Tag Archives: adventure

Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Nepal

There’s something about doing a long trek in the mountains, away from modern civilization, doing nothing but walking, eating and sleeping for days on end that relaxes you in a way that nothing else can.  A ‘shower’, consisting of a bucket of hot water in an outdoor cubicle, as the evening draws in and the air rapidly cools feels like a wonderful treat after a day of hard physical exercise.  The mornings so tranquil, the views so consistently spectacular.

The Himalaya are both formidable and beautiful.  To climb to the height we did and then gaze up at the mountains that reached high into the heavens was staggering.  We walked for days and days up steep rocky paths, through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and through the loveliest mountain villages, full of some of the most beautiful people in the world.  When we finally reached the outermost point of our trek and looked up at the mighty Himalayan peaks, it was a truly humbling experience.

 

We decided on the Annapurna base camp trek because it was long enough to get us right up amongst some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in Nepal, but not as long as the entire Annapurna circuit which takes around 3 weeks to complete.

 

We observed the contrast between the lush green valleys and forests with idyllic streams and rickety bridges, and the huge rugged snow capped mountains above us, as we undulated and wound our way through the varied landscape.  We sometimes sang Nepalese songs with our guide to amuse ourselves as we walked, other times we were quiet and alone with our thoughts.

 

A natural rhythm brought peace and harmony to our days.  We woke early to watch the sunrise, then set off for several hours of steady climbing to our first stop for a welcome rest.  We would usually arrive at around sunset at our accommodation for the night, which were lodges with very basic facilities.  We exchanged travel tales with our companions, ate mainly rice and dal, played cards and got very early nights in preparation for the early morning starts.

For me the best part was forgetting where I was.  Wrapped up in many layers and a winter sleeping bag for the chilly nights, it would be difficult to drag myself out of bed when it was barely light outside.  I had this feeling every morning, and without fail, every morning, I would be overcome with happiness when I stepped out of the door.  To be greeted by the fresh mountain air and the sun rising from behind the magnificent peaks was the perfect way to start the day.  Not a trace of sleepiness remained.

 

The October skies were clear, so the cool mornings became blazingly hot days, the sun beating down on us as we walked.  We cooled ourselves down by dipping our feet and hands in the icy streams that flowed down from the mountains.

 

By the time we started our descent back towards civilization we were ready to continue with our journey.  After 10 long days of non stop trekking our feet needed rest, our stomachs craved the variety of the delights available in the restaurants in Pokhara, and we longed for contact with the rest of the world again.  We would recharge with some much appreciated home comforts, before setting off for more Nepali adventures.

There was no end to the active outdoor delights available in this beautiful country, and next on our agenda we would be taking advantage of the modern high adrenaline side of the adventure scene… in the form of a 160 metre bungee jump!  Sublime in a completely different way from the tranquil stillness of our immersion in this magical mountainscape.

 

 

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The Amazon Left Me Wanting More

The main reason I had wanted to travel to South America was the Amazon rainforest.  It had captivated my imagination since I was a child.  To me it was the ultimate destination for an explorer, and it has been in my heart for as long as I can remember.

We travelled by land for hundreds of miles to the city of Manaus in Brazil, the main departure point for visiting the jungle.  As I drifted in and out of sleep on that epic bus journey I became very aware that the air was changing.  As we descended gradually into the Amazon basin I could feel the increase in pressure and humidity, along with a less tangible sense of the mystery of this giant forest.  The anticipation gradually built over the coming days as we arrived in Manaus, booked our tour, and began our journey slowly by boat up the river.

Amazon

 

Despite my dream to visit the Amazon I knew very little about it.  I had images in my mind based on various nature documentaries and things I’d heard, none of which really matched up with my experience.  The upside of this was that there was so much that was absolutely amazing and completely unexpected about my trip into the rainforest.

We swam with pink river dolphins, which were more aggressive than you might imagine such a graceful creature to be.  They have sharp little teeth and weren’t shy about using them.  I politely waded waste deep in the murky water with the strange beautiful creatures, not wanting to appear ungrateful for such a special experience, while they head butted me and tried to bite my legs!  It’s a delightful memory though, and I think I prefer it over a more laid back dolphin encounter!

