Hello from Rainy Denali

Wow! I’ve done soooo much since I last posted. We’ve been making our way across Alaska, where most of our stops have limited internet access hence me not posting. It’s taken me a whole day and over 5 attempts to upload these photos!

We left Valdez and headed into Wrangell St Elias national park, probably everyone’s favourite place on the trip. We stayed in a town called McCarthy (year-round population 25-40, depending on who you ask). It is such a cool place, and I think we are really privileged to have stayed there because not many people get to.

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I joined in with the weekly softball game (by the way, I was the only person from my group who played)…

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Whilst in the national park, I did an amazing glacier walk on crampons…

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I went on a tour of the copper mill in Kennecott…

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And I also took a flightseeing tour so I could see the glaciers and icefield from above…

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Unfortunately, once we arrived in Denali national park the good weather I’ve had for the past three weeks left and we haven’t been able to see much. I was hoping to at least see part of Mt McKinley/Denali, but even the mountains in front of it weren’t visible.

DSC_0321 DSC_0325Our eight hours sat on the bus through Denali national park weren’t completely wasted, though. We saw a brown bear, caribou and more moose. So, even though I didn’t get to see the mountain, I’ve ticked off my list all the wildlife that I wanted to.

We’re driving back to Anchorage tomorrow, then I have to fly back to the UK on the weekend 😦 I’ve  got lots more photos to share with you all, so keep checking in for further posts.

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Looking forward in 2015

2014 is barely over and my 2015 diary is already filling up fast. I am soooooo excited about all the fantastic trips and events I have lined up for this year, and I wanted to share them with you all and also ask for some advice.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of this month I will be back on my skis again – yippee! – on a one week holiday to Arinsal in Andorra. I actually first learnt to ski in Andorra 20 years ago, and I haven’t been back there in 18 years, so it will be interesting to see how the principality has changed and also how much my skiing has improved. The last time I was there they were building a huge gondola to connect Arinsal with Pal, so I can’t wait to explore this much bigger ski area.

In March I am travelling down to Brighton for a weekend to attend the Brighton Vegfest. Brighton is a Mecca for vegetarians and I love, love, love the place. I expect to eat way too much great plant-based food, spend lots of money shopping in the lanes and meet lots of inspirational veggies.

My big news of 2015 is that I’m going to Alaska – and I still have to pinch myself every time I say that. Yes, I am actually going to Alaska. From 20th June I will be touring the country for two weeks, experiencing as much as possible and taking lots of photos. I’ll also be there for the midnight sun, which I am so excited about. I am currently trying to free up the two weeks previous to that so that I can start my journey in San Francisco and travel up to Anchorage by bus, ferry and train. If anyone has ever taken the ferry from Bellingham to Whittier, or knows someone who has, I would really appreciate any info you can give me on the journey. The longest journey I have ever taken on a boat wasDSC_0371 from Rhodes to Crete in Greece, and that was an awful experience, so I’m nervous about spending almost five days on one.

Green Gathering 2015 is looking to be even better than last year’s event and I’m hoping to return with my godchildren, although my goddaughter is currently on good behaviour watch to try and secure her place on the trip. They have both been nagging me all winter about when we can next go camping, even when it’s been minus temperatures outside and all the cars have been frozen over. You’ve got to love the optimism of kids!

I can’t wait to share all my adventures in 2015 with you all. Add a comment and let me know what you have planned for this year.

New

Seeing as one of my personal goals is to visit at least one new place and try one new activity every year, I thought this week’s photo challenge would be a good opportunity to look back at the new places I’ve visited and the activities I’ve tried since starting this blog.

My trip to Pisa was as amazing cultural experience…

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Pottery is something that I’ve always wanted to try, and I seemed to always just miss out on the opportunity until I enrolled on the one day workshop at the Howardian Centre in Cardiff…

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Sleeping ‘rough’ in St Davids 2 car park in Cardiff as part of the Sleep Easy Challenge helped to raise awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness. We also raised enough money to keep an emergency room open at the YMCA hostel. Click the link to see an updated comment from Mandy Caddy about this year’s event and how you can get involved…

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Taking part in the Cardiff Photo Marathon saw 400 of us running around the city like mad people for 12 hours, desperately trying to find our next shot. I was exhausted by the time I handed in my memory card, but it was a great experience…DSC_0032

I volunteered at an eco-campsite in Anglesey, North Wales for a week. I later found out from my mum that this was possibly not my first time visiting Anglesey, although if I have been before it was when I was a baby and I don’t remember it…DSC_0085

I’ve visited London lots of times, but every time I go there I found another part of the huge city that I haven’t explored before…DSC_0202

