Thursday, 14 November 2013

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

Today is the day we leave for South America for 12 weeks - my first trip to 
this region and longest trip so far, so very exciting :D

Adios Amigos!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

My Favourite Cultural Experiences

(So far, and in no particular order)

Watching Buddha's Birthday parade in Georgetown, Penang

While having drinks in a bar in Georgetown, on my first ever backpacking
 trip, suddenly a huge parade complete with models, incense, and music 
went by. I went into the crowd to ask about what the occasion was, and 
discovered that it was Buddha's birthday.

Celebrating Dipawali with new Nepalese friends at their home in Kathmandu

After arriving in Kathmandu during Dipawali (Diwali), we made friends with one of the 
hotel staff. In fact, we still keep in touch now. Dipawali lasts for several days, and our 
new friend Deepak invited us to his home for the Brothers and Sisters day of Dipawali.

Going to a music and culture festival in Bakoteh village, The Gambia

This was an event organised by a Gambian man from the village who had moved to 
Sweden, where he was in the music business. He had returned to his village to put on
this festival for the people there, and to also make a film about it in order to promote 
knowledge and understanding of Gambian culture. The festival was an interesting blend 
of modern and traditional music, and traditional dancing and other cultural practices.

Getting traditional Tajik clothes made at the market in Dushanbe

While living in Dushanbe for part of my last job role, I really admired the traditional ladies' 
clothing. After asking around, we realised that the ladies buy the fabric from the markets, 
and then have the garments made up at local tailors. We decided go on a trip with one of our 
in-country counterparts to buy fabric from the market and then get measured up for 
traditional clothes at the tailors. We were so happy with the results that we even 
went back for more later on!

Being taught how to knot carpets in Tunisia

While exploring a souk in Tunisia, we came across a really interesting carpet shop with a 
lady demonstrating techniques outside. There weren't many tourists about, so I was able 
to sit with her for a while as she showed me how to tie the knots for making the carpet.

Driving a tuk-tuk in Kandy, Sri Lanka

While walking through Kandy we met a tuk-tuk driver. We didn't need a ride at that time, 
but we arranged to meet him the next day for a trip out of town to see the nearby area. 
He was a fantastic host, and took us to several places that we had not known about at 
no extra cost. We bought him lunch, and he gave us driving lessons in his tuk-tuk!

Monday, 4 November 2013

An Unexpected Weekend Away

Looking through my photos, I was reminded of an unexpected invitation to go to north Devon back in July, with my old TA unit who were having an Adventure Training weekend. This weekend was the week before I injured myself in a fall, which I wrote about here. Of course I jumped at this chance, and once I'd figured out how to fit a mountain bike plus all the rest of my kit into the back of a tiny Toyota Aygo (no mean feat!) I was off!

We each got to do 2 activities, and I did mountain biking - good preparation for the upcoming South Downs Way trip - followed by coasteering - which I hadn't done in a long time.

The mountain biking started well, following pretty difficult paths with lots of rocks and drops to negotiate. There were also some really steep uphills to test the use of gears, not to mention endurance! The road ride to return to the start point ready to switch activities also seemed to include some of the longest hills in Devon - for one stretch we had 3km of uphill with no respite from the incline at all. A real leg killer, we were so relieved to reach the top after what seemed like hours of pedalling. The next 7km were all either downhill or on the flat, and whizzed by in about 10 or 15 minutes, making a real mockery of the uphill struggle. (Sadly there were no photos from the mountain biking, as the only points where we stopped I was too busy either taking on fluids or energy sweets - or just trying to breathe...)

Coasteering (with guides from Active Escape) was fantastic. The weather was glorious and sunny, which really took the edge off the cold sea, and after hours of hard work on the bikes it was nice to let the sea take the weight off for a while. The swimming also balanced out the leg aches by adding a good arm work-out into the mix. I'm pretty nervous about jumping from a height, but love the feeling of overcoming the nerves and getting braver with each jump. And luckily the guides had a waterproof camera with them to capture a few action shots, to jog my failing memory!