Category Archives: ASIA

Abandoning the scaries of Bokor Mountain

March 9, 2017

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I don’t like scary things. I watched The Mummy when I was a kid and didn’t sleep for a week. Even as an adult, I get nightmares way too often. Just recently, whilst staying at the awesome Tiny Tiger Hostel in Da Lat, Vietnam, I dreamt that a guy leaned over my bed and silently screamed at me, whilst I was physically unable to move in some weird half awake half asleep paralysis. I spent the rest of the night very much not sleeping but quivering, texting my mum (I’m not ashamed) for comfort whilst the rest of the dorm slept blissfully. Not. Fun.

bokor mountain cambodia kuuzira travelsWhen in Cambodia – Kampot to be exact – one of the main ‘things to do’ is go up Bokor Mountain and visit its many abandoned establishments. I’d seen pictures, it looked awesome. I was in, although sceptical. Abandoned casino is one thing, but abandoned church? Now that just sounds creepy.

Now, Although in my last post, I stated that I can infact ride a bicycle now, I am in no way ready to add an engine to this talent. With my friends all hiring their scooters of choice (and none of them wanting to take me on the back, a respectful decision) I hired a lovely local tuktuk driver to pop me on the back of his bike, and off we went.

The drive is truly sensational. Winding mountain roads that snake around lush greenery like the wind carries leaves around Hyde Park. But the higher up we went, the weirder things got.

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The air was still, and we stopped off to grab some lunch in what can only be described as an inactive concert venue, where a lovely lady took my money for vegetable rice with one eye on me and one eye off to my left (no judgements here, just adds to the overall strange). People just sort of, wandered around, zombie like in some hushed secret. Where am I? 

On the rest of the drive up, I promise you, I witnessed the following;

A three legged crazed dog growling at the side of the road.

A giant hotel resort that apparently only has around 10 guests at a time, nestled in the middle of nowhere, only a lone bell boy dressed ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ style carrying a cake box.

Buildings left only as foundations, rotting away into the surroundings, amidst a slight haze.

And no other people. It was like we’d driven through a vortex into nowhere.

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The casino itself was insane.  Grand and dominating in its stance, at the top of the hill with breathtaking views of normal life below. Its walls are stained in flecked orange paint and grey stone, and theres not a furnishing inside. Wandering around, our group separated, leaving me alone, walking up a narrow spiral stone staircase. Imagination overdrive.

Next minute, “Oooooooooh…..” comes bouncing off the walls and I’m thinking, that’s it, zombie apocalypse is happening and I wish I’d sat and watched the countless zombie movies and tv shows that my mum and stepdad constantly watch at home because what the hell would I do. Go for the brain, right?

Contradicted in fear and stupidity at my nonsense, I turned a corner to find my driver, tucked in an alcove ready to jump out at me. Come on man, I’d rather not pee my pants, thanks.

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And the church? Okay, creepy level upped to 1,000,000. The outdoor toilet door swung with a creek on its hinges as we arrived, like, straight out of every horror movie ever, and we went in.

Its walls are smothered in graffiti with things like “Watch around you”. You know, just as a friendly reminder. There’s broken stained glass windows on the floor, and uncared for statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph gathering dust with those statue eyes that follow you no matter where you stand, and an open bible on the alter with the pages open and crumpled into a beautifully lost mess.

Everyone’s wandering around like, ‘wow this is amazing’, and I’m there like, ‘yea it really is! But where the f is Joseph’s face?!’

People of: Vietnam

February 28, 2017

Get your chopsticks ready to delve into Vietnam, Southeast Asia’s diverse and wacky Eastern inhabitant. Its nature is astounding, its food is world known, but its the people that make this country one not to miss.

