hiking

Travel: 5 Day Wild Camping Loop In The Lake District

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The roasting sun had been shining in London for months, our flat was dry, creaky and sun bleached.  Parks were bursting at the seams and my tan was reaching it’s Mediterranean limit.

So, we jested, why not ditch the the hottest heatwave since the 70s for some of England’s tallest mountains, largest lakes and most glorious countryside during its wettest month of the year! Welcome to the Lake District, a place whose precipitous weather predictions were correct. Despite the wet weather we had a fantastic time exploring lakes by foot, which was made all the more adventurous by wild camping.

 

Derwent Water

Derwent Water

We were drawn to the lakes after a short trip in May offered by Ali’s family. The Lake District provides many activities and it does so across a relatively small area of land. We saw potential for a walking adventure, so we arranged a trip back a few months later, oblivious to how wet it might be. Our plan was to take our camping equipment and wild camp our way between as many of the northern lakes (the quieter ones) as possible. We didn’t plan the route and did most of our mapping via Maps.me, deciding as we went where we’d go next. We also opted to keep this trip budget, aiming to spend £25 a day, we’ll let you know how we got on.

 

Travel

We travelled to Penrith from London via National Express on a night bus, acquiring £10 tickets pp per way.  We slept on the bus and set alarms for 5am when we arrived at Penrith. Luckily there’s a 24hr McDonald’s next to the bus stop were we could wait until 7am when the first bus (X5) to Keswick arrives. The bus takes about 45 minutes and costs £7.40 pp. For the rest of our visit we would be walking, so pack your boots!

Lake Buttermere

Lake Buttermere

Planning

There aren’t many places to restock your food provisions once you leave Keswick. So if you’re planning on walking the route, make sure you’ve thought about your supplies for the amount of days you'll be camping for. The following supplies lasted us for 4 days. We carried cheese, which could pose a few health risks if it gets hot, luckily for us the environment was cool and the cheese lasted well in the depths of our bags. Our food cost £22 for 4 days.

 

Breakfast

  • Instant Coffee

  • Milk powder

  • Porridge

  • Cinnamon

Snacks

  • Biscuits

  • Nuts

  • Bananas

  • Apples

Lunch

Sandwich made from:

  • Cheese

  • Bread

  • Spicy Chipotle Paste

  • Tomato

Or

  • Noodles

  • Spicy paste

Dinner

  • Salt & Pepper (brought from home)

  • Olive oil (brought from home)

  • Garlic

  • Pasta

  • Courgette

  • Tomato purée and water

  • Cheese

Those homemade sandwiches....

Those homemade sandwiches....

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Water

This was the trickiest part because people we chatted too were iffy on if we chould drink from the streams as there’s so much livestock. We didn't take any risks and filled up at pubs, cafes, campsites and even knocked on someone’s door. Everyone was happy to help us. We left London with 2 x 1 litre bottles and scavenged 2 x 500ml plastic water bottles, which we cleaned and reused. This was enough for half a day, with water for drinking and water for cooking with. We brought water purification tabs with us too but didn’t use them.

 

Equipment

We didn’t buy anything new for this trip, opting to use our beaten old equipment that wasn’t very expensive in the first place. Point being, you don’t need fancy equipment to get your camp on...you will find a link to our living in a tent post at the bottom of this article.

 

  • 2 person lightweight Berghaus tent - 2kg

  • sleeping bag (1 per person)

  • hob

  • gas

  • pots, pans and lids

  • small wooden spoon

  • 1 litre water bottle (1 per person)

  • penknife

  • cup (1 per person)

  • spork (1 per person)

  • waterproof jacket

  • decent hiking boots

  • gaffa tape

  • first aid kit

  • quick dry towel

  • torch

  • waterproof trousers

  • warm clothes, hat, gloves

  • phone charger / battery charger for emergencies

  • entertainment - ebook, cards, music etc

  • suncream and hat

Optional luxuries

  • roll mat

  • blow up pillow

  • dry bag

 

Map

Here is the route we took on our wild camp adventure...

