8th and 9th centuries. Although many of its islands are uninhabited now, there is evidence that people have lived on some of these islands since 5000BC. The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of Maes Howe, the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and other burial and ceremonial sites in the area. All of these provide a fascinating glimpse into life during the Neolithic era. We would be visiting some of these sites during our visit to Orkney – more on these in our upcoming blog posts! But for now…

We were enjoying a sunny crossing across the Pentland Firth from mainland Scotland to the Orkney Islands. The ferry crossing gives you plenty of time to enjoy the passing scenery and to try spotting some wildlife. (We were told there are always sea birds and sometimes seal and whale sightings – although we didn’t see any on our crossing today.)

As we sailed across the Pentland Firth, we were able to spot the island of Stroma in the distance. We learned that this island is sadly no longer inhabited, with the last of its residents leaving in 1962. You can still see abandoned houses and crofts, although some have lost their roofs and are ruins now. The island is still inhabited by sheep and some cattle – set out there to graze by the island’s current owner.

At the northern tip of Stroma stands its lighthouse, which is now completely automated. It was built to alert boaters of the most dangerous whirlpool, the ‘Swilkie’, in the Pentland Firth.

Although we didn’t spot any seals or whales, I did spot lots of interesting rock formations… (What a nerd! Haha!)

Almost vaguely reminds me of the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway…

On the ferry ride, we heard a little bit about the role that the Orkney islands played during WWII. We could see evidence of this in the gun batteries and defences as we approached our destination.

After we got off the ferry, it was off to the Tomb of the Eagles for a bit of a history lesson and a good hike!

The Tomb of the Eagles is a very popular and family friendly attraction located on the island of South Ronaldsay. This historic site was discovered by a local farmer, Ronnie Simison. In 1958, he noticed some stones that looked a bit… out of place on his farmland. Intrigued, he began digging near the drystone wall. He discovered “a cache of beautiful polished artefacts – a mace head, three stone axe heads, a black ‘button’ and a small Chert knife”. After more digging, Ronnie then discovered some 30 human skulls in a stone chamber. This site was later confirmed to be a Neolithic tomb, which dates all the way back to 5000BC! Along with human bones, the bones and talons of sea-eagles were also discovered on this site. Thus giving it the name – “Tomb of the Eagles”.

Entrance to the Tomb of the Eagles was already included with our Compass Buster tour price. If you are visiting on your own, you can find the admission fee and all the other details here.

Before heading out to the actual tomb, we got a history and archaeology lesson on a guided tour through the Visitor Centre. We won’t spoil this visit for you but we will say that there were lots of fascinating 5000 year old artifacts that we got to see and touch!

After the tour, we headed outside. It was a bit muddy but we had the beautiful sunshine with us on our 1-mile long cliff-top walk to the actual tomb.


Before reaching the tomb, we stopped to look at the Bronze Age site. This site, a little bit inland from the Tomb of Eagles, is believed to be about 3000 years old. This site here consists of stone trough, water system and hearth. We don’t yet know for certain what this was used for. There are some suggestions that this was used for cooking or perhaps a sauna, with the hearth heating the water.

After this short stop, we continued on our way to the Tomb of the Eagles.

Just this cliff-top walk alone is well worth a visit! What a view!

We were lucky to have visited on a sunny day. I imagine it would be completely different on a windy, blustery Orkney day!

As we were hiking, I spotted this little guy, which looks to be perhaps an inuksuk. The inuksuk is a bit of an unofficial symbol of Canada, so it was really special and cool to find it here in Orkney, Scotland.

Inukshuk, the singular of inuksuit, means “in the likeness of a human” in the Inuit language. They are monuments made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival. The traditional meaning of the inukshuk is “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path.” – Inukshuk Gallery

Inuksuit can be found across the Canadian arctic, as well as Alaska and Greenland. Besides these areas, many monuments and statues in this likeness have been built all over Canada. We also have a well-known inuksuk monument in Vancouver, as well as another famous one in Whistler – created for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Although its use as a symbol of the 2010 Olympics was a bit controversial, I believe it brings forth a message of friendship and welcome.