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Catching up, Hoi An

people of vietnam kuuzira travels portrait photography

Daily market sellers in the Old Quarter, Hoi An

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Fruit seller, Dalat

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The daily catch, Mui Ne

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Lunch break, Old Quarter Hoi An

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Comfort, Sapa

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Rest, Na Trang

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Smiles from the floating market, Can Tho

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A dose of vitamins, Dalat

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A walk with mum, Sapa

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Butter wouldn’t melt on the river, Hue

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Afternoon strolls on Long Beach, Phu Quoc

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Touring the Mekong Delta, Can Tho

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Bringing in the Lunar New Year, Hanoi

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Silk wear store owner, Dalat

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Home stay owner Bao, Sapa

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Time out, Hoi An

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Silk factory staff hard at work, Dalat

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Waiting, Hanoi

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A had days work for the shellers of the fishing village, Mui Ne

People of: Thailand

February 20, 2017

The Southeast Asian country bursting with Buddhas and temples, mouthwatering cuisine and scorpions on sticks, paradise beaches and the world’s most visited city*, but who lives there?

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Tattoo artist on break, Koh Tao

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Playing on the streets of Koh Tao

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Dr. Somchai, university lecturer, Bangkok

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Eagerly awaiting the Yi Peng parade, Chiang Mai

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A fisherman’s rest, Koh Tao

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The littlest busker, Kanchanaburi


The end is in sight

January 20, 2017

Himalaya guest house and restaurant lies at 2900 metres above sea level, so we were making good progress by the time we arrived.

“All national and international trekkers are heartily welcomed in Annapurna Sanctuary.

  • Now, you are in Himalaya
  • Here are two lodges

– Himalaya Guesthouse

– Himalaya Lodge

  • You are requested to take care of your valuable items as you may leave your mobile phones and cameras while charging. 
  • During the busy season, the rooms may get limited so, we hope for your cooperation in sharing rooms with co-guests.
  • The menu is determined by TMC as well as STEC so, you are humbly requested to avoid bargaining. 

Have a safe and nice journey. 

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Things started to get pretty chilly up there and all my clothes were damp. I hung out what I could outside overnight, but it rained and everything come morning was wetter than it had been before I’d gone to sleep. Rooms also started to shrink the higher we trekked and this one consisted of three beds, touching, on one wall next to a stone bay window. The three beds were the entire width of the room, touching the wood panel walls on each side. One other single bed lay at the foot of the three, horizontal and filling the rest of the room almost entirely. The one unoccupied corner of the room was no more than one metre squared, and it became home to all our stuff.

I bought myself a beer that night, and after climbing into our room, I nestled myself in the corner, snuggled in blankets, their musty smell filling my nostrils. That beer was liquid gold. I practically hugged it like a kitten as I sat, totally content in our little space in the mountains, sipping in pure happiness. Happy in my bubble of beer and blankets, the group next door started up a conversation. The walls were paper thin, and I doubt they realised the extent of their ‘un-privacy’. The conversation was odd – maths, university, and from what we could make out through their Korean-English accents, farts.

It really tickled us, we might has well have been in the room, but their obliviousness to our blatant earwigging had us in stitches. Perhaps the beer helped.

They were part of a trekking group that looked a if they’d come straight off the cover of Trekking Weekly, should one exist. Trekking poles, boots, hats with side panels, sunglasses with neck straps, waterproof gear, windproof jackets. The full works. I wanted to ask them why they had so much stuff, but felt a wave of pride, if not a little smugness, when we walked past them with the sticks we found on the floor, and sandals on our feet. You really don’t need much. You don’t need a guide, you don’t need to buy expensive trekking poles and boots and gear. Britta, the gorgeous German girl of our gang, trekked the entirety in flips flops and bare feet. Although, I wouldn’t advise bare feet when its soggy, unless you happen to love leeches sucking on your toes.

We decided to continue to the next town for lunch, as we’d arrived in Deurali fairly early in the day from Himalaya. It was only half an hour away on the map, so seemed a logical stop off mid-day.

The only problem, the town didn’t exist.

It didn’t even slightly exist. We walked through dense trees and over boulders and through streams and up steps for over 3 hours without a building or guesthouse or civilisation in sight. Have we gone the wrong way? They said half an hour right? Is this even Nepal? Rounding yet another mountain edge, as if sent from the gods, the familiar shade of blue roofing appeared over the valley in front of us. Thank goodness. I’ve never felt so happy to see a shabby blue tin roof.

