Sent by Zoe Dance-Bishop
Harlow 1/19/2022 7:32:00 PM
Based in The Lake District
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
Hello, welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please, pull up a pew and let us put our heads together to find what you are looking for. I love to travel and am always looking for the next place to visit. As an independent Travel Counsellor, I can help you with any of your travel plans or to try and make any of your travel dreams come true. I love to listen to your ideas and will do everything I can to offer solutions to turn your ideas into the perfect tailor-made holiday. After all, we all need something to look forward to.
Travel and adventure have always been a passion of mine, from trekking in the Himalayas to slaloming down snow covered peaks, driving across endless plains to lying beside a pool with a cocktail in my hand and good book, exploring the most amazing bustling cities and sailing the high seas. I love to explore new places, meet amazing people, and experience other cultures. I have worked in the travel industry for over 10 years.
Everything that I book for you is 100% financially protected giving you absolute peace of mind and I provide an honest and trustworthy service with attention to detail and will be available day and night offering a personalised one to one travel service for you. I know that travel is difficult at the moment but there are some amazing places just waiting for us to visit once we are able to travel more freely again.
I live in Kendal in the beautiful Lake District so can get out on the mountains and fells when I can so if you fancy a staycation in the UK then I can also help. I have three grown up children to boast about so I have plenty of experience of family holidays and can offer suggestions and destinations to suit you. Whatever you would like, whether it is a family holiday, a mountain trek adventure, city break, honeymoon or a UK break I will find your perfect escape.
Give me a call or drop me an email and let me throw some ideas around. I look forward to hearing from you.
“When something good happens, travel to celebrate. When something bad happens, travel to forget it. If nothing happens, travel to make something happen.”
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
20 December 2021
I was extremely privileged to be one of a few Travel Counsellors selected to experience the all inclusive Club Med resort in Alpe D’Huez in December 2021. For the weeks preceding the trip we really didn’t know if it would happen as Switzerland brought in quarantine for those entering the country which including those landing in Geneva and travelling to France. We considered flying to Lyon but eventually the quarantine requirement was dropped and our flight to Geneva went ahead. We transferred up to resort on the Monday morning which took 2.5 hours and we knew the snow was going to be amazing as even the valleys were snow covered. As we climbed up towards the resort we negotiated the 21 bends made famour on the Tour de France cycle race. We pulled into the village and arrived at the spectacular Club Med resort. The resort has been recently refurbished and extended – so previously was a 3* resort and now is a 4* or rather 4 trident resort (Club Med have their own internal rating system of tridents. It features over 400 bedrooms and suites; twins, doubles, interconnecting, family rooms – pretty much all configurations you could wish for. There are two restaurants – Le Pic Blanc, with panoramic views of the slopes and the valley with an outdoor terrace, and the Les Alpages Gourmet Lounge – with an exclusive gourmet experience. We were able to experience this for ourselves on our second night. On checking in, I was given a wrist band which was apparently my room key, my ski locker key and everything I would need. On arrival in my room, which was a twin room on the seventh floor I was blown away by the amazing views. The rooms have everything you need and are very well laid out. USB points at desk and by bed, lights inside cupboards, twin basis and a bath! Oh a bath after skiing is the ultimate luxury!! After unpacking and settling in, we went down to the depot to arrange our ski hire. I had my own boots and opted for some advanced level skis and once kitted out, placed them in my locker. I had my own locker with my own boot driers and helmet hooks etc – what a treat!. Club Med is a huge resort with amazing facilities so there is always either food being served, entertainment being shown and free flowing drinks from the bar. The dining room downstairs has an enormous buffer with a covid friendly one way system and there was so much choice of lovely quality food. On the second night we ate at the speciality restaurant Les Alpages, where I shared a fabulous fondue with a colleague. Excellent food and service throughout. The complex is ski in ski out and it is so easy to ski the short way to the nearest chair lift from which you can access the whole resort. The snow conditions were incredible, probably the best I’ve ever experienced. We made the most of our 2 days skiing and covered most of the area – including Les Savannes, the longest black run in Europe at 16km. Skies were blue and the sun was shining yet the pistes were in pristine condition. There were no queues anywhere and nothing to stop us blasting across all corners of the resort. We would ski back to Club Med for our lunch before heading back out again in the afternoon. The weather was lovely and warm and yet the snow was not slushy at all. After skiing we all enjoyed beers and cocktails on the terrace before getting ready for supper. We had time for a tour of the different room options so that we could advise clients accordingly. We were not able to go into the child care area due to child protection rules but I know that their care is second to none. They take children from 4 months old and it’s a great option for families with children. Treated like royalty in a fabulous environment – it’s a ski holiday that I won’t forget in a hurry and I can thoroughly recommend to all – whatever your family make up. It ranks extremely highly as a quality and luxury ski holiday.