I’m not sure whether someone had built this to be an Inuksuk intentionally or whether they just happened to build a human figure out of rocks, but I like to think we have a little bit of a connection to it!

In between photo stops, we continued on our way towards the Tomb, following our guide – Andy.

There is always time for a gazing photo!


Finally, we arrived at the Tomb. The space inside the Tomb is small, so we had to take turns going in. It has a rather unique way of entering!

There is a wooden trolley/board on wheels, which you lie on. And using the rope, you are able to pull yourself into or out of the Tomb.

Once inside the tomb, you can see chambers and shelves that was once built to hold a variety of human bones and skulls.

In addition to human bones, the remains of at least 8 sea-eagles were also discovered inside the tomb. It is still not clear what the significance of the sea-eagles was. And were these sea-eagles placed into the tomb by the original builders or were they added over the years? We may never find out, but that adds to the mystery of this tomb.

It was fascinating to see something that was built over 5000 years ago and is still standing today. You really have to admire what these Neolithic people were able to do with the knowledge, materials and resources they had in the New Stone Age. After a couple of minutes inside the Tomb, we headed back out to the sunshine to enjoy the view some more.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the bus. The cliff top walk back to the bus was just as beautiful as our walk out – perhaps even more so with the setting sun as our backdrop!

Before we left the Tomb of the Eagles, I think pretty much everyone in our group bought a little cup of Orkney ice cream from the gift shop to try. Creamy, rich and delicious – it was the perfect post-exploration snack!

After a really interesting visit to the Tomb of the Eagles and the scenic, cliff top hike around the area, we drove towards the sunset!

And what a gorgeous sunset it was!

But our day wasn’t finished just yet! There were two more stops before we headed to our hostel. More on Day 5 to come in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 5 – Duncansby Head and John O’Groats

After a really fun night out in Inverness, we had an early start on Day 5 of our Compass Buster tour.  We also had some goodbyes to say before we left Inverness 😢

Day 5 meant the splitting of our group. Some of our group mates were only doing a 5 day tour, so they were heading back to Edinburgh today, while we continued on our 10 day tour with a new group and our new tour guide – Andy. It’s funny how much you get to know someone when you’re travelling and adventuring with them and spending time together pretty much 24/7. This was especially true for our friend V, because we had done our 7 day Shamrocker tour with her as well, prior to this tour of Scotland. Lots of photographs, inside jokes and memories with this one! Since NZ is on our bucket list, we’ll have to drop in on V and ask her to be our personal tour guide for our visit! And of course – we can’t wait to play tour guide to V when she comes to visit us in Vancouver – we’ll be sure to include lots of opportunities for adventures, exploring and gazing! 😋

After saying our goodbyes, we loaded our bags onto a new bus – gasp! We are such creatures of habit. 😅 We had only spent 4 days on our first bus and we had already gotten so used to our seats, our view and everything. It was a bit strange getting onto a new bus and finding new seats!

After we were all settled, we headed out of Inverness.

Heading out early does have its perks! We caught a beautiful sunrise – one that made Andy pull over to the side of the road so we could all pile out of the bus and admire it.

It just made me breathe and want to stay in that moment forever.

After a peaceful moment of admiring the sunrise, we were back on the road watching the scenery fly past us. Who knew there were picturesque fields like these in Scotland!?

Eventually we reached the northernmost area of the Scottish and British mainland – the area around John O’Groats.

John O’Groats is considered to be the most north-easterly inhabited point on the British mainland. It is also famous for being part of the Land’s End to John O’Groats journey. Many people will make these “End to End” Journeys – traversing the UK mainland, from the most south-westerly point of Land’s End in Cornwall to this most north-easterly point of John O’Groats.

Instead of stopping at John O’Groats, we continued a couple more kilometers north to our first scheduled stop of the day – Duncansby Head.