We continued with the town in sight, down the mountain we were on, only to go up again on the other side of the valley, into the clouds.

The base of the steps had a sign that said, in large capital letters; M.B.C.

We’d made it to Machapuchare Base Camp, at the foothills of the sacred mountain, it’s fish tail double summit well out of sight in the clouds. Only a million effing steps to get up there, before the sigh of relief.

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Yoni and I finally reached the base camp, and stopped at the first guesthouse in search of the others. The landscape changed dramatically, more baron, less green, lots of brown and great boulders. It was like stepping onto a different planet, but the others weren’t to be seen.

Too hungry to go off in search, we re-fueled at the first place, and sat, taking in the views and feeling the cold of the air hit our skin until we needed to move once more to get warm. A few minutes in, walking through the cloud, we came across a sign: A.B.C this way →

A.B.C, Annapurna Base Camp. The end was finally a reality. The end was the next town, the next stop. The end. I hadn’t thought much about the end. I was excited to get there, but I didn’t want to get there just yet, because then it would be over. But we needed to find the others. Have they headed up already? 

We walked a bit further and came across a small bundle of guesthouses, nestled amongst the rocks. I started heading toward to A.B.C sign, but Yoni decided to check one of the guesthouses, just in case. To my surprise, he shouted and waved back that they were there! We were way over an hour behind them at this point, so the chance that they’d still be there was slim to none. We joined them in the Gurung Co-Operative Guest House and Restaurant, where they sat amongst a handful of others playing chess. Good job we didn’t carry on then.

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Collectively, much to my approval, we decided to stop there for the rest of the day, and wake up for sunrise to trek to the end. We’d officially entered the sanctuary by this point, but the cloud concealed the mountains that surrounded us, so we were eager for the early wakeup.

Would we make it to the end tomorrow?

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Chickens in Chomrong

December 21, 2016

The grass out front of our Chuile barn dropped off to reveal an expanse of mountain land, so come sunrise, we were up and out. Wrapped in blankets at the edge of the grass, eyes still partly squint from the sandman’s visit, watching for the golden glow of the sun. It was magical. As the sun rose it began to warm our skin and its light danced over the horizon like a delicate blanket of silk.

nepal abc trek chomrong kuuzira travelsSatisfied with the scene, we snuck back in to bed for a few more z’s before the day’s trek. The destination, Chomrong – a village spelt differently, much like every other place, on every map. The walk, as every one before, was beautiful. Wide rivers crashed and flowed beneath long, metal bridges creating smooth rock faces below us. The forest thickened in dark evergreen and giant fuzzy caterpillars swept across the ground like lone fluffy tails.

We walked across bridges made from logs that looked as if they would give way at any moment and eventually came across a small home, just as the rain came. At first glance it was nothing more than a shack, nestled at the side of the trail. Chickens roamed outside, as did a cow or two. We took shelter from the rain, Yoni and I, under the awning to the front, where pots and pans hung cluttered on the wall of the narrow corridor.

There was an elderly man sat out on the step, watching the rain. His small face was decorated with the deep lines of his life, and he didn’t speak a word of English. Except, “chicken!” he shouted, pointing at our feathered friends. “Chicken! Haha! Chicken!” His charade of pointing and shouting in Nepali and English went on for some time, and his almost hysterical laughter had us in stitches. Didi – the name given in respect to any woman older than yourself – offered us food and sweetly spiced chai. Within 10 minutes she’d rustled up a plate of vegetable fried rice at just over £1 between us, and Yoni and I snuggled hunched up under the awning. It was some of the best rice we’d eaten, a common thing in Nepal, the worse off the place looks, chances are, the better the food.

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After a little while, a group of three Americans that we’d met before walked past, soggy from the rain and covered head to toe in bright coloured rain macs. One of the girls commented that we looked really romantic, huddled together hand in hand in shelter. We did, and I guess it was.

