A Travellerspoint blog

India: Prepare yourself.

Prepare yourself, I'm going to blow your mind. Potentially even if you've travelling in India before. India gets cold. Like freezing. Like people dying on the street from exposure cold. Reports say there were 7 people that did the day I arrived.

Before you say, well the information is out there Kayleigh, you can't complain that you weren't prepared for the weather - I did my research, I checked forecasts (shame on you 'reputable' BBC), I knew Pakistan, Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries got snow and I think I just generally assumed this was because of mountains and altitude. Not just because 4-6 degrees is normal in Delhi in winter and I should expect fog so thick that the sun doesn't even get the chance to peek through.

So here I am in India for my winter sun adventure, with a bag full of t-shirts and shorts, freezing my bag-ingo off.

Flashback: I remember on announcing to people we were planning on going to Russia in the winter, people said why? It's freezing - but I can't imagine the country any other way. So that's why I had to go in winter, I had to see it covered in snow, littered with people in fur coats and stilettos looking like they are stepping out of a Bond villain lair.

India was the same, well, I guess more the complete opposite. You expect India to be perpetual summer. You expect colour, smell, flies and an oppressing heat. So it goes against all my previous understanding to see people in jackets and hats, all collecting around garbage fires lit on the street, the only bright colours are their tightly wrapped scarves around their faces, in a futile attempt to protect themselves from the cold.

After arriving in Delhi we spent the day traveling from temple, to mosque, to monument only to find everything closed because of potential terrorism threat. Delhi is hosting the French President for a day of National Celebration on Jan 26th - but there are so many concerns for his safety, all these attractions have been closed to ensure the threat is controlled. A bit of a shame, but hopefully we will be able to go back on our return to the city.

I am currently writing this, wearing every layer I own, in a non heated bus, with very dodgy windows heading to Jaipur, the 'Pink City'.

The road is lined with fields of growing mustard seeds, half built petrol stations and brightly painted trucks all in a thick layer of dust.

There are men communally washing, white with soap suds; camels pulling carts of building materials far bigger than themselves; and families walking hand in hand down the main road, under the harassment of heavy traffic, each family closer to perilous death.

The communities that dot the roadside are filled with open doors, temple relics in ruins and piles of bricks for building construction that can only be described as catatonic. Neither started nor finished, but just existing - like a physical representation of a potential New Years resolution.

My first few days in India have shown me stark contrasts and and constant horn honking, hopefully, in my next blog (if my fingers warm up) I will delve into these more.

Posted by kayles 03:13 Comments (0)

London bridge didn't fall down

overcast 20 °C

London is a place of hectic madness and every so often everything stops - if only for a moment and you stop and think about everyone else who lives in and loves this great city; and how in pretty adverse circumstances we all just operate the best we can.

Today is the anniversary of the London tube bombings. I didn't live in London when they happened, nor have I ever experienced acts of terrorism first hand but I find myself connected to the memorial in a way that I very rarely am. Like I am part of it. Like it is part of my identity.

If you had asked me last year, I probably wouldn't have noticed. But my new job means my commute is in the tube under the armpits of my fellow 9-5ers. Politely avoiding eye contact and shuffling to ensure enough space for them to play candy crush. Today I had to travel for a full hour east to west under the city knowing the pain and heartache that was endured by people just making their way as best they could to their job, to do what they love, or don't. To provide for their family, or not. To make the world a better place, or not. It's not what they were doing that matters. It is that Londoners stand by quietly, and let people be the people they want to be, need to be or are expected to be.

Other people may disagree but I don't think Londoners push ideas and opinions on people, you are perfectly entitled to be anyone you want to be. Whether you wear flowers in you hair, a red Mohawk or a burka. In London you are free to choose.

By that day people's ability to choose was taken away. The Tube, a london stable, tried and true (apart from the tendency to strike) is part of the London psyche. It is our transport. It is basically out legs. And the same way that you take the legs of someone in a sports game, the person goes down.

But in this case London didn't. It plods on mechanically and methodically providing people the lifestyle that they have been accustomed too. I am thankful that scaremongering has not ruined the city. Londoners move together like a tube carriage filled with busy commuters crushed together swaying in unison, weathering the bumps, carefully not touching each other as best we can. Often with an abrupt jolt when you arrive at the station - but generally unscathed, they continue to do it each and every day.

In saying that, it doesn't mean I wasn't a little scared traveling this morning.

Posted by kayles 10:25 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

All good things must come to an end

overcast 5 °C

So many of you will know that since returning from Africa I have been sans-job. I have given it many names - fun-employment, faux-ternity leave or home-possessing bum.

