“Excuse me, where can I find the telephone graveyard?” was the question my friends and I were throwing about in a small town in Yorkshire, only to be looked back with blank stares and obvious confusion. We couldn’t bear to continue asking. It was something we’d seen online and had been curious enough to to make an hour trip from a hotel in York.
The locals had us thinking we were off the rails, so I plucked up the courage and asked one last time. “A telephone graveyard?” replied the cashier as she graciously scanned the first item, “I’ve never heard of such a thing”. She must have seen disappointment in my unfamiliar face, as she grabbed a second item. “Wait, you don’t mean the scrapyard do you?”, she squinted, “I mean, I wouldn’t really call it a telephone graveyard, it’s just an old dump”.
I brightened up, and after a lengthy chat – the kind you only get in small towns, where no one ever looks in a hurry – we got back in the car, with every intention of reaching our ‘Everest’. But it was dark and hunger got the better of us, so before we had the chance to even open the pack of cookies we had just bought, we were already on our way back to the place we were temporarily calling home.
Therefore, after much meditation on what went wrong, I’ve decided that one day I will make that trip back to Yorkshire, just to see what all the fuss is about.
I know I’m winning at life if I’m able to cleanse my face before going to bed. On the contrary, if I wake up confused at the crack of dawn with no real idea of what time it is, then I know things aren’t going well. And if I’m still in my ‘going out’ clothes, then things REALLY aren’t going well. This happened last night (surprise, surprise). I rushed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and put my retainers in (the struggle is real), when I look up at the mirror and am confronted with my make up staring back at me just as I had left it, but oilier, much, much, oilier (emphasis on the oily). I have to say, I was impressed my lipstick was still in tact, but oh how I’ve failed at living. This can’t be a good start to the week. Hey ho, at least I have something to write about.
When I think back on my interaction with arguebly the cutest animal on earth -if you don’t get spat at- I think of the warm and fuzzy feeling I experienced.
As you may already know, I, along with Oli and Kate, traveled to Peru as part of a packaged tour with G Adventures. From the moment we booked our trip we were adamant on meeting these fluffy creatures and taking the perfect selfie – the internet would not be prepared for this selfie!
…And so our quest began…
We’d seen some llamas from afar on a 7hr bus ride from Puno to Cusco, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Sacred Valley that things really got exciting. We were taken to a women’s weaving co op in the beautiful village of Ccaccaccollo, and at arrival were given food to feed the alpacas and llamas. As you can imagine, I couldn’t quite handle the excitement (I had waited months for this moment), and began shoving leaves in the face of every animal in sight. It wasn’t until one aggressively flared its nostrils and threatened to spit at me that I realised it was time to back off. Luckily, our presentation was about to begin.
Traditionally dressed local women showed us, step by step, how they naturally wash and dye all the alpaca wool. It was intriguing to see how they don’t need to rely on chemicals to get the very best results.
Once the presentation was over I was eager to get back to spending time with the alpacas and llamas, and that’s exactly what I did. Admittedly, I still can’t tell between the two animals, even after being told repeatedly by our guide (I’ve googled it too).
So did I get my perfect selfie? No. Do I care? Not anymore.
You see, at first, I was so focused on looking picture perfect (with no double chin on show), that I was losing sight of where I was. I didn’t need to outshine a llama – Let’s face it, nobody can outshine a llama! And so I let myself enjoy the moment and treasure the experience. I have photos… just not that perfect photo, but you know what, I will always cherish that moment – selfie or no selfie.
Sagarmatha. If only you knew how much I think of you. My days spent wishing and my nights spent dreaming. You are my obsession. My inexplicable obsession. You are bold and you are austere. Dangerously elegant but gracefully dangerous. How many others fantasise about you? How many risk their lives to be with you? But you will never belong to anyone… and still I long for the day you will belong to me. My beautiful Everest.
My sister and I visited Japan back in 2013 and stayed in 7 different accommodations, all in the span of 2 weeks. We craved true uniqueness and so we made every effort to make it that way. If you too are looking for the wierd and the wonderful then this short list of hotels/hostels/accommodation may be just for you!
