Glamping!

On the bike trips I’ve done, many of the campsites are called “desert camp” or “bush camp.” Those terms are really euphemisms for “sleep beside a noisy highway with trucks blaring their horns, no running water, no toilets, no lights of any kind…..and some drunk, after too much rum, yelling Captain Morgan! Captain Morgan! in the early hours”. Absolutely no niceties or comforts of any kind. Our tents were tiny, with just enough room to put a bag and sleeping bag in, and scrawny little Thermarest mattresses to sleep on.

In stark contrast, on this trek we glamped. Why has nobody ever told me about this before???

In the mornings, all we had to to was pack our bags, have breakfast, and get ready to walk. Our guides took down the tents, packed everything on the camels, and off we went. Wait…..what?Camels to carry our stuff, instead of having to get up at stupid o’clock, pack in the dark and trying to jam our stuff in lockers or on a truck? What’s not to like?

While we were walking, several guides and camels went on ahead, taking a shorter route so they could set up camp. They did everything – prepared lunch, put the tents up, and made up our beds (with real mattresses, sheets, blankets, and pillows).

As an unexpected bonus we had nearly proper toilets – a tent with a wooden box and toilet seat! No more digging in the ground to bury……..OK that’s way too much information

But the best invention, ever, is a portable shower. It’s a tent, with a canvas bucket filled with water heated by our guides, and all we had to do was turn the handle. The water pressure was beautiful. Bliss after a long day trekking in the heat!

Every morning we had a hot breakfast, usually consisting of eggs, sometimes bacon or sausage, and occasionally even homemade bread. And real coffee, in a real cup, from a press! I was usually the first one up in the morning, and one of my absolute favourite things about the mornings was sipping a hot coffee, in solitude, by a fire, watching the sunrise, listening to the sounds of Kenya as it came to life. It was magical. And then, slowly, the rest of the group came to life, and when breakfast was ready, we sat at a real table, with real cutlery and real crockery!

Dinner was the same, with delicious meals prepared by our Samburu friends, again at a real table, with real utensils, and real crockery. After dinner, we sat around the campfire for a bit, then went to bed. But instead of being kept awake by drunks partying or truck horns blaring, we were lulled to sleep under the stars by the gentle snoring of the camels and the occasional sounds of an animal in the distance.

Glamping – I’m sold!!

Next stop – Iran! I’m not sure when I’ll have internet again, so may not be able to update this for awhile. In the meantime, here are some photos for your viewing pleasure

Here’s what the shower looked like. The bucket inside the tent would be lifted up and it was ready to go

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A well deserved snooze after a long day

Camel snoozing

A member of the First Response Team. The First Response have to act when a poacher is in the area, and they put their lives on the line daily

First response

Campsite. The tripod thingy in front was filled with warm water every morning and evening so we could wash upUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5c3d

Tatian (sp?) points out something in the distance. Tatian was a joy to be around – always smiling, singing or laughing. He had a great sense of humour and was always ready with a prank. Of course we had to prank him back!

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Aden doing the jumping dance

Aden dancing

Kenya is a paradise for bird-nerds

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The camel convoy

Camels

 

Another day in Paradise comes to an endsunset

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Trekking to Kirisia Hills, Kenya

“His life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

That’s a quote from Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Illych. It has been interpreted in many ways, by many scholars, but I believe it means that Illych lived a life based on conforming and what he thought was expected. Living a simple life can be easy, but it can also mean being devoid of individuality and freedom to be the person we are meant to be.

In the last few years, this quote has resonated very strongly with me, and I am resolved to live my own life, follow my own heart, and most of all to live a meaningful life. For me that means trying to make this world a better place, and one small way of doing that is, in my travels, to contribute in some way. It can be as simple as interacting with communities and just getting to know people, how they live, what their hopes and dreams are, the obstacles they face, and just generally trying to understand life from their perspective. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to turn an unseeing eye and let injustices pass.

That was my mandate when I did my 100 Miles for Elephants walk in Kenya last year. Of course I wanted to raise funds to help stop poaching and to minimize human/wildlife conflict, but I also wanted to meet the local Samburu people who are the most affected.

