Posts Tagged ‘National Parks’

In Wilderness with Wild and Tracking in the Lowveld, South Africa – June 2012

Ebb and Flow Rest Camp in the Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park

The month got off to a cracking start when Katherine joined me for an action-packed Wild magazine assignment to explore the hugely diverse Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park (www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/) on the Cape South Coast.  An activity extravaganza of hiking, running, canoeing, birding – and even some flying – dominated our active, outdoorsy itinerary during a memorable four-day stay at the Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp on the banks of the picturesque Touw River.

While we had great fun hiking all the local Kingfisher Walking Trails within the park, paddling the Serpentine and Touw rivers trumped the trailing as we glided effortlessly across the water  amidst a dazzling array of avian entertainment.

Soaring above Wilderness in a 'para-trike'

However, nothing could hold a candle to the grand finale: an epic 75 minute flight with Fly Time Paragliding (www.flytimeparagliding.com) over the lakes, beaches and indigenous coastal forest of the Wilderness area. Flying in the Garden Route’s only tandem ‘para-trike’ (a type of motorised paraglider) ensured an unrivalled bird’s eye view of the intriguing and varied terrain of this tract of coastal wilderness nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains. With fabulous early June weather to boot, it proved a highly enjoyable assignment and an outstanding ‘long weekend away’ destination.

A week later, my lovely wife pulled out all the stops to ensure I celebrated edging closer to 40 than 30 in fine style.  Running the Old Fisherman’s Trail Challenge (www.fishermanschallenge.co.za) with my ART team-mates in the morning was followed by  Test rugby and drinks at our Three Anchor Bay apartment before moving on to a birthday bash to remember at Pigalle Restaurant (www.pigallerestaurants.co.za/capetown/) in Green Point.  The wine flowed freely, the food was excellent and the live band got everyone fired up on the dance floor of Cape Town’s most diverse and truly New South Africa party venue.

A final magazine assignment for the month of June took me up to Thornybush Game Reserve to interview tracking guru Louis Liebenberg for an article to be published in the October 2012 issue of Africa Geographic.  Based at Royal Malewane (www.royalmalewane.com) for the second time this year, I caught up with old friends and colleagues at the lodge while simultaneously gathering material and researching the story.  I was privileged to accompany some of the Lowveld’s finest trackers as they interacted with trainees and aspirants while tracking down rhino and lion on foot.

Finally – on the subject of recently published articles – it was a busy month for me with features on Namibia’s Sossusvlei and South Africa’s Mokala National Park coming out in the trade and travel magazine Explore South Africa, along with some additional publicity for the Lesotho Wildrun trail running event (which I participated in back in March).  For those who are interested, check out the links below to view PDFs of these entertaining stories:

Running The Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge with ART teammate Duncan Gutsche

Big Game Parks, Swaziland – March 2012

The highlight of March was definitely my assignment to cover the three reserves of Big Game Parks (www.biggameparks.org) in Swaziland for Wild magazine (www.wildcard.co.za/wild_magazine.htm). Mike Richardson and his team organised an action-packed itinerary for my weeklong whirlwind tour of Mlilwane, Hlane and Mkaya game reserves. With game drives, mountain biking, horseback safaris and exciting encounters with rhinos on foot, these wildlife parks offer the active nature lover a wide variety of opportunities to really immerse themselves in the bush.

The Unitrans Unite Against Poaching (www.uniteagainstpoaching.co.za) initiative kindly provided me with a very smart Audi Q7 for my Gauteng road trip to Swaziland. Unitrans is doing a commendable job raising funds for South Africa’s underfunded, underequipped and outgunned field rangers as they try to turn the tide in the latest Rhino War. Our beleaguered rhinos and their guardians need all the help they can get if they are going to successfully stem the needless slaughter. The statistics are horrific with 171 rhinos already lost in South Africa by mid-April of this year. These prehistoric-looking animals are being slaughtered in their hundreds to supply a seemingly insatiable demand for the curative power of rhino horn in Asia. Rhino poachers are primarily targeting the Kruger National Park where 103 rhinos have been killed during 2012 alone. Sadly, the future for rhinos looks extremely bleak right now.

