How travelling brought me back to where I first started

So this is a slightly reflectional piece. I need to up my blog game and I’m thinking that 3am night feeds might inspire some ‘interesting’ musings in the up and coming months. They might be complete jargon and full of emotional outbursts, but could be entertaining to read nevertheless.

So, 10-years-ago this week, I embarked on a 4 month trip with my best friend. We both took sabbaticals from our jobs, packed our suitcases and boarded a flight from Heathrow to Bangkok. Neither of us knew what to expect, we had never done anything like this before. However, many of our friends had (and for longer periods of time) so we were excited albeit apprehensive for the adventures that awaited us.

We tore our way through Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and a brief stop off at LAX airport 😂. To say it changed my life forever is a slight understatement. This was pre-free-and-available-WiFi days and we didn’t have any devices with us that could connect to the internet (including phones). So we relied on topup cards in hostels or Internet cafes, to upload our photos and communicate with our families. My sister went a mere 5 years later and was able to FaceTime from shacks in Laos on her iPod touch!

In New Zealand, we bought passes for the Kiwi Experience (which ironically has a completely different nick-name). On our first trip, we met three blokes – two on a gap-year and one post-uni, who had made friends. We joined their group and embarked on 10 days of the most fun we had had on our trip. To say that New Zealand is a magical country, is an understatement and an insult to the beauty and pure magnificence of the natural world. I’ll never forget sitting on a jetty, absolutely freezing, in the middle of nowhere, watching the sun set behind snow-topped mountains, turning them pink. I remember thinking I was in some kind of dream world and nothing would ever top this.

Those 10 days changed my life forever, as I fell in love with the post-uni backpacker. When we got back to England, we stayed in contact and he took a place on a PGCE course in London. We moved in together and 9 years, 1 rented flat, 2 house moves, 5 years of marriage and 1.5 babies later, here we are!

Together, we have been so lucky to travel some more. Both being teachers has blessed us with the school holidays (or time in lieu 😏) and we’ve used that to explore many European cities, as well as safari in Kenya, hiking (Andy, not me – I was preggers) in Scotland, 3 week road trip down the West Coast of Cali and chasing the northern lights in Iceland, to name but a few of our adventures. This prompted me to start this blog, as well as self-preservation and therapy from the strains and heartbreak of recurrent miscarriage and fertility treatments.

We’ve since moved back to the town where I grew up and have taken on the challenge of renovating a Victorian 3-bedroom terraced house. The travel will return, it’s cemented firmly in our blood and history now. It’s also something we want George and impending arrival to experience and fall in love with.

So yes, travel does broaden the mind. It allows you to become more understanding, tolerant and accepting – something this country could desperately do with right now. Who knows what post-Brexit Britain will look like and whether it will encourage or discourage the desire of people to expand their horizons and be part of the bigger picture. All I know is that it changed the course of my life forever and even though I’ve ended up exactly where I started, I’ve learnt to live and love…

Climbing Snowdon

Those of you who have read my first post will know that I turned 30 this year – prompting me to review, reflect and plan my travel goals for the next decade. One of my aims, was to explore as much of Great Britain as I could. We booked a few days in Wales over Easter and were blown away by the breathtaking and captivating beauty of Snowdonia. We stayed on Anglesey, an island off the north-west coast of Wales, surrounded by stunning coastlines and beaches. For the past seven years, I have longed to return to New Zealand, a country that without a doubt, leaves a huge impression on everyone that visits. Wales definitely filled that hole and left me shocked, that such beauty could be found only a two-hour drive from Manchester!

Anyway, as part of our stay, we had decided to attempt a hike up Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales, and the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands. I’m not going to lie, currently I’m not the fittest I have ever been, but I felt prepared enough to give it a go.

It’s important to note here that we did do our research. We weren’t able to find a great number of books, but purchased ‘The Ascent of Snowdon’, by E.G.Rowland on Amazon for £2.99. We did laugh when it arrived, as it was tiny and first published in 1975. However, it proved to be one of the most useful things we read (as well as information online – climb-snowdon.co.uk have some great guides and tips).

The Ascent of Snowdon: The Six Classic Routes Up Snowdon

We decided to park in Llanberis and take the Llanberis Path (the gentle one), 5 miles/8km long, total ascent of 980m/3,198ft. It was very busy, we were overtaken by plenty of children and young families – which did nothing for my self-esteem. Although the first couple of km were steep, it soon became easier.

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After approximately two hours, we reached the Halfway Cafe, which sells everything from coffees to cupasoups, homemade cakes to fridge magnets. There’s no running water up the mountain, so the cafe’s owner has to carry water, food and gas bottles two miles uphill every day. We refueled and warmed up, before taking on the next few km up to the train station at Clogwyn.

The Snowdon Mountain Railway runs from Llanberis to the summit in the Summer months, but currently only travels to Clogwyn, due to the snow. An online adult return stands at £29.00.

By now, we were walking into deep snow and many families with younger children were choosing this point to turn around. We continued towards the summit, where conditions became slightly treacherous and scary. Where the snow was powdery and fresh earlier in the day, the sheer volume of hikers had turned it to ice, and even with good walking boots, the ascent was slippery and hard work. Visibility was also now poor.

The final ascent to the summit was understandably tough, not just due to the volume of hiker traffic, but the snow here was extremely thick and the steps were covered in ice. However, the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment at the top was unreal. Never had I ever thought that I would be able to achieve something like this! Exercise is not usually my strong point. Unfortunately, the summit was engulfed by a thick grey cloud, therefore we couldn’t see anything from the top. Also, my iPhone couldn’t cope with the cold and died. Goodbye Facebook profile photo selfie…

As wonderful as it was to reach the top, the realisation that we had to begin our descent, down the icy, crowded steps, hung over us. However, if the man with a baby on his back – yes, a baby on his back – could do it, then we could. We decided to take the train track path (not necessarily a suggested route), as the snow was fresher, and didn’t seem as treacherous. We ended up following a group of hikers onto the Snowdon Ranger Track, which was also fairly easy and takes you down a beautiful route, providing some pretty spectacular views on a quieter path. Once to main, steep descent was over, we were completely alone, leaving us to enjoy the stunning views of the mountain we had just conquered (minus the cloud, which had now disappeared).

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The Snowdon Ranger Track finished at the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel, which was nowhere near our car. This is a massive mistake we made, so take note! We were aware that there is a bus which connects all the paths, allowing you to use two different routes and get a lift back to your car. Unfortunately, although only just 5:00pm, we had missed the last bus and had no mobile phone signal. There was also nobody in the YHA. Hmmm.

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Luckily, a lone YHA worker happened to cycle past and called us a cab. My legs were now dead and the quickest route back to Llanberis would have been back up the Snowdon Ranger Track and 1.5 miles over a hill – not something my legs would have allowed.

All in all, a fantastic experience, although it has taken nearly a week to walk properly again. We were as prepared as we could be, took plenty of water, chocolate and layers, and made it all the way to the top.

So the question now is, do we complete the set and climb Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. We have trips to The Lake District and Ben Nevis booked for this year? Have you climbed all three and completed the three peaks?