26 November 2021
I have always enjoyed boating and did the Avon ring 28 years ago with a few friends. I can’t believe it took so long to do this again, but October half term was approaching and with covid being a concern, finances tight and self catered cottages in the UK being booked up so far in advance we decided to see if there were any canal boat options. We found a boat in the Cheshire area that met our criteria. We were 6 adults in total; a couple, two teenagers plus myself and my daughter. We had initially opted to try and do the Cheshire Ring – a circular route of canals of 97 miles and 92 locks. On arrival at the marina, the lads there advised us against this due to it being half term, halloween and with much of the route going through the Manchester city suburbs, It would be necessary to moor up in the city and there had been many reports of kids messing around with the boats there. So, on their advice we decided to go for the Four Counties Ring instead. A similar length – 110 miles and 94 locks which takes you through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands. We knew it would be quite a challenge to complete this in a week, particularly with it being late in the year and so the days were getting shorter. We would need to cruise for 8 hours each day, whatever the weather in order to get round so we had packed full water proofs for everyone. The lads from the marina took us through the first three locks leading out of Middlewich and gave instruction on boat driving and lock operation. It isn’t difficult and we very quickly became quite proficient in all areas. Steering a 62 foot boat takes some doing and the boat was a little quirky but the trick is not to try and do anything quickly. You can be efficient but slow – making sure the locks up ahead are set ready for us, people in the right places and making sure everyone knows what their job is and where they should be. We were told that the 16 year old boys that were with us were allowed to drive the boat providing an adult was present and this was well received by them. Part of the trip took us through the Harecastle Tunnel which is 2.6km long and needs to be prebooked. We planned our journey carefully and the day before contacted them and booked a 4pm slot. The lady I was corresponding with noted where we were and said that we wouldn’t make it so would expect us in the morning instead. The challenge was set and that day we worked so well we actually arrived at the tunnel at 2:45 in the afternoon (much to their surprise. ) The canals take you through some beautiful countryside but personally I find the industrial areas of towns and cities fascinating and it is great to see how many areas have been redeveloped with the canal at the heart of everything. It is a popular and growing tourist industry and there are many pubs, shops and tourist attractions close to the canal network. Life on a canal boat is quite simple – there is no wifi, we had a flat screen TV with DVD but never used it. One toilet and one shower between all of us and limited water as you carry it on board with you so it is a little like camping. You don’t plan to have a shower every day and you don’t bother with makeup or doing too much to your hair. There is little storage for clothes so we lived out of our bags stored under the bed so jeans, tshirts, fleeces and waterproofs were the order of each day. It was very well equipped with cooking utensils including a cafetiere so we did eat well. We took a couple of frozen meals with us; a veggie lasagne and a bean chili. We also took two free ‘hello fresh’ boxes which we used for the first three nights. Knowing that ALL ingredients are included in the ‘hello fresh’ meals we didn’t need to worry about shopping for anything else. We just bought bread and milk. We also took with us bacon, sausages, eggs, breadrolls and cup a soups and used those daily for both breakfasts and lunches. Two nights we ate out in pubs where we could moor up close by so a good variety of places to eat and a couple of ‘treat’ nights for us too. The fresh air, early starts and the activities of the day were exhausting and most nights we were in bed long before 10pm. We had to work with the light so had to be up early to set off as soon as the sun started to rise. Each morning, one of us would do the ‘pre flight’ checks (as we liked to call them) which involved pumping out the bilge, priming the grease and checking by hand that the propeller had nothing fouling it. Then starting up the engine, switching on the inverter and headlight and away we went. Our ‘bible’ was a canal companion book that detailed the canal and the route. It shows water points, pump out stations, churches, shops etc and also allows to you roughly calculate how long in cruising time it would take to get somewhere. Because we were on a tight schedule and the days were short, this was extremely important as you cannot cruise after dark. But there really is something quite special when the weather is kind, the chugging engine of the boat lulling you into a soporific state and the remarkable wildlife that can be found in and around the British waterways. Certainly a holiday for all the family and can be action packed or relaxing, depending on what you are looking for.