Two other highlights during March included the scenically spectacular Cape of Good Hope Hiking Trail (www.tablemountainhikes.co.za/parks/table_mountain/tourism/overnight_hikes.php), which we walked with family visiting from abroad. The overnight hiking trail took us on a spectacular circuit as we trekked around Cape Point. We happened to be there on the Argus Cycle Tour weekend and this ensured we had the entire nature reserve pretty much to ourselves on the Sunday. It was a very unique and special experience to be standing at the Point without another soul in sight.

With Katherine returning from a work trip to America at the end of March, we finished off the month in style by taking a weekend jaunt with friends to enjoy a couple of nights stay in sleepy Churchhaven (www.sa-venues.com/attractionswc/churchhaven.php). The Western Cape’s best-kept secret is a real gem of a spot hidden deep inside the tranquil West Coast National park and it proved the perfect place to kick back and relax in the company of eland, kudu, ostriches and even the usually elusive caracal put in a surprise appearance one morning!

April sees Katherine jet off to Arusha in Tanzania with work and I’m headed to Lesotho to compete in the three-day 120km Lesotho Wildrun event. We will also be celebrating our SA wedding anniversary with three nights at the spectacular Birkenhead House in Hermanus, and taking a long weekend trip to Plettenberg Bay with friends visiting from India. There is plenty to look forward to during the month ahead…

The Sisheke Conservation Project, South Africa – Feb 2012

Six weeks into my new job at Javelin Capital Limited, I feel like I’m finally starting to strike the right balance between my work on the dynamic Sisheke Conservation Project (SCP) and my ongoing photojournalism assignments.

My magazine contributions for this month were dominated by multiple commissions from Explore South Africa (www.capemedia.co.za/explore-south-africa); I supplied the Cape Town-based trade and travel magazine with three stories for their March-May 2012 issue, covering Mokala National Park, Table Mountain hiking trails and canoeing the Orange River.  Thankfully, with only a couple of 4×4 articles and an Indian adventure sport feature lined up for March, the coming month is looking considerably more manageable and balanced.

Things are looking good with the SCP initiative in southwest Zambia and I’m now feeling much more settled in my new role than this time last month!  While Javelin steams ahead with progressing this exciting conservation initiative, the Peace Parks Foundation (www.peaceparks.org) and Mwandi Office of the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) are dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s ahead of the signing of the final Memorandum of Agreement between the parties.  With the ball squarely on their side of the court and not wanting to simply sit back and mark time, we decided to forge ahead with the new Project website this month.  I can report that – as of the end of Feb – we have reached the stage where the vast majority of content has been generated, images chosen, designs agreed upon and the site construction begun.  We are eagerly awaiting www.sisheke.com going live sometime during March.

I’m happy to say that while it was a hectically busy month on the work front, February certainly wasn’t all work and no play.  Katherine and I have found Cape Town and its idyllic lifestyle a perfect fit for us and we’re enjoying an active, outdoorsy and action-packed time rediscovering the many attractions of my hometown.  In keeping with the spirit of a leap year (the year when a woman can take the initiative and propose to a man!), Katherine organised a Valentine’s Day surprise this year.  I arrived home from work and was immediately whisked off by my lovely wife and up Table Mountain – via the very impressive Aerial Cableway (www.tablemountain.net).  On top we enjoyed a delicious picnic, sundowner beers and watched a magnificent sunset, before taking the revolving cable car back down to the ‘fairyland’ lights of Cape Town below.  What an awesome way to spend a Tuesday in our beautiful city!

Our Cape Town crowd of friends is dominated by some hardcore athletes, fitness fanatics and a large group of casual runners, so we too have embraced an active lifestyle.  The Sea Point Promenade (right in front of our apartment) is an incredible resource for keeping us sane, not to mention getting us fit.  As a result I ran my first-ever road marathon on Sunday 19th February.  The Cape Peninsula Marathon (www.topevents.co.za/index.php?sectionID=157) was a great experience and my race time of 3h26 definitely exceeded my expectations.  I did find, however, that the road took its toll on my weak knees and leg muscles, so my plan is to stick to half-marathons and trail running in the future.  So the Milkwood Half-Marathon (www.energyevents.co.za/events_detail.php?id=576&type=current) on Sunday 4th March will be the next exciting challenge.