When I think of Tokyo the first thing that comes to mind is the Capsule Inn. There is nothing quite like it and you’d be a fool to give this one a miss. Essentially, it’s a hostel or shared accommodation, however, instead of getting your own bed, you get your own ‘capsule’, though some believe it looks more like an oven. Obviously it’s no luxury resort, but it’s nowhere near trashy, as you may expect. One of my main worries was the shared shower facilities (the Japanese are known for their open nudity), so I was pleasantly surprised to see the individual showers, the cool gadgety toilets and the level of cleanliness. Everything was provided for; we were given robes and slippers, as well as toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, cleanser and even toner. I was impressed! More to come on this subject!
Okay, so you’ve seen the advancements of Tokyo, now it’s time to step back and see the traditional in Kyoto. This inn has to be the cutest place I’ve ever stayed at, it’s up in the high hills of Maruyama Park and it’s surrounded by bamboo trees, cherry blossom or autumn leaves (depending on the time of year) and temples. Just think KungFu Panda. We were required to take off our shoes at the entrance of the hotel and were given Japanese robes along with slippers (once again). It felt like I was staying in someone’s home, except I didn’t have to clean up after myself.
This hotel offers breakfast but don’t expect croissants and jam, instead, you’ll be fed boiled eggs, warm soups and lovely Japanese concoctions. The shared bathroom facilities are clean, have an inside lock so you can shower alone, AND they have a Japanese bath – those who are curious to try it out but don’t want to be thrown in the deep end will appreciate this one.
3. Home stay – Kamakura
My sister and I were lucky enough to have found a family willing to let us say in their traditional Japanese home. At first, I was really apprehensive about it but I learnt so much and I’d do it all over again. I left feeling really privileged to have fully immersed myself in the Japanese culture. Our host family were nice enough to show us around Kamakura, dress us in kimonos and even cook for us! Can I also add that they fed us Kobe beef!? Kobe beef! It is the best tasting beef I have EVER tried!
I really recommend home stays as it’s where you’ll be most exposed to people’s way of living. Have a look around the web to see if anyone offers a similar experience for a small fee.
This is the only place where I haven’t actually stayed, but that’s not to mean it can’t be on my list! There’s no other hotel quite like this one. At entering, you are greeted and checked in by a friendly robot. A porter robot will then take your luggage to your room (at an extra fee) and each room has its own mini robot. It’s basically a hotel run by robots and how many more times can I say robot?
It’s an interesting one and even if it’s not your kind of thing, take a look anyway!
That’s it for now. I really hope you enjoy these sort of lists and please look out for future posts on Japan and my adventure!
A couple of evenings ago I was dragged to an exhibition (I secretly wanted to go) about maps. I’m not a map enthusiast, and after many hours of looking at maps, I’ve discovered I never will be, but I found myself being inspired by the stories behind some of the exhibits.The first that caught my attention was the story of Phyllis Pearsall who in 1935 became lost on her way to a party, despite having a map on her. Ironically, it was her father who had founded what at that time was the country’s leading map company, but she became so frustrated with the situation she kept finding herself in (pun intended), that she decided to take matters into her own hands. Pearsall walked over 3,000 miles and checked the names of over 23,000 streets, determined never to get lost again. Using all the information she had gathered, she eventually founded her own company. It started off slow but eventually came to be the country’s leading map company and created what we now know as the London A-Z.
Isn’t that inspiring? She quite literally had to take things into her own hands (or feet?) in order to make change, the change that she wanted to see happen. Life is showing me that if I take matters into my own hands, I can create the future I want! With patience and determination I can create change!
Also, apparently there was a musical about her… How did I not know about this?
Anyway, there were plenty of other gems but I’ll leave those for another post.
My experience on the Inca Trail was simply amazing. I had my ups and downs (I cried) but I would do it all over again, just… better. For those of you who don’t quite understand what you are getting yourselves into, I encourage you to roam the internet and read the various posts available on this subject. Obviously, none of that should be done before reading my post first (I got the idea from here). I thought it would be fun to add on to the long list of things to expect on this dreaded but spectacular adventure. Also, please bear in mind that I did the trail as part of a tour and so there were 10 people in total, myself included.
Alright, let’s get on with it.