Hopping out of the bus, it was nice to stretch our legs with a wee walk. This was one of the many walks that we would go on with Andy. Although this was a short walk, we had plenty of time to explore and take photographs.

Duncansby Head is marked by its lighthouse, which was built in 1924.

Walking past the lighthouse, we headed towards the Duncansby Stacks.

The journey to our destination was almost as beautiful as the Stacks themselves – tranquil yet wild.

You might be wondering… stacks of what?! The Stacks of Duncansby are actually sea stacks – coastal geological landforms that are shaped by the processes of erosion.

Check out the gorgeous scenery – it almost doesn’t look real! Plus, it seemed like this beautiful area is still a little bit off the beaten path and there weren’t throngs of tourists crowding around. We had this beautiful view pretty much all to ourselves!

Geology and landscapes fascinate me! It’s amazing to think about the forces of nature, the power and the time that it took to shape this coastline. I’m no geologist, but a quick google search tells me that crashing waves power their way through the headlands – first creating small cracks, then bigger caves, then all the way through the rock and creating arches. With further erosion by water and by wind, the arch can collapse into the sea, leaving behind these spectacular columns or stacks. Take a look at the next photograph – can you spot the little arch that is beginning to form? (It’s towards the middle of the photograph.) It will be interesting to see if this turns into the another Stack of Duncansby in the years to come!

Duncansby Head also has one other claim to fame. Remember the Land’s End to John O’Groats journey we were talking about earlier? Well, some people actually consider Duncansby Head to be “the end of the road” since it is a couple kilometers down the road past John O’Groats. Thus, technically making it the furthest location by road from Land’s End in Cornwall. So how do you decide where to stop at, on the end of your “End to End” journey?

To make it more simple, we recommend stopping at Duncansby Head for a wee walk to see the sea stacks and also stopping at the village of John O’Groats to take a photograph with this iconic sign post.

We might have to return to John O’Groats and make the journey to Land’s End to take a photograph with the corresponding sign post there! It’s only… 874 miles…

After our photographs with the iconic sign post, we wandered down to the harbour. We caught sight of the restored Inn at John O’Groats.

I love the splashes of colour on those buildings!

And just in case you forget where you are, there is a little reminder down by the harbour.

I didn’t know the stacks had names, or I would’ve addressed them accordingly when we were visiting them!

After exploring the harbour, we popped into some of the shops and had a poke around. I picked up one of my favourite souvenirs of this trip here! It’s a little book called “The Wit and Wisdom of Highland Cows“. And let me tell you – they are very wise indeed! Highly recommended for a bit of thinking and a chuckle 😋

Eventually, it was time to head to the ferry terminal. We, and our yellow bus, boarded the ferry and set sail for the Orkney Islands! Stay tuned for our Orcadian adventures in our next few blog posts! There’ll be more wee walks, epic scenery, history, archaeology and, of course, exploring and adventures!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 – Exploring the West Highlands and Inverness 

After a visit to one of Scotland’s most iconic castles, we were off to do some exploring in the great outdoors!

You have not visited Scotland properly until you have gone on an adventure through its wilderness!

Our first stop would be a view point overlooking Loch Carron. The views from the lookout were impressive to say the least!

The Loch itself is on the west coast of Ross and Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands. It is the point at which the River Carron enters the North Atlantic Ocean.

As you can see from the information board above the lake is surrounded by various peaks and even on a cloudy day is pretty spectacular.

After taking several gorgeous photographs, we were back on our bus headed off to our next stop.

This next stop would combine adventures and exploring with a wee ramble through the woods!

This is Rogie Falls!

We read that this is a popular salmon river – great for catching a glimpse of salmon leaping upstream to their birthplaces to spawn.

As you can see in this next photograph, a salmon ladder was created on the right hand side to aid the fish in going upstream!

In order to cross the river, we had to go over the suspension bridge pictured below!

The bridge is actually a great spot to take some epic pictures of the river and the falls below!