March is shaping up to be another cracking month with running, overnight hiking, a trip with friends to Churchhaven, and lots of live rugby and cricket to keep me suitably entertained in amongst all the writing and interesting Sisheke Conservation Project work.

Cape Town, Javelin and a New Project in Zambia, South Africa – Jan 2012

The month kicked off with an entertaining Test Match between the Proteas and Sri Lanka at Newlands.  After losing a week to the cricket, work restarted in earnest as I struggled to meet magazine deadlines with two stories for the March issue of Africa Geographic, a Namibian piece for Go, and a cover story on Nepal for the April issue of Getaway International. All four were due by mid-January and, thankfully, I somehow succeeded in getting all the copy and images in pretty much on time.

The biggest event of the month took place on January 16th when I began work at Javelin Capital in Claremont.  This job heralds the start of a new adventure and the latest challenge in my life, as I take on responsibility for progressing an innovative business-conservation project in the Western Province of Zambia.  Centred on the Upper Zambezi River and within the KAZA TFCA, the aim of this challenging and exciting project is to develop the lands of the Sisheke Chiefdom into a self-sustaining community conservancy of 1.5 million hectares.  The area forms a critical linkage and migration corridor between Chobe in Botswana and Kafue in Zambia.

I will continue to write for my stable of magazines while working on this new venture, so having two jobs running concurrently should definitely keep me busy and out of trouble!

January also treated me to two great weekend escapes in and around Cape Town.  The first one was the Hoerikwaggo Hiking Trail (www.hoerikwaggotrail.org): an iconic 5-day hiking trail that covers 75km through the World Heritage-listed Table Mountain National Park.  We were treated to an unforgettable experience of incredible natural beauty, pristine fynbos and stunning ocean views as we tramped up, down and all around the Hoerikwaggo – the ‘mountain in the sea’.  The two-day stretch of trail that we covered started at Slangkop Lighthouse near Kommetjie and, after crossing Noordhoek Beach winding up over Chapman’s and Noordhoek Peaks, descended to a beautiful new tented camp a stone’s throw from Silvermine dam.  The next day we climbed back over Noordehoek ridge, contoured above Hout Bay and walked over the Vlakenberg before finishing up at Constantia Nek.

The last weekend of the month saw me join some old Varsity mates for a trip out to Bontebok Ridge (www.bontebokridge.com) near Wellington.  Located in the heart of the Winelands and only an hour from Cape Town, Bontebok Ridge is a small slither of natural paradise that forms part of the greater Renosterveld Conservancy in the Limietberg Valley.  Owner Tom Turner (previously of African Parks) hosted us in grand style with his venison braais proving a real highlight.

It’s looking like I’ll have my nose to the grindstone for much of February, as I strive to find the right balance between my photojournalism assignments, my new job, enjoying Cape Town and running a couple of marathons.  Watch this space for the lowdown…

Kalahari, Namibrand, Sossusvlei and the Orange River, Namibia – Nov 2011

November proved to be a standout month packed with new experiences and great adventures, which is not a bad effort considering that 2011 has been a year dominated by some fantastic travels, incredible magazine assignments and epic new experiences.

The latest four-week trip kicked off with an Africa Geographic magazine assignment to 26,485 ha Mokala (www.sanparks.org.za/parks/mokala/) and it was fascinating to explore and learn about South Africa’s newest national park. The reserve is a stronghold for rare and endangered species and it’s doing great work breeding up and relocating the progeny of these threatened species to a wide range of national parks and private game reserves throughout South Africa.

Next stop was the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (www.sanparks.org.za/parks/kgalagadi/) and after six long years away, it was every bit as good as I remembered … with the exception of the roads! The increase in the park’s popularity and a newly paved road running all the way from Upington to Twee Rivieren Entrance Gate meant that more vehicles are bumping and bouncing along the park’s heavily corrugated roads. But the energising experience of being in this arid, wildlife-rich wilderness of rolling red dunes is well worth the price of a pair of new rear shocks!  We enjoyed good cheetah cub viewing, hyaena clans escaping the heat by relaxing in the waterholes, great lion interactions, a couple of Cape fox den sites with tiny playful puppies, and the emotional sight of a springbok ewe give birth to twins!

After five nights in the Kalahari, we made use of the special tourist border facility at Mata Mata to cross into neighbouring Namibia and the friendly faces of smiling border officials were a very unexpected and pleasant surprise. The excellent dirt roads of southern Namibia – with the exception of the well-used routes around Sossusvlei – were regularly graded and in considerably better condition than the South African park roads; our little VW polo breathed a huge sigh of relief as we exited the Kgalagadi.

The first Namibian port of call on the itinerary was &Beyond’s stunningly situated Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (www.andbeyondafrica.com/african_safari/namibia). Perched on a hillside below the Nuimib Mountains in the northeastern corner of the NamibRand Nature Reserve (www.namibrand.com), it is the ideal spot from which to appreciate the reserve’s arid landscapes and incredible natural beauty. The sophisticated desert-chic lodge comprises ten ultra-luxurious en suite stone and glass villas with private verandas and outdoor showers with superlative views.  If you rate your lodges according to their location, then I’d give this spot 13 out of 10!

After five fun-filled days exploring the northern NamibRand, we moved on to Kulala Desert Lodge (www.wilderness-safaris.com/namibia_sossusvlei/kulala_desert_lodge/) and found ourselves within spitting distance of the world-renowned Sossusvlei dunes. Those dunes are something special and looking down onto a soupy sea of dense fog shrouding the skeletal trees of Dead Vlei below us as we slogged up Big Daddy is an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.

The NamibRand was so good that we headed back for round two, exploring the southern concession in Namibia’s largest private nature reserve. Tok Tokkie Trails (www.toktokkietrails.com) caters for a max of eight guests, but we were fortunate enough to have the the fully catered three-day trail all to ourselves and the personal attention bestowed upon us by guide Domingo and his back up team made for an extraordinary and unforgettable nature experience. Tramping through the desert and sleeping amongst the red dunes under a billion bright stars was the absolute best way to get up close and personal with the Namib.

After recharging with a couple of R&R days at the historical Hansa Hotel (www.hansahotel.com.na) and enjoying  a mandatory German beer tasting extravaganza around Swakopmund, there was one last stop at Camp Provenance on the Orange River before we headed for home. The following morning we scrambled into a glass-fibre canoe and set off to explore the Ai-Ais-Richtersveld TFCA with Felix Unite River Adventures (www.felixunite.com/river_trips/orange_river), embarking on a six-day paddle all the way from Noordoewer to the Fish River Canyon confluence. It was a great trip with good food, excellent guides, incredible stars and big enough rapids to ensure people took an involuntary swim at Shambok, Surprise and De Hoop rapids!

What an incredible trip made possible by magazine assignments from Africa Geographic, Explore and Travel Namibia.

Hermanus whale-watching and the Northern Cape, South Africa – Oct 2011

October has been a manic month.  Katherine’s arrival from Kenya proved to be the catalyst for an admin-filled couple of weeks as we searched for a new home in Cape Town, while simultaneously organising phones, bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, jobs and all the rest of that ‘fun’ stuff.

Anyway, after a couple of frantic weeks, we seem to have made good headway and are already feeling decidedly more settled (if somewhat exhausted as well).  Today we signed a lease on a lovely little two-bedroom apartment on Beach Road in Sea Point with awesome sea views and two balconies for my braais!  It has all the potential to become a great new base for us, as we start the newest chapter of our life together in Cape Town.

We did manage to sneak in a long weekend away with mates to check out the whales off the coast of Hermanus (www.hermanus.co.za/whales.asp).  It was a fun-filled and action-packed couple of days with lots of exercise, beach time, whale-spotting walks and rugby watching: an all round super-cool weekend away with good friends.

Tomorrow we depart on our much anticipated trip to the parks of the Northern Cape and Namibia.  First stop is Mokala (www.sanparks.org/parks/mokala/) where South Africa’s newest national park has already carved out a reputation as a stronghold and breeding ground for endangered herbivores and I look forward to discovering more about this little-known park, which lies a stone’s throw from Kimberly.

After three nights in Mokala, we head to the Kgalagadi (www.sanparks.org/parks/kgalagadi/) for the last week of October.  The Kalahari thirst-lands are undoubtedly my favourite wilderness area in South Africa.  It has been six long years since I last visited this iconic national park and I am extremely excited to finally be headed back there.

After reacquainting myself with the Kalahari, magazine assignments will take me into Namibia.  The trip will predominantly focus on the NamibRand Nature Reserve and Sossusvlei area, although it looks like we will also manage to squeeze in a couple of days in Swakopmund and a six-day river trip down the Orange River on our way home.

With so much to look forward to … this hardly classifies as ‘another tough month in Africa’!

Cape Town and the Otter Trail Run, South Africa – September 2011

After an incredible 9.5 years living abroad, I arrived in Cape Town on Thursday the 8th of September ready to embark on the next exciting chapter in Katherine and my life together. The first couple of weeks back home were dominated by admin, buying a car, researching apartments and where we want to live, meeting with my magazine editors and, of course, catching up with friends and family.

After a couple of weeks of writing magazine stories, proofing articles and fine-tuning the itinerary for next month’s Northern Cape and Namibian sojourn, the month concluded in fine style when I travelled up the Garden Route on a much-anticipated assignment to compete in and cover the gruelling Otter Trail Run (www.theotter.co.za). Dubbed the Grail of Trail, this brutal 42km full trail marathon weaves its way along the very same route of the legendary Otter Trail – South Africa’s most iconic and spectacular hiking trail – as it traverses the rugged coastline and fords the rivers of the majestic Tsitsikamma National Park.

On the morning of Friday September 30th, two hundred endurance athletes and one pretender (me) gathered in the inky blackness below a star-studded sky at Storms River mouth for the Otter Run: undoubtedly one of the hardest and simultaneously most incredible events I’ve ever competed in. Nervous tension mingled with an electric atmosphere in the cool morning air ahead of first light. As dawn broke on a picture-perfect day, we set off running through indigenous coastal forests, into deep ravines, over imposing mountains and across the fynbos-clad slopes of the Garden Route National Park, before overcoming one final obstacle – a precariously unstable floating bridge – to finally finish at De Vasselot campsite in Nature’s Valley.

Returning from his epic victory in the gruelling Leadville 100 mile ultra marathon in America, Ryan Sandes, the soft-spoken trail runner extraordinaire, dominated what was arguably the greatest trail running field ever assembled on South African soil to clinch first place in Africa’s premier off-road running event to clinch the coveted Grail. Shaving an impressive seven minutes off André Gie’s record, Sandes finished in a blistering 4h40m.  I staggered over the line two-and-a-half hours later in around 110th place, but, thankfully, well within the eight hour cut-off time.

October is looking like it should be a good month with spring in the air, Katherine returning from Kenya and an exciting magazine assignment to the Northern Cape and Namibia on the horizon. Here’s holding thumbs that the Springboks can play out their boots at the Rugby World Cup and turn a good October into a month to remember … Go bokke!

Glacier NP, New York, South Carolina and Minnesota, USA – July 2011

Scenically spectacular Glacier National Park (www.nps.gov/glac/) is a very special place.  Impressive mountain panoramas, snow-capped peaks, icy blue glacial lakes and dense lodgepole pine forests come together and produce jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes that demand you get out the car and go hiking.

