thanks for looking at my blog page, I am a keen photographer/traveller who is hooked onl wildlife and the exploration of more remote places off the beaten track; in other words where other tourists are not.
I have a love of Rainforests and so far have been to the Rainforests of Costa Rica (2008), Guyana in South America (2011) and Madagascar (2011).
In complete contrast to this I also went to Patagonia and Antarctica (2010)
In 2012 I shall be spending 3 months in the Amazon.......
Its adventures such as these that make me feel alive, long may they continue.....
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
In 2009 I went to Cuneo in Italy to trek around the Alps and get some experience of walking through deep snow in preparation for my forthcoming trip to Patagonia and Antarctica in 2010.
I invited a friend of mine Ady, an experienced mountaineer from up North who offered to give me some tips on the different types of snow grades to look out for and how to get myself out of a snow pack, this is when you suddenly find yourself waist height and above in snow and have to kick your way out of it.
Ady told me that there are 5 types of snow that you need to know about when out and about trekking or climbing, it is essential to know about these for your own safety:
The five types of snow
This is the fresh fallen snow, it is extremely soft and easy to walk through and if you fall over generally you will not be hurt, often referred to as ‘forgiving’ snow it is a pleasure to walk through as so little effort is required. Though please be aware that it does cover up and hide rocks and crevasses which are dangerous and so care is still needed at all times regardless of the snow grade. Crud
This is widely known as the next step up from powder and is where the snow gets packed in certain places and piled up in others, it tends to form an even uneven surface with slippery patches along with large lumps of powder and is uneven and bumpy. Crust
This type of crust snow forms when the sun melts the top layer of powder and the cold wind then makes it freeze solid again, this crust will then sit upon softer powder snow, sometimes it can be walked upon as a harder layer but often it will give way as the crust can be patchy and this can break ankles so be aware and use caution in this type of snow. Slush
Slush is basically snow that has started to melt and therefore becomes more wet, this snow is heavier than light drift/powder snow, and can be slippery to walk through and will soak any none waterproof footwear and trousers. Ice
Up on the slopes you will find snow that has been melted and frozen many times this then forms icy compacted snow which is the opposite to powder as it is hard, slippery and nowhere near as forgiving as the powder snow. It is incredibly rare that you will encounter a slope full of this icy stuff but beware that it can happen.
You must also be aware of cornices the overhanging formations of windblown snow which can be unstable and hard to see from the windward side, these are lethal and care must be taken at all times, never hurry, move slowly and take your time to ‘test it out’ before moving forward.
The Amazon – Tribes, Shrunken Skulls and Crocodiles
This is an account of my trip to the Amazon including the trials of Tribal life and taking some forest medicine through the nose.
View of the Amazon
Following on from my brief visit to Quito, Ecuador I flew down to the Amazon basin with my travelling companion Jonas from Copenhagen, Denmark and took a boat along the river Coco before walking with backpack on and grabbing all cameras along narrow walkways through forest and over bogs where bright orange dragonflies weaved in and out of reed beds and huge blue morpho butterflies flitted about. We then took a short canoe ride and paddled across a lake to Sacha lodge.
We were to stay at two different bases whilst in the Amazon, Sacha Lodge a fairly commercial site set up for the ease of seeing wildlife with local guides and then the NAPO Wildlife centre, a more obscure place, much further out and set up for naturalists and wildlife researchers rather than tourists.
There are no roads leading to Sacha Lodge, it is accessible by river only, food comes the same route as I did, down river Coca by paddle boat then over the boardwalk through the forest and across the lake.
Water comes from a well near the North trail head and is purified by an ‘ozone filtration system’, clever stuff, power for the site comes from two diesel generators which swap ever 12 hours, solar power cannot be set up here as it is too cloudy.
Organic waste is managed on site by a compost heap and inorganic waste such as plastics, etc. is shipped up river to Coca, there are toilets here, which is a real luxury, toilet paper can not be put in the pan as it blocks the system so instead you put it into a bin next to the toilet.
The lodge was dreamed up by Arnold Ammeter, better known as Benny who was born in Interlaken in Switzerland who came to Ecuador in 1979 to work with Gold before getting into coco cola distribution then he branched out to opening natural lodges and in 1991 Sacha lodge was created.
Sacha lodge is a beautiful place consisting of comfortable huts with wooden walkways a few feet above the forest, there are paths leading into the forest in all directions and you can wander off alone to explore, which is really what I wanted and then get off onto the natural forest mud trails.
Although I am most likely in the minority, I find having a guide often more of a hindrance than a help as I much prefer to be away from other people to walk quietly and slowly through the forest looking for insects and frogs. Having to ‘keep up’ on a hike means that you are walking past tons of wildlife, unseen eyes watching the walkers from their camouflaged habitats, searching for frogs and insects takes time and often involves carefully combing through leaf litter and searching under logs and fallen branches.
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.
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.
Some pictures of the Worlds most interesting caves were being circulated on the Internet and as soon as I saw the beauty of Bulgarias Devetashka cave, I knew that I had to go there.
Inside Devetashka Cave
Earlier in the year, friends of mine Dee and Mika moved to a small village in Bulgaria with their 4-year-old son Sky and it quickly transpired that they are only 30 miles away from the cave that I was so keen to see.
Two more friends Jinny and Liam were already heading out there so I booked a flight out and joined them for a week to see Dee and Mika and of course go for that cave!
The village that they live in is called Dobromirka, it was like going back in time watching men passing through with their horses and carts and the women herding goats and geese, the sound of cow bells tinkled accompanied by the barking of dogs, hundreds and hundreds of dogs in this and the surrounding villages.
Dogs are not treated well here, they are kept out in the yards on short chains and used purely as alarms for their owner’s property and of course as soon as you walk past it sets off not one dog but all of the dogs in the area, like an audio domino effect.
My friends Dee and Mika moved over to Bulgaria not only with their son Sky but also with a three-legged cat called Ziggy who has lived with Dee on a bus and travelled around by bike, moped, car, van, coach, bus, boat and aeroplane, quite extraordinary.
They have now adopted a young Doberman dog called Lola, a Horse called Zoran, a Foal yet to be named, a golden wolf dog called Zucho, a kitten called Sweetie and a three-legged puppy called James.
Being used to camping out such a lot and enjoying the night sounds of crickets, I decided to make myself a camp outside and slept out at night joined by Zucho the dog, James the Puppy and Sweetie the kitten, who all fought for a patch of warmth.
I also had a Praying Mantis that Liam and Mica found on a door that I moved to my camp so that I could observe it, I have always been fascinated by mantids and this one was great to watch as it stalked about looking for potential prey at night and by day became statue like.
My Praying Mantis
I found the villagers to be very friendly as once they get to see you around and know your face they are very accepting and welcoming, taking a photograph of some elderly locals on a village corner, one of the men took off his hat in a sweeping gesture of politeness.