In 2012 I was blessed enough to take part in a World Challenge expedition to Morocco with a group of people from my high school. We went for two weeks towards the end of March, hoping to fulfil our goal of refurbishing and painting an old school in a beautiful Berber village. Continue reading
A wise woman once said to me, ‘It’s the mountains you climb in your head that are the hardest.’ I was sitting on the edge of a bed, hyperventilating into a paper bag. It sounds like a scene from a film: bare, apricot-coloured room, Tinerhir, Morocco, 2010, 17-year-old girl has first panic attack. But it was a reality.
The wise woman was our group counsellor, Liz. I was on my first real adventure away from my family. I’d been on girls’ holidays before, but this was different. We had already spent a week in the high Atlas Mountains south of Marrakesh, acclimatising ourselves with hikes to waterfalls followed by nights sleeping under the stars and being woken by the 4am call to prayer from the village across the valley. The following night we didn’t sleep at all but lay on the roof of the hotel listening to the sounds of a wedding floating across the valley until 4am. After that, we had spent a day hiking to the base camp at the foot of Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa at 4,167 meters. We began our ascent before dawn the following day, and we reached the metal pyramid at the mountain’s summit just in time to be attacked by an onslaught of hailstones. This was followed by a dramatic descent, our guide having left us. It rained the entire way, and our group leader did his best to keep up the dampened spirits of the twenty teenage girls he had to lead down the mountain. Needless to say we all made it in the end, albeit tired, soggy and with little sense of humour remaining as we crossed over the little stream at the foot of the mountain and were welcomed back to base camp with hot chocolate and warm food.
We reached the metal pyramid at the mountain’s summit just in time to be attacked by an onslaught of hailstones
You might be wondering how I had survived all of this before the panic attack arrived. Truth be told, there had already been a few hairy moments but nothing like the paper bag incident. Continue reading
Parque Tayrona on the north-east coast of Colombia is a sacred place for the indigenous Kogi people who have carried out rituals on the sparkling sands of Tayrona’s beaches for hundreds of years. To this day, many Kogi still live in the park — my friend and I met a family collecting coconuts and selling them to passing tourists on our trek. Having heard that the national park looked like the land before time, a place where you could imagine a dinosaur appearing at any moment, we decided to visit in June 2016 to find out for ourselves what makes the area so special for the Kogi and tourists alike.
The park is most easily accessible by bus from nearby Santa Marta (buses depart from “El Mercado” station for 7.000 Colombian pesos). The journey takes an hour and leaves you at the entrance to the park. From here you can catch another bus for 3.000 COP which drops you at the start of the trail. Entrance to the park is 42.000 pesos for foreigners (around £10). Make sure you bring your passport and student card if you have one as students only pay 8.000.
My buddy and I decided to make the most of it and spend two nights at El Cabo de San Juan beach which is a two hour trek from where the second bus leaves you. The trail is very clear and easy to follow; it’s mostly covered in wooden decking so it makes for a very pleasant walk. Within half an hour we had spotted hordes of yellow and green butterflies circling around each other, electric blue lizards scuttling along the path and golden-faced monkeys chasing each other through the trees.
I first time-travelled in 2012, and again in 2013 — it was completely unintentional. It didn’t involve using a modified DeLorean car circa Back to the Future (1985), and I didn’t run the risk of meeting myself from other time periods. The Doctor might describe Time as “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff” and mutter about rifts in time and a shift in the space/time continuum — however, I just got on a plane in order to time travel. I didn’t go through a vortex; I just landed in a country with a different calendar.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, the earth doesn’t revolve around a Western-centric lifestyle or culture. Much of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, but not all of it. Enter Nepal and the Bikram Sambat (B.S) calendar — all 56 years, 8 months and 17 days ahead of us. Welcome to the year 2072, guys. 2073 is just around the corner too, with one of Nepal’s nine new years fast approaching — and it’s the big one. Continue reading
Hidden in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, the ‘lost city’ of Ciudad Perdida awaits adventurers brave enough to tackle the five-day trek to its summit. In 1972, two local men were wandering through the dense forest when one peered through the trees to find the ruins of a long-abandoned city complete with cemeteries, dwellings, pottery and gold jewellery. What these local men discovered were the remains of a town that was once home to over 2,000 people dating from 630AD. With the local Tairona people of the town having been eventually driven away during the Spanish conquest, Ciudad Perdida is now a historical site which is open to the public to explore after more than four hundred years of lying abandoned.
Trekking tours to the Ciudad Perdida generally last around five days: two days to reach the site, one day to explore followed by the last two days to trek back. Tours begin in the village of Macheté Pelao in the Santa Marta district on Colombia’s northern coast. The 28 mile (46 km) trek is not for the faint-hearted, with humid conditions, frequent rainfall and several river crossings in store along the route. There are numerous tour companies available which all follow the same route, and all tours have a set price of 700,000 Colombian pesos (approximately £145) per person regardless of whether they are 4, 5 or 6 nights in duration. Perhaps the most admirable tour operator is ‘Wiwa Tours’ – a group of indigenous people whose impressive wealth of knowledge enables the trekker to experience the natives’ folklore and way of life first-hand. The guides of the Wiwa Tours claim to have left their mountain community only once in order to complete their guiding qualifications, enabling them to ensure that their way of life is passed on to future generations. All tours include food, providing an excellent opportunity to prepare and sample traditional Colombian dishes around the campfire.