trekking

Video: Lake District

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Some time ago we spent 5 days walking and wild camping in the Lake District and totally forgot that we’d filmed the whole thing! Alas, we introduce a rather belated video from a trip last summer. We hope this video will give you an insight into the ever changing weather, sheer beauty and the day-to-day walking lifestyle of the Lakes. Not to mentioned the huge cream teas that we devoured in every village!

If you’ve never wild camped before it’s a truly liberating way of getting face to face with the great outdoors, but with most of life’s little luxuries stripped away. It teaches you to really consider your needs against your wants, how to improvise and makes each day an adventure. Some days we walked for 10 hours while others were more like 4 but after some dinner cooked up on a stove and good nights sleep next to a lake you’re always ready for a big hike the next day.

Anyhow, here’s the video:

We wrote a whole article about wild camping in the Lake District, which is the perfect companion piece for planning and budgeting for a loop around the lakes. Here it is:

 
 

Sri Lanka: 5 Reasons Why It's The Perfect Destination For The First-Time Backpacker

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Tipped as the top travel destination for 2019 by Lonely Planet, Sri Lanka has it all for the outdoorsy traveller. From turtle sanctuaries and stunning white sanded beaches in the south, to the world famous tea plantations sprawled across the countries mountainous centre. 


If you are into animal watching, then you can spend your days bouncing around in an open topped jeep on safari, trying to spot wild elephants, crocodiles and leopards in the lusciously green national parks.  Mountain trekkers can head to a number of well know ranges, and can hike up some of the nations favourite peaks such as the steep and sacred Adams Peak at sunrise.  Head to the bustling and rugged city of Jaffna to soak up the culture of every day Sri Lankan life.  There are ancient temples, historical sights and plenty of religious ceremonies to attend. 

A climb to the sacred Adam’s Peak is well worth the reward….

A climb to the sacred Adam’s Peak is well worth the reward….


Whatever you choose to do in this diverse country, you really won't be disappointed because the standards are high and the quality of your experience is valued and welcomed by the locals.  Tourism is integral to the country's economy and in recent years they have seen a significant boom.  So for the first time backpacker, you have the peace of mind that the route is well trodden and the Sri Lankan people will treat you like family.  

Here are 5 reasons why we think Sri Lanka should be on the top of your to-visit list for the first time backpacker....

  1. The Friendly People

Not all people you meet on your travels will greet you with open arms, but the Sri Lankan’s are some of them.  After travelling in 16 countries over 10 months, we decided that the Sri Lankan's are some of the warmest and most welcoming folk that we've ever met.  Men would buy us coffee in the street, hosts would spend hours making us the most delicious home-cooked food from scratch, people are always on hand to help you get on the right buses, locals will share their food (and seat) with you on the train, and sometimes people will even walk down the street with you just to have a chat! You can’t get much friendlier than that.

Locals on the train to Nuwara Eliya who shared their food with us

Locals on the train to Nuwara Eliya who shared their food with us


Obviously there will always be the odd few rotten apples that are trying to get something for nothing, but on the whole we found the Sri Lankan's very trustworthy and helpful.  Impressively, nearly everyone speaks English due the empire, so if you are ever in need of help then just ask the person next to you and I'm sure they will do their best.  The hospitality in hostels and guest houses is next level, and hosts will really go out of their way to make your experience the best that it can possibly be.  We really don't have a bad thing to say about anyone we met!

2. It's Just So Cheap!

Sri Lanka is very well priced to travel around and on some days we would spend around £12 per day between us, that's with eating in the 'hotels' which are actually restaurants where the locals eat.  It's possible to find accommodation for around £6 for a double room per night on booking.com, and if you are happy to eat like the locals then a couple of kottu's (a Sri Lankan street food of chopped roti bread, vegetables and meat gravy fried on a hot plate) would set you back between £1.50 to £3.00 for 2 portions. That's a whole lot of bang for your buck!  A beer at an off-licence will be around 300 rupees (£1.50) which isn’t so bad. 