Pink river dolphin

Pink river dolphin

The spiders we encountered were less delightful.  The tarantula our guide poked at with a stick until it emerged from its hole was everything you’d expect from a giant furry arachnid built for ambushing prey, but it was probably much more frightened of us than we were of it.  I have much worse spider memories from the jungle.

Cruising through the flooded forest on a tiny boat was a magical experience by day.  We left our big boat on the wide part of the river and ventured into the unknown, between the trees through ever narrowing passageways.  By night, however, going deep into the jungle by boat varied between being a thrilling experience and a downright terrifying one!  As the forest grew denser spiders from overhanging branches that had been disturbed by our boat landed on board.  My friend and I grabbed the torch from our guide and frantically checked each other for spiders repeatedly until the torture was over several hours later.

Baby python

Baby python

On other occasions we saw a sloth, pythons and piranhas, all of which were so surreal, like something out of a children’s picture book.  The large boat was our base from which we explored.  We had plenty of time to relax on board and soak up the sights and sounds of the forest.  Our guide told us there were alligators in the water but that it was safe to swim nearby, so without giving it a second thought we all jumped in and had a lovely refreshing dip in the opaque muddy water, trying not to imagine what was beneath the surface.

We thought he was joking when he called to us to get out of the water because there was a caiman close by.  We got out anyway, just in case!  We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it just a few meters away from the other side of our boat.

By far the most unexpected creatures in the Amazon were on board though.  A rather eccentric dutch girl, a fellow traveller, had acquired some new born kittens in Manaus.  They’d been abandoned and left in a cardboard box in the street.  She’d heard them screaming and couldn’t bear to leave them.  So the kittens got the jungle tour too.  They even camped with us the night we slept in hammocks in the forest.

These were some of the more memorable and unexpected highlights of the visit.  However, the rainforest I’d seen in films, books and documentaries eluded me.  All the time it felt like we were on the edge of something.  After days of journeying we only briefly touched upon the ancient primary forest.  For the most part we were in secondary forest with smaller younger trees.

Amazon

 

The Amazon with huge trees and a high leafy canopy containing an abundance of life that I had anticipated for so long was indeed real, but I only caught tantalizing glimpses of it.  It was time to turn around and head back down the river to Manaus.  It had been amazing, and I’d ticked off a lifelong goal, but we knew that there was so much more than the tiny part we’d had the privilege to explore.

The trouble is with travel, and I’m pretty sure ninety nine percent of people reading this would agree, the more places you see, the more places you feel like you need to return to.  Unfortunately I’ve got this burning desire to go absolutely everywhere, so it’s going to be a while before I get round to revisiting the many places that have left me desperately wanting to return.

Amazon sunset

Sunset on the Amazon river

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Deep Turbo – Scuba Diving Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

This dive encapsulated everything I love about scuba diving.  The colours, the weird and wonderful life forms, the otherworldly landscapes, the feeling of freedom and bliss, the clear blue tropical water and sky, and the relaxed joyful boat ride back to land, sunbathing on the roof with my fellow divers, reflecting on what a perfect dive it had been.  We had been so lucky to see nearly ALL of the marine life that can be spotted at Deep Turbo, a dive site off the coast of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia.

The view from Gili Trawangan beach.

The view from Gili Trawangan beach.

I took my PADI Open Water and Advanced qualifications at Blue Marlin Dive on the tiny island.  As a new diver I was pretty much in awe every moment of every dive, however, it was clear to me from the reaction of the instructors that this had been a very special dive indeed.  The timing and conditions were perfect.  A leopard shark and eagle ray emerged from the deep water beneath us and glided gracefully past, slowly enough for us all to stop and just look in amazement.  Then what can only be described as a HERD of bump headed parrot fish swam by.  These guys were huge and there were a LOT of them!  It was a magical, very surreal sight.  We also saw reef sharks, moray eels and countless other smaller fish just carrying on as if we weren’t there staring at them, mesmerized by the beauty of their world.

The whole dive just had a feeling of perfection about it.  It was as if each creature appeared right on cue to capture our attention, then slowly drifted away, leaving us enough time to fully process what we’d seen and enjoy the feeling of weightlessly moving through the crystal clear water before the next amazingly beautiful spectacle came into view.