1.Red Light on Headlamp
Just in case you weren’t aware (I wasn’t), insects are NOT attracted to red light, they are, however, attracted to bright lights, so if you want to save yourself from any unexpected screams in the middle of the night, then you’ll want to make sure your headlamp has a red light setting.
2. Flip Flops
Depending on the time of year you are travelling, you will want to take either flip flops or some sort of comfortable footwear for when you get to camp after the day’s trek. Some may say this is not necessary but if you’re anything like me, and can’t stand to be in the same sweaty trainers all day, then you’ll thank me later for this tip. There was nothing I enjoyed more than getting to camp, cleaning up and changing footwear. Side note: You won’t want to wear flip flops in the toilets. Make sure you use your trekking gear for that!
3. There are showers but you won’t want to use them
Take wipes, plenty of wipes. These were my life saviour and I can proudly say that I did not, once, smell on the whole entire trail, thanks to my trusty wipes. Funnily enough though, I had actually taken a microfiber towel and shower gel with the intentions of using these so-called ‘showers’, but after inspection I carefully retraced my steps back into my tent. To put it nicely, someone had kindly emptied their bowels in the camp 2 shower. Just put it into your head that you won’t be showering for 4 days. The porters, however, will provide you with warm water to wipe yourself down each day.
4. You won’t want to poo either!
Warning! You should probably do your best to ‘evacuate’ the morning of your trek in the comfort of your hotel. I didn’t and I paid for it. As you can imagine, the toilets can get pretty filthy and you’re going to much rather use ‘nature’ as your bog, however, nature isn’t quite as appropriate for number 2’s, so you won’t be doing any of those for a couple of days. The Inca Trail is just not the place. Feel free to pee wherever your heart desires though, you’re surrounded by nature!
5. Forget Dead Woman’s Pass, Day 3 is harder!
If you’ve done any research then you’ve probably heard of the infamous Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2. It definitely lives up to its fame but most of it is over in a matter of hours. Day 3, on the other hand, is the longest day and it’s just never ending, so you’ll need to be mentally prepared to face some challenges (I’ll be talking about this in a future post). My challenge was knee pain, which leads me to my next point.
6. Your knees may hurt
You’re going to be going up and down hundreds of steps, dare I say thousands? There’s a massive chance your knees will be a tad bit sore by the end of it. Make sure to take painkillers and something to wrap your knees with.
7. Your ankles may hurt too
If there is anything I’ve discovered on this trip it’s that I have extremely weak ankles. I twisted them a couple of times, but it was the final fall and twist that left me limping for 2 whole weeks. It left me in quite some pain and discomfort, so much so, that I ended up being the last person in my group to get to Machu Picchu . Prepare accordingly.
8. You may not feel hungry but you should still eat
If you’re going as part of a tour, as did I, then you’ll be glad to know you’ll be fed like you’ve never been fed before. Seriously, the cooks are amazing! The proof is quite literally in the pudding. Below is a photo of the cook and a cake he miraculously made for our group. Although the food is delicious, loss of appetite is a side effect of high altitude. That, along with the fact you probably won’t be defecating is a mix for disaster. So make sure you eat. It’s what’s going to keep you going!
9. It’s not a competition
I cannot state this enough! The Inca Trail is truly incredible, please don’t get lost in competitiveness and appreciate your surroundings. It’s so easy to want to rush it but you’ll only be missing out on the amazing views. Day 3 has to be the most picturesque day and if I could do it all over again, I’d tell myself to slow down, it doesn’t matter who gets to camp first.
10. Stay the night in Aguascalientes
If you have complete control of your itinerary then this suggestion is a big one. The day you reach Machu Picchu you will have woken up at around 3:30am, trekked for a couple of hours and also had a guided tour of the main grounds. You will be exhausted. You may not even appreciate that you have finally reached your end destination. If you are able to, stay the night in Aguascalientes and go back the next day. You’ll be showered, rested and ready to explore one of the most interesting places on Earth. Also, you’ll look better in your photos.
I hope I haven’t frightened you away from the idea of trekking it to Machu Picchu! If you’d like to know anything else about the Trail then please let me know as this is definitely a subject I will continue to write about. If you’ve already been, what would you add on to the ever-growing list?