Especially memorable moments in the mountains of northern Montana included drifting off to sleep after lunch on a large flat rock in the middle of picturesque Snyder Lakes under a big blue sky surrounded by towering snowy peaks.  Hiking through the snow to reach Granite Peak chalet and enjoying the wrap-around mountain vistas from the lodge.  However, the roundtrip hike to Iceberg Lake definitely took the cake and topped my list of must-do walks in Glacier.  Scenic mountain terrain and excellent wildlife viewing – grizzly bear feeding, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats – combined to produce an extraordinarily rewarding hike that culminated inside an amphitheatre of mountains at a snowmelt lake peppered with drifting icebergs.  Didn’t I mention … Glacier is a pretty special place!

After eighteen days exploring three of America’s finest national parks it was time for the long drive back east with a final overnight stop in Teddy Roosevelt National Park to check out the Badlands of North Dakota.  After a hectic week playing catch up back in Minnesota we embarked on our next sojourn as we tackled the skyscrapers and unfamiliar territory of New York city.  We flew out to NYC primarily to visit my sister Nicki, followed that up with a family reunion at the beach in South Carolina and finished off a whirl-wind month of high adventure with a Pennsylvania road trip to see Katherine’s alma mater and attend her Bucknell college reunion.

It was an action-packed month of fun travels and exciting magazine assignments that took me from the wilderness and forests of the American West to the concrete jungles and beaches of the East.

London, Reykjavik and America’s finest parks, UK & USA – June 2011

While the travels have become mellower of late, our adventure has also evolved into an increasingly global sojourn that continues to delight at every turn with new destinations and an ever-increasing variety of action attractions.  After nine glorious weeks trekking and tramping to all corners of Nepal, Qatar Airways transplanted us from Kathmandu to London.  The change proved a real shock to the system … not to mention the sensory overload of returning to one of the world’s premier cities.  A ten-day whirlwind tour of England followed as we enjoyed theatre in the West End, test cricket at Lords, boozy pub lunches, a couple of festive birthday celebrations and I even managed to squeeze in a couple of meetings with magazine editors.  The London stopover culminated with a long weekend away with family where we stayed in a delightful little lock-keepers cottage in Rye (www.visitrye.co.uk) on the south coast of England.

My sisters (Carolyn and Sue) pulled out all the stops making sure we were treated like royalty, while my brother-in-law ensured we were fed like kings during our UK stay.  The braai meat was plentiful and beers were never in short supply – a real treat after all the noodles and rice of the last few dry months!

Next stop was Reykjavik en route to the USA.  We selected the very friendly and accommodating Hotel Sunna (www.sunna.is), which boasted an enviable hilltop location within easy walking distance of all the city’s major sights and restaurants.  With a mere 72 hours in Iceland we could only scratch the surface and Sunna was the perfect base for our explorations as we concentrated our limited time on the capital and its neighbouring attractions.  Spending the best part of a day at the idyllic Blue Lagoon hydrothermal spa (www.bluelagoon.com) was a real highlight, while the thrill of half-day whale-watching and puffin-spotting boat cruises came a close second.  Tours with both Elding (www.elding.is) and Special Tours (www.specialtours.is) provided me with my first glimpses of Minke whales, as well as impressive views of thousands of nesting puffins on the islands of Faxafloi Bay.

We arrived in America on June 15th and after a couple of days of feasting and catching up with family, we embarked on a long-awaited and much anticipated three-week road trip out west to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks (www.nps.gov).  My quest was to find and photograph wolves and bears in the backcountry while we soaked up the beautiful mountainous scenery.  The parks did not disappoint.

Record precipitation in the Rockies this winter meant the higher hiking trails were still buried under deep snow; however, this 300% higher-than-average snowfall forced the animals to congregate in the lower elevations.  We were thrilled to see black bears foraging, grizzly bears hunting, wolf and plenty of moose, elk, pronghorn and deer.  Absolutely idyllic weather conditions with deep blue skies, warm sunshine and barely a cloud in three weeks ensured we thoroughly enjoyed our time camping and hiking in Wyoming.

American parks are super-easy and affordable to explore with negligible park fees, cheap camping, free backcountry permits for overnight hiking deep into little-visited wilderness areas and wildlife-viewing that could tempt and woo even the most experienced African wildlife connoisseurs.