14 September 2021
What better way to celebrate a friends’ birthday than by booking a self catered barn in mid wales with a hot tub? It was a belated 50th birthday from March when we were in full covid lock down. We had booked a long weekend to Cwmcornbarn just a few miles outside Newtown for 7 ladies and were delighted with the property on arrival. It had two double rooms, one twin and one triple so could sleep 9 in total (but gave us some options to move around to accommodate snorers) The owner met us on arrival and gave us a tour – showed us where to do the recycling etc and showed us details on walks, taxi’s, places to eat out and useful contact numbers. It has a utility room with washing machine, separate drinks fridge and freezer and plenty of crockery and utensils for self catering. We arranged a Sainsbury delivery so that we didn’t need to bring lots of food with us and settled in for a weekend of girlie chatter, good food, walks in the Welsh countryside and plenty of relaxation in the wonderful hot tub. This was the highlight for us and we even enjoyed an evening in the dark, in the pouring rain, in there. We had some fun facemasks to put on - it was a good job the barn was so isolated - we would have frightened off any passers by. Being a group of active ladies, some went running and we also had some yoga sessions in the morning. Personally I ran my own aqua aerobics class in the hot tub :) We explored Newtown and took a long walk to Dolforwyn Castle walking along the banks of the river Severn. It worked out a very affordable trip split between so many of us and we thoroughly enjoyed getting away from the daily grind of normal life. The Dolfor Inn was not far away and provided an option for eating out but we were unable to book in there as already full – so that is something for next time and there will be a next time – it was perfect surroundings and facilities and a great break!
07 September 2021
I was very fortunate to be invited to join the Norwegian Cruise Line Ship ‘Norwegian Epic’ on their soft opening experience. After 500 days of no sailings this was a chance to test out staff and crew procedures before paying guests were on board. We were given the ‘cork and caps’ wine and beer package, a complimentary speciality dining package (on top of the other restaurants) so that we can sample a wide array of unique restaurants on board and free internet. I flew from Liverpool to Barcelona which was my first flight since the start of the pandemic. The airport was like a ghost town and the flight pretty empty. Everyone wore face masks and everything was clean, hand sanitiser available everywhere and it all felt very safe. I took the train into Barcelona where I had booked an overnight hotel in the El Born area of the city close to the docks. I was due to board between 10 and 10:30 the next morning. A short cab ride to the docks and what an impressive sight, seeing EPIC waiting for us – she looked spectacular. After being dropped off my our taxi, the suitcases were tagged and whisked away and I was guided to the covid testing tents where QR codes were checked and a nasal swab taken. Not ten minutes bad passed before my negative result was received and I made my way to the check in area. I had completed online check in so it was all very swift and it was 25 minutes from arrival at the port to opening the door to my balcony stateroom on board. My case had not yet been delivered so I made my way up to the top deck to meet colleagues and to grab a snack and a drink. Deck 15 is where the band play, the larger pools and hot tubs are and is the main area on sea days to relax. There is also the Haven area two floors up at the front of the ship which is more exclusive and is additional cost. Sailaway was at 5 and it was lovely to be up on deck to wave goodbye to Barcelona and head out to sea. Knowing that I had two speciality dining options (only 21 restaurants on board and 8 of them were speciality) it was necessary to do a bit of planning and prebook the options. It was also necessary to prebook some of the shows so there is a need to do a bit of social planning. Every restaurant that we ate in was very different but with excellent quality and delicious food. Wines were great and the service on board from all staff was second to none. I tried the breakfasts in the main dining room ‘Taste’ and also the Irish bar ‘O’Sheehans’ and they both had a great variety of offerings. The main dining room did offer more in the way of waffles, fruits, muesli options and it was a brighter and preferable place to enjoy breakfast. The garden café on deck 15 also served a full buffet style breakfast option. The entertainment ranged from fully blown shows with amazing costumes and choreography to cirque du soleil style acrobats, to Tina Turner tribute acts to dueling pianos. Such variety and certainly something for everyone. There were some very talented people on board. We found somewhere different every night both before and after the prebooked shows and never struggled to be entertained. My cabin was extremely comfortable with plenty of room. I was on my own however and it is advertised as 2/3 people so might have been a bit of a squash if there had been 3 of us. There wasn’t a huge amount of floor space or storage. The bed was very comfy though, and it had a good shower, plenty of towels and 2 chairs on the balcony with floor to ceiling windows. My steward came to introduce himself when he delivered my case and Dexter would make up my room each day and turn down my bed each evening. On day 3 we woke up in Sardinia and I had booked a wine tasting excursion. We left the ship around 11:30 and drove through Cagliary with our guide giving us information at every turn. Due to covid restrictions we could only leave the ship on planned excursions and had no free time in the city but we were able to get off the bus at view points and take photographs. Once at