After crossing the bridge, Greg took us to another spot where we could take some good pictures and view the falls – and try to spot some salmon!

Below is a picture of the super tiny “bridge” that we would have to cross to get to that point.

I myself couldn’t cross it 😞. Vertigo hit and nope😨! I waited for Natalie while she went to explore the other side.  We now realize there were a couple of things that we did on this trip, which we’re pretty sure travel insurance wouldn’t have covered, had any misfortune come our way! Although these were all exciting things, we will have to make sure safety comes first.

Photo taken inadvertently while stepping off the teeny, tiny bridge – perfectly expressing the feeling of crossing said bridge!!!!

After the wee walk, we drove into the town of Beauly for a quick stop and an afternoon snack.

The town of Beauly is centered around the old priory which was founded in the early 13th century. The history of the town is linked with a number of Scottish clans:

“most notably the Lovat Frasers who owned much of the land around the village and had their base at Beaufort Castle. The Chisholms owned much of the land on the north side of the River Beauly and ruled from Erchless Castle while the Mackenzie clan ruled the lands to the North of Beauly.”

Mary Queen of Scots visited Beauly in the 16th century and was said to have said “C’est un beau lieu.” This is one of the more popular explanations for the name of the town.

Beauly Priory was built around 1230 for the monks of the Valilscaulian order. These monks seem to have come from France and settled in this area and two other priories around the same time.

The site was impressive both in architecture and size. Although it is in ruins today, the priory was only a small part of a complex that had a cloister to the south, complete with east and south accommodation and a west range providing the prior’s lodging.

The patron of priory was Sir John Bisset, who would later have his family joined in marriage by the Frasers of Lovat.

If you want to learn more about Beauly Priory’s history, you can do so here.

It was after the Reformation that the priory fell into disuse. It seems that much of the priory had become a quarry at the time, the stones being used for other buildings in construction during the 16th century, hence so many missing pieces.

Currently, Beauly is in care of the State and has been so since 1913. It is being looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

After exploring Beauly Priory’s ruins, we decided to take a turn around the town before heading back to our yellow bus.

We were all getting hungry and craving something sweet so our whole group gathered at a little cafe and delicatessen – Corner in the Square for a snack!

After seeing all the delicious cakes and baked goods, we decided this would be the place for our snack. Natalie decided to get the cheesecake, while I got a plum coffee cake. Honestly, this was probably the best cheesecake we had ever tasted! It was so rich and creamy – it was literally like a cloud. The plum coffee cake was beyond delicious as well and very filling! As a result, we are definitely putting Beauly on our to-return-to list just for this reason!

We didn’t even manage to get a photo of the slice whole – we dug in right away! Hence the half eaten photo…

After our short stop over in Beauly, it was onward to our home for the night in Inverness. We stayed at the Youth Hostel, SYHA, and we were informed by Greg that this would be our last stop with him as we would be getting a new guide and new group in the morning!

As you may recall, this was one of our only issues with this specific tour. Due to the length of our 10 day Compass Buster tour, we were shuffled around to join several other shorter 2, 3 and 5 day tours. In the end, we changed tour guides a grand total of three times – making it feel a bit interrupted and disjointed.

The SYHA itself was a great place to stay with plenty of rooms and close enough to the centre of Inverness so we could go out and explore a bit, as well as buy some food for the next day! It was a bit… institutional (?! if you know what we mean…) and wasn’t as cozy or friendly as some of the other hostels we had stayed at/would stay at later on – but it would do for the night!

If you would like more information about the SYHA or you want to book your stay, you can do so here.

After settling in, we decided to walk into Inverness for some dinner and dancing – bagpipes and crazy cardio dancing included!

We decided to have dinner at Hootananny – A suggestion from Greg! When we arrived, rather early, the place was quite slow and we got a table right away. Little did we know that as the evening wore on, the place would turn completely rambunctious and music and dancing would take over!

