Category Archives: Travel

Annie Leibovitz and the new airport terminal

This was going to be a post about the new airport terminal in Dublin and the irony that it will serve so many emigrants away from Ireland but frankly, I’ve just realised how. Incredibly. Boring. That story is.

So instead, I thought I’d share some photos by my favourite portrait photographer of all time.

Annie Leibovitz began her career at Rolling Stone magazine and quickly became noticed for her talent. Since then she has worked for many different fashion magazines, often shooting celebrities in a style that is beautiful and instantly recognisable. She photographed John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the day that he was shot, the Queen on the occasion of her state visit to the United States and every celebrity and fashion model you could think of. Her photographs are colourful and draw the spectator in like a magnet. I could look at her work for hours and hours.

If I could choose anybody to take photographs of me or my family, I would choose Leibovitz.

The last one, perhaps Leibovitz most famous image, caused quite a bit of a stir when it was first released as the cover photograph of Vanity Fair magazine, especially for the fact that there should have been a third actress in the shot who backed out of the plan at the last moment.

Have a picture-perfect day, readers!

(Oh, and here’s that airport terminal – it’s a beautiful ad)

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Filed under Current Affairs, Film, Ireland, Photography, Pop Culture, Travel

The land of one hundred thousand karibuni

I have arrived in Moshi, Tanzania where I will be interning with ChildReach International for the next few weeks with the purpose of recruiting new leaders.

The journey was a long one, from Gatwick to Dubai to Nairobi to Moshi. All in all, the trip took 48 hours. My Irish passport was charged $100 for a visa which was infuriating, but the fact that the roads from Nairobi to Moshi are much improved was some blessing.

Since I arrived yesterday evening, I’ve just been settling in Moshi, getting to know all the Mzungu (white man) hang outs and familiarising myself with the area. Moshi is a relatively small town of about 150,000 which lies on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro. When the sky is clear, one can see Kili from the streets of Moshi town. The ChildReach offices are located centrally and thus I have easy access to the town on foot and should only need taxis etc at night.

My friend Vicki, well-connected as she is in this part of Tz, has hooked me up with Oscar, who works for the Really Wild Travel company based here in Moshi. He has been incredibly useful, showing me the best places to buy certain essentials, explaining local culture, politics etc. and introducing me to people who may prove to be useful to me later on.

Today I took a walk around the town and took some photos of my home for the next 5 weeks:

And here’s a look at my living quarters:

Some people are scared of monsters under their beds. I'm more worried about scorpions.

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This time-lapse video of Cotopaxi reminded me of Kilimanjaro summit night

Last summer, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is 5,895m high and the trek was probably one of the tougher challenges I’ve ever undertaken.

We took the Machame route up to the summit, but all routes eventually converge at Barafu – the final camp. Climbers summit at night, in order to arrive at the summit for sunrise. I suspect that this is also done so that the climbers don’t see what’s ahead of them, thus ensuring a higher summit rate. I’m fairly sure that I would have found the hellish experience even more unpleasant had I been able to see what horrendous gradients lay ahead of me.

The result of this business is that one sets out from Barafu camp on summit night with a head torch and no real idea where one is going. Ahead of you is this steep ascent – not that anyone can actually see it. All I could see was this snake-like figure made up of hundreds of little headtorches meandering its way up and up – until suddenly it connected with the stars. Whenever we stopped, which was very frequently, and I managed to get my breath back (sort of), I would take some time to marvel at the sky above. You just don’t get views like that in Europe.

This is a time-lapse video of Cotapaxi in Ecuador. I think it illustrates what I’m trying to describe beautifully. It also made me wish I could be back on the slopes of Kili, trekking to Uhuru.

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My favourite photo of the Everest trek

‘Our journey to the foot of Mt Everest was spectacular in the extreme’. – Sir Edmund Hillary

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A night in Kathmandu

On Thursday, we decided to make a night of it and bought vodka/mixers before settling down in the hotel garden for some drinking and chats with the other residents of the establishment, including Thor, a guitar-playing hippie from Denmark and Elle, a leggy blond biomed student from Belgium. Before heading out, we had consumed the majority of the drinks we needed for the night and then walked the short distance from Kathmandu Garden Hotel to the Reggae bar in Thamel. The Reggae bar apparently serves multiple purposes: that of European Club, of live music venue, of social rendez-vous point and scenario for pretty much every weed-related transaction in town. There’s a roof-top shisha bar – the smell of weed up there knocks you sideways.

There is also a downstairs nightclub which, needless to say, we made a bee-line for and began ordering drinks with the rest of the CRI people present (i.e. most of Newcastle and several Nottinghamians who hadn’t gone home yet). The night was warming up, and Aberdeen headed out onto the dance floor in order to drop some moves and basically make everyone else in the room look bad, when all of a sudden – the lights came on. All the Europeans in the place began looking around confused, wondering had there been some sort of electrical fault. Then, a man stood up and we watched in horror as he announced that clubs in Kathmandu close at half past twelve on a week night.

As the whole club spilled out onto the street, rickshaw drivers jockeyed for clients among the throng and several rather nasty fights broke out. In the noise and confusion, we somehow managed to organise ourselves. Aberdeen began to travel in convoy to Casino Nepal, where apparently everything was complimentary so long as we played. Deal!

The cocktails were lethal and I’ve never played roulette before but I managed to win a couple of hundred Rs. Sam and I had dinner/breakfast at about 5am before grabbing Marina and jumping in a taxi which clearly didn’t know where it was going, abandoning it and then traipsing through the monsoon rains to bed.

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Looks like Invader even made it to Thamel…

Some of you may have heard of/seen the Space Invaders street art mosaics which began to sweep across th streets of Paris and later France in 1998. They later began to appear in major cities across the world, placed across public spaces by the French street artist Invader.

I didn’t know much about the man until I saw the film Exit Through the Gift Shop, about his cousin Thierry Guetta and featuring interviews with many of the world’s most famous street artists including Banksy and Shepard¬†Fairey .

Anyway, I was walking through Thamel today and guess what I found…

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Where I am now

We eventually had to tear ourselves from the wonders of cheap booze, food and accommodation in Pokhara and return to smoky, noisy Kathmandu.

We arrived yesterday afer a 6 hour bumpy bus journey in an over-heated coach blasting insipid Indian music. We decided to economise and shoved 5 people into a standard sized KTM taxi (a Suzuki Maruti) which would generally struggle to accommodate 4 Nepalis let alone five tall white men:

Hey! A penny saved is a penny earned.

I was worried that, since I’m in a Third World country with very limited access to electronic communications, I might be missing out on important goings-on at home. Luckily, my friend Caelainn is sending me regular updates about the REALLY important stuff:

Caelainn’s working for a news channel in Kashmir at the moment, so with the resulting curfews, she has a lot of time on her hands, it would seem.

Thanks Hogan!

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Day 12 – Namche (3,440m) – Lukla (2,800m) – Final day of the trek! – Tuesday 29th of June

Up at 6 – ankle still hurting and can’t walk on it properly. Insurance definitely won’t cover anything.

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It was a long, arduous journey down. The ankle began to improve eventually though I went over it again a couple of times, including once badly just before lunch at Phakding. Still getting used to the Nepalese version of ‘flat’.

The last hour before Lukla was gradual climb and I perspired more in this period than at any other time during the trek. In the final twenty minutes, I was being caught up by some of the Newcastle contingent and convinced myself that this was now somehow a race to the finish line. This is something that shouldn’t really be done on a long endurance trek such as this, but I was really dying for ‘it all’ to be over. Reached Tara Lodge ¬†and collapsed unceremoniously on a bench in the tea room. That’s enough exercise for a year now, I should think.

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We tipped the porters and sherpas in the evening after dinner. They are paid 700 Rs a day, 600 of which goes to food expenses, so they make a pittance. Tips make all the difference. The smiles were abundant and each of them went around the room to shake our hands while clutching their right arms above the elbow with the left hand – a sign of the utmost respect and honour. Dawar and Prakash were tipped equally and Nyema the most with a round of applause and hugs galore. We really have been treated like kings.

Kelly came to my room later and we had a long chat about the trip. Having seen the expressions of gratitude on the faces of the porters, she seems to feel rather guilty of her own privilege. She kept repeating the tip amount “thirty dollars” in sort of awed disbelief, knowing how much it was worth to her in Britain in comparison to a porter in Nepal.

I must say. I’m glad in a way, that she was upset by the realisation. It means she’s taken the situation on board and that, I think, makes all the difference. Awareness, especially in people as young as us is just as, if not more valuable than, the money we raise.

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Day 11 – Pheriche (4,317m) – Namche (3,440m) – Monday 28th of June

Up at half six this morning. Still a bit of ill feeling from certain among Newcastle. We ascended for an hour before it flattened out then descended to a wooden bridge. Five minutes before lunch at Tengboche, I fell badly on my left ankle. Had to have it sprayed with deep heat and bandaged. Had a massage from Nyema at lunch which only slightly helped, unfortunately. From then til Namche, I was an hour and a half behind the rest of the group.

I spoke to Nyema about alternatives, should I need them. The tour company we’re with say that an air lift is not covered by insurance.

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Day 10 – Gorakshep (5,180m) – Pheriche (4,371m) – Sunday 27th of June

Sophie and I were woken at 4am by the porters next door to us playing bloody music on their phones. Grr.

A few people got up at half four to go to Kala Pathar, in the hope of seeing a better view of Everest. I was so not arsed, since my main ambition for the trek was to reach Base Camp, though a couple of people, Garam especially, had desperately wanted to behold Everest in all it’s glory. You can see the top of it from the door of the lodge – good enough for me!

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We had breakfast late and set off around half nine. We all very much resented having to stop for lunch two hours later (myself in particular). We all dream of meat: chicken, steak, tomato, Greek salad and Sprite have all been oft-repeated in our verbose fantasies. After lunch (standard fried rice and chips) we headed downwards into the valley. The group thinned out and we kept to ourselves, lost in our own thoughts. The surroundings, once we got into the valley of Pheriche could have been the Outer Hebrides. Pastures green and U-shaped valleys galore. The entire way down all I had in my head was the hymn ‘Jerusalem’.

The accommodation at Pheriche was luxurious in comparison to what we’ve had of late. We even got a special treat of veggie burgers for dinner. Bliss! Played charades against Newcastle – we would have won but Kelly, being fidgety, absent-mindedly shuffled the cards we were using to mark the points. Mare!

There was a great show-down before bed between Aberdeen and Newcastle regarding ‘Ginger’ the stray dog who’s been with us since Lukla. He whines at night and we decided to kick him out, so we dragged him by the scruff of the neck. He whined, and many of the Newcastle people began to object saying it was ‘harsh’ and ‘cruel’. Yawn.

In the end, he was locked out.

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