Follow a winding road 1000 metres down into a steep valley surrounded by lush vegetation. See the turquoise blue river, steam pouring off her surface as she snakes through the valley floor. Soak yourself in a deliciously warm thermal pool, all to yourself, hanging over the edge of the cliffside while you stare off into the mountain valley. Let the warm waters pound on your back like a massage as they cascade down the mountain. And if you dare, climb into the very heart of the mountain through a black tunnel, torrid water pounding down from every crevice inside her, the hot blood of the mountain. Steam billows so thick you feel it in your lungs. Watch your step along the smooth rocks as you walk along them from ankle deep to neck deep water. At the end of the tunnel, in the mountains heart, sit and breath her in, feel her heat wrap you in a blanket. It’s impossible to tear yourself away; it’s like being back in the womb, the sounds, the comfort, the warmth, the peace you feel. But you must. The rest of the mountain is calling you. Dare to run through the blast of icy cascades pounding from the mountain top, the very mouth of the mountain. Pass through the frigid wall and reach the inside of the cavernous mouth, a warm reprieve, waste deep, with tiny smooth round tastebuds, pebbles on the floor, to massage your feet. Stare in awe at the stalactites, the strange smoothened figures on the walls and cavern ceiling, like grotesque teeth from thousands of years of dripping that warm, mineral rich water. And in the centre, a battering blast of hot water beckons you, dares you to try to withstand the power as the tongue of the mountain pounds on your back and pushes you down into the warm depths. Steamy breath gushes from her mouth out into the valley in clouds. Continue reading
With our upcoming plans of trekking the Himalaya’s in Nepal, we needed to get a trek or two under our belts. There were plenty of hikes online with pricey tour companies, but we didn’t want to have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to walk with us, we were quite capable of that, thanks! After digging around some more we found there was a company in town that helped coordinate treks through the Sierra Juarez mountains and the Pueblos Mancomunados (united villages) for a fair price. The best part was the money went directly to the guides who lived in each of the villages so your money was actually making it to the villages. What made these villages united was that they pooled resources to help each other out, and 6 of the 8 communities came together and created the ecotourism programs that helps sustain the villages today.
And so, on the first day of the new year, I awoke at 6am after not really sleeping at all (thanks anxiety!), caught a cab to the second class bus station and hopped in a collectivo van headed for the village of Cuajimaloyas, resting at a mighty 3100 meters above sea level. Continue reading
Day 19: Monday December 7, 2015
How sweet is the day when one sleeps until nearly 8am! I rejoiced when I looked at my phone to see the time. It was stifling hot when I went to bed last night and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but sleep I did! I awoke with the predawn glow at 5:30 with a full bladder, and it being semi-light out, wasn’t terrified to make the trip to the bathroom. I lazed about in the tent after Rug got up, enjoying the coolness of the day and starfishing a while. Our adventure (and what an adventure it would be!) for the day wasn’t until 4pm so I had all day to do as I pleased. I went to the lounge to do a little internetting and then Rug and I decided to order breakfast as it was only $5. After living on camp fare for so long, a little break now and then was needed. And let me tell you – the home bread was absolutely to die for! Continue reading
Day 16: Friday, December 4, 2015
Sleeping in until 7:30 was absolutely glorious and much needed after so many days of rising at dawn. Today was mostly a driving day as we had another 450km of road to cover to pass through the whole Caprivi strip to our next camp – Mazambala, near the border of Zambia and as close to Victoria falls as we would get, unfortunately. Next time… because we absolutely know there will be a next time! The rains came again and joined us for much of our drive, this time accompanied by massive rakes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.
Mazambala was situated on the Okavango river, surrounded by marshlands. The camp is actually on an island on the river, but because the rains were only just starting, it was still connected to land. The campsites were 2km away from the lodge on the ‘mainland’, but we could take a boat over to the lodge whenever we wanted. We drove over to check in and check the place out and book a game drive for the following day. This was the part of the country where we were hoping to see hippos, crocs and water buffalo. After setting up camp, as night fell, the warning from the lodge host ruminated in my head: “Don’t stray far from your camp, the hippos will be about, you’ll likely hear them.” Continue reading
Day 14: Wednesday, December 12, 2015
5:30am came in the blink of an eye. I ripped out my ear plugs, shot up in bed and smacked Rug.
“Lions”, I said.
We sat stock still for a moment and listened as their raucous roars filled the quiet morning. No other words were spoken as we grabbed our knife (the security of this water hole was questionable at best in our minds!), head lamps and cameras and marched to the waterhole. In the distance, two male lions and two females could be seen. The smaller male was off and to the left, alone, clearly not welcome to enjoy the feminine joys of the other male lions domain. The big male stretched and roared and sniffed at the females, nuzzling their heads. They each slowly rose from the ground where they lay and lethargically made their way to the waterhole. The predawn light was dull and muted so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures. Instead I just sat and watched them interact among each other and listened to those frightening roars that had kept me awake all the night before. When they all began to move off back into the bush, we set out back for our camp and packed up quickly and hit the road to see what else sunrise had brought with it as we made our way towards our next and last camp. Continue reading
Day 7: Wednesday, November 25th 2015
I had the most terrible time falling asleep last night. I just couldn’t quiet my mind. I was excited about my sudden change of plans to stay another ten days in Namibia and I was crazy excited for our sunrise adventure in just a few hours. Finally, around 1am I drifted off only to awaken an hour later needing to pee. The moon was so full and bright, I didn’t even need my head lamp as I trudged half asleep across the dirt road to the bathroom. I fell back asleep quickly, but 445am came all too soon. Up we rose and within 20 minutes we had the tent all packed up, were dressed, made bathroom stops and boom – we were on the road! I was impressed with our efficiency – we were getting damn good at packing up camp in a hurry! We were third in line to get to the gate and only had to wait for five minutes before they opened it and let us through. You could feel the excitement rippling through the line of vehicles waiting, it was like the line to get in to Disney World or something; I didn’t know people could collectively muster that much excitement at 5am! Rug and I blasted Macklemore’s Downtown to get us even more pumped up.