Next up we collect my sister-in-law from Bozeman airport and drive up to explore Glacier National Park in northern Montana before making our way back to Minnesota and heading east to visit friends and family in New York and South Carolina.

The Karnali River, Bardia NP and Everest, Nepal – May 2011

Like a fine red wine Nepal just gets better and better the longer we spend savouring this impressive country!  It is certainly proving to be an incredible and varied little Himalayan kingdom and the prefect playground for a couple of outdoor lovers and adventure sport aficionados.

After a gruelling two-day bus ride west, we reached the end of the road at Sauli Bazaar on the banks of Nepal’s biggest river – The Karnali.  We were part of a ten-man crew (including two ladies!) for a week-long river trip with Equator Expeditions (http://www.equatorexpeditionsnepal.com/).  It turned out to be a fun group and we had endless laughs on the raft as we skirted some big rapids and camped on sandy beaches next to the river.  Sleeping around a campfire under the star-studded heavens was a definite highlight for both of us.

The expedition ended at Chisopani on the boundary of Royal Bardia National Park and after a week on the river the comfort that awaited us at Tiger Tops’ Karnali Lodge was just what the doctor had ordered.  We soaked up the luxury, devoured great food and thrived off the quality wildlife experiences.  I was desperate to catch a glimpse of my first Indian one-horned rhino, so to end up having numerous close up sightings of five different rhinos feeding and swimming was very very special indeed.  Crouching in a bush watching a seven month old calf suckling from its mother while I was on a walking safari was the ultimate high of our wildlife-viewing extravaganza.  We topped the safari off with two tiger sighting – a young female with a hog deer kill and a handsome male escaping the pre-monsoon heat by sleeping in a pool of water.  What a great place Bardia turned out to be!

After a couple of days recuperating in Kathmandu we boarded a plane for Lukla and the start of our two-week Everest trek.  We chose a circuitous route to base camp via the sacred emerald green lakes of the Gokyo valley and over the Cho La pass to Gorakshep and Everest Base Camp. The weather gods smiled on us and we were treated to some idyllic weather for the epic Himalayan views from the summits of Gokyo Ri (5357m) and Kala Pattar (5545m).  Sitting on the top of these rocky vantage points gave us ringside seats to a jaw-dropping wraparound vista that defied belief … a host of snow-covered 8,000m+ peaks (Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, etc) rubbed shoulders and seemed almost close enough to touch.  These scenes of raw beauty exuded an overwhelming sense of mother nature’s awesome power.

After living in India for three years and enjoying nine weeks adventuring through Nepal, the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon (http://www.everestmarathon.com/) proved the genuine grand finale to our time in Asia.  It was with a combination of great excitement and a little trepidation that I approached the start of the race.  The 29th dawned grey and cold.  Mist swirled through Everest base camp (5360m) and thick grey clouds hung ominously overhead.  When I cracked the ice off my tent zips, I was greeted by a white world of snow and ice.  When the start gun fired at 7am the temperature was well below freezing and the unrelenting snow refused to let up until we were 16km into the race!  The start took place inside the infamous Khumbu Icefall and after jumping a small crevasse we ran over the frozen rocks and ice of the glacial moraine for 8km while my lungs continuously screamed for more oxygen.  My plan was simple – and borne of necessity – run everything that is flat or downhill but walk/climb the hills.  As we slowly descended towards the half-way mark at Dingboche the conditions improved and I found it a little easier to breathe.  Reaching the half-way stage in 3h10, I truly believed a six-hour finish was on the cards, but two viciously steep hills between the 32 and 37 kilometre marks killed that idea and in the end I was more than happy to finish in 6h34, which put me in a respectable 6th position out of 68 international participants.

With the tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal wowing us in so many ways, the final chapter in our Asian sojourn has proved to be an absolute cracker!

The adventures for June appear to be somewhat tamer … our next stop is London to visit my sisters and then it’s onto Iceland and USA.  The journey continues and we’re loving the ride…

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