We stayed there for a while until the rain eased, in a calm silence other than occasional small talk with Didi. We met up with our group in Chomrong about a half hour walk from our rest point – SO. MANY. STEPS. Why so many?! Always steps. Thankfully, this time, they were downward steps, but we knew we’d have to go up them in a few days time.

Collectively, we decided to get to the bottom of the small town before calling in for the night. On the route down, we encountered many a trekker warning us that the next town along, at least 40 minutes away, was full. No guesthouses had space, which made our decision to stay in Chomrong all the wiser. The light was fading fast, so the next place we came across, we went in. “You have room? For 5 please?” An elder Nepali man made his way over to us, grinning that wonderful smile reserved for those over 60. He did have room, a room, but we soon figured that this was not a guesthouse, but his home.

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That’s the wonderful thing about Nepal, every person, every child, is ready and willing to give their heart to you in an instant. A close friend of mine, talking about our trip to Malawi once said, “they have nothing, but they will give you half of what they have”, and I feel the same is true for the Nepalese. He showed us to the room, to the far left of a long, narrow bungalow. Inside the door lay three or four beds – I struggle to remember now – filling up the majority of the space. The floor was bare wooden boards, and the walls were old and unpainted, but it felt homely and safe. Above us housed a mezzanine level of more wooden boards. It looked creepy in its dim light, and made home for plenty of web living creatures and storage. We left it alone.

At the far end of the room, Dai (the name given to an older man) had cloves of garlic drying on a large, woven tray. At least the mossies will leave us be. The air was calm and we were the only guests. Sensing our fatigue, Dai gestured that dinner will be prepared, dal bhat of course, and that he would return when it was ready. When he did return, shuffling slightly on his aged legs, he guided us to his kitchen. His wife was sat on a small stool around the ancient fire stove. She was a much bigger lady than he was a man, and he joked with us about the direness of her cooking skills. She laughed and rolled her eyes, lighting up her round face, waving him away in a dismissive yet tender manner. Her plump frame bouncing at the shoulders. He laughed that wonderful laugh, and we all joined. They had laid out space for us around a mat in the centre of the room, and we all sat, crossed legged with him and her as Didi served one of the most delicious dal bhats we’d ever eaten. Terrible cook, yeah right. I love that about that dish. The premise is the same: one mountain of white rice, one small bowl of lentil dhal or dal, one helping of vegetable curry, a spoon of achar – a vegetable pickle, normally pretty spicy – and a popadom. But yet, everywhere you eat, it’s different. The curry could be potato and cauliflower, or carrot and potato, or green beans. The achar could be really spicy and full of lime, or could be sautéed spinach or mustard greens. The dhal could be just lentil, or could have beans or chickpeas. The options are endless, and the consistent result is a warming, hearty and nutrient dense plate of deliciousness.

Full and content, we went to bed, and that’s when things took a turn for me. My Poon Hill leg ache had escalated into full on, jaw clenching calf pain. Every move I took in my sleep woke me with sharp, stabbing pains in my legs. I couldn’t bare to touch them. Just as the sun made its first glance over the horizon, I too, woke up once more.

I took myself and a few tears out to the stone porch that ran the length of the building. The morning air was cold and misty on my face, but I couldn’t lie down any more, I needed to try and stretch the pain if I were to continue to walk three or four hours more that day.

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I lit a cigarette and stared out in to the distance, feeling a little sorry for myself and hoping the pain would subside. I don’t want to be the failure, if they can do it, I can. I won’t fail, the pain will go. Yoni appeared at the door, and came out to smoke with me, noticing my teared face but sitting in comforting silence with me, as if reading my mind. It calmed me, and I began to gain that inner confidence again that I knew I needed to get through the day. It will pass. And it did.

As everyone started to stir, we got ourselves ready for the day. I turned my pain into the day’s joke and we said goodbye to our gracious hosts.

Through a check point, we walked all the way to Himalaya, through Sinuwa, Bamboo and Dobhan. The pain eased, and I learned that that was the last of it for the rest of the trek. I was over the worst and ready for the next adventure.