Excuse the blurry photos as we were all a bit excited from everything going on around us! At the end of the night, we walked back to the hostel with sore feet, ringing ears, the breeze cooling us down and still talking about this crazy night. It was an amazing night full of live music, some Scottish dancing (or perhaps what we imagined it to be?!) and more than a few entertaining dancers on the floor! We would definitely recommend Hootananny to anyone looking for a fun Scottish night-out experience in Inverness!

Overall, Day 4 was full of surprises and amazing sites. Stay tuned for Day 5 and many more adventures as we venture North towards a pretty special group of islands!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 – The Faerie Pools

We got an early start to Day 4 of our Compass Buster Tour, in an attempt to get to our first stop of the day before the other tourists! 😏

This was one of our favourite stops on the tour!!! We were so excited to actually be visiting this site with its magical name and amazing scenery.

On the drive towards the Pools, we were greeted by the Black Cuillins. The pools are at the foot of the Black Cuillins and make for some amazing photos – as you will see shortly =D.

It wasn’t long before we reached our first stop for the day!

The Pools are located in Glen Brittle on the Isle of Skye and not a very far drive from where we were staying in Portree.

Can you spot our destination?

It is roughly a 2.4km walk – roundtrip to Pools and back! It is not a long walk and neither is it hard to get there. It should only take you about 20 mins or so to reach your destination – depending on how much you stop to admire the scenery and take photographs! 😉 There is a little hill getting down to the gravel walk (which I only remember because I had a hard time climbing back up it on the way back 😥). There are a couple of places where you do have to jump across some streams or use the stepping stones to cross the river, but other than that, it is relatively easy to access this site.

As you walk along the River Brittle, you start to anticipate the magical Pools. It is unclear as to why their colour is so vivid and bright, making them all the more magical!

While walking, you will notice heather and peat alongside the river, adding to the beautiful scenery surrounding the Pools.

The water truly is see-through!

Apparently, there are some brave people who would take a swim in the freezing waters! Seeing as we went at the beginning of October, we were not very inclined to dip our feet in…

As you walk along, you see various waterfalls and arches – another reason some people like to swim here!

Just look at that colour! And it wasn’t even a sunny day.

Once we got to the very highest point, we were in awe of the beautiful waterfall below.

We even got some mandatory gazing pictures 😉.

We highly recommend making a stop here to take in the Fairy Pools, if you are already planning to visit the Isle of Skye. Definitely consider visiting early in the morning, or perhaps at sunset – to see the dramatic Scottish sunset reflected by the fairy pools! For more information on visiting the Fairy Pools, check out this website here.

Even though we didn’t have a gorgeous blue sky day, we still loved the time we spent here and all of the photographs we took! We’ll have to try and come back on a sunny day and take some more photographs. If the fairy pools are this beautiful on a cloudy day, just imagine how gorgeous, shimmery and reflective they would be on a blue-sky day!

After visiting the fairy pools, we were off to visit a very iconic Scottish castle! Can you guess what our next destination is?

Stay tuned for our next post to find out!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 3 – Beachcombing

After meeting some hairy coos and visiting St. Clement’s church to start Day 3 of our Compass Buster Tour, we were off for a wee walk and beachcombing adventure!

Northton would be our next stop with some amazing beach views you wouldn’t expect to see in Scotland.

Our walking route can be found here, for anybody who is looking to explore a different side of Scotland.

We were really excited to be walking through the moors of Harris. The landscape was glorious and as the above website explains, it was created by sand being blown over the peat. It is a rather unique grassland habitat housing many species of birds and beautiful flowers in the summer!

We didn’t get to see any birds but we did catch a glimpse of some wild flowers! The landscape never fails to amaze us. The grandeur of the Scotland hillsides was amazing as expected.

Our ultimate destination at the end of this trail would be the ruins of a medieval chapel on the headland. But before we reached the ruins, we would wander around 3 beautiful beaches.

After exploring Ireland, I shouldn’t have been surprised at seeing amazing beaches yet again. Obviously having endless coastlines means that there are going to be some pretty spectacular beaches to be found!