the vineyard we had plenty of time to walk around and were expertly guided through the winery by the owner. We were introduced to their range of wines and also given a plate of Sardinian snacks to sample. The wines were delicious and I would have loved to buy a case but travelling hand luggage only with Ryan Air just didn’t allow me to do this. It was a great way to get to know some of my fellow travellers as we relaxed with a variety of glasses of wine. I loved the sea days and the ability to just relax in the sun, lounge in the pools and enjoy the company of my colleagues and the new friends that I had made on board. Travelling on my own is a great way to get to know others and is all part of the fun. You’ll never be lonely cruising on your own. Cleanliness and safety on board was paramount and facemasks worn by all when moving around the ship. It really did feel very safe. We all had to take a covid test within the 3 days before returning to the UK and NCL provided this on board – again this was all very efficient and expertly organised and the negative result was emailed to me and a printed copy placed on my bed in my stateroom. Norwegian Cruise Lines are an excellent company and I cannot fault the staff and crew on board. I wish them the very best of luck now that they are back cruising again. I am so grateful to them for the opportunity to experience all they have to offer on board and can confidently sell their cruise holidays to my clients.
27 August 2021
With travel in 2021 being so uncertain and restrictions and traffic light rules constantly changing, many people decided to stay closer to home. I decided that I would try out one of the UK sea-cation cruises that were on offer around the UK coast and booked a 3 night, 4 day cruise sailing from Southampton in August with Princess Cruises on their ship ‘Regal Princess’. I took my best friend Jackie with me and it was the first time either of us had every cruised so a completely new experience for us both. We booked the ‘Princess Plus’ package and Jackie asked if this was because we were overweight but we soon discovered that Princess Plus meant an upgrade to a balcony stateroom, with all gratuities included, Internet and the food and drinks package. From the moment we arrived on the boat we were given a warm welcome from the ships staff, who we learned were from over 40 countries. They were so friendly and warm and always helpful when we got lost or had questions. The ship was beautiful, very ornate and immaculately presented. Capacity wasn’t too high – they can take 3500 guests but there was around 2000 on board. We made our way to our balcony stateroom where we found our suitcases has already been delivered. We had a twin room and it was really quite spacious. The shower room was adequate – spotless of course and a good pressure shower. We also had tea and coffee making facilities, a desk/dressing table and plenty of clothes storage with hundreds of hangers. After a quick unpack we headed up to the top deck for the ‘sail away’ party. We found somewhere to sit and used our apps on our phone to order some cocktails and a snack. Having previously been given ‘medallions’ which act as our room keys and also personal locations so that anything we order is delivered to us, wherever we are on board the ship. There were a few teething issues with the tech but when it worked it really was an excellent concept. Our ship played the love boat theme on its horns and the call and response was replied to by our sister ship, Sky Princess, as we sailed past their Southampton mooring. We were asked to wear masks when moving around the ship and where social distancing wasn’t possible and this was adhered to. The only time it was a bit of a pain was in the theatre. All restaurants were covered apart from a couple of the speciality restaurants. We didn’t want to spent anything extra so decided not to go for the speciality dining but we certainly didn’t need to. The food in the main dining restaurants, Concerto and Allegro was second to none and the service was spot on. All drinks less than $12 in price was included – which was basically everything except some top champagnes and whiskies. We had no reason to pay for anything extra at all and could relax and order whatever we wanted without worry. There was a good program of events and the theme for this cruise was Mind Body and Soul. Guest speakers on board were Jenny Ryan (Mind) from the quiz show, the chase, Dr Ranj Singh (Body) TV doctor and famed for Strictly Come Dancing and Kate Bottley (Soul) from Songs of Praise and Gogglebox. They were also often seen around the ship and were happy to pose for photographs and chat to people. Their formal shows were well attended (socially distanced seating) and were highly entertaining. Kate Bottley is outrageous!! As all guests had to be double vaccinated there were no young people on board but it was a great age range from early 20’s to late 60’s and it never felt stuffy or too formal. Everyone really relaxed and let their hair down, assisted by the free flowing wines and cocktails of course. On Saturday evening Gareth Gates entertained us with his dulcet tones and emotive piano playing and even though dancing wasn’t allowed, there was lots of seat dancing and arm waving from the back rows. It all felt rather too short however and before we knew it we were watching the sun rise over Southampton as we sailed back into port. Overall verdict is that this will certainly not be my last cruise. It was my first and it gave me a good appetite for more as I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be looking to try other cruise lines and other routes. I do also think that there is a market for the UK sea-cations even beyond the pandemic. We have a great coastline in the UK and the price makes it a great option for a short break away and a very good chance for first time cruisers to see if they like it.