Well-priced produce at a local store

Well-priced produce at a local store


Travelling by bus is very cheap indeed, ranging from about 50p to £4 per journey (the £4 journeys would be if you were travelling for 5 hours across the country), and the train can be even cheaper but slower and far more crowded.  A train ticket to Colombo from Kandy is around 100 rupees for 2nd or 3rd class, or you can travel in 1st for only 500 rupees (£2.50)!  A rickshaw in the capital is around 50 rupees per kilometre, which isn’t too shabby.  


Visits to the national parks can however be pricy (they have to make their money somewhere right?) so if you are trying to keep your costs down then just choose to visit only one or two of them on your trip.  For example, a visit to the Kaudulla National Park on an elephant safari set us back £50 per person, and a trek in the knuckles mountain range with a guide and driver was £50 between us.  Compared with the costs of food, travel and accommodation, these prices seem extremely high, but if you acknowledge that you are paying for one or two people’s time and consider it a once in a lifetime experience then the costs aren't so bad after all.  I mean, you get to see elephants in the wild!  If you are happier eating in tourist restaurants for peace of mind of hygiene then there are many to choose from, and prices will be more like £3 to £6 for a main meal.  We ate at the local restaurants 3 times a day and never got sick, so if you want to taste real Sri Lankan food and pay cheap prices then find the nearest 'hotel’.

Kaudulla National Park on an elephant safari!

Kaudulla National Park on an elephant safari!


3. Easy To Get Around

Transport in Sri Lanka is great for the backpacker.  You can pretty much get anywhere by bus, or if you want to travel at a slower pace then taking a train is a good option.  If you don’t want any hassle with transport and money is no option then just take a cab or tuk tuk.  Remember to negotiate hard because most likely the first price will be far too high. 

We took several local buses to get to the base of Adam’s Peak in central Sri Lanka

We took several local buses to get to the base of Adam’s Peak in central Sri Lanka


The buses are the best way to get around though, and they’re are hilarious!  Travelling on one is such an experience, and in some ways they are the funniest part of the trip.  These are the local buses where the driver blasts out Sri Lankan bhangra for 4 hours straight, everyone is stuck to the sweaty leather seats, there is a line of people standing all the way down the isle clinging on for dear life, whilst the driver over-takes at full speed like a maniac.  So obviously the speedy dangerous driving is not a plus side of travelling by bus, but you will be guaranteed to get there quickly.  We would recommend sitting towards the back for safety, and not looking out the front (for obvious reasons).  Ignorance is bliss they say.  The bus assistant will be the one taking ticket money, and will tell you where to put your oversized bags.  The benches on the buses are made for small bottoms, so you will most likely be squashed up against the person next to you.  But for a couple of pounds per journey, who really cares?!  The buses are clearly marked in English where they are headed for, and there is always an assistant on board to ask if you are unsure.  Sri Lanka is the perfect sized country, because you can pretty much travel across the whole of it within a day.  

Local kids waving the train on by…

Local kids waving the train on by…


4. Diverse

Sri Lanka is a unique country with so much to offer.  Depending on what you’re into, every traveller can have a completely different experience.  If you like tropical beach breaks, sun bathing, surfing, turtle conservations and whale watching, then head to one of the many beaches that sprawl the lengthy coastline.  Along with beachy vibes brings chill out bars with like-minded travellers, parties and fun times.  

A beautiful sunset at Negombo beach near Colombo

A beautiful sunset at Negombo beach near Colombo


Looking for more of a nature-inspired trip? Well this is the place for you.  Never have we seen so many exotic animals in one country before… elephants, eagles, monkeys, crocodiles, mongoose, leopards, giant squirrels and wild boars.  The list is literally insane.  Each national park has a different focus, some are the home to the leopard whilst others of the elephant, so choose which one you visit thoughtfully.  It’s worth noting that entry to these national parks is in the form of a jeep safari, so don’t think you will be able to trek in there to enjoy the nature! 

The middle of the country is more mountainous and hilly, so for nature lovers and those into trekking you can head to the likes of the Knuckles Range, Sigiriya, Horton Plains, Adam’s Peak, Ella, Haputale and Lipton’s Seat.  There are plenty of walks to do without paying for entry to the National Parks, and luckily there are lots of local buses to get you away from the main towns and cities to start your route from.  The tea plantations are spectacular, and are free to roam around for the enthusiastic walker.

