Viewing entries tagged
exploration

ADVENTURE ADDICT

ADVENTURE ADDICT

I've got major cold turkey. Adventure is my drug and I'm a self confessed addict. Oh how I long to be struggling in the extremes, to be questioning why I decided to push myself so far and to be overcoming adversity. 

Pretty sure it's not too good for my skin!

Pretty sure it's not too good for my skin!

It's an odd relationship I have with expedition life. I am desperate to be out but at the same time hoping I last to tell the tale. There's no hiding that the expeditions I do are hard, life threatening and at some times miserable. However those traits go hand in hand with rewarding, living and enlightening. I can't have one without the other (short term memory helps with forgetting how hard it actually is) and now I just want them all now now now. 

I find myself chatting with people and i'm looking at them, nodding my head and making the right noises but really my mind has wandered and I'm deciding on how I'm going to make my next idea of an expedition happen. 

For those people who just don't get the whole 'put yourself in challenging environment with an absurdly hard goal' I can only try to share my experiences and the benefits it has as a whole.

Really though, "why do you do it?" They ask. My answer could fill a book capable of competing with the seventh Harry Potter book. In brief; to create memories, to grow as a human being, to inspire my future self, to get perspective, to appreciate, to see the planet, to honour the planet, to live, to fill me up, to explore. I could go on.

It's an obsession that puts my life in danger, takes my money, hurts my body, strains relationships, builds relationships, takes my free time, distracts me and leaves me wanting more. Despite all this it is an obsession that I am proud to have and I think that everyone has their thing... For some, they simply haven't found it yet. What is yours?

Jungle Jaguar Jeopardy

Jungle Jaguar Jeopardy

I'm about to explain the scariest moment of my life to this date. The moment lasted a whole night and brings shivers to me even now.

Last year I went to the Amazon jungle. I chose to go to the most pristine part of the interior (interior= jungle) in Guyana, to get the full Amazon experience.

I was to first complete a survival course then I'd leave with two Amerindian tribe members for a hunting trip that would take me deeper into the bush.

I was nervous about the nighttime in the jungle. I'd heard horror stories about the nonstop noises that would be so loud you couldn't sleep. It wasn't like that though.

Let me first outline the nighttime sound:

 The noises at night are specific. There's an ongoing insect hum but after that, layers of other sounds make up the total jungle orchestra.

Howler monkeys that sound like screaming madmen go on for hours, huge branches of trees crash down making even the tribe men anxious, thunder cracks, frogs ribbert, fish splash, birds sing and tapirs plod.

All of these you begin to get used to.

I'd lay in my hammock and try to shut off my ears to these sounds.

One sound I hadn't anticipated before I'd left was that of a jaguar. I didn't even know what a jaguar looked like before I'd left.

Thinking back, I was naive.

A jaguar is not a puma (as I'd originally thought) the majority have leopard print but a small percentage are all black. They are the third largest cat after tiger and lion.

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They are unique because of their sound and their killing strategy. They use their sabourtooth teeth to attack from behind. They then rip off their prays scalp or insert straight into the brain. This is unlike the usual cat killing method of going for the throat.

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Their sound is similar to a leopard. A groaning noise (note the image used on here looks more like a leopard I think. (Not sure though):

Scared yet? That sound makes me sweat.

After finding all this out the day before heading out into the bush, I googled the sound to know exactly what they sounded like.

Jaguars are rarely seen and like so many creatures, they are more scared of us than we are of them. I knew that nothing in the jungle was out to get me so I repeated this in my head whenever I got nervous.

The first night came. The darkness was pitch black. I'd drank a small amount of rum with some of the tribe and survival team in the hope that it would help me sleep.

I cautiously made it back to my hammock and on the way passed a snake. I ignored it, just as it did to me.

I got into my hammock confidently. I zipped up the mosquito net, pulled the blanket over me and switched off my head torch.

I heard others stumble back. They'd drank more than me and would for sure sleep well tonight. They slept about fifteen metres away.

Silence.

I began to drop off. Proud of myself being calm in the jungle.

Then I heard it for the first time.

The same sound I had heard the night before on YouTube. The sound of a jaguar.

"No, it can't be" I thought to myself. I was convinced it was my mind playing tricks on me. Then I heard it again. This time, closer.

"It will be a frog" I kept saying this to myself, but felt myself getting hotter and short of breath.

Again. Louder. It was coming closer.

"No way, no fucking way is there a jaguar a few meters from me on my very first night in the jungle. Not. A. Chance."

Again. This time, at a different angle. Was it... Circling me?

I felt sweat on my face as I tried as best as I could to logically think through what was happening.

The sound was not a frog, monkey nor a bird. This was a cat. A big scary saber tooth cat.

My bow and arrow and machete were outside of my hammock. The only weapon I had to defend myself was a small Swiss army penknife in my trouser pocket.

I slowly reached for it, trying my best not to move in the hammock as it would be like teasing a cat with a string.

I opened it up and placed it pointing behind my head. If the cat pounced from behind as I had been told, then maybe, just maybe I'll stab it in the mouth. Ha, unlikely but worth a go.

The sound went on every so often. Making me shake. I couldn't scream. No sound would come out of my mouth. My throat was dry but my cheeks wet from tears. I was terrified of what was about to happen and felt cowardly as I waited to be pounced on.

I held my torch in one hand. I couldn't see anything because of the thick mosquito net. I didn't want to see anything. If I had seen eyes pointing at me, I don't know what I would have done.