Our guides were all Samburu (I think there were 24 of them!). They are a tribe who inhabit the northern part of Kenya, and it was a delight to get to know them. They were all friendly, helpful, and very happy to help in any way they could. It was a privilege to meet some of the friends and families of the guides when we passed through their villages, and get to know them a bit.

It was incredibly inspiring. As Westerners, we take so much for granted, but what has become more and more clear to me over the last few years is that we have more than enough – too much, and yet we still want for more. The Samburu have very little in terms of material possession, but it’s enough. Sharing their company for 8 days was moving and refreshing. It’s humbling to be around people who don’t complain and just get on with their life. They sing and dance just for the joy of it.

More will follow on my experiences, but for now this nomad with a restless spirit is off to wander. In the meantime, here are some photos from my trek:

This is baby Ringo. Thanks to poachers, he is one of only 3 northern white rhinos left in the world.  Ringo lives at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, with his mom Sudan. The only male left, who at 42 years, is unable to breed, so the future of white rhinos  looks bleak. Their only hope now is in vitro fertilization

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An attack dog for the First Response Team. These dogs are trained to attack poachers, at the trainers’ command. It was a little unnerving to watch. The dogs are trained to go for the right arm, where most poachers would carry their weapons. As you can see, the trainer has a very thick pad on his arm to protect himself

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Women from a Samburu village welcome us with singing and dancing

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Our fearless leaders

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Grevy’s zebra, another endangered species

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A curious giraffe

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Samburu women display their wares, hoping we’ll buy

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A rock dassie. Hard to believe that its closest living relative is an elephant!

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Our Samburu friends dancing for us

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A Samburu woman and her baby. The earring and chain in her right ear signify that she is married.

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The intrepid trekkers

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This camel needs a dentist!

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My home for 8 days

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Meet Ndotto, one of the baby elephants I fostered at the David Sheldrick Foundation in Nairobi

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It’s on!!

It’s on!! More than 2,000 elephants marched in Hong Kong yesterday, then to NYC, and today they’re at Westfield Stratford City in London. You can follow their progress on @spaceforgiants. I hope you’ll catch a glimpse of your elephant!

This is an initiative of Max Graham, founder and CEO of Space for Giants. I am just completely overwhelmed and amazed by this idea – not to mention Max’s commitment and energy in his determination to stop poaching to help ensure the future of elephants.

I truly believe raising awareness is the key to help stop this crisis. I’ve heard from many people who said that they realized elephants were poached, but didn’t realize how drastic the problem is and that they are nearing extinction. So I’m very happy that Space For Giant’s campaign will be reaching so many people, and it gives me such hope :).

And I’m so happy to say that now contributions to my campaign have reached $3180! I am truly humbled by people’s generosity and their support, and I am very grateful. Thank you so very much

Here’s a photo of the herd in Times Square in New York City

March for Giants NYC
As ever, in gratitude,
Nola

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Finally – an Update!

Namaste!

Well, this post is waayy long overdue. I’ve wanted to update this blog for so long, but somehow life got in the way. But no excuses! The adventure is never far from my thoughts, and it will always be one of the happiest memories of my life.

I am thrilled to have raised over $2800 for Space for Giants in their mission to help eliminate poaching of elephants, and to help reduce human/wildlife conflict. As you all know, elephants are in danger of becoming extinct in our lifetime, and your generous donations will help ensure this doesn’t happen. The members of the anti-poaching units put their lives on the line, and monies raised help to provide the necessary equipment for them to do their work as effectively as possible.

I will be updating this blog very soon, along with photos from the trip. In the meantime I wanted to share this link for March For Giants. I hope you will watch the video. It’s at the very top, and takes a few seconds to load. This is an initiative of Max Graham, founder and CEO of Space for Giants to raise awareness of the crisis elephants face, Max has dedicated his life to ensuring elephants, as well as other wildlife, have a future, and I think he, his passion and his idea are nothing short of amazing. Elephants are in crisis, and awareness and funds are desperately needed to help their recovery.

https://www.marchforgiants.org

For only 5 GBP (6 USD) you can ensure a baby elephant’s survival for a month AND from March 23-26 you will be able to watch the baby, with your name on it, march virtually across some of the biggest billboards in the world! What’s not to like??

