How And When Can We Return to Road Tripping Safely in Europe?

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When will we be able to do this again?

The question we are asked most frequently is, “What are your plans?”

Mark and I always have plenty of plans, although in these extraordinary times, there is no guarantee that any of them will come off. Nevertheless, by having plans in place and ready to go, we can respond quickly to the changing situation.

Yet even if the restrictions lift so that you can travel, should you hit the road? Here is our latest appraisal of the situation. Continue reading “How And When Can We Return to Road Tripping Safely in Europe?”

How Travel Journals Led Me to Publish Four Books

Armchair Travel delight

“Keep a diary, and someday, it will keep you.”

Attributed to Mae West, Margot Asquith, Lily Langtry & Anonymous!

Making a living from writing is difficult, but not impossible, although writing books and making money is certainly not the reason that I started keeping travel journals.

My memory is terrible, so when people used to ask me things like,

“What did you do on your trip-of-a-lifetime to Zimbabwe?”

I would say things like, “Er. Nothing much…”

If this is you, you need a travel journal! Continue reading “How Travel Journals Led Me to Publish Four Books”

Lockdown Life – A Wander with Wild Flowers & Wildlife

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Alpine Anenomes with a snow-covered Monte Rosa in the background

The only difference between Lockdown Life and Groundhog Day seems to be that the scene outside has changed.

In the film, actor Bill Murray’s window opened daily on the same snowy landscape, although he was not in isolation. For us, seventy-two days into lockdown, the Alpine scenery has moved decisively from winter to spring. Even the thick snow on Moos, the piste opposite our apartment, has almost disappeared. 

Nevertheless, we have seen virtually no-one and have not always been able to get out. Today, both Mark and I were feeling emotionally drained.

Continue reading “Lockdown Life – A Wander with Wild Flowers & Wildlife”

Lockdown Life – 8,000ft Walkies to The Source of the River Lys

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Waiting patiently while Mark went on Adder Watch as we set off on Footpath No. 1

Let no-one call a Cavapoo frou-frou.

“Did someone switch off the Matrix?” I asked Mark when he opened the shutters on the day. In a perfect metaphor for coronavirus lockdown, the entire world beyond our garden had vanished! All we could see was a grey emptiness; as though we were the only remaining oasis of life, while the rest of creation had been erased.

There had been 69cm of snow in the forecast, but at village level, rain pelted down all day. No pups wanted to go outside and since we were almost out of data, no Netflix or internet for us. Housebound once again, our recently-restored freedom removed by the weather, we were all just so BORED.

“If it’s nice tomorrow, we’ll do a proper walk…” we promised the pups.  Continue reading “Lockdown Life – 8,000ft Walkies to The Source of the River Lys”

How Travel Changed My Life

Victoria Falls. I remembered something romantic about ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’

I am thrilled to have appeared in Outwit Trade’s feature on how travel enriches your life.

For me, travel changed my life.

It happened in 1994. Newly divorced and single, I wanted to get away, but had no-one to go on holiday with. Rather than sitting alone on a beach like Johnny No Mates, I decided on an activity holiday. Sailing, perhaps, or hiking – something sociable.

When a magazine flopped on to my doormat advertising, ‘Rafting The Zambezi – The River of the Gods’ I signed up straight away. I didn’t bother reading the description.

I remembered something romantic about Victoria Falls and “Dr Livingstone I presume?” And since the word ‘rafting’, conjured up visions of floating along on a barn door, looking at wildlife, I thought doing it in Africa might be fun.

This was pre-internet, in 1994. I had never heard of whitewater rafting. So, what happened next came as rather a surprise…

Rafting the Zambezi – The River of the Gods. ‘Floating down the river looking at wildlife?’
Was I ever wrong!

A few people mentioned things like, “The biggest white water in the world”, “Crocodiles” and “Hippos”, but I was not worried,

“Don’t be silly. Not where we’re going!”

