About Amanda

Hi there, 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.....

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”

India – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur

Link

At breakfast one day my mother looked up from reading her paper and eating her marmalade on toast and instead of ‘good morning’ simply said “Do you want to go to India?”

She would invite some friends and then we would discuss and organise what we wanted to see and plan it allowing enough time for us all to save up for the trip, I would do as much overtime as I could in whatever job I had at the time, which usually meant working weekends as well.

There would be 6 of us going and after some research everyone had a place that they particularly wanted to get to, my chosen interest was to see Gandhi’s grave as I have always been fascinated by him and also I asked to extend the trip and go on a tailored trip to Nepal to trek in the Himalayas and get some views of Mount Everest. (Nepal is written up as a separate piece.)

Delhi
Delhi is a wonderfully exotic place to visit, as soon as you step off the plane the heat hits you and the aromas of mixed spices and rain infuse the air, we arrived at midnight but the heat was still intense.

The languages spoken in Delhi are Hindi, English, Punjabi and Urdu, Delhi is in two halves of Old Delhi which is the capital of Islamic India and New Delhi built as the Imperial capital of India by the British. New Delhi is very spacious with huge archway bridges and the straight, wide roads are lined with lamp posts, it is in complete contrast to old Delhi with its twisty back streets and narrow roads.

India Gate – a reminder of the British Raj

Interesting old sign

The six of us were given a guide called Sharma, I did not care for him much finding him to be a little leery and decided I would keep out of his way as much as possible, I preferred to see many of the sights alone anyway, so tended to slip away from everyone and do my own thing as much as I could without offending anyone.

I believe that you see more on your own, rather than being rushed with a group.

I instantly liked old Delhi with the markets and old bazaars, life is obviously very harsh though as I saw the extent of people living on the streets, it was very upsetting to witness.

Man sleeping on street

It seems that life is worth very little as we found out when the driver of bus that we were on, drove like a lunatic and hit a cyclist knocking him down, I looked back at him and saw that he did not get up, running to the driver to ask him to stop the bus, I was stopped by our guide Sharma who explained that to stop would mean a fine of 6 Rupees, the driver is better off driving on.

Nepal: Trekking the Foothills of the Himalayas

Following on from India, I travelled from there in our group of 6 friends including my mother, on this tailor-made trip to experience Nepal which is home to eight out of the fourteen highest peaks in the world and trek in the foothills of the Himalayas with views of Mount Everest the mountain I was particularly interested in.

One of my Views flying over Everest in the small plane

Kathmandu seen as a sacred site is a chaotic hustle bustle of a place full of people and pagoda temples, the roads are dusty and bumpy but infused with the smell of ever burning joss sticks, it was originally first discovered as a small settlement during the dark ages at the end of the Licchani period.

These days Kathmandu is seen as a place of worship with its Buddhist temples and statues where joss sticks are burnt continously and the symbolic colourful flags are hung for protection, many climbers like to visit the flags in the hope it will bring them luck on their climbs.

We went to an older part of Kathmandu which I did not like at all, it had a medieval feel about it and I split from the others as I preferred to explore the area alone, however then walked unwittingly into an area where an animal sacrifice was taking place, it shocked and upset me and I had to run away from it as not only could I not bear to see it I also could not stand hearing it.

It was beyond appalling and cruel.

Further on I came to a temple where there is a Living Goddess, a young girl chosen from the age of around 6 years old for her psychic abilities and a series of other tests, a tradition of Hindu and Buddhism which continues to this day. Once chosen the girl or Goddess as she has now become is given the name Kumari Devi and worshipped on all the religious occasions.

The selection of the Living Goddess is an ancient tantric ritual where she must pass the 32 attributes of perfection test, including the colour of her eyes, the shape of her teeth and the sound of her voice and her horoscope must also be fitting as the first part of selection.

They will then attempt to frighten girls who are being tested by making them confront a goddess in a darkened room with Buffalo heads scattered around, masked dancers made to look like Demons and terrifying noises. The real goddess is unlikely to be frightened, so the one who remains calm throughout the process is the only girl who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship as the Living Goddess. Other tests are performed where they are tested for any sign of psychic ability, then as a final test similar to that of the Dalai Lama, the Kumari then chooses items of clothing and decoration worn by her predecessor.

The Singing Gibbons

When I went to Vietnam earlier this year (2012) on the caving expedition with my friend Jonas we could hear the sound of Gibbons singing in the distance in the very early mornings in the area of Cat Tien National Park.

It was such an unusual sound that in fact at first I had absolutely no idea what was making it, in the end we hired a guide and getting up at 03:30am walked along a starlit track to meet this person.

On meeting him, in fact there were two of them we then made our way through the forest on a long walk which consisted mostly of tripping on the twisted roots and being in danger of getting garroted by the low hanging branches.

Suddenly we stopped, the man in front and his friend seemed to know that the Gibbons were there, though at that point we heard nothing, out of the darkness dawn broke and the sky got lighter, we waited….

Then suddenly out of nowhere came this extraordinary sound, this is what we heard:

The group of Gibbons that we stood and listened to in awe are the White Cheeked Gibbons (Nomascus leucogenys) and like much of the wildlife are sadly endangered.

Often referred to as ‘lesser apes’ Gibbons are smaller than the like of Gorillas, orangutans and other apes and display similar movement tactics to monkeys swinging adeptly from tree to tree being the fastest and most agile of the mammals that live in trees and do not fly.

These sociable, fast-moving mammals who live in groups can travel up to 35 miles per hour and leap as far as 8 meters which is astounding, here’s hoping that some protection will be given to these beguiling mammals and that their numbers will improve.

Cambodia – Temples and Sunsets

Cambodia

Following the Vietnam Cave Expedition my friend Jonas from Copenhagen in Denmark and I decided to take some time out to fly across to Cambodia, Siem Reap, which was only 1 hour away by plane and here we experienced the impressive Temples of Angkor along with cycling to Tonle Sap, getting caught in a freak storm and seeing a memorial of the Killing Fields victims.

Here is an account of that trip, including this quick film extract below of Cambodia Waterlife that I filmed on a hand held camcorder:

After a transit day from Vietnam to Cambodia we arrived at the airport of Siem Reap where we had the unfriendliest Visa check from two seemingly very angry, aggressive and frustrated officials, this was not quite the welcome we had expected when entering a new Country.

We then met up with our guide and headed to the Siddharta Boutique Hotel, which was just a short drive from the airport and there we had the most amazing, friendliest welcome which more than made up for the airport officials. We were both given Cambodian scarfs in a little bag and then had a tropical fruit welcome drink, after a check in we had an evening walk around the grounds and outside the perimeter of the hotel to look for tree frogs and insects, we found some interesting orange coloured toads.

Asian Painted Frog (Kaloula pulchra)

Day 1- Wednesday 25th April
Temples
We had a superb breakfast of fruits, yoghurt and toast with Dragon fruit and lime marmalade, then we were collected by the guide and headed out to see our first Temple Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat
We arrived at Angkor Wat at 7am and the sky was pink with the risen sun, this Temple was extremely impressive with a huge moat surrounding it, the name Angkor Wat means City Temple and is steeped in mythology.

Angkor Wat

Outside the Temple there are many statues of ‘Naga’ the seven headed snake which protects it and is a symbolic ‘rainbow bridge’ for man to reach home of the Gods making Angkor Wat a ‘Heaven on Earth.’
What was hilarious was that a group of monks walked past in their colourful orange robes and then stopped and all took a picture of the temple entrance with their Ipads, it looked really funny.

The Monks taking photos with their ipads