If you have a brand, for a contribution of 5,000 GBP, you’ll ensure an elephant’s survival for its lifetime, and of course, your brand will also be on an adult elephant, marching across those billboards. That’s a pretty small amount considering the exposure the brand will be getting.

So I’m hoping you will consider contributing. How wonderfully cool will it be, for only $6, to see a baby elephant, with your name on it, march across a giant screen in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus?? And the best part is, you’ll be part of the solution.

And, of course, it’s never too late to contribute directly to Space For Giants. Just go on the Fundraising tab, then click on the link, and go to the right side of the page to Contribute.

In gratitude,

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The Road Not Taken

I’ve been on the road less traveled for a few years now, and I have no intention of having regrets because I didn’t choose the one not taken. Perhaps Robert Frost said it best:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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100 Miles for Elephants

In my last blog post, from June 1, 2012, I said that Africa had set my soul on fire, and that she was beckoning me back. Since then, I have been back twice, and will be going again for the third time in January 2016. So I’m reopening my blog, after a 3 year absence!!

My next adventure will be in February, where I’ll be walking 100 Miles for Elephants to raise funds to help stop the poaching of these beautiful, soulful creatures. This will be a 9 day adventure, walking through Laikipia in support of this critical cause. Here is a short video of what I’ll be doing:

At the moment, nearly 100 elephants a day are slaughtered in name of the ivory trade. That’s nearly 10% of the current elephant population in Africa. At this rate, during our lifetime, elephants will be extinct in 10 years.

Historically, ivory was used to carve trinkets, but the value has increased by over 500% in the last 3 years, and now ivory is hoarded as an investment. The United States and China are the world’s biggest consumers of ivory.

There is hope! Local communities are desperately trying to protect the elephants, and we can help them.

This is the organization whose mission is to secure a future for these majestic animals. I’ll be raising funds for the Elephant Earth Initiative, and 100 of funds collected will go directly to their partner organization Space for Giants. Here is the link:

http://www.spaceforgiants.org

In the meantime, please watch this powerful video. Elephants, like humans, mourn their dead, and this is raw proof of that.

Stay tuned for future posts!

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TIA

This Is Africa!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. Oh, wait – wrong story…..this isn’t the Tale of Two Cities. It’s the Tale 10 Countries.

Africa. It’s wild, it’s tame, it’s lush, it’s bare, it’s bountiful, it’s sparse. It’s dry, it’s humid, it’s cold, it’s hot. It’s vibrant and colourful. It’s vast, immense and boundless. It’s fickle, mercurial, unpredictable and intimidating, yet somehow comforting in its wildness.

Africa. It’s vibrant, it’s listless, it’s joyful, it’s sad, it’s welcoming, it’s reserved.

Africa. Ahh, the simplicity of my life there.  Just get up each day, pack up and just ride my bike. No cell phone, and often no internet. Some days I didn’t have clean clothes because I didn’t feel like washing them the day before. Sometimes my odometer didn’t work, and I revelled in being in the moment and not worrying about how kilometres I still had left until lunch or camp. Most of the time I didn’t know what time, or even what day it was. It really made my other life seem unnecessarily complicated.

Africa. Little by little, without me even realizing it, you crept into my being and became part of me. Now you will forever be part of my heart and soul, and you’ve set my spirit on fire.  I have left a piece of me with you and I will never be the same.  And you are beckoning me back…………



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Zambia

I think of Zambia as sort of a bridge from the lush, green damp part of Africa to the vast, dry and desert like part. The people are really what make this beautiful country so vibrant and alive. It seemed like everywhere I went, there was music playing and people were dancing. There were the inevitable coke stops, although they were certainly getting less frequent the further south we went. At one, we stopped to listen to some music and dance.

Zambia, of course, is home to one side of the famous Victoria Falls. While in Livingstone, a few of us went over to Zimbabwe where the view is considered to be better. The day we went it was quite misty, more so than usual, so it wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but it was still stunning nonetheless. I’ve forgotten the stats, but these falls are significantly bigger than Niagara Falls, and not in the least commercialised.

There is an opportunity to bungee jump or swing over the gorge, and a few of my more adventurous (read: crazy) did that. One more thing to tick off the bucket list, but for me, well never gonna happen! I decided my life will be complete without it. Good on them, though – I admire their courage and they way they meet life head on.