I decided to visit Boulogne-sur-mer, France because it is accessible by bus from Cardiff. I love that I live in Wales, yet I can be in a foreign country with a totally different culture within a day…DSC_0108

The high ropes course at Go Ape is not something I would have signed up for before, but I agreed to try it as part of a friend’s hen weekend. Even though I’m petrified of heights, I conquered my fear and completed the whole course…PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

Completing my first 5k was a reminder to myself of what I can achieve…IMG_0289

There are some new activities that I’m not very good at, and some that I just plain suck at. Archery is one of those activities…DSC_0325

New places that involve snow I can ski on are always my favourite. In January 2014 I went to Pila, Italy (not to be confused with Pisa, see above) with my parents and their friend…

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My initial reason for visiting Iceland was to see the Northern Lights, but I discovered so much more whilst I was there. I can’t wait to go back some day and explore more of the island…DSC_0236

I love being an aunty, and getting to try new activities with my nephew, nieces and godchildren make them even more special. I hadn’t planned to go mountain carting, my niece and nephew chose the activity and I’m so glad they did…DSC_0680

Learning to scythe was also a skill I never thought I’d acquire, until my volunteer work at the community garden led me to Phil the scythe master…DSC_0925This post is part of the Photo Challenge ‘New’. Click here to see more entries and a photo of a really cute baby.

Looking back at 2014

Wow, what a busy year I’ve had. Here’s a quick recap of some of the adventures I got up to in 2014:

I got my ski legs back on a trip to Pila in January.

In February I ticked off one of the top items on my bucket list when I saw the Northern Lights in Iceland. Not only was seeing the Lights a dream come true, I also had an amazing few days touring some of the island and exploring Reykjavik.

In March I started my Personal Trainer course, which to be honest consumed almost my whole life for four months. The hard work, surviving on very little sleep and punishing physical tests were worth it though as I’m now a qualified PT!

On the rare occasion I did have some spare time, I would escape down to the community garden, where things were really starting to happen.

I took advantage of a weekend off college in May to attempt the Bala Challenge for the second year running. Unfortunately, I did even worse than last year, but the beauty of North Wales is always worth the visit regardless.

In June it felt like Welsh summer had finally arrived!

July saw me attempting outdoor climbing for the first time in 15 years.

In August I took my 2 godchildren to the Green Gathering festival in Chepstow.

September was all about family, with a trip to Austria to visit my brother and his kids.

I learnt how to use a scythe in October with the expert help of Phil.

I kept myself busy in November with work, teaching lots of circuit classes and helping other people keep fit. Then, I finished off the year with Christmas at my parents’ house where we enjoyed a plant-based Christmas dinner together.

Happy New Year to all my lovely readers x

Plant-Based Pause No 48: Move Out of Your Comfort Zone

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone’ – Percy Cerutty

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When you’ve grown up on a typical Western diet, living plant-based is all about being outside of your comfort zone. It flips what you know about food, health and lifestyle on its head.
Living plant-based has also given me lots more energy and confidence, which makes me want to try more new things and venture even further outside of my comfort zone. Or my comfort zone has got a whole lot bigger, depending on which way you want to look at it.

I’ve taken up rock climbing to conquer my fear of heights (although I still have the occasional wobble).

Rather than avoiding social situations, I now put myself in them.

Three years ago, I’d barely set foot in a gym. Now, I’m a qualified personal trainer.

Since moving back to Wales, I went to night school to learn Welsh and try to speak it whenever I can.

I make myself do activities that I would have been too scared of before (see picture above). I know I’ll only regret it if I don’t.

My list could go on and on. My challenge to you is to put yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new. Let me know where it takes you 🙂

Photo Challenge: Achievement

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It might not have been the New York City Marathon, but last year I completed my first 5k run. Even though I’m now a personal trainer, I still struggle with running. It’s more psychological than anything else. I have the attention span of a three year old, so getting me to stay on a treadmill or do any endurance training is a challenge. Although running 5k is not so difficult, training for the 5k was an achievement for me. I’m determined to keep going with my running, and I hope to one day be able to tell you all that I’ve completed my first 10k, half-marathon, who knows maybe even a marathon.

Click here to join in with this week’s photo challenge.

Travel theme: Autumn

A very seasonal travel theme from Ailsa this week (click here to see other entries). As well as the usual falling leaves, autumnal colours and longer, colder nights, autumn in our neighbourhood also means it’s time for our annual local arts festival. I didn’t have time to take any photos of Made in Roath this year because I was too busy being a part of the festival, but here are some photos of last year’s activities.