The barn

December 18, 2016

We made our way back down from Poon Hill to find Britta, Simon and Manu practising their stick twirling in the courtyard, patiently waiting for our slow asses to turn up. We gathered our stuff, and began.

That was the longest, hardest day by far. We trekked to Tadapani, through thick forest, wet trees, and clothe drenching humidity. The views, well, they were spectacular. When trees around us broke, intense mountain faces appeared across the valleys, waterfalls pierced down the sides like lightning.

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At one point, Yoni and I, tired and lagging, stopped at a small guesthouse for a refresh. We got to talking to a Korean trekker, and his guide. “Cigar?” he offered, we obliged. We sat with him for a good half an hour, discussing in small English and gestures how we found the journey so far, that we were from London, and smoking the small, cigarette like cigar he had offered. He was lovely, and I can still picture his round, cream face and apprehensive smile.

When we finally arrived in Tadapani, tired and disheveled and relived to have reached the end – although a good 40 minutes behind our team – we were faced with a choice. As I slumped my exhausted body down on to a stone wall, “Go on to the next town?” spilled out of someone’s mouth, I’m not even sure who, I was so tired. Dread. My legs felt like lead weights so the thought of continuing made me feel deflated. Surely they must be tired too? We flipped a coin. It did not swing in my favour, and on to Chuile we went. Thankfully the route was downhill, and strangely, I filled with a new energy. Perhaps excitement for a bed, or maybe I’d just pushed past my wall, but I felt awesome. Determination to find said bed before dark was also a kicker for speed. Darkness comes quick in Nepal, like a light switch.

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Even with this knew found umph, I fell behind instantly. Maybe the others got it too? But I kept a solid pace. We trudged down through forest, scrambling over twisting routes as they emerged from the soil and soggy boulders. It got dark so much quicker in the forest with the canopy blocking most of the sunlight, and I felt my adrenaline and anxiety rise within me. Every sound, every nudge to keep moving. The others fell out of view for a few minutes at a time, until I caught sight of Yoni checking back to assure himself I was still there, before disappearing again into the trees. His tactic, I found out later, was to keep me moving fast, but at the time it just freaked me out, being alone in the woods. I rounded the last corner and emerged from the trees into a large open space of grass, reuniting with the team and filling with relief by the second. We’d succeeded an hour plus walk in 40 minutes.

The grass lay in front of a large guesthouse, and as the light slipped away, we negotiated our stay with the friendly staff. “No room in the inn”, was the general response. The guesthouse was full. Please don’t say we have to go back through the forest in the dark… “You can sleep in the barn, we make beds for you there.” We felt like Jesus.

Gathering our belongings, we followed to the barn, a tin out shack to the side of the modern building. Inside, the floor was bare ground, and there was a collection of four beds, three of which, side by side, creating the illusion of one giant bed. And the fourth to the side, at the foot of the others, lining the left of the wall. I dumped my stuff on the lone bed and flopped on to a pile of blankets and felt strangely cosy in our new digs for the night. It was basic, yes, but it was ours, and it was shelter, and we were together.

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My body had started to shiver as I stopped moving. The sweat from the trek had dampened my clothes and as the sun started to hide, the cold air of the evening swept through my skin. I swaddled myself in yak wool blankets as we explained we were happy with the room and would love some food, please.

The restaurant adjacent to the guesthouse was apparently out of bounds to us barn dwellers, but the two lovely guys assured us that they would make us dal bhat to soothe our empty stomachs. It seemed the barn was a separate entity all together, with a tiny side kitchen attached, but they got to work on the traditional supper right away.

“We have dinner and breakfast here and the room is free?” is the general rule Manu insisted at each dwelling for the night. It worked for most of our trip. I was relieved they had agreed, still curled in a ball trying to bring warmth into my bones. The creaky wooden door to the side of the barn opened to the men hurling in a large, wooden bench. It took up most of the free space, but it was our dinner table for the evening.