After leaving Zambia, we entered Botswana on a ferry by crossing the Zambezi River. Another stamp in the passport, and that’ll be my next post

Here are some pics:

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I am finished!

Well, it has been awhile since I blogged, so I hope someone will tune in! My best excuse is that I didn’t always have internet…..but I’ll update this soon with pictures and everything!

Anyway, I am back in Dubai, where I embarked on this journey. Here is the final tally:

The final tally:

11,677 kms

17 weeks

11 countries

23 passport stamps

5 time changes

1 sea

2 oceans

2 hemispheres

120 sunrises

120 sunsets

5 full moons

1 super moon

108 campsites

94 cycling days

1 naked cycling day

countless coke stops

1 naked coke stop

6 flat tires

30 gears

2 crashes

4 broken ribs

80 anti-malarial tablets

countless anti-inflammatory tablets

118 laughing days

2 crying days

countless new friends

AND at least 1,000,000 smiles!

Here’s a couple of photos of me at the finish: (OK they’re a little BIG, but the finish was BIG)

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The Face of HIV/AIDS

This is a rather long post I’m afraid, but I really hope that everyone who is following my blog will take the time to read it.

While I was in Kasungu, Malawi I went to the ATM, and while waiting in line I noticed a man wearing a shirt with a red ribbon on it. When I looked closer, I saw that his shirt also had Stephen Lewis Foundation printed on the sleeve. We started talking and it turned out that he works for CSCD (Centre for Sustainable Community Development). They support people in the area who are affected by HIV/AIDS, and they receive funding from the Stephen Lewis Foundation. He kindly invited me back to the office and suggested I visit one of their projects on the following Monday.

So instead of cycling out with the group the following day, I arranged to stay in Kasungu an extra day and went back to the CSCD office. I was warmly welcomed by Linley and Asayire, two of the dedicated workers from CSCD, and had the privilege of joining them to visit some members of their support group, who are the front line workers supporting people of the community.

Some of the things, but by no means all, that CSCD do to support people in the community are to provide bicycles for people to go and get treatment, provide medical kits with antiretroviral drugs and painkillers, empower support groups to grow their own crops of maize and soy, and provide counselling.

I had the honour of meeting a woman, whom I’ll call J, who has been infected by HIV, probably by her husband. She is one of the recipients of support from the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

J, who is a 52 year old single mother of 7 and grandmother of 9, had herself tested about 6 years ago after her husband left because she had been feeling unwell. While it is physically quite easy to get tested, and results are back in a day. But mentally and emotionally it is not so easy, and it takes a lot of courage. There is a still a stigma attached to having this cruel disease, and many people do not want their friends and neighbours to see them at the clinic, either getting tested or getting treatment. And of course once someone decides to get tested, there is a very real possibility that the result will be positive.

There are an estimated 3,000,000 people in Malawi who are affected by HIV/AIDS, but since many people don’t get tested, it is really impossible to know how exact numbers. Of a population of 16,000,000 people, that means that nearly 20%, possibly more, are HIV positive. That is a significant number.

The government of Malawi are currently running a campaign encouraging people to get tested, as well as get counselling for emotional support as well as prevention. I am hopeful that campaigns like this will help turn the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa so that numbers of people affected will be reduced. I truly believe the tide will turn.

J encouraged me to ask her questions, and while I felt quite awkward at first, it soon became obvious that she was more than willing to share her experiences with me. She is not bitter, and there is no air of the victim about her. She meets life head on with courage, grace, dignity, and even good humour. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to do the same were I in her shoes.

I have some lovely photographs of J, and of course for privacy reasons I will not publish them. Instead they will remain in my photo album and in my memory and I will treasure them. Meeting J truly brought this issue home to me. It is one thing to be thousands of miles away, but to actually meet the front line workers, who are tireless and who are so committed to their work, and the people they support – well, I will treasure that always also.

I have now reached my fundraising goal of $5,000 and I will be increasing it to $10,000. Please help me achieve my new goal. I have said this before – there is no donation too small – every little bit truly makes a difference. Just go on to my fundraising page – it’s so easy to donate. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. As always, I am truly grateful for your support!

Stay tuned!

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