Learning to Scythe at Scythe Cymru

DSC_0927As I’ve written about before, I regularly volunteer at Plasnewydd Community Garden in Cardiff. My interest in the garden initially was to learn how to grow vegetables, but I’ve gained so much more from the experience. I’ve learnt about growing food and plants, composting, I’ve made new friends and got to meet lots of people from my neighbourhood. A few weeks ago, me and two other volunteers from the garden braved the drizzle and  headed over to West Wales for a scything workshop. Scythes are making a comeback in modern gardening and farming, and are a clean, environmentally friendly method of cutting long grass that also give you a free workout. After years of wrestling with an unco-operative diesel lawnmower, we recently bought two scythes for cutting the grass in the community garden. And, after a couple of attempts where I think I in particular looked more like a baddie from a bad horror movie, we thought we’d better learn how to do it properly from the professionals.

Scythe Cymru offer, amongst lots of other activities, courses on scything. You can also buy scythes and accessories from them. As soon as we arrived, we knew we were somewhere special. We were greeted by two goats before Philip, our teacher for the day, led us into the barn. This is where he explained to us the basics of putting our scythe together, how to sharpen our scythes and, most importantly, how to be safe.

Once we were all set up, we headed outside to practice our scything technique. I soon learnt where I had been going wrong in the community garden, and with Phil’s expert guidance we were ready to head out into the field and cut some real grass. I must admit, if I had to genuinely do this as a job, the sight of a large field filled with knee high grass would be more than a little daunting. However, having a go and scything a tiny section of that field was fun and taught me a lot that I can take back to the community garden. Plus, when I looked behind me at the area I’d just cut, I was overcome with a sense of pride.

Our afternoon was spent back in the barn where we learnt all about peening. In order to keep your scythe in good working order, you have to make sure that you flatten out the blade at regular intervals. Although I generally have the attention span of a 3 year old child, there are certain tasks that I can really focus on and this is one of them. Peening my scythe blade took me back to when I worked as a ski technician and I would edge and wax hundreds of skis by hand. I was in my element.

Come next summer, our lawn at Plasnewydd Garden will be expertly scythed and looking neat and tidy. Failing that, we might just have to buy a sheep.

Playing on the mountain in Austria

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As you know, it is one of my missions to try at least one new activity every year. I’m fortunate to say that I usually get through a few before winter comes around.

Sometimes you plan new activities months in advance. They’re dreams, items to tick off your bucketlist. You’ve read articles about them, heard accounts of experiences from other people and you can’t wait to try them for yourself.

DSC_0578And sometimes, new activities get thrust upon you by surprise. That’s what happened to me last week when I was in Austria visiting family. Muttereralm, just outside of the city of Innsbruck, is home to a 5km toboggan run in the winter. Ever efficient, the local Austrians couldn’t just let the track sit there all summer not being used, so they’ve turned it into a mountain carting track. My brother has three young children, and had been wanting to try out the carting with the eldest two for a while. However, the logistics of looking after three children between two adults meant that he hadn’t been able to. So, when I arrived, he asked me if I would come along and have a go too. I’d never heard of mountain carting, I had no idea what it was or what I was required to do, so of course I said yes straight away.

The carts, or buggies, are fairly basic, just a frame with three wheels, two brakes and a DSC_0678low seat. After some safety instruction from one of the team at the top of the mountain, we were off. I had my niece on my knee and my brother was in front of us with my nephew.

I’m not really an adrenaline junkie, but I have to say this experience was so much fun. I will warn you that it’s a bumpy ride, in fact I’m convinced that they dig out extra ruts in the track for the buggies because I’m sure the toboggan run in the winter is much smoother. My niece, holding on tight to the cross bar, was bouncing up and down on my knee as we bumped along the off-road path and negotiated hairpin turns. She was also laughing her head off all the way down, and I am so grateful that I got to share such an amazing and fun experience with her.

DSC_0889At only 10 euros each, I think mountain carting at Muttereralm is really good value for money. It works out about the same as catching the gondola back down the mountain.

Whilst I was in Austria, I also got to go rock climbing with my niece and nephew. Climbing is not a new activity for me, and pretty much everyone in our family has climbing experience, but we never get to do it together. Sharing a sunny afternoon together and having fun was a highlight of the trip for me. As an added bonus, my mum also joined in with the climbing. Climbing with my mum is another first for me, and I never thought I would get to say that I belayed my mum!

Adventure!

This has to be the ultimate photo challenge. Adventure is what we’re all about. Whatever the focus of your blog, you’re blogging about your adventures in life. I’m lucky to have had many adventures, and I’ve got a whole lot more planned to share with you all. As I always say – ‘Aim to achieve your dreams’.

Click here to share other adventures.