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”

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 Rainforests

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 Rainforests in this piece, the planet is a fascinating place to explore and Rainforests 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 Rainforests
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 Rainforests – 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 rainforest.

Central American Rainforests – 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 Rainforests 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.

Costa Rica – Diary of a Costa Rica Adventure

In 2008 I went on an expedition to Costa Rica to take part in a voluntary conservation project, things however did not go according to plan and I ended up alone, needing to get across the country and soon running out of money, food and water…..

I also ended up running from a gang of machete men and found myself getting into many other scrapes on the journey, including relying on a group of Monkeys for food, they fed me in a rather unconventional way!

On my return I spoke about this adventure on BBC Radio Oxford and have been doing public talks about it ever since at Museums, clubs and public halls.

I kept a diary out there and have added maps, photos and written information on the wildlife and am hoping to get it published, that is the reason why the content of Diary of a Costa Rica Adventure is not on here.

Once I get the finished book version I shall add a link to it

My map of Costa Rica with hand drawn route

My map of Costa Rica with hand drawn route

Amanda

Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

Gallery


Cotopaxi Volcano (Ecuador)

As I am not a fan of Christmas or New Year I decided to get away and escape it all, choosing the Amazon rainforest for its diversity to do what I love best and spend some time searching for insects, tree frogs, snakes, mammals and other wildlife. On the way through to the Amazon forests, I stopped at the city Quito for a couple of days before embarking on the flight across, and it was in this brief window of time that I decided to look at the volcanos in the area, most notably Cotopaxi.

I worked very hard in order to get the money together for this trip, working as many hours as I could and as I was due to fly out on Christmas day found that there was little public transport available, so booked myself into the Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow for an over nighter on Christmas Eve.

It was Christmas Eve and I got into bed and watched the film Tin Tin on the hotel movie channel, feeling excited about going to the Amazon the next day.

Christmas Morning
Got up at 7:30am, quickly re-checked kit bag, attached labels, skipped breakfast and set off to walk through the tunnel then catch a train to Terminal 3 for the flight.
Following a long flight, then a change in Miami, going through customs, picking up and re-checking bags, the man who took my bags in Miami said to me “well ma’am, you will be lucky to see those bags again!”

This did not fill me with confidence! However, my bags did turn up in Ecuador and I was mighty pleased to see them, there was nothing of value in there of course, however they did contain things such as calamine lotion, plasters, pain killers, insect repellent, walking socks, tripod, a large bottle of Captain Morgans Spiced Rum and such like, all those things you need.

Ecuador in South America is bordered by Colombia, Peru and the Pacific Ocean and Spanish is the main spoken language, Quito is the capital city which is vast at 99,706 square miles.
Quito is North Central Ecuador set in the Guayllatamba river basin and is the highest Capital city in the World at 9,350 feet above sea level, as I got off the plane and ventured outside I felt the altitude almost immediately, a shortness of breath just from walking, I am used to cycling and running and try to keep myself as fit as possible, this felt weird from such little exertion.

I was also relieved to see my name on a hand written sign at the airport, I remember too well Guyana, I was picked up and headed off in the car to Hotel Dann Carlton, Quito, Ecuador.

Before I left for this trip, a friend of mine Andrew St. George said to check out Cotopaxi, one of the Worlds highest volcanos at 5,897 metres high and I was eager to see it.