The view from our guesthouse at Nuwara Eliya, surrounded by leafy tea plantations

The view from our guesthouse at Nuwara Eliya, surrounded by leafy tea plantations


If history, culture and religion is your thing then this a country rich in all of these areas.  With Portugese and Dutch attempted invasions, British actual invasion, and civil war between the Tamils and Sinhalese lasting several decades, it’s hard to hide the very recent wounds of history, particularly in hard-hit areas like Jaffna where bullet holes are visible in the crumbing buildings.  The majority of the Sri Lankan people are of Buddhist religion, with a small proportion of Hindu’s, Christian’s and Muslims.  There are many incredible temples and places of worship to visit along with religious sights such as the ancient Mihintale and Polonnaruwa ruins.  One of our favourite moments was experiencing a Hindu ceremony at the decorative Nallur Kovil temple where men took their shirts off with the sound of live percussion instruments playing.

Nallur Kovil Hindu temple in Jaffna

Nallur Kovil Hindu temple in Jaffna


5. The Food

If you’re a foodie like us then you will probably be salivating right now at the thought of eating delicious Sri Lankan food.  Imagine coconut milk curry with an explosion of spices, beautifully balanced with chunks of sweet butternut squash, and spicy beetroot curry with home-made coconut rotis… it’s just too delicious!  The coconut milk is freshly made and my god does it taste like it.  Rice and curry is the staple, but really when you order it you end up with about 6 components including daal and fresh vegetables too.  No one goes hungry in Sri Lanka!

Fresh fruits at a homestay in Kandy

Fresh fruits at a homestay in Kandy

The kottu is incredible, it’s a street food of fried roti bread, vegetables and sometimes egg covered in meat gravy.  It’s one of the cheapest dishes you can get and it’s probably the tastiest because it’s so god damn naughty.  One of the funnest things is choosing between the surplus of fried street snacks, the Sri Lankan’s do love a deep fried snack!  Nearly anywhere, you can pick up vegetable rotis (that look like a vegetable samosa), dosa (fermented pancake), egg hoppers (crunchy pancake in the shape of a bowl), string hoppers (well-seasoned stringy noodles you eat for breakfast with your fingers), jackfruit balls… the list is endless.  And then there’s all the sweet stuff too… coconut pancakes, buffalo curd with plant nectar (like honey), and all the fresh fruits.  It’s worth going to Sri Lanka just for the food alone, we were so excited to be eating it every day that sometimes we just worked our schedule around the food!

The legendary Kottu street food. We had definitely put on a few pounds after 4 weeks of eating this bad boy.

The legendary Kottu street food. We had definitely put on a few pounds after 4 weeks of eating this bad boy.


We Dig It!

I feel like I could go on and on about all the great things that Sri Lanka has to offer, but really it would be better for you to just go and experience it for yourself.  For the first-time backpacker, this really is a fantastic country to visit because as far as travelling goes; it is relatively easy, the people are lovely, it’s got so much to offer and it’s cheap.  I would say that 2 weeks is probably the minimum amount of time to spend there, we went for 4 weeks and in that time we only went to 2 beaches!  So if you do want to visit then I would strongly suggest not trying to cram everything in and rushing around to much.  It’s a relaxed country to be in, and it’s all the small moments that make this place so special; like sharing a dinner of home-cooked food, or watching the sunrise up on Pidurangala Rock. 

For the first-time backpacker, you really won’t regret a trip to the incredible Sri Lanka….

A tranquil sunrise on the top of Pidurangala Rock, just watch out for the sneaky monkeys!

A tranquil sunrise on the top of Pidurangala Rock, just watch out for the sneaky monkeys!



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Video: Mark Walking The World

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So following on from Ali's walking video, Here is my 10 months of travel condensed into 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 all across these countries: Slovenia, Slovakia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Jordan, Armenia and Georgia.

Music is Lemon Jelly's 'Ramblin Man', Enjoy...

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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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Travel - 5 Day Wild Camping Loop In The Lake District, By Studio Mali
 

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Lifestyle: I Left My Boots In Georgia

A piece about walking, lifestyle changes and life at home.