However as of Monday this will be no more, I officially have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, other than breakfast and coffee dates.

Whilst travelling in Africa I realised that I need to find something I am passionate about, and with the impending doom of 30 around the corner, I thought I better stop flitting from job to job and actually get a career. So at the end of last year I decided to be strategic with jobs and look for something with definite progression opportunities. I got back to London and applied for only 2 jobs and got a job with Flight Centre that I decided to start in January, giving myself an adult mental health break of 2 months.

I can't recommend it more. I am calm (ish), patient (ish) and relaxed (ish). My life had never really had these things, so it's a start. An ADHD squirrel still needs a million things to accomplish in a day, but during this time it could be done at my own leisure.

I have learnt to appreciate my own company and done things that I have been meaning to do for a while. I've tried different coffees, watched shows I wouldn't normally watch, listened to music I wouldn't normally listen to and developed as a person.

I have gone to exhibitions I wouldn't think I would like, and have enjoyed every piece of them, read books for leisure, read books for knowledge and spent time doing the things I love.

But things like this only stay enjoyable while they are novel and new, so it must come to an end. As of Monday I must once again don my bright colour gym shoes, grab my Boris bike and join the rat race that is London life.

But while I do there are a few things I have taken away from this time and I thought I would share them, because even if you are not able to take a 'break' from real life, you should still be able to take a break.

1) Embrace sitting at a cafe by yourself. Take a book, newspaper or a work (if completely necessary) but don't feel self conscious because you are alone. Don't grab your phone immediately and check Facebook for the millionth time today. We only do this because we have a immediate need to display our ability to make friends, knowledge within yourself should be enough, who are you trying to impress? The girl making your coffee? The guy sitting at the window - trust me that don't give a toss.

2) Which leads me to my second thing, you don't need someone to make you happy.

You could meet a friend to have coffee, sit awkwardly, make small talk, even tag yourself together on Facebook. Then tick that off your list for something you don't need to do for the next 4-5 months. Why? Don't bother. Hang out with who you like, who makes you a better person, who you enjoy the company of. Sense of obligation is only in your own head, the other person probably feels the same way. So give yourself a break.

3) Don't eat too healthy or partake in juice cleanses. It's pointless. Do exercise, live in moderation but don't kid yourself. What do you think all that amazing food is for? Looking at? Lusting over? How dull. Eat, drink, be merry and then go for a run. Ate lots? Run further.

4) Try something new. It's unlikely to kill you. And if it does, I apologise to your family, that was not my intention.... And if you try it once and it's not for you, then DONT do it again. Easy as that. Don't feel you have to keep doing it because you have a 5 trip pass or you and your friend signed up together. If you don't like something, don't keep giving it second chances, it's probably still going to be bollocks.

5) Magazines are unnecessary. Celebrity gossip is pointless. Fashion magazine show clothes you can't afford, can't wear because it's 'next season' and only look nice on people that look vaguely like a pogo stick- width wise and the weird early 90's buzz everyone is currently on. Two points here I guess, dress who you are and how you like, and that sunscreen song was right - do not read beauty magazines they will only make you feel ugly.

6) Make your jam something that isn't on the radio. Don't let someone else decide your music choices for you. Based on how big their ass is, or how much money they have for their music video or what you 'think' your friends would listen too. Listen as you wish. If you want to listen to Frozen on repeat, crank it up. If you secretly love Nickleback, be secret no more. If someone doesn't like you for music choices, were they really a friend? Or only in inverted commas? Does your music choice make you cool? Who cares! Embrace your 80's power ballads and love your life.

7) Make 2015 the year of you. Do something YOU want to do, not someone else wants you to do, or someone else expects of you.

You want to learn a language that will be absolutely no use to you or your career? Do it.
You want to go sky diving naked? Why not?
You want to quit your job and follow your dreams. Crack on. You may end up waking up from your dreams, but I promise you you will have learnt something during the process. It's all about you. Without a strong sense of who you are, you will never be who you want to be.

So as I am sitting by myself in a central London coffee shop enjoying my last few days of freedom I will appreciate these things, and try to take them into work life... Almost certainly won't happen, but I'm not one for New Years resolutions anyway.

Posted by kayles 07:14 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Home coming

overcast 13 °C

I land in Abu Dhabi, alone and find myself a seat which looks as comfortable as a bicycle without a seat... Or tires. So plonking myself down I wrap my Masai blanket tight around me, to attempt to recreate the warmth of Africa and attempt to sleep. I stubbornly set my alarm for my boarding time, stupidly expecting sleep to come. I was naive. I was also lucky. As I was sitting there listening to everyone yell at each other across the terminal, I suddenly realise (just in time) that I was an hour out time zone wise, and almost missed my flight!