13 November 2020
I am not sure how I begin to try and condense my diary of my Nepalese adventure into a short blog but I will try. What I can summarise is how it changed me, gave me a more positive outlook, increased my confidence, reduced my anxieties, put my life into perspective and how I can thoroughly recommend the experience. To embrace a culture so far removed from the everyday life we experience in the UK was truly humbling and I was truly overwhelmed by the spectacular scenery of the majestic and the awe-inspiring Himalayas. I flew with Etihad airways from Manchester to Abu Dhabi and then on to Kathmandu where I would meet up with my fellow trekkers. We had two nights in the Hotel Manang in the Thamel area of Kathmanu which gave us the opportunity to do some sight seeing and also stock up on any last minute purchases required for the trek. Kathmandu is an amazing bustling city full of amazing smells and sights. We had arrived in Kathmandu during the Diwali celebrations, the festival of lights, so the city was buzzing with lights and music and full of coloured pictures made from flower petals and coloured powders. After a repack to reduce the weight of our bags to be carried by our Sherpas and Yaks, we had a very early departure for the airport to fly to Lukla affectionately named as ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’ due to the number of plane crashes that happen there. I did film the terrifying landing and departures from Lukla, the links are in my full blog. The first day of trekking to Phakding was a great opportunity to start to really get to know my fellow companions and the walk was very enjoyable. Beautiful lush green valleys and our path winded along close to the banks of a glacial river. It was undulating – as much descent as ascent so we didn’t struggle with altitude. Very cold in the mornings but once we started walking we soon removed the layers and by late morning would be walking in just t-shirts. During the trek we stayed in tea-houses which are small lodges with rooms upstairs for sleeping. A tea house bedroom room consists of two platforms on which there is a foam mattress and a pillow. They also provide a duvet/blankets but you are expected to bring your own sleeping bag and ours were provided by our trekking company. The walls are chipboard and paper thin so ear plugs are essential. There is no heating except downstairs in the main dining room so we only went to our rooms to get our sleeping bags out and ready and to change into something more comfy for the evening. Food at the tea houses is mainly fried rice, noodles and also the staple Dhal Baat. You are advised to stay completely vegetarian as all meat is carried by hand for days up the mountain! The next few days we trekked higher and higher, entered the Sagarmatha National Park where our trekking permits were checked and crossed 5 suspension bridges including the impressive Hillary suspension bridge. Each day, as we ascended further and further, we started to feel some effects of the altitude. Initially it was just a nagging headache and this was eased by ensuring we were fully hydrated. We were advised to drink between 4 and 5 litres of water per day and were encouraged constantly by the Sherpas who provided water filters so that we didn’t need to carry the full requirement of water each day. Our first view of Everest was just before we reached the town of Namche Bazaar and it was an emotional moment. Everest is not a particularly spectacular mountain and it doesn’t look so high from this side – there are more exceptional peaks to see and take photographs of but of course Everest is the highest and the most famous so it was an achievement in itself to see it with our own eyes. It is said that you are never too far from an Irish pub and In Namche we found the worlds highest but we didn’t go in until we were on our way back down the mountain. ‘No alcohol on the ascent’ was the instruction issued by our head guide. We had a couple of acclimatisation days on our way up – one at Namche where we visited the Tenzing museum and another at Dingboche. These are not rest days – you still go for a hike up high but then return to sleep low. Climb high and sleep low helps the body to acclimatise and certainly by the time we got to Dingboche the effects of altitude were starting to show. Three of our party were suffering flu like symptoms and