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Those Boots Are Made For Walking 

When we started a travel blog in 2017, never did I think I’d write a piece about my 7 year old walking boots! Arriving back home in London I started thinking about what I missed most about our ten months of travel and my conclusion was my walking boots. It’s not that I miss the actual specifics of the so-old-they’re-flapping-open North Face’s, but the therapeutic qualities of strapping them on and embarking on a days excursion with Ali. The boots seem to symbolise freedom, change and health, with every day of travel building on the last. Walking, standing and sometimes running was the action that embodied our daily transitions, so when we decided to walk as often as we could, our journeys became and felt more physical.  I miss the simplicity of being on my feet all day.

 

Flow

There’s a lot to be said for the process of preparing for a long walk; slipping on some thick socks, lacing up, preparing for changing weather, packing food and water and setting off into the unknown. The act of walking is a therapeutic one and I always feel better after a walk than before. It’s most special when you find that perfect balance, your flow. There’s always a point in a walk where it becomes sub-conscious. Your mind is clear of the day-to-day humdrum, conversation gushes and your appreciation for what's around you becomes heightened. After a year of hiking around the globe, walking is truly the best therapy I’ve felt, a perfect combination of fitness and mindfulness, all for free. For the folks that enjoy a long hike, you’ll know the sweet-spot where you find the ‘flow’. The perfect state where the mind is freed of stresses and it’s just your company, nature and the rhythm of each step forward that matters.

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Opening Eyes

Developing a passion for walking has also helped foster a fascination with nature. I used to just see trees, fields and lakes, and now I spot the details and get excited about the little features of the walk. Once I saw a bird fishing, now I notice a heron skilfully preying. Perhaps it’s age, but spending time in nature deals me healing properties and the older I get the more time I need to spend outdoors, this very article has been put together in Hackney Downs park.  It’s as if we spend our formative years experimenting with the world to see what we love about it. Reflecting back, I can see I was far more interested in vaguely hollow pleasures like technology, clubbing and cinema; all great things but also indoor pursuits. Finding a passion for the great outdoors grew from experiencing incredible landscapes in places like Norway, Mongolia and China, as well as spotting the unearthly fauna like vultures, elephants and camouflaging lizards in the wild. The world is much more exciting when you’re eyes are open to it.

A camoflaged rare lizard in Sri Lanka

A camoflaged rare lizard in Sri Lanka

 

Green Grass

Walking in other countries has definitely made me appreciate the UK’s natural wonders. We were invited up to the Lake District by Ali’s family a few weeks after we got home and were totally blown away by the Lakes and mountains around Keswick. It taught me it’s far too easy to under-appreciate our own countries natural wonders, naively, assuming that the grass is always greener. The UK’s open fields are some of the greenest I’ve ever seen and it’s mountains are decent too. We loved it so much we booked our summer holiday back to the very same place, lucky Keswick! 

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Back In London

Having just mentioned how green everything is, the U.K. is actually enjoying and sweltering in the longest and strongest heatwave since the 1970s and grass isn’t so green right now. It’s been the perfect time to get outside in the evenings when it’s cooler, so we’ve been enjoying strolls on the Hackney Marshes in East London and pondering what we could do next now that we are home. We’ve clearly been missing the simpler travel life so are having little adventures like cycling instead of bussing, even when the cycle is a two hour off-road route from Salisbury to a wedding we went to! We’ve been busy making Studio Mali into a business and using Airbnb help with bills whilst Ali gets her products into the world. But from time to time I can’t help my mind wondering back to those long walks in nature.

Ali has been busy developing her new Ebony Necklace inspired by our travels!

Ali has been busy developing her new Ebony Necklace inspired by our travels!

 

22 Days Straight

The pinnacle of our walking lives was the epic 22 day trek around the Annapurna mountains in Nepal. High altitude, snow, rain, flu and food poisoning all had be to contended with but through the challenges came satisfaction and fulfilment, and ultimately, walking in Nepal was my biggest highlight of the trip. There was something very primeval about filling up on porridge, packing up and setting off along the apple pie route, named after the apple orchards that grow so plentifully around the ring of the mountains. Even when we hit the high altitudes of the Thorong-La Pass at 5,400km I enjoyed looking down to spot my wooly socks peeping out the side of my walking boots. It was careless to attempt such a challenging trek with substandard kit but I wanted to finish the trip with the same boots, I was compelled too. The boots survived, and so did I, and in a moment of ceremony on our last day I left the 7 year old boots on a bridge in Tbilisi, Georgia. Hopefully they might bring somebody some pleasure, they certainly did for me.