The first beach we saw featured amazing turquoise waters, similar to what we had seen at Port Stoth beach. We didn’t get a chance to get close to the water here, but Greg assured us there would be more sightseeing ahead.

The second beach we encountered was Traigh na Cleabhaig. Going through another gate we came along and saw this gorgeous view!

If we had more time, we surely would have stayed much longer and explored each and every beach! But time was limited and we had to walk on.

Along the way, we found more of our hairy coo friends! 🐮 We always get excited when we see Hairy Coo and this was not an exception 😋.

Finally, we reached our destination. The beach at Northton.

Once we reached this third beach, we all sat down to eat our picnic lunch. Before we set out at the start of today, we had stopped and grabbed a quick lunch so we were all well equipped to enjoy the scenery before us!

More than one of our tour mates will recall “The notorious beach incident of 2015.” HA! We won’t relive it here but, let’s just say that the guys and the gals got different views of the beach while eating lunch. Hahaha! This misunderstanding was cleared up in the end and we all had a good laugh over it! Definitely good times!

Below was our view of the beach!

After finishing our lunch we started our hike up to the Rubh’ an Teampuill headland and the Medieval Chapel there.

The Chapel was built on a prehistoric settlement mound and dates back to the 15th century

There is an eroding prehistoric settlement mound, which produced evidence from the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Beaker, and Bronze Age periods. A little further along the shore, on the headland of Rubh’ an Teampuill, are the ruins of a small late medieval chapel. A closer look indicates that next to the chapel are the footings of an Iron Age broch, which probably supplied the source of building stone for the chapel. – Visit Outer Hebrides

Apparently there was once even a stone wall surrounding the area! The area also seems to have been inhabited many times during the previous centuries, even perhaps having a broch present at one time. Burials date back almost

9,000 years ! That’s pretty darned amazing!

The chapel has had work done in order to save it from total collapse. This is good news for travellers like ourselves, as we get to experience another ancient part of Scotland’s history.

On the other side of the Chapel, we found a glorious rocky outcropping! It was very epic with the waves crashing against the rocks!

And also a very good spot for some epic pictures with the landscape.

We also made some more animal friends who seemed to enjoy grazing so close to the water.

After exploring the Northton Chapel and its surroundings, Greg led us back to our Yellow Bus and we headed towards Tarbert, the main community on the Isle of Harris, where we would be boarding the ferry to Uig and the Isle of Skye!

When we reached Tarbert, what was the first thing we saw as we drove into the town? HARRIS TWEED, OF COURSE!

We couldn’t wait to get out of the bus and go explore the tweed shops. Harris tweed sold on the Isle of Harris is obviously authentic! This is a brief history of Harris Tweed:

From time immemorial, the inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland have woven a beautiful and intricate cloth the world knows simply as Harris Tweed.

The islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra produce this luxury cloth entirely by hand and have long been known for the excellence of their weaving. However up until the middle of the nineteenth century, their cloth was used only on their crofts or sold at local markets, but in 1846, Lady Dunmore, widow of the landowner of Harris, the Earl of Dunmore, chose to have their clan tartan replicated by Harris weavers in tweed.

The results proved so successful that Lady Dunmore began to devote much time and effort to marketing the tweed to her wealthy friends further afield and as a result of her enthusiastic work, sales and trade of the island cloth were soon established with merchants across the country. – Harris Tweed Authority  

If you want to read a bit more about the background of Harris Tweed, you can do so here and here.

We obviously thought we needed a souvenir (or two) from the Harris Tweed shop! We got ourselves some oh-so-lovely wallets and matching coin purses ❤. We really had to stop ourselves from getting more, but that just means we will have to return again and get many more items to remember Harris by!

Soon after, we headed down to the pier and watched the ferry pull in. We piled onto the ferry and headed towards our lodgings for the night in Portree!

Stay tuned for a look at our first Haggis dinner and more of Portree!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!