Food never tastes as good as it does after a hard day’s graft and after two or three refills, we were satisfied and I was warm. We drank roxy with our new friends, and fell into a deep slumber. It was one those full, deep sleeps that leave you feeling wonderful come morning. Looking at the surroundings – barren, dusty, as much nature outside as in – a Western mind would generally feel insecure and grossed out. It’s not the luxury we’re used to, no freshly laundered sheets, no floor boards, no lights with shades and wires neatly worked through the walls. But yet, I felt safe. I felt comfortable. I was happy. Perhaps my mindset was changing, even since the first instinct of thought as I stepped through the barn – Oh god, a barn? This is going to be fun… I wish the guesthouse had space – my mind changed its perspective. I was dry and sheltered and surrounded by loving, kind hearted souls I can to this day call my friends. I’m thankful for that barn, even with the voice of my mother freaking out about every possible germ and dust and sound in there in my head.

Poon Hill

December 17, 2016

I awoke fresh faced before the sun had stirred, as the plan was to hike up the steps from Gorepani to make the famous viewpoint at Poon Hill for sunrise over the Himalayas, naively unaware of the sheer amount of steps I was about to take on.

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My body was dressed in so many layers to combat the fresh, cold morning dew, a decision I soon came to regret as I started moving my limbs and warming my blood. Britta, Simon and Manu naturally were a lot faster than I, but trusted Yoni stayed at my side for the ascent. I struggled. A lot. The race against the sun made the struggle all that more intimidating. This was the only time I could see Poon Hill at its best, and if I missed it, I missed it. The sun doesn’t wait. I trudged on.

Past the 50NPR entry fee (not mandatory, but they make sure you think it is, to help with maintenance), the steps continued. Up and up and up and up. Seemingly coming to crescendo but slyly turning off to a new ascent, hidden by trees.

Yoni and I tried not to look until we reached the finale, but the incredible scenes below us kept tempting us through breaks in the trees as the sun started to lighten the sky. It was phenomenal.

More steps, more sweat, my breathing a struggle. Yoni kept talking to me to keep me distracted, and I politely ignored response, just listened. Will I make it?! I don’t think I’ll make it. The sun’s coming fast, am I going to die?! God, I’m so unfit. One last bend, hundreds of steps later, the relieving sight of a metal shack serving tea and coffee and buzzes of people made me release a sound of relief. I made it. We made it. Just.

I turned around to assess the achievement and was greeted by feeling completely on top of the world. Looking down, the entire Himalayan range was being bathed in a soft sea of golden light, waking up the earth below it. Stunning.

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Tourist after tourist where there – where did they come from?! I only saw 3 other people max on the way up – taking the obligatory Poon Hill photos, sipping on sweet chai and admiring the scene. The sky was a chalk blue, with a yellow pink tinge from the rising star, that was just peeking over the tips of the mountains, like a child waiting for an ice cream van over the garden fence.

The pain in my legs left them a little numb, and heavy like a sack of mud, but we stayed and wandered around for a while, taking it all in.

The others decided to make their way back down after around 20 minutes, but I was in no way ready to leave the view I’d struggled so much to see, so I stayed. Yoni stayed too, thankfully, although I would have stayed alone. Why go already? It’s so beautiful up here. After they’d gone, like grains of sand in a sandcastle being swept back to sea, the crowd dispersed. Before long we were alone. Alone with the whole world. We sat with a coffee on a green metal bench that overlooked the Annapurna I side of the range, and sat in silence for a while. Admiring. It was strange as Annapurna I is the tallest in the range, yet perception of distance made it seem relatively small in comparison to its snow capped companions. Suddenly I felt so small. Such a small speck in this incredible planet. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride in that moment. I’m here, I’m doing it, I’m living it. Right here, right now.

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A man once told me not to stay in “the darkness below the candle”, not to stay somewhere and never really see it, or feel it. And in that moment, on top of Poon Hill, looking out at a mountain range formed millions of years ago, wondering how many mountaineers where dusted on its peaks, I was out of the darkness, and fully in the flame of the world.