Goodbye old friends 

Goodbye old friends 

 

What did I learn from this close relationship to my walking boots? (I never thought i’d say those words together) ….Appreciate what you have and really consider when you need something and when you want something. Distinguishing between those two points has been very important since roaming the streets of the oh-so-commerical London again where everyone is grappling for your earnings. If you can teach yourself to be happy with what you have then living a simpler, lower cost, life is entirely possible even in an expensive place like the U.K. Be happy with what you have and, like walking is for me, find that thing gives you pleasure and do it everyday. 

 

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Lifestyle - I left My Boots In Georgia, By Studio Mali-21.jpg
 

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Jordan: Patterns And Colours Of Petra's Sands

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When you invisage Petra, you will undoubtedly think of the enormous sandstone carvings of the Treasury and the Monastery, those huge structures that we have seen so many times in photographs as one of The World's 7 Wonders.  

Well for those of you that haven't been, Petra isn't just these two monuments.  It's a site the size of a city and is situated on one of the most fascinating geological sites I have ever been to.  It is expected that 20,000 - 30,000 people used to live there 2500 years ago, and the creators of the site had carefully selected this location based on the beautiful layered sandstone that makes up the rock.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan sands 12.jpg
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

Incredibly, this rock was formed up to 540 million years ago by ancient river beds that transported the sand into these layers and patterns.  The colours vary so much due to the chemical break up of minerals in the sand, the reds containing iron and the others with manganese oxides and hydroxide minerals.  I was amazed to see the sands so colourful, the pictures I have seen previously of Petra are really just of tan coloured sand and not much else, so it was such a surprise to see these unique rock formations.  It was honestly like looking at a work of art; an abstract painting with expressive brushstrokes, marbled patterns and layered colours.  I was in my element, exploring the hundreds of caves that make up the site and discovering the natural artworks on nearly every wall.  I probably took about a zillion photos for 'inspiration' which I'm sure Mark wasn't too happy about!

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan sands 13.jpg
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

Some of the cave tombs use this patterned rock almost like a mural inside, a display of the richness of the land, it's natural beauty and an important marker for the dead.  These intricate wallpapers are something that have stood the test of time and have remained unchanged for the last 540 million years, or so.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

I am looking at these sandscapes, to me they look like classic asian ink paintings, similar to the wave paintings that we see so much on Japanese scrolls.  The colours however are fierce, beautiful hues of blood red, apricot, mustard, aubergine, nude and then subtly contrasted with grey/blue.  It look so considered, and yet so organic in its form.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

I can't help thinking this would be the perfect inspiration for our next design project.  Perhaps we can incorporate these beautiful patterns and shapes into our furniture somehow, maybe dying wood into these colours, trying to capture some of the organic shapes that make up these naturally-occurring patterns.  

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

If you do ever get to visit Petra, make sure you allocate enough time to explore the vast geological site and monuments within it.  The locals say that you could spend a week there and see something new every time.  We spent 3 days there in total, and trekked in from Little Petra Siq across the valleys and around the edge of the mountains which was a clear highlight.  The path between Little Petra Siq and Petra is actually part of the Jordan Trail, a trekking route that runs from one length of the country to the other, taking 40 days in total to walk it.  The hike from Little Petra Siq to Petra takes around 3-4 hours and is relatively straight forward, just make sure you take enough water and avoid walking if rain is forecast due to flash flooding.  

 

If you have any questions or need any help on your trip then just let us know and we would be happy to get back to you.

 

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All of the articles on our website are free but if you can support us by viewing, sharing or even purchasing from our travel-inspired shop, you'd make our day! Every share, like or sale gets us closer to our dream.....you guys rock.

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Jordan - Patterns And Colour In Petra's Sands, by Studio Mali
 

 

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