I would have loved to have gone a half hour earlier to get the full effect of sunrise, to be able to enjoy the vast array of colours as the sky shed her sapphire night gown and donned her flushed violet, copper and periwinkle ensemble. But alas, they don’t open the gates quite early enough so as to limit driving in the dark to protect the wildlife. The drive only took a half hour this time as we were following the other cars who were most definitely not obeying the speed limit! And so by the time we reached dune 45, most of the pre dawn stunning sunrise colours had already played out. But we could still at least catch the sun itself as it crested the dunes if we scrambled up this dune fast enough. Continue reading
Day 1: Thursday November 19th, 2015
Well, it was a blasted long 30 hour journey with another sleepless night in another airport, but I at last have touched down in the Motherland. Africa. Windhoek, Namibia to be exact. Since I was a little girl I can recall feeling the desire to one day visit Africa. I have no idea where it started or what fuelled it, but it’s only grown stronger and stronger as I grew older and older. When I decided to travel around the world, I knew without a doubt that I would find myself in Africa. Ten months into my journey and I am finally here. I don’t know what it is about Africa that has always called to me. But, being a desperate lover of nature, the vast expanse of her epic wilderness no doubt beckoned me more than anything. And the unknown, the mysterious, this land so drastically different in every way from my own. I suppose I’ve always been pulled to that which I do not know, the enigmatic and exciting. To say this is a big one on my bucket list just doesn’t do it justice. It feels like a satiating of my very soul – not just food for my soul, but life for my soul. And now at last, I am finally on those strange and extraordinary soils of Africa. Continue reading
Petra was the main reason I wanted to visit Jordan, but I had met a Jose, a Puerto Rican, on my flight from South America to Europe and he highly recommended checking out Wadi Rum in the south of the country. Only having a few short days, we decided on two days with Petra, two days in Wadi Rum and our last day a stop at the Dead Sea while on our way to the airport. Jose, my friend, I cannot thank you enough for your recommendation because Wadi Rum was the absolute highlight of my short time in Jordan. There are few places in the world as breathtaking as The Valley of the Moon.
We left our Bedouin camp outside Little Petra in the early morning, a taxi arranged for us by the camp. The morning was a little frustrating as I found out later in the taxi that we had been brutally mislead about the cost of our back tour into Petra and what was supposed to be a shared taxi was now a private, much more expensive taxi. We were easily out over $100 each. The only unfortunate thing we discovered about Jordan is that sadly people will rip you off unabashedly left, right and centre. If traveling to Jordan, I can’t urge you enough to rent your own vehicle, especially if tight on time, as taxi rates are exorbitant and bus schedules intermittent and unreliable. And if you’re arranging any sort of tours or deals with local people, ensure you settle the price and pay up front so there is no confusion. It really put a sour note on my time in Jordan and made me feel quite bitter towards how the people were conniving and ripping us off so badly. But our journey into Wadi Rum all but made up for that and let me leave Jordan with warmth in my heart.
I left the enchanting city of Edinburgh to escape into the Northwestern side of Scotland and venture into the Isle’s, the area of Scotland that I was excited to see most. I had a Pinterest board filled with images from this fabled land and couldn’t wait to explore it for myself at long last! I spent most of the day on a bus, traveling straight North to Inverness where I transfered and took another bus along the edge of Loch Ness. I kept my eyes peeled out the bus windows, just in case I caught sight of the ever elusive and mythical Loch Ness monster! (Just in case you were unaware… loch simply means lake, and there are loads of them in Scotland!). Sadly, the beast never reared her head and I was left to ponder her existence. In the later afternoon I arrived at the Isle of Skye, which is connected to the mainland with one large bridge near the main town Portree, but can also be reached in the south by ferry. Continue reading
I don’t think that words can really capture Igazua falls. Rather than attempt to capture that which cannot be, I figured I would just post a photo essay and urge you to visit this majestic place at some point in your life and travels. It’s one of those places in the world that will humble you, steal your breath and give you peace in return. It’s beautiful. Every fall, every mist, every cascade is a majesty. I was lucky enough to be able to sneak into the Brazilian side without paying (Canadian’s and American’s have to pay a huge fee to get into Brazil, even just to see the falls). Thankfully border patrol was lax that day and bought our story of ‘we got lost!’. You can read about the adventure HERE in Laila’s blog! Continue reading