Prayer flags danced in the wind as the sun shone its glow over a rainbow of flora sprouting from the ground. I forgot everything, just for a moment.

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The way to Gorepani

December 9, 2016

The Jungle Book. That’s the only way to describe the world around me as we made our way to Gorepani. Millet fields waiting to become roxy, lush, dense green jungle, trees emerging from the soil with Tarzan vines covered in moss. The sounds of critters making home in the distance, wailing like singing bowls in their secret crevices, accompanied us to Nangethanti, our chosen lunch spot.

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Yoni and I, as per, had not seen the others in an hour or two, but stopped for a re-fuel in a small tea house along the way. We sat for about 10 minutes, wondering how far away they were. Occasionally we’d ask the locals if they’d seen a shaved headed guy, a young woman and a tall man with dreadlocks and a bamboo stick – easy characteristics to remember – to gage how far behind we were, but we didn’t this time, trusting they wouldn’t be too long away. Mid discussion, the familiar, beautiful face of Britta popped up beyond a wall not 10 feet away from us. They had been sat there for the last 20 minutes, steps away, wondering where on earth we were. The universe has a funny way of sending you what you need, right at the right time, and this was to happen many times along the way, much like Mother Nature providing us all with a trekking stick, just as we needed it most.

Together once more, the next leg of trail was pure, untouched jungle. Insanely beautiful doesn’t come close to describing it, but we continued through in awe, up and down through the thick terrain, feeling the squelch of mud beneath our feet. Yoni and I, losing the team once more – maybe I’m a lot less fit than I thought – clambered on, lost in thought and conversation on everything from spiritual beliefs to relationships, from deciphering the surrounding creatures to rebellious stories from our youth.

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Finally arriving at Gorepani, some 4/5 hours from Ulleri, I watched our team from a distance, content in their own little creative worlds. Britta sat on a wall, carving the end of her stick into a smooth handle with a pocket knife, catching the scraps in her hareem pants that stooped between her bent up knees. Manu hacked at a bamboo plant to manifest a new stick after Britta had accidentally snapped his last, bowing in respect to the near by shrine as a thanks once freed. Simon worked on balancing Devil Sticks on his feet and chin, arousing quite the audience from the locals. One man, sat outside his residence couldn’t resit the challenge, and before long had commandeered the stick to put on his own show for us. His wife, sat on her haunches close by, half rolled the eyes in her round, light mahogany face and half laughed at her husband’s foolery. We all cheered and clapped him along, until he bowed at his achievements and sent us on our way.

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Cloud around us was falling, and the air was significantly colder, mistier, at this altitude come evening. Our guesthouse for the evening had walls made of thin wood, fresh with knots and holes. It felt like a log cabin, and the crisp air outside transported me to a winter evening for the first time since leaving home.

We ate daal bhat around the wood burner in the main room, and played yet more cards. Explored the immediate surroundings, and made our way to bed. The sky was as clear as a paradise ocean that night, so we sat, half leaning out the window, staring at the stars as the cold air brushed past our faces and hair, wondering what adventures tomorrow held.


December 1, 2016

Waking up in Birethanti was surreal. My 4 trekking buddies and I had shared a room in an empty guesthouse off the quiet trail, drinking fresh ginger tea from Manu’s metal water heater and sharing stories, handstand tips and life lessons. We gathered, come morning, on the large area of grass out front, lined with marijuana plants being tickled by restful chickens, as the sun hid behind a fresh fluff of cloud.

Manu was to take us through the sun salutations, to stretch our limbs before our feet took us deeper into the circuit. It was a perfect morning. We were feeling refreshed and ready for the day, having only walked less than an hour the day before to find a bed before sundown – we never did get better at organising our time.

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The scenery all around us was breathtaking. For some time we didn’t see another human being, only the occasional dog to hurry us along, and endless flutters of butterflies. The route to Ulleri lead us to the first of many, many steps – a sight the numbness in my legs soon started to dread – but the ever changing terrain kept us in a grateful present. Stones to mud, mud to steps, steps to roots escaping the ground. Rice paddies on one side, dense forest on the other. Every step as beautiful, if not more, than the last.