It would probably come as a surprise to many go you that I have never had sleeping tablets. An ADHD squirrel like me goes a million miles an hour all the time, sleeping tablets stop the magic... Or terror depending on your view. Anyway, I decided for the first time to have a couple of sleeping tablets on the flight from Abu Dhabi back to London. The instructions said take 2 tablets 20 mims before you want to go to sleep. All I can say is, I am glad I waited until I was seated on the plane. I don't remember take off, or landing and only a brief moment in the middle of the flight when I could smell food and woke up. Of course... to me, food is more powerful than the strongest drugs. Fat kid for life.

As I arrived back into London Heathrow I basically hand back my tan to the immigration desk. Which is all I did. For someone who has just spent 3 months in Africa, coming back to a country that is terrified of the concept of Ebola I thought I would have a bit more of an interrogation. Lord knows just coming back from a weekend in France comprises of a full cross examination, investigation of how many real teeth my paternal grandmother, and a full cavity search with option happy ending. But from Africa. Nothing. No Ebola test, no 'what countries have you been to', no bag search. The only question I was asked was, 'when did you leave the U.K?' Surely she had the answer to that question on her little screen. How that is helpful or relevant, I don't know. But I also don't care, I was free of the oppressive Heathrow and on my way home.

Small things get you excited when you come back from a big trip. Wearing a t-shirt you left here. Remembering you brought a new jacket a week before you went away. Remembering that you do own shoes, that aren't flip flops or converse.

There have been a few things that have really stuck out since returning to London. Appreciating a toilet that has been cleaned some time since it's installation, flowers on the table to welcome you home and the ability to drink shower water are just a few.

There are also things that remind me of Africa. Watching a train full of passengers standing still and patiently as the train arrives on the platform, reminds me of a wilderbeest migration. Static, queuing people, not moving a heck of a lot just waiting for the person in front of them to move a slightly more to the left or right.

Yesterday I watched a very overweight person walking along the road, she had both arms out, almost like stability, like a tightrope walker. And for some reason it reminded me of a giraffe, constantly moving its head from one side to another to compensate for it's lopsided walking style.

But the most powerful impact on my return to real life is music. Listening to music that reminds you of your travels, is exhilarating and depressing at the same time. I have spent the last few days trying to interpret it differently to fit it to my new location, new scene which is actually an old scene. It's all very confusing.

On the home front, I have forgotten the code for my front door, I have got lost running home, I have played netball very badly and I have forgotten where to put my socks.

But the biggest problem of all has been the sun. Or lack of it. It's not even the warmth that I miss. It is the actual evidence of the sun. Yesterday I saw an amazing moon, incredible sitting right over the Thames next to Canary Wharf, it is was set against a pitch black night sky. The only problem was, it was 4:30pm. That's not night, that's not even afternoon! I would consider that late lunch time. It's ridiculous. Returning to London has made me realise how blasé the UK is about time and it's construct.

I think I may have blogged about this before so I apologise if I am repeating myself. Sunset in London may be beautiful, but you wouldn't know, it's not even noticed. Street lights turn on, people are still working, travelling on the tube or generally inside, oblivious to the completion of a day and the beginning of the night. The night is not a scary or all encompassing concept, it is just an extension of the day. A change. For some, it is the only time they see the city. Their daylight hours are taken up reading a computer screen in a badly lit cubicle, lined up next to others that have pictures of tropical islands as their screen savers. Places they will never see, as they barely see their own city.

Africa on the other hand is completely defined by the sun. The day starts at sunrise, it's as if the sun drags them out of their homes onto the street by the collar and dumps them on the side of the road with all of the rest of their neighbours. Sunrise is not just a number heard in the shipping forecast, or read online. It is a magical and stunning event, appreciated and reviered for its beauty.

From there, the hustle and bustle ensues until the sun rises high into the air. Once there, movement slows to a crawl. Shade is sought. Time stops. As though the sun is on a pendulum and when it reaches the midday position and the concept of time slows down. Tying a noose around the population, staving them of oxygen, energy and will.

And when the sun begins to dip, as if given food at the edge of starvation, life begins again. The movement returns, the energy restores. But quickly as that occurs, the sun begins to set over the horizon, the bookend of the day begins. The same stunning beauty of sunrise repeats itself as sunset, as if the sun is celebrating a day well done by framing it in reds, oranges and purples.

And then there is darkness. But unlike London darkness that has the ability to be extinguished by a switch, African darkness is all encompassing. It is terrifying and exhilarating. It has the risk of threat behind every corner. Whether it be animal, human or physical location related, the darkness has hidden agendas.