It was the video of enormous, churning rapids at Harare airport which finally snapped me out of my blissful ignorance.

“Oh my word – that IS where we’re going!”

Murky green waves, fifteen feet high, tossed inflatable rafts and people into the air like rag dolls. That first night, we slept under the stars on the banks of the Zambezi below Victoria Falls. Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders, we saw a lunar rainbow in the spray.

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A rainbow forms in the spray of Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders

There, we were briefed on how to avoid ‘large reptiles’ (crocodiles) and were read the riot act about hippos; “They kill more people in Africa than everything else put together.”

For the next six days, we tackled a multitude of the churning rapids that I had seen on the video. I hung on for dear life as I experienced the roller-coaster ride of my life. Did I mention that it’s some of the biggest white water in the world?

It was terrifying, exhilarating, intimidating and intoxicating. I was hooked!

Yet, away from the excitement and adrenalin, I enjoyed a sweet and simple life. I had two sets of clothes; wet and dry. In the tranquillity of nature, we cooked simple food each night over a wood fire. Sometimes, sleeping out in the open, I woke and just gazed at the magnificent canopy of stars above me and understood why my ancestors worshiped the heavens.

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My ‘Wet’ set of clothes were a bit worse for wear after a week on the Zambezi!

I felt privileged to experience a landscape that most people will never see, concealed as it is by sheer, four-hundred-foot cliffs and accessible only via the violent fury of the Zambezi’s Grade Five rapids. (Grade Six rapids are extreme and often un-runnable!)

Six days and 60km later at the Kariba Dam, I was a different person. My hunger to see the world and really experience life had been fully awakened. I resolved to stop living my life in thin slices; a few weeks’ leave from work here and there was not enough.

Since then, I have travelled on six of the seven continents and rafted some of the biggest rivers in the world. In 1996, I asked my boss for ‘maternity leave’ to go backpacking around Australia and New Zealand.

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On ‘maternity leave’ in The Red Centre of Australia

I met my husband, Mark, in 1999.

“I want to go whitewater rafting!” he told me.

“I am the whitewater rafting queen!” I replied.

37 days later, we were engaged and married within the year.

Although it took until 2015 to get all the pieces in place, Mark and I finally managed to give up our jobs to travel full time with our four dogs. We now spend our summers touring in a caravan, with windsurf boards on the roof; the winters, we spend skiing.

Travel taught me that there is more to life than work-eat-sleep-repeat. It motivated me to find a way to give up the daily grind to do more of what I love. Travel also taught me that I don’t need much in the way of material things; I value experience over owning stuff – and I already have most of what I need to be happy.

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I already have most of what I need to be happy

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This article first appeared as part of a compilation of ‘How Travel Enriches You’ on the Outwit Trade website. Click here to read my original article, along with other inspiring pieces from 48 other expert travellers.

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far you can go.

TS Eliot

Upper Moemba Falls, featured in the slideshow above, amply demonstrate why the river’s nickname is the ‘Slambezi’. I am pictured back right in what is fondly known as ‘the ejector seat!’.

To reach Upper Moemba Falls takes three days of paddling through a gorge with 400ft walls, in crocodile-infested, Grade V rapids. I feel privileged to have experienced it, since like the surface of the moon, it is a place that most people will never see in their lifetime.

I am doubly privileged, since, sadly, when the proposed Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power project goes ahead, it is something that nobody will ever see or experience again. It is yet another reason to sieze the day, since today’s opportunities may not be there tomorrow. 

If you are worried about the potential damage to communities and wildlife, check out International Rivers, an organisation which aims to protect the world’s most iconic rivers and propose alternatives, which ironically, are cheaper and more sustainable. Click here to discover ways to get involved in protecting the world’s rivers.

A photo from the shore of my raft negotiating Upper Moemba Falls


Join us next time for an update on The Beast – the ex-army truck that is set to become our new home!