griping stomach pains. I was suffering with a bad head almost constantly and was struggling to sleep. I was confused, disorientated and had extremely vivid and wacky dreams. Flatulence and massive emotional mood swings was also a big issue. Altitude sickness symptoms seemed to be very much like a cross between a hangover and menopause and I had not expected this – I knew about the physical issues of altitude sickness but wasn’t prepared at all for the emotional ones. They did relent a little after the day of acclimatisation but then you move on and go even higher. On the 8th day of trekking we eventually reached Gorak Shep and then on to Everest Base Camp. This was a very difficult day for me, and I did eventually resort to using Diamox. Without it I wouldn’t have got past Gorak Shep so I have no regrets at all. The side effects were interesting. I didn’t have the constant urge to pee like some of the others had but I did have excruciating pins and needles whenever I stopped moving. I had pins and needles everywhere especially my fingers and my cheeks. The landscape here in the Khumbu valley is bleak and desolate – there is nothing growing and all you can see are rocks, glacial rivers and higher up, snow. The air is very thin and it is hard to breath especially at night. I woke a few times gasping for air. The trekking was gruelling and relentless however and not the most enjoyable day but it was a great feeling to finally reach our destination, the goal we had been working towards and training for, for months and months. The return to Lukla was much quicker – we descended over three days although they were very long days and we covered great distances however as we descended we found it so much easier to breathe. In summary – it was an experience of a lifetime and one that I will remember for ever. Full blog and diary of my adventures can be found here http://www.snow-white-skiing.co.uk/ebc/
03 November 2020
I am not sure why I had never been to Barcelona before and I really didn’t know what to expect. This was a birthday trip towards the end of my 50th birthday celebrations and an opportunity for my best friend Jackie, and I to spend some time together, having some fun, drinking some wine and sampling some Spanish delights. My first impressions on arrival was one of clean and friendly Spanish efficiency. I had flown into Madrid and explored Salamanca a couple of years earlier and remembered having the same feelings then. We caught a city bus from the airport and with the help and assistance of friendly locals, purchased bus tickets and enjoyed the sights from the bus window. We had booked to stay at a city hotel close to the old quarter and centrally located on a room only basis. We wanted to eat out and explore – that was our remit for weekend. The first afternoon we headed down to the harbour and gazed longingly at the millionaire’s super yachts in the marina – wondering if we could convince anyone that actually we had just stepped off one. We sipped cocktails and enjoyed some tapas while relaxing in the sun. The cable car over the harbour is a wonderful way to take in the views and to see the city from above. We were very lucky with the weather as it was the very end of November and it was a beautiful clear blue sunny day. Whilst on our wanders we went into the cathedral and foraged around the Christmas markets. None of them appeared to be offering any food or drink like the Manchester or German ones do so we didn’t stop too long. La Sagrada Familia was an attraction that we had decided was an absolute ‘must’ and so we purchased online the guided tour using the electronic guides. On arrival I must admit that my first impressions were not good. I did not like the look of the building and felt it was a strange anachronistic mix of architecture. Once we had listened to the guide and been inside the building my whole feelings towards the structure completely changed and I found it the most incredible, inspiring, and beautiful place. It was absolutely the highlight of the trip. Other highlights of course were the fabulous meals and the Spanish atmosphere. Eating out in little restaurants we came across down little alleys and going with our gut impressions on places rather than trip advisor. All in all, it was a brilliant weekend and there were plenty of things that we just didn't have time to see and do. A city to return to.....