Wow, I need a job! Africa has had its impact on me far more than I ever expected.

Oh and for anyone wanting to see some of the photos from my epic adventure, I made a book.
You can see it here


Posted by kayles 02:49 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Bananas for Gorillas

rain 25 °C

Seeing the gorillas was AMAZING. Probably one of the highlights of my life.

We headed out from camp at 5.30am, still dark and still half asleep we piled into two awaiting vans, little did we know these would be our trekking teams for the day. I lucked in. A wicked crew of 8, and only one slow person... To test my patience, and teach me to be more tolerant... Yeah that didn't happen, she was from the US.

We set out from the village climbing through tea plantations and tiny settlements on a windy path up to the mountains and to our final destination, the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With children banging on the vans and yelling 'Muzungu!', we slowly crept through the mist toward a couple of amazing sunrise vistas.

It occurs to me now how odd it is that everyone yells 'muzungu' at you in Africa. They basically point at you and yell 'foreigner' in your face. If you tried to do that in London (or anywhere in the western world) you would get locked up. Or at least given a high five in the face... with a chair.

Anyway, once we arrived we were given a briefing explaining the day. No guarantees. If you trek all day and you don't see gorillas then they will give you a 50% refund. A bloody expensive day to hike in a forest to see nothing and almost certainly ruin every item of clothing you are wearing. I understand why it is known as impenetrable now... This place is not meant for humans.

The jungle is dense, muddy and untracked. As you will see in some of my photos, our team is just dodging vines, trees and roots as we scurry up and down the valley. In the morning we set out in one direction, and about half an hour in get a call over the radio that turns us 180 degrees, and back past where we started. Starting again, we head straight down the slope into the bottom of the valley to head up the slope on the other side.

This was not done elegantly. It was a hilarious process. At one stage during the day everyone ended up covering themselves in mud. Sometimes on multiple occasions. Not purposely. It was a full day of classic Fawlty Towers slapstick humour. People grabbing trees while both legs were in the air, people relying on branches that disappear under them, someone doing a full pirouette spin before landing on their front, one person sliding down to take out another, just a full day of side splitting hilarity. Seriously my stomach actually hurts today from laughing so much.

As fun as the process of getting to and from the gorillas was, obviously the gorillas were the stars of the show. As we approached the ridge, the front runner trackers came back and gave us one last brief. Put the walking poles away, stay 7 metres away, you have 1 hour. No more.

We arrived at the group and the first thing we saw was a massive Silverback. This male was sitting pulling vines down, delicately tearing them apart and putting them into his mouth. As I was lying in the undergrowth mesmerised by the human like features of this enormous animal, a baby appeared from the trees above, throwing itself to and fro in the vines. Jumping, swinging and falling. This baby was about 18 months old according to our guide, and was so playful. So much so that in our hurry to get away at one point, she grabbed the leg of one of the girls on our trek and gave her a cheeky bum pinch.

Over the next hour we watched the silver back, 3 females, a juvenile and the baby play, eat and even watched the mum breastfeed the baby. It was an extraordinary experience. Although they were cautious of us, it was almost like this was their opportunity to show off for the day. We were positioned right in the middle of the group and they sort of came and went as they pleased. Although we had to keep moving away from the baby who kept wanting to play, the 7 metre thing seemed to be a vague memory. It was like we we were adopted as part of the group.

And as magically as it began, with 6 minutes left on our 1 hour stopwatch, it started to gently rain and the troop slowly moved into the undergrowth cowering from the impending deluge, disappearing from sight. Then they were gone.

It was a sobering realisation that this would probably be the only time I will ever get to experience this, and it was so much more than I could have ever imagined. I always head into things with low expectations, so as to not be disappointed, but I needn't have worried in this instance. It was incredible.

I am so glad I did this at the end of my trip, for two reasons. Firstly, it is one of those experiences that is so Africa, and so NOT Africa at the same time. The setting - rain and lush forest is not how you picture typical Africa. But also the gorillas themselves, Africa is a hectic place, but the gorillas are patient, calm and methodical. They are relatively quiet and move with grace and purpose, something I could only dream of for my own life back in the real world. The second reason I am glad I saw them at the end of my trip is I like to think I have mastered my lens. Without trying to sound like a complete knob, I managed to get some legendary photos. I am happy enough with my camera skills in general settings, but I was a little concerned that I might miss the opportunity if I was still learning about how to get the shot I wanted. Some of the photos I am the most pleased with have not been altered in any way from the original... Not even cropped.

I woke up this morning, and the first thing I thought was I fricken saw gorillas yesterday. It was a pretty cool way to start the day.

Posted by kayles 05:10 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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