Here is the route we took on our wild camp adventure...

 

Walking Route

The walk up to Castle Crag

The walk up to Castle Crag

Day 1 /  10 hours walking 

This was longest walk of the loop as we wanted to wake up somewhere new for day 2. Arriving in Keswick at 8am we started by stocking up on food at the Co-op and set off clockwise around lake Derwent aiming for the Chinese bridge. You’ll pass the Lodore Falls Hotel where you can restock your water. From the Chinese bridge we skirted south around the fell towards Manesty and then Castle Crag, these are clearly signposted. If you’re feeling tired you could camp at Rosthwaite or Borrowdale, which lie at the bottom of the Honister pass. If you’ve still got the beans head up to the Honister pass along the roadside path where you’ll soon see a YHA hostel and slate mine with cafe. We were tired so it would have been rude not enjoy a cake, or two (£4.50) and a free hot water!

With our sugars replenished we set off down the western side of the pass towards Gatesgarth aiming for Buttermere lake. Unfortunately, the only route available, short of tackling the Great Gable, is along the road or an easily missed mountain pass (which we did miss). The surroundings are stunning and this particular road is often cited as one of the most beautiful in the country, so walking it ain’t so bad. After 2 hours the lake becomes visible and we trace around the right of lake to find a secluded spot under large trees just below the huge rough ramblers house. Camp setup, we continue along Buttermere for another 30 mins into the village to restock our water and enjoy a swift half at the The Fish Inn. The sun shines at 5pm and we smile contently in the beer garden before heading back to the tent for supper with aching legs.

 

Sunset at Lake Derwent

Sunset at Lake Derwent

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Day 2 / 7 hours walking

It’s very wet the next morning so rather than tackle the Hay Stacks, a high fell overlooking Buttermere, we decide to walk the opposite way around the lake into Buttermere villlage. A whole circuit of Buttermere will take 2hrs. We arrive completely soaked and hit up the Skye Farm Tea Room for cream tea, which costs £4.50 per person and fills us up like Popeye and spinach. A rest bite from the elements is welcomed as we plan the remainder of the day. Rather ignorantly, we failed to notice the huge lake nestled above Buttermere! So spend the rest of the day enjoying a circuit around lake Crummock, which is a far quieter and larger excursion than Buttermere. The walk is lovely and changes across the circuit, and the sun even comes out towards the end.  Ali returns to camp to find she has a burnt nose, that sneaky afternoon sun can catch you off guard so pack your suncream!

On the way to a rosey nose!

On the way to a rosey nose!

A circuit around Crummock takes 4 hours at a leisurely pace. Wild camping makes washing difficult so we decide to dunk ourselves in the ice cold lake in our underwear.  The French tourists laughed furiously as we flapped about in the water, it was worth it to hit the sleeping bag so fresh and so clean (yeah, think Outkast!).

Alternatively, if the weather is dry and mountains clear you could enjoy a day walk up Hay Stacks /Scarth Gap/ High Crag peaks.

 

On the way up Hay Stacks

On the way up Hay Stacks

Day 3 / 10 hours walking

The day started sunny with clear mountain peaks so we set off early and restocked our water with some kind rough ramblers staying in the house above our camp spot. Destination.... Hay Stacks. On a sunny day this is a relatively accessible climb to 600 meters. But on our trek the rain clouds returned, the wind picks up and we get drenched. The peak includes a scramble and the high winds put us off, so we found another route to the top around the back of the peak. This secondary route gave us a pretty sweet view of lake Ennerdale further east. The rain clouds were so misty that we couldn’t see any of the lakes to the north, so we go for a quick dash down. From the top of Hay Stacks it’s a clearly routed, if rather slippery, path that returns you to the farmhouse near Buttermere. We heard this walk should take 3 hours but it took us nearer 4.