I remained still as the creature outside moved around my hammock making occasional growls.

I started to say goodbye to my mum and dad and accept that I had had a good life and that it was about time something bad would happen. It was my turn now. My luck had run out. I just hoped it would be quick.

I shivered for hours. The tears stopped as I accepted my death. My hands still above my head holding the knife tightly.

Then, a kerfuffle. Just meters away. Movement and animal noises. A growl and a loud yelp followed by creatures running into the bush. I waited.

No more cat sounds. It was gone. It had caught something near to me (probably what it had been stalking the whole time). It had ran off. I was safe.

The sun came up just an hour or two after. The leafy floor was disturbed. I had got away... Or just been in the way of a kill.

Either way, I felt so lucky to be alive. I was also absolutely petrified as I still had a months worth of sleeps in the jungle to go.

I later described this to one of the tribe and they agreed that there had been a large cat there.

Never have I appreciated bedroom walls as protection so much in my life.

The rest of my time in the jungle, I slept with my machete inside my hammock, and made sure I was as close as possible to the tribe.

Video of the Amazon can be seen HERE

People are Nice

People are Nice

People are nice. We forget this and assume the whole world is out to get us.

My faith for humanity was restored to me on the first day of my Spanish 500 mile hike that began and ended at the coast. I went through the Picos mountain range and into some very remote areas where people were sparse.

I had been walking for 8 and a half hours and my body wasn't acclimatised at all. My pack weighed 26kg (more than it should've because I'd decided to self support as well as bringing all my camera equipment.)

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It rubbed my hips with each step but it didn't seem to bother me until I took a glance at them the following evening- red raw and lumpy.

The weather was scorching and I dreamed of my next self inflicted break so that I could take a swig of water and search for shade. I never realised just how much I loved the taste of water. Every step I'd imagine it on my lips and think why had I taken it for granted in the past?!

At 6pm I still had 6 miles to go to a small hostel. I was on a quiet road that trailed alongside the mountain slope.  I took a break to sip the now very appreciated water. I sat on my bag exhausted and in my dehydrated and rather confused state, I decided to hitch hike.

I've only ever hitched with guys before and never alone. There's a lot of bad stick about hitch hiking that the only person that would pick you up would be the village murderer. I took my chances. I was hot, dehydrated and my feet couldn't take the pounding that the tarmac road brought.

I sat on my pack waiting. Nothing came. My feet throbbed with the release of my weight from them. The blood rushing back, making them swell. My leg and back muscles began to seize up thinking that they'd stopped for the day.

To get up now would be agony.

I tried to think what I'd do if I saw a car but I wasn't sure. Try and look the driver in the eye was the best I could come up with.

Around the corner of the mountains side: a car and my chance . I stood up with my map in hand. I knew I already looked haggered and desperate so I wasn't acting.. I raised my eye brows in an innocent 'please help the poor blonde girl' kinda way.

He didn't even slow down. Bastard. He looked sketchy anyway so I wasn't too fussed.

There was another car soon after his. I did the same thing, expecting for the same reaction but this man slowed down and opened the window.

I hobbled over and poked my head through the window. I asked if he spoke English. 'A little' he replied. Fantastic- the first person I had met today who could say even a word.

I pointed to where I wanted to go on the map and he signalled to jump in. I heaved my rucksack into the boot of his car. It just about fit.

His car was clean and the kind of car one buys when they've retired with their partner and only share one car between them. He was obviously married.

We shared minimal conversation on the way to the destination. He really wasn't lying when he said 'a little English'

We arrived and I felt so impressed with hitch hiking. I'd be sure not to let this be the last time.

I waited by the car as the hitch hike man went to ask about the hostel. Closed.

I scanned the area for a place I could put my tent, there was none.

The man told me to wait as he got on the phone. I was passed the phone to speak and there was a man who said hello. The hitch hike man had phoned his son who could speak good english. I was told by his son to 'Follow his father'.

I put my trust in the man on the phone and got back into the car. We drove back on ourselves.

I hadn't a clue where we were heading, but I didn't mind. I trusted this stranger but had no reason to. I had no reason not to trust him either.

We arrived at a small village. Mountains towered over the village covering half of it in shade.

A 30-something man with a beard approached on a very small bike and began circulating the car. I had a single thought; 'hitch hike man has brought me to a Spanish gang and I'm about to be sold.'

He hadn't and I wasn't.

The man on the bike was the hitch hike man's son, Juan. He introduced himself with a smile. Juan told me that there was accommodation in the village but that it was expensive.

Things progressed and it was decided I was to stay at Juan's house and he would cook me dinner and breakfast and in the morning, take me to my original starting point for the day. I couldn't believe it.

I got back into the car and was taken to Juan's house. A cute, small, wooden house. Juan and his cousin were painting the house so dinner wouldn't be until late.

I met Juan's mum. She greeted me like a long lost daughter. She had no english but persisted to make conversation and take photos of me.

The village elders sat across from the house, watching us. Juan told me they'd lived here all their lives and never had they seen a hiker walk through their village. Especially not a young english girl.

I was told to treat the house like my home. I took the main bedroom and flung myself across the bed, trying to come to terms about what had just happened.

That night, Juan shared stories and wine with me. I was so taken back by the kindness of the family and the willingness to help.

It put a smile on my face and reminded me just how kind us humans can be. I won't let myself forget that again. People are nice.

Short video of my Spanish adventure: