Barbados

Pirates, caves and haunted tombs

When I was a little girl my mother gave me a book that was full of adventure with black and white illustrations of pirates, parrots, ships and treasure, it caught my imagination by storm, that book was called Treasure Island.

As a child I was given a soft toy monkey, a soft toy parrot and a huge book about Rain forests, all of which further planted an adventurous seed in a young girl’s mind of visiting these distant lands and so when I was a teenager I set off on a trip to experience 11 beautiful Caribbean Islands, this piece gives a little taster of Barbados.

Barbados was my first experience of a Tropical Island and stepping onto the Island was like a dream from that first breath of air spiced with vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and aromatic flowers and the sky was blue, just blue, with no cloud at all and the melodic happy sound of steel drums rang out across the harbour, which was dotted with stalls of locals selling giant conch shells and natural sponges.

The Island of Barbados was formed during some volcanic activity when it emerged at the surface of the sea, it is a coral island with fine white sands and clear blue, warm waters and at just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, this island is a tiny, independent British Commonwealth Nation where nowadays the locals enjoy afternoon tea, cricket and vanilla rum and coconut spiced foods.

Although small, this island is rich in interesting history, most notably that of pirates, the two famous ones being Sam Lord and Stede Bonnet.

Sam Lord was one of the more creative Pirates in gaining treasure, avoiding the discomfort and risk of taking to the seas, instead he took to hanging lanterns on coconut trees, the lights of these lanterns would attract ships that were out at sea passing by, whose crew would mistake the lanterns for lights of the capital and consequently get ship wrecked on the coral reefs, Sam and his men would then attack the ships and take all of the possessions that were on board.

They did very well out of it too, Sam did not live poorly, instead he lived in a lavish castle by the beach, the Georgian mansion was built by Sam Lord himself in 1820 and years later it became a landmark tourist hotel, however the castle was destroyed in a fire in 2010 and now lays in ruins, I think that somehow it is more befitting and mysterious as a ruin, being a hotel stole away the intrigue of the story, as a ruin it has been restored.

The castle ruins

The other well-known Pirate of Barbados was called Stede Bonnet and nicknamed ‘the gentleman’ he also had an unusual way about him, he had been a former well respected plantation owner and British Army Major but then one day he turned a different corner in his life and ‘bought’ a Pirate ship in 1717 naming it ‘Revenge.’

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

Explorers Guide 2. Ice and Snow

Nowadays remote destinations that just a few years ago were unobtainable are far more accessible to travellers, trips and expeditions in cold areas are fast becoming popular for sports, photography and adventure travel, by far the coldest place I have ever been to is Antarctica and I would have struggled had I not been well prepared for the trip with the correct clothing and kit, so it is essential to plan it out.

North wall of the Eiger

Below is a kit list and some travel tips which I hope will be a useful guide for you.

Kit List

If you are going to a very remote area and stepping on land, such as Antarctica, aim for new kit, this is so that you do not contaminate the area, before you are permitted to step on Antarctic land you will be instructed to have hoovered zips and pockets to ensure no seeds are stuck there and any boots are soaked in a special detergent to kill any potential germs off, then you step on land. Therefore, if you go for new clothes, you will not have to go through this procedure out there.

*In cold places you will wear the same layers daily, go for Merino for your inner layers every time, it will stay fresh without the need for washing the garments and it will keep you insulated.
Merino wool cleverly regulates your body temperature, so that you neither get too hot or too cold, it also wicks away any sweat from your body and has antibacterial properties allowing you to wear it long term, which is handy if camping or doing longer treks or climbs.

Wear your clothing loose and in layers.

Footwear
Make sure that you have a decent, waterproof pair of gortex hiking boots that are comfortable and slip proof, you can get boots which have a thermal tread in to keep feet warm and some boots will protect feet in up to – 30 in extreme cold, handy if you will be standing still for long periods.

Rubber Wellington Boots
Good quality wellington boots are useful to have for short walks in icy conditions as they are rubber with a good tread, if you prefer walking boots, ensure that you have some protective spray to keep them sealed and waterproof throughout the trip.

Gaiters
These are waterproof leggings which are great for waterproof protection if you are wearing hiking boots in areas of deep snow or slush and strap on over your boots and can be pulled up to about calf height, light and easy to pack.

Merino wool Layers
You need to wear layers in cold weather as they insulate your body trapping heat, layering for a cold trip consists of base layers, mid layers and an outer waterproof shell.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Incense galore

Hong Kong is an intoxicating, exotic, exciting, fun place with plenty to see and do, it is really easy to get around this city of sky risers which never seems to sleep.

This was a holiday from a few years back in 1990 with my Mum and our friends who we met in Egypt – Barbara, Jo, Terry and Peter, my memories of this trip are still there after many years as this was one of the original trips that really got me into travelling.

I had a very basic camera back then and these photos are not great, so please forgive the blurs.

We got to experience the crazy airstrip runway landing of Kai Tak Hong Kong International Airport which stretches out across Victoria Harbour waters, as you land you are so close to the buildings that you can see through peoples windows. It was considered to be the 6th most dangerous landing strip in the World, 1998 was the last year that this runway could be experienced, I think all of us on that plane held our breath as it landed.

Hong Kong makes an instant impact on the traveller, the city is striking with its tall buildings all slotted in and rising up like huge jagged teeth with the glistening waters of the bay as a backdrop.

Getting around is fun as you have a choice of bicycles, trams, taxis, star ferry’s and junk sail boats, I enjoyed walking around the city as the maps were easy to read and the people were all very friendly, it felt like a safe place and easy to navigate around.

The trams are really easy to hop on and off, I loved these, they came in all colours white, pink, red, green, blue, yellow and glided about the city effortlessly.

Tram

The Star Ferry is a brilliant way to get across the bay and is really cheap to ride on, just a couple of dollars, or it was when we went, I have been told it is still reasonable and they leave every few minutes so you do not need to worry about getting tickets in advance.

Junk Sail boats can be seen crossing the bay, these are like looking into the past, they are romantic looking vessels with their huge impressive sails, they sail gracefully like ghost ships and remain an iconic image of Hong Kong.

We were so close to the equator that in the midday sun you could barely see your own shadow, it was eerie seeing it so faint in comparison with the dark strong shadows we get in the UK.

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