 

Praying for some sun, we packed down camp and trekked to Buttermere village again and enjoyed another round of cream tea, at £4.50 each.  We just can't get enough of those warm scones!  Plus we need the calories with this much walking.  We had heard there was a shop at Lorton so we set off north along the road running parallel to lake Crummock. What Google suggested was a two hour walk was, in reality, a 4 hour one. Especially as we took a scenic path on a national cycle route via Thackthwaite. Although preferable to the road, it took far longer. If you’re tired then just stay on the main road. We checked out a few of the campsites nearby but they were pretty grotty and overpriced. So we headed to the hills behind the Wheatsheaf Inn for a wild camp spot, finding a secluded pitch about 10-15 mins from the pub. We enjoyed a rather lavish supper at the Wheatsheaf and slept like stones (or maybe scones) after the 10 hours of walking!

 

Walking to Lorton

Walking to Lorton

Day 4 / 5 hours walking 

We awoke early to a spritely farmer rounding his sheep in the next field, so we decided to do a runner before he told us off for camping there! At 8am we stomped into High Lorton and onto a country lane that would later join onto the B5292 via Whinlatter forest, heading east to Keswick. Finally the sun that the rest of country and had been enjoying all week hit the Lake District and we wonder through pine forests for 3 hours in beautiful sunshine. Although a lightly busy road, the fine views more than make up for the cars. We stop for some more cream scones (£5 for 2) in Braithwaite and arrive back in Keswick for lunch, cheap homemade Mali sandwiches of course! 

 

We doze in the Lower Fitz park all afternoon and set off around the Derwent for our final camping spot in the sun overlooking the lake. We find an absolute beauty about 40 mins in and watch an incredible sundown in surely the most stunning camping spot we’ve ever christened! A weather app makes us very aware that the forecast is awful for the whole next day. Enjoy it while it lasts, as they say.

 

Day 5

For our final day we had planned a hike up Skiddaw, north east of Keswick, but the weather was awful again. Think torrential rain until 12pm. Plans dashed, we moved to Weatherspoons to enjoy unlimited refills on hot drinks that fuelled the writing of this post. Later we jump on a bus (£7.40pp) back to Penrith before our night bus back to London (£10pp), with a few pints to inebriate the evening, ready for solid if awkward sleep on the bus. Last stop, the big smoke.

 

£4.50 Cream tea, get in!

£4.50 Cream tea, get in!

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Cost

Well our target for this trip was £25 a day, borrowed from the type of spending normally associated with Asia! We just about did it, averaging £22 (for two people) including travel and food. By wild camping we saved £75 and also gained the satisfaction of sleeping in some really interesting places, away from the often noisy hubbub of a campsite. We have omitted some of the luxuries like pints and cream teas because they’re not essential for the trip. If you were to add them in it will take our total up to £38 a day (for two people) which still ain’t bad for a trip in pricey old Blighty.

If you get a chance to trek up Cat Bells by Derwent Water on a clear day then you won't be disappointed by the views!

If you get a chance to trek up Cat Bells by Derwent Water on a clear day then you won't be disappointed by the views!

Video

 

With a bit of planning, the right equipment and the will to go against the grain a little, you can have a wild low cost adventure in one of the most beautiful spots in the country. We hope you feel Inspired to get out there and start your own exploration! It’s so much easier than you think...

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Video: Ali Walking The World

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Here is 10 months of travel condensed into just a few minutes. We recorded little moments of walking, trekking or hiking (they're all the same thing right?) from across the globe that took us to the following countries: Slovenia, Slovakia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Jordan, Armenia and Georgia.

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Video: Armenia

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Flying in to Armenia was the perfect chilled-out antidote to three hectic weeks in the Middle East. The capital Yerevan was a calming experience with the first European vibe we'd felt in 7 months. We loved it so much that we forgot to record any footage, yes it was that relaxing! Although a little challenging to get around, Armenia offers stunning natural beauty with very few tourists, incredibly friendly people who are really interested in new guests and for the architecture lovers, churches and monasteries galore.

Our travel video will take you through out jaunts in Yerevan, Lake Sevan, Dilijan with a final stop in Ijevan before moving onto Georgia. 

If serenity is your thing, Armenia's your place.

 

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Armenia: Day Hikes From Dilijan National Park

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After hearing tales of an 'Armenian Switzerland', we were compelled to visit the Dilijan National Park, a fast becoming go-to hiking destination. It would soon join up with the epic trans-Caucasus trekking routes (TCT), linking up with trails in both Georgia and Azerbaijan. The plan, to create a network of hiking trails that boot-clad walkers can use to traverse the beautiful Armenian landscapes of the Caucasus.

 

Clearly, it's an awesome idea and one day it'll be great but the Armenian section of the TCT, as of summer 2018, isn't really finished. There's plenty of literature written on the developed Georgian and Azerbaijani sections but at the time of writing, the Armenian part of the trail has some way to go before it will become a tourist friendly, easily accessible and properly signed trail of the TCT. That said, it's a beautiful place and with a sense of adventure there's fun times to be had in Armenia's best known National Park. 

Hiking down the hill from the Dilijan loop

Hiking down the hill from the Dilijan loop

The TCT

A week before we boarded a marshutka (minivan) to Dilijan, we found a USAID sponsored booklet with 11 Dilijan walking trails in, the book was hidden in our Yerevan hostel! Upon closer inspection it became clear that the guide was a pretty basic resource with unreadable maps and long prose of text to describe the trails. We assumed the resources were one of many medias that hikers’ could use to navigate the national park. Unfortunately not, the booklet is the only resource available to hikers who want to explore the National Park, the one we found under a bed in a hostel.

Before trying to follow any of the trails, we checked in with tourist information in Dilijan and they certified that the booklet that we had accidentally found, was the only guide available to tourists. They didn’t even seem to have any copies of the booklet at the information centre, so it was pure luck we discovered it. What I’m trying to say is that there is very little administration or organisation of the nature reserve right now. We sense that an adventurer's spirit would be necessary to enjoy the hikes, we weren't wrong either.

Armenia 32 dilijan.jpg

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2 Decent Walks

So, we attempted two of the walks from the booklet, which we’ll talk you through below, and found one to be a short warm-up hike from Dilijan centre and the second a long loop from the old town of Dilijan up to the highest mountain peak in the area and back into town. There are many other routes in the booklet but they all include taxi drop-offs and pickups, I personally hate having to drive somewhere to start a hike, it goes against my whole ethos of walking in nature, so we avoided any routes that included driving.

The remaining 9 hikes routes have been photographed and displayed at the bottom of the post.

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General tips

  • The main tip given by our Airbnb host was not to walk in the woods at night because packs of wolves have been known to roam, apparently they can be heard in the evenings too! Fun but a little concerning if you're out there wild camping.

  • We read there were many bears in the reserve but local people believe that they live much further in the forest.

  • Take enough water because once you hit the nature reserve you won’t find any shops.

  • As always, pack for wind, rain and shine.

  • Pack lunch for walk 2 because you’ll be out all day.

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walk 1 dilijan national park.jpg

Walk 1 - Dilijan Roundabout To A (Very Small) Waterfall 

Difficulty: Medium - Due to slippery rocks that must be ascended to reach the waterfall

Time: 3 hours at slow pace

Equipment: Waterproof walking boots recommended

Here's Ali wondering down Dilijan's disused train line

Here's Ali wondering down Dilijan's disused train line

Description: What makes this an interesting walk is that it leads you along a disused train line, defunct power station and generally tired ex-Soviet warehouses that are ripe for some exploring. The path goes upstream aside a river becoming a standard up and down hike where the path can be hard to follow. It’s worth noting that there are two sections where you’ll need to clamber up wet rocks. This is a bit slippery and there is a risk of putting a foot into the stream (see picture below). We would only recommend this section for physically fit hikers. If you don’t fancy a potentially wet climb then you wouldn’t miss much by heading back to Dilijan at the first slippery rocks. 

Climbing down the slippery rocks

Climbing down the slippery rocks

Route:  

  • The hike will start from the roundabout where you’ll need to head north on the road leading to Ijevan but don’t worry you’ll soon be on a green, albeit industrial, train line with the sound of the road just a faint hum.

  • Follow the road from the roundabout for about 0.8 km until you see the sign for the Dilijan tourist information centre where you can pop in for a chat. When you’re finished head the opposite way up a small track (walking away from town) where you’ll see the train line running alongside the base of the nature reserve on your left.

  • Follow the track for 1.5 km, remember to enjoy the disused soviet train buildings and power station, until you spot a petrol station on the road below. Look left, you will see a path and some nondescript signage running along a stream, follow that stream.

  • When we walked the route in April 2018 it wasn’t clearly signed, just some labels on the trees. As more people walk the route I’m sure it will be better trodden. You may need to create your own path at times by walking through medium length grasses, always following the river upwards.

  • Early on the river will split, take the left-hand stream.

  • Remember to carefully ascend the two sets of slippery rocks that the river runs down, you’ll need to carefully climb up the rocks, this is where your waterproof boots are necessary! You might be able to climb over the sides but these look steep and just as treacherous.

  • After 1.5 km you’ll approach a sign that symbols the end of the walk and you’ll set eyes on the smallest waterfall ever! Enjoy the serene overflowing flora and head back to town for some fresh matnakash (bread) and butter with a glass of the local red.

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Walk 2 - Dilijan Loop

Difficulty: Hard -  Due to long climbs to the peak

Time: 6-8 hours at a medium pace

Equipment: Walking boots recommended, download ‘Maps.Me’ for reliable offline routes

Supplies: Bring food and water for whole day trek, this can be bought from Old Dilijan as you pass through in the morning.

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Description: The official guide supplies the most awful description on how to get there, I can only assume it was intended for driving because it was the longest possible way to get to the start of the walk. Use our simplified route below or Maps.Me to navigate the many upward roads out of Old Dilijan (or Upper Dilijan) to start off the hike. This walk is great, passing through farmland, streams, forest, open plains and mountains. It’s a long, and at times tiring, hike that leads you through some beautiful landscapes right to the highest mountain in the area. We didn’t see a single soul the entire walk, which was pretty cool considering that walks in most countries are very busy. The majority of paths are very clear and some even have TCT labelling, making the trail easy to follow.

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Route:

  • If you intend to walk the whole route then you should start your hike from the roundabout where you’ll need to head south east on the road that leads up to Old Dilijan, sometimes called Upper Dilijan. This route will zig zag up the hill eventually going north east, passing shops, schools, restaurants and the interesting hubbub of everyday Armenian life. Pick up affordable bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables, plus any sugary treats :-)

  • Look out for Kamarin Street on the right and then take the first left up Ordzhonikidze street. This road will take you close to the start of the trek. Be aware that it’s uphill and will take around 20 - 30 minutes.

  • When the road ends, turn right and you’ll spot yellow gas pipes snaking around the road like a frame. Keep walking upwards until the road becomes a dirt track, you’ll spot a tired looking sign that marks the start of the walk, with the hike starting on the left.

  • Begin by walking up a rough stone path for 100 metres until it forks, take the right path. Soon after, the path splits again into three, take the centre route (the right path is where you’ll return via at the end of the trek)

  • Walk for a few km passing picnic benches and farmland, the trail is actually a road used by agricultural vehicles and jeeps so it’s easy to follow.

  • That said, you must leave the road when you see a very small pond on the left, next to one of the farmers dwellings. We were lucky the lady in the farm pointed us the way, it was easy to miss so keep your eyes peeled. The trail heads right as you arrive at the farm with the pond and it passes upwards following a dry ravine. Keep walking up until you see a well trodden trail develop on the left, it may also be found on Maps.Me (but I don’t remember checking).

  • Once you’ve found the trail you will follow a well established path, follow it for about an hour or so; you’ll see TCT signs stapled to the trees the whole way, it’s very clear. When you reach a rocky stream you should follow it along o the left and take the established path up on the right. You’ll see that some people have clambered up the steep ledge, which we didn’t fancy!

  • The trail will pass through sparse forests and zig zag upwards, opening up at a large open plain with an awesome view of the mountain ahead that you’re about to climb.

