Why have adventures?

What is an adventure and why have one?

I once applied to walk the last 80 miles to the South Pole to finish Ernest Shackleton’s quest to reach it, I did not get the go ahead and in hindsight quite possibly would not have been fit enough at the time anyway, so right decision.

I did, however get to meet some of Shackleton’s family and Henry Worsley who embarked on the Shackleton Centenary Expedition and was lucky enough to get invited to some of their talks after their South Pole Expedition to get to the pole.

At one of their talks they asked the question “This is our Antarctica, what’s yours?”

I remember sitting there and thinking I HAVE to get to Antarctica one way or another, I could not afford to get to the South Pole (which costs around £20,000+) or indeed the North Pole in the Arctic.

Instead I opted for a trip to Patagonia of trekking and camping with some ice trekking then I would head off to Ushuaia, the most Southern city in the World and cross the Beagle channel out on a small ship, the M/S expedition (its predecessor the M/S Explorer sank in 2007) and cross the Antarctic Circle.

This we did at 66′ 33′ S after enduring the dreaded Drakes passage and the wrath of Cape Horn before setting foot and exploring the Peninsula of the Antarctic, it remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the privilege to get to.

That was my Antarctica.

However, it must be said that anything can be an ‘Antarctica’ in the sense that the Shackleton’s and Worsley were talking about, an adventure does not have to be in a far-flung place, it can be anywhere on the planet, including your own doorstep, it is a personal experience and it is what you make it.

When I was a student in Cheltenham, the millennium was about to descend and having not met any of the neighbours I decided to have an impromptu street party, so posted flyers through doors, then set about borrowing tables and chairs, setting up banners and bunting with food and drink.

It was a risk, I had no idea whether anyone would come, surely most people had plans….still I continued putting up more decorations and then wired up my CD player and started to play saxophone with some backing tracks.

People did come, much to my relief and not only that they came with bottles of booze including Rum a firm favourite of mine, so I was all the more delighted to welcome them all.

One lady walked up to me, she was in her mid 50’s and had a walking stick as well as being assisted by another lady (her sister) and she asked if I was the organiser then said to me “This is a great adventure”

Singapore – A Pearl in the Ocean

Singapore was a little gem that I had a taster of back in 1989 with my Mother and a group of travelling companions who we met back in Egypt – sadly I lost the batch of photos that I took.

To get to Singapore from the UK you can either take a flight from Heathrow airport, Singapore Airlines do direct flights which take around 13 hours, I would opt for this rather than a change over as that just adds to the length of time.

The other way to do it is as a stop over from another destination and we went from Hong Kong to Singapore, then Malaysia Kuala Lumper then on to Thailand, this short piece concentrates on Singapore.

Singapore remains one of my favourite places, it was extremely hot, I remember the air being thick and scented with flowers, the heat hits you as you get off the plane like stepping into a sauna and there is warning nowadays of pollution in the air due to the overcrowding, June to September is best avoided, a better time to go is in May.

One of the first things I also noticed was how clean it was, every street, road, park was free of litter, it looked spotlessly clean and the reason why is that the fines are incredibly high here for dropping litter so nobody does it. Simple.

GMT + 8 Hours’ time difference

Currency – SGD Singapore Dollar

No Visa is required for Singapore from the UK unless you are staying beyond 30 days then you will need to provide one.

Vaccinations for Singapore from the UK include:
Combined Diphtheria, Tetanus & Polio Vaccination – 2 weeks before travel
Hepatitis B Vaccination – 2 months before travel
Tuberculosis (BCG) – 3 months before travel
Typhoid Vaccination – 2 weeks before travel

You cannot go to Singapore without trying the famous drink The Singapore Sling, head to the Raffles Hotel for one 1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673), if you are going to try one anywhere then it should be Raffles, named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and opened in 1887.

Here is the recipe from Raffles menu:
• 30ml Gin
• 15 ml Cherry Brandy
• 120 ml Pineapple Juice
• 15 ml Lime Juice
• 7.5 ml Cointreau
• 7.5 ml Dom Benedictine
• 10 ml Grenadine
• A Dash of Angostura Bitters
• Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry

Places to go

One of the best memories I have of my visit to Singapore is the Gardens by the Bay light and sound show, it is called the Garden Rhapsody and on every evening at 7:45pm when it is dark.
The park itself it beautiful and you can sit with a glass of wine and watch the spectacular coloured light over the water with the sounds of classical music, it will take you away to another place entirely.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

A Harbour of many colours

I went to Copenhagen with two of my best and closest friends, my cousin Cathie and Tracey for a short break of 4 days, perfect to see some of the main sites and get a feel of the city.

Flights from the UK are direct and approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, we flew with British Airways and it was a quick, easy and comfortable flight.

This is a place that I have wanted to visit since I was a child as, like many other people, I was captivated by the magic of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories, The Little Mermaid being one of my favourites, but first lets talk about the city itself.

Getting about

Cycling is huge in Copenhagen, there are more bikes than cars, which makes makes for a healthy environment and the roads are so wide and straight, no potholes, a joy to cycle or drive on, bicycles are so symbolic to Copenhagen that in 1997 when American President Bill Clinton visited the city, he was presented with a City Bike as a gift.