I don’t want to give you an unrealistic picture of what scuba diving is like, because it definitely isn’t always as peaceful and thoroughly satisfying as this dive was, but it is still one of my favourite activities even when the conditions are less than perfect and the creatures are all hiding away.  It’s so liberating to be able to move effortlessly (once you get the hang of the equipment and provided there isn’t a strong current!) in any direction and explore a hidden world full of unexpected delights.

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The Diverse Amazing Landscapes of South America

I’m sure I’ll write about all of these places at a later date, but for now I just wanted to create a quick mainly visual post about the crazy scenery in South America.  We travelled by land across most of the continent, and I think that’s why it made such an impression on me.  We’d go between desert and sea, mountains and jungle in single bus journeys (very long ones admittedly, but the impact was still incredible).  We saw the distinct striking landscapes from the pictures below emerge and fade into one another seamlessly throughout the day.  Or we’d dose off in a barren wilderness and wake up surrounded by snow.  It was truly amazing.

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni. The world’s largest salt flat, in Bolivia. Fantastic strangely coloured lakes, giant cacti and volcanoes are some of the other natural wonders of this region.

Angel Falls

Angel Falls, Venezuela. Breathtaking scenery. The whole journey to reach the isolated waterfalls was an adventure by tiny plane and then boat into a forgotten land of table top mountains and jungle.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon.  Home to the giant Andean condor.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls.  These magnificent waterfalls are on the border between Argentina and Brazil. Whenever I see waterfalls I love to imagine being in the wilderness thousands of years ago and stumbling upon them for the first time. They are absolutely vast, and the roar of the water is amazing.

Ushuaia

Ushuaia, Argentina. The southernmost city in the world.

Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier, Argentina. Huge blocks of ice break off the end of this gigantic glacier and crash spectacularly into the water as it melts during the summer months.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

I went to Halong Bay in northern Vietnam back in 2006, before I became the more cynical seasoned traveller that I am today.  My experience was one of pure adventure and amazement, and my fresh young eyes perceived the majesty of the world we live in.

It was hot there. Really really hot.  My best friend and I were on an overnight cruise in the bay and we’d dropped anchor amongst the tall limestone karsts that jutted out of the water all around us.  Sleeping in our cabin seemed ludicrous given the temperature, so we stayed out on deck. I’m so glad we did, because it was the most memorable experience of the whole trip.  We were under the stars, sitting on sun loungers, gazing out across the water to one of the islands.  Only the outline was visible, but this made it all the more impressive.  Seeing the giant rocky structure rise from nowhere out of the sea was so mysterious by night. We felt like we were in a film set.  It was too beautiful to be real.

By day we kayaked around the islands.  We came across a tiny little sea cave so we went in to have a look.  We soon retreated when we realised there was someone living in there!  I think he was as surprised to see us as we were to see him!

I was fortunate in my awestruck state of wonder to be blissfully oblivious to the pollution and tourist overcrowding in Halong Bay, although reportedly these problems are much more obvious now.  I’m very grateful that I was able to experience the true timeless magnificence of this place of ancient legend and mystery.  These glimpses of natural paradises are still available to us amidst the mayhem of popular tourist spots if we’re open to the experience.

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Inspiration

Feeling stuck writing this and that is perfect.  Because that is exactly what this blog is for.  I am breaking through my ‘stuck’ ness by doing what I always do and getting inspired, but this time I am going to document my inspiration so that it doesn’t slip away from me so quickly; then I can share it with you too and we can get inspired together!  Provided you are inspired by stunning scenery, stories of travel and adventure and embracing freedom to explore the diversity of life on this beautiful crazy planet; along with the equally important inner journey from fear and doubt to self-confidence and joy.

Why is inspiration important?

Obviously it’s exciting and enjoyable to look at pictures of exotic places we’ve not yet visited, things we REALLY want to buy/make, and learn about people that are doing amazing things that we aspire to do; but I also believe that in conjunction with appropriate action they can be really useful activities too.

I almost always feel like I have more energy to take action towards my goals when I am feeling inspired.  Sometimes I feel as if there just isn’t a way forward, then in a matter of minutes I will find a solution to whatever the problem was, and all it took was a bit of inspiration.  When I remember WHY I do what I do and I experience the feeling of being inspired, suddenly tasks that seemed arduous and boring become almost enjoyable, and I feel like I can do things I previously believed I couldn’t.  I become more efficient, focussed and committed to the path I have chosen.

So join me in my search for inspiration, and let it propel us towards our destination!

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