  • Continue along the jeep tracks ahead of you, until you get to the base of the mountain.

  • The next bit is pretty obvious, climb the beast ahead of you. There’s no one way to climb up, we walked up the centre path and then up to the left and followed the ridge to the top. There’s a trail of sorts but you can easily freestyle.

  • It was chilly at the top so we had a quick lunch break and then carefully walked down the long grasses to find the well trodden path leading back to Dilijan, it was a clearly marked trail that the farmers still use.

  • You’ll walk for around an hour or so downwards, remember to check Maps.Me to make sure you’re walking towards the Old Dilijan start point, you can see the entire loop on the app.

  • With Dilijan in view the whole way it’s easy to navigate a route back to the town and you’ll get a nice vista too.

  • Success! You’ve arrived back in town, why not celebrate with some food in the lovely cafe no.2 near the roundabout?

Cafe number 2, Dilijan

Cafe number 2, Dilijan

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9 other walking routes in the Dilijan National Park

Did you find our hiking advice useful? Or perhaps you discovered your own trekking route in Dilijan? Have some top tips that you think we missed?

Let us know in the comments box at the bottom of the post...

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We enjoyed some adventurous hiking in the desert in Mujib, some bobbing in the Dead Sea and were blown away by Petra and Wadi Rum, those sites are world class yet quiet and serene. We hope our Jordan travel video inspires you to come visit some day. Just 5 hours from Europe, it couldn't feel more different.

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Inspirational Quotes Found At A Tea Plantation In Sri Lanka

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We all know that inspiration can spring out of nowhere, and so often it's when you least expect it.  For us, it came as a pleasant surprise on a leisurely 14km stroll though Lipton’s tea plantation in central Sri Lanka. 

Lipton's tea plantation near Hapatule

Lipton's tea plantation near Hapatule

Mark and I were making our way up to Lipton’s Seat near Hapatule, a viewpoint from where Mr Thomas Lipton used to sit and admire his lusciously green tea fields below.  The walk up to the seat is a very scenic one; the path winds up and around hilly fields where thousands of tea plants grow, all pruned and neatly in rows ready to be picked by experienced hands.  Every so often we see a local in traditional dress bent over picking leaves with a basket on their back, smiling as we walk past. Not the kind of place you'd expect to see the words of Gandhi painted into the brickwork.

 
Gandhi - What we are doing to the forests of this world
 

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We make our way up the narrow road and spot a sign pinned to the cobbled brick wall.  It’s a quote.  It says, “If all beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man.  All things are connected.  Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.”  Wow! This is pretty dizzying stuff, and gets our minds racing about life as we amble on. 

Half a kilometre later there’s another one.  This time it reads…. “Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals ‘love’ them.  But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.”  That’s so true.  We were only talking the previous day about keeping birds as pets.  However small they are it really does pain me to see them stuck in cages. 

 
Sandra Postel - For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet
 

Every sign we pass we stop to take in, feeding the mind with food for thought.  7km later, we reach the top.  Not quite the view we had in mind due to rolling clouds of mist, but the walk has been extremely pleasant and provoked much thought so it made for an enjoyable experience. We went on a whole trail of conversation, from the environment to childhood memories, all spurred on by these messages, the flow of walking, and that we have plenty of time on our hands.

 
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Lipton's seat was more than just a view at the top of a mountain for us, but the catalyst for a lot of thought.  Whilst trekking the route we discussed not only these messages but also where we see Studio Mali going in the future.  Although that's not set in stone just yet, and there's still some more work to be done, we do know this: that we want to inspire others to be creative and to find balance in their lifestyle.  We are finding our feet right now as we still have another 2 months left travelling, but whilst on the road we are working on this new focus.  Expect to see from us more creative posts, inspiration, travel advice to help make that break away, and discussions on lifestyle.

 
Bob McLeod - When the earth is sick and polluted
 

We hope you have found some or at least one of these quotes inspiring.  If you have any thoughts or feelings towards the messages let us know in the below comments box, we would love to hear from you.

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