You will see the City Bikes parked up in rows all around the city and if you want to hire one, then get on a bike, go to the touch screen tablet to pay for it via credit card then you can unlock the bike with a code, next select the built in GPS map to tell it where you want to go, yes it will even guide you, these bikes are very high tech. The tablet will even guide you to special tourist attractions in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, once you are finished with the bike you can return it to any bike station or wherever you see them parked up.

To register online it is quicker and will save you some time, although it really is user friendly to just do it by the tablet, here are the details though if you wish to book ahead:

Web Email Phone
www.bycyklen.dk info@bycyklen.dk +45 8988 3910

Rent a bike

Bicycles everywhere!

Public transport in Copenhagen is superb, everything was on time to the second, the train and bus stations were spotlessly clean and there were no barriers or ticket attendants to check the tickets we bought, when I asked a local why no one was checking our tickets he shrugged and simply said “This Copenhagen, it is done on trust”

Although on occasion a ticket may be checked and the fine is very high if you have not paid, this system seems to work extremely well saving time and stress by cutting out those queues at the barriers, it cuts out the chaos.

Copenhagen Central

Tigers, Lions and Jungle cats

Puna leaping!

Although this was not a trip abroad, it was a valuable experience getting up close to large and some very rare cats from around the world and I feel it is worth telling their stories alongside some of the photos I took of these beautiful cats.

Home to over 50 rare cats of the most diverse range in the UK, the Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent was founded in 2000 and is home to some of the most endangered cat species in the World, both small and large cats, including the Amur Leopard with only approximately 45 left in the wild globally and Sumatran Tigers of which there are less than 300 left in the wild.

The BCS aims to breed endangered cats and where possible introduce them back into the wild, it differs from other organisations in that it is not open to the general public, however you can book a photographic experience (which is how I got in). Alternatively you can sign up to become a voluntary ranger for the day or have a safari experience staying in a lodge overnight in the grounds and meeting the cats with a keeper in the day, not to mention hearing the lions roar at night.

If you have any unwanted Christmas trees or bamboo please donate it to the sanctuary, as the Tigers like to walk through the bamboo as it is part of their natural habitat and all of the cats love the smell of Christmas trees.

Each cat has a story from the sanctuary, please read on to get to know these amazing characters and where they have come from.

TAMAIR – THE TIGER

Tamir the Tiger – relaxing

Tamair was born at an Irish circus along with his brothers Genghis and Rocky, and at 5 weeks old came under the care of Peter Sampson who started this cat sanctuary, I have already met Rocky as he is now at the Paradise Wildlife Park, I had a real connection with Rocky, he is a very affectionate Tiger, beautiful.

Tamair is the largest cat at The Big Cat Sanctuary and although he is now old with arthritis and dental problems, he has been very good natured to litters of other cubs born on site, he sleeps in front of a heat lamp for comfort but when he feels energised still plays with his boomer ball.

According to the BCS there are now only six sub species of Tiger left in the wild today, this is so very sad, which is why these sanctuarys where big cats are bred and released back into the wild are so important, in fact I would argue that they are now essential to saving these species.

KUSHKA – A HYBRID TIGER

Kushka – A Hybrid Tiger

Kushka – A Hybrid Tiger

EXPLORERS GUIDES (Part 1 How to Travel Safely in Rainforests)

Explorers Guide

Part 1 How to Travel Safely in Rain forests

When embarking on any adventure it is essential to have an awareness of the area you are travelling to and a backup plan in place in case things go wrong, which, more often than not, they can do.

Firstly, where are you going? What type of trip are you taking? What is the weather like there, the terrain, the wildlife to be aware of….. and the list goes on, however it is essential to have some of this knowledge before you embark on such a venture.

Lets look at Rain forests in this piece, the planet is a fascinating place to explore and Rain forests for me personally are the ultimate in looking for insects to photograph, which is one of my passions, however it is very wise to know where you are setting foot, so here are some notes that I hope will help.

Top Tips for visiting Rain forests
This advice is more for hiking through dense forest based on experience; however, I hope it will be valuable as a general guide also.

Monsoon Season – The word monsoon comes from the Arabic language “mausim”, meaning season, always research and find out when the rainy seasons are before you make any firm plans, here is a quick guide to some here:

South American Rain forests – The Amazon has two seasons consisting of the monsoon and the dry, the rainy season runs from December to June and it can rain for short bursts during April and May. The dry season runs from July through to November, there is less rain, although of course showers are still possible, which is why we refer to it as a rain forest.

Central American Rain forests – The Rainy season in Costa Rica runs from May through to November/December while the Dry season runs from December through to April. The hotter sunshiny months are from March to May and the cooler months of the year are from November through to January.

South East Asia – The Rain forests of Southeast Asian have four different seasons consisting of the winter northeast monsoon, the summer southwest monsoon and two inter monsoon seasons. The Northeast monsoon season runs from November to March with steady winds from the North and Northeast that blow from 10 to 30 knots. These winds originate all the way from Siberia creating severe weather such as Typhoons which are the Southern Hemisphere’s version of Hurricanes. The East coasts of the Southeast Asian islands get very heavy rainstorms during this time and the Southwest monsoon season is from late May to September where the winds do not blow as hard and the weather is a little drier. The seasons are continuously hot and humid with very little seasonal variation in temperature, it is really only the wind and the rains which are changeable.