We must of walked 4 or 5 hours that day. Yoni and myself behind – as we were to be for the remainder – with a stop for lunch and a few cigarettes, photo ops and water breaks on the way, up to around 1960m. That night, we slept above the clouds.

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The guesthouse – Hotel 4 Seasons – in Ulleri was fantastic, and peppered with a few other trekkers who we would see on occasion throughout the trip. To the side of the guesthouse, there was a derelict looking barn made of decaying wood, topped by a corrugated tin roof. Where, come morning, stepping on to the wooden boards of its base and looking out into the vast valley, we’d find our first glimpse of the intimidatingly stunning mountain range, just as the birds were awakening into song. Manu had rigged up his hammock across the thick wooden beams, and we’d spent the evening hanging, playing cards and resting our muscles.

Our room consisted of 4 single beds, aligned to make one giant sleeping area, with just enough space at the foot to sling our belongings. Friendships whilst travelling blossom so quickly, so intensely, that you are perfectly comfortable sleeping in such close proximity, so this place was pretty luxury.

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I awoke with the sun the next morning, perhaps with excitement for the days trek, or anxiousness, I’m unsure. But my stirring woke Yoni too. Everyone else was still fast asleep, so we took the duvet and decided to bring it out to the hammock, that was still swinging in the breeze of the barn from the night before. As we walked out of the guesthouse and down the steps to the barn, the owner caught sight of us. “Don’t let the blanket touch the floor, ever!” he yelled. “It is clean!” We obliged, wondering how often they wash them, if they weren’t intending to after our departure.

We lay in the hammock for an hour or two, half asleep, watching the tip of Machhapuchhre rise above the cloud in the distant valley. The clouds were below the base of the barn, like a mattress of cotton wool waiting to be jumped on, and we lay, swinging in the morning air as the world around us woke up from its slumber.

Mind over matter

November 17, 2016

I’m alway surprised at what the human body can achieve when the mind is in sync. In the past, I’ve been a gymnast for most of my life, training up to 7 days a week with the young goal of it being it for life. Of course, life gets in the way and before long, 14 years later, I found myself the most unfit, and the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. Yes, I achieved many titles throughout my career, but that book seemed well and truly shut and bolted, never to chin up again.

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And then, I signed up to something stupid. During my time at my last job, still very much the newbie and wanting to impress, I fleetingly agreed to join a team to complete a half marathon in fundraising for Amend. A dear friend of mine had lost her husband to cancer, so she wanted to raise as much as she could for the amazing, small charity to help others who were going through the same. How could I not? Oh wait, I can’t (still to this day) run 1km without gasping for breath.

With the weeks disappearing, I started to train. I slipped on my trainers, and went off around the block. I’d worked out that twice around my road amounted to 1km, so all I had to get to was around 40 laps… Not so bad. WRONG. I huffed and puffed my way around once, in panic at the sudden pains my body was expelling. So I practiced. Failed, and practiced more, before the day arrived.

I still couldn’t do 1km without nearly dying, and thought of pulling out, before the realisation hit me. I don’t have to run. I just have to finish. Game changer.

I completed the race in 3 hours, 3 minutes and 54 seconds. Proud moment.

So there I was, in Nepal, the trekking capital of the world, about to take on the Annapurna Base Camp trek (ABC). All 413o metres up of it. Am I mad? But I thought, if I can push myself through a half marathon, climb to the top of Mt. Snowdon, and train every day for my sport, why can’t I trek to the base of the world’s deadliest mountain?

annapurna base camp kuuzira travelsOur journey started Nayapur, an hour and a half, music filled bus travel from Pokhara. The drive was lush green, some of the most stunning views I’d seen to date as we wound up the hills and through the forests. As we arrived, the 5 of us, we stepped off the bus, onto the start of an epic 12 day adventure. Feeling the ground beneath our feet, we walked through the first village to the checkpoint, got our Tims card stamped and began. No going back.

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