13 November 2020
Following my trek to Everest Base Camp I had a quick repack of my luggage and then set off for the 5 hour journey to the Chitwan National Park. The roads were crazy, as were the drivers. I have never heard so much horn tooting but all seemingly in good nature. We arrived at the Machan Country Villas and I was introduced to my guide, Chhanu, and was provided with a well needed refreshing welcome drink. It was very hot and humid. I dined alone in the dining room, thinking that it was that I was late and so had missed lunchtime however I soon discovered that I was the only guest staying there which, in some ways, was rather lovely – a team of staff catering to my every need, but also a little lonely – it would have been nice to meet people and chat to someone over meals. After lunch I was shown to my cabin which was named ‘Hornbill’. My guide, Chhanu was an expert ornithologist and kept his bird guide book on him at all times. I noticed there was a torch on my bedside table so I guess power can be intermittent. Chhanu asked if I’d like to take a walk so I grabbed my water bottle and we set off into the local village where his family live and showed me where they cook and where they eat. Two small fires inside clay domes provide the base for a pan with rice and a huge pile of rice in the corner is their staple diet. It was very dark and this was the middle of the day. I can’t imagine cooking in this kitchen with bad light. They do have some electric but really just enough to power a light bulb Each family has a cow tied up outside which they get milk from. We walked down to the river hoping to see some animals, maybe elephants, taking on water. It was a beautiful sunset down at the river, the view and the colours changing every few seconds. Chhanu was continuously pointing out birds and scouting the banks for animals and birds. Walking along the beach for a while we were able to see deer prints, rhino prints and elephant prints. Went back to my cabin and had a quick shower before supper. I washed my t shirt as I showered as it was the only colour t shirt I could wear on the safari. Rhinos in particular do not like bright colours and red in particular makes them angry so my new khaki trousers I had bought in Thamel and my green t shirt were perfect. Chhanu also did a slide show presentation to show the wildlife they have here. Dal Baat for tea and a couple of beers before I headed to my cabin for the night. Day2 Up at 6 and had breakfast at half past six. Tea, muesli with fruit and yoghurt, fried egg with hash brown, sausage and tomato. Chhanu and I then went for a bike ride but stopped for a cuddle with their captive elephant on the way out. She is nearly 50 and has three children; two girls and one boy. She was quite happy to allow me to stroke her and talk to her – I think it was the first time I have actually touched and elephant. We picked up a couple of bikes from the resort entrance and started our ride through the neighbouring village. We met some ladies carrying baskets on their heads in the traditional manner. They let me try. Chhanu was trying to video my efforts but think he must have forgotten to press record probably just as well as it was a pretty disastrous attempt. The women in the next field were harvesting the rice and asked me if I’d like a go. They were so neat and made it look so easy. Their scythes looked very sharp so I declined the offer. I also saw lots of buffalo. They are a queer animal. Very strangle looking, almost like their ears are in upside down. One female was very inquisitive and listen to every word I spoke. We rode for around 25km and much of it was on very bumpy tracks. When we arrived back at Machan it was an hour before lunch so I had a dip in the pool as it was very very hot and sticky. I spent a long time just floating in there, pool to myself, and resort to myself! After lunch I put on my long trousers and khaki coloured clothes and met Chhanu and we walked down the drive where we met our jeep safari guide and driver. The safari was amazing. We picked up our park ticket which was basically our licence to visit and I saw it was made out in my name. So there was myself, Chhanu and another guide plus our driver. As soon as we had entered the jungle Chhanu slapped the bars of the jeep and we stopped. He pointed up into the trees and there was a monkey jumping from branch to branch. It was closely followed by another. They soon scarpered and just as we were about to move on he pointed into the bushes where I could see a splash of red. A barking deer, not at all phased by our presence. We could see the back of a lone rhino in the grass It was quite a way off but was moving in the right direction. We spent some time watching the giant armadillo like creatures plod through the mud and munching on huge tufts of grass, holding the grass in their mouth and then twisting their heads to rip the grass from the stem. We were so close we could hear them munching. The baby, I was reliably informed, would have been about two years old. They were so majestical yet somewhat comical looking with their plated armour. Further into the jungle we stopped right blow a toucan perched on a branch. He was brightly coloured with his black and white feather and his superb yellow bill. After seeing a couple more rhinos at the water edge we also spotted a pair of wild boar. We made our way down to the waters edge where two men and a boat waited. I was handed a life jacket and assisted onto the boat. By the waters edge Chhanu spotted some relatively fresh tiger prints, only a few hours old. The river was quiet with occasional rapid sections. Almost immediately we spotted an alligator basking in the sun. As we approached it scuttled odd into the water. He was hard to spot, so well camouflaged in the mud on the banking. The sun was starting to set and all we could hear was bird song, crickets and lapping water. It was beautiful. As we floated down the river, Chhanu pointed out egrets, cormorants, a peacock, love birds, kingfishers and many others, each time showing me the page in his book so I could see what the bird looked like close up. Eventually we reached the boys on the bank and left the river, thanking our two drivers. The next morning after breakfast my driver arrived to take me back to Kathmandu. A short but magical trip. Full blog and diary of my adventures can be found here http://www.snow-white-skiing.co.uk/ebc/
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