Tag Archives: travel

Arctic Chills: A mushing adventure

16 Feb

For 2012 one of my many resolutions is to experience new things, so when I got the opportunity to go and mush with some very cute furry huskies, it seemed like the perfect way to start my new years resolution, and a great way to spend a day!

On the way down to Gloucestershire (where the track and team were based) I can’t deny that the nerves began to kick in, I had visions of myself whizzing around the countryside clinging on for dear life, to a rig with a team of dogs that weren’t stopping for anything. The memory of when my brother put on roller blades, hooked himself up to my own husky Koda and ended up throwing himself into a bush to get Koda to stop, was now fresh in my mind. One thing that incident taught me, other than never hook your brother up to your dog with no means of braking and no helmet, is that huskies love to run, and a silly little thing like a human being attached to them, won’t stop them if they want to go. 

The Track

Arriving at the track I was greeted by freezing cold conditions (looked like I was going to get the full mushers experience!) and also Vickie, who introduced me to the team of six dogs I would be working with Dashka, Mckinneley, Willow, Minx, Koda (yes they had a Koda as well!) and Nanuk. Spending a lovely half an hour getting to know the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen, it was time to get down to work. I learnt how to harness the dogs up to the rig, and the commands I needed for the team to understand me, as well as how to work with the dogs safely.

Vickie suggested I started myself off slow, only working one dog and building myself up to working a team, looking at the long stretch of track ahead of me with quite a few dips and hills along the way, I found myself  nodding vigorously in agreement, starting off slowly was fine with me! Hooking up Willow to the rig, it seemed she was far more ready and excited about this than I was, barking and howling impatiently, the other dogs joining in, howling in anticipation for their turn to go on a run.

I lifted my steadying foot off the ground, and before I had even finished calling ‘hike’ Willow was already breaking into a sprint, my first thought was ‘sod me this is fast’ with my stomach doing a few flips as we hit some holes in the ground, however after the first minute, the terror subsided and I really began to enjoy myself. It was absolutely exhilarating, racing along the countryside past the lake with Willow yelping noisily in excitement,surprising myself I remembered the commands for left and right (‘haw’ and ‘gee’) and the technique of using my body to turn the rig so it didn’t flip over when taking a corner, heading around Willow must have sensed we were heading back to the beginning and really picked up the pace (turns out she was holding out on me, this was a whole new gear of speed). I got completely caught up in Willow’s enjoyment and enthusiasm and forgot about my fear of tipping the rig, and found myself urging her on, when we reached the end of the track and came to a halt I found myself disappointed it was over, but with a huge grin on my face. Vickie later told me that Willow is her fastest dog (she kept that quiet!)

The lovely Willow! My ginger twin!

We all stopped for a break and had soup around a campfire, the dogs at our feet looking hopeful for any leftovers, however they were left disappointed, Vickie loves her dogs but is very strict about them begging and getting treats, a far cry from my own very spoilt dogs at home!

After a rest we got back to the task at hand and this time Vickie asked me if I would mind working Koda and Mckinneley, her least seasoned dogs, as it was important for them to gain experience of someone other than her working them, quelling my rising nerves I agreed and clipped them to the rig. It wasn’t the smoothest start, for the first few minutes Mckinneley was running off to the side distracted and Koda was making me nervous as she was running, but looking at me as opposed to straight ahead in the direction we were going. But soon instinct took over and both dogs began to run like a dream, the difference

Getting up close and personal

between one dog pulling and two was all too apparent when Koda and Mckinneley put their minds to it, and we were racing along at break neck speed, to the point where when we approached the downward slope I was tugging on the brakes and yelling ‘steady’ as much as my voice would allow.

It felt a lot faster than it looks

It was one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences of my life, right up there with swimming with the dolphins and standing on the cliffs of Xcarat in Mexico. I would recommend it to anyone who loves animals and has an open mind to try something new, however I’ll warn potential candidates for this experience you may be surprised at how addictive the thrill is, I’m already looking up resorts abroad in Norway, Switzerland ect that offer the same sort of experience, as I would love to try it again, hopefully next time in the snow.

 
On the way home I stopped at a service station to use the facilities and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, covered in mud, hair looking uncontrollably bushy and wild (this is where my nickname Mufasa starts to makes sense) basically looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge. Not my most glamorous look by far, and although I received quite a few stares from fellow travellers I didn’t care so much, the other remnant of the day, my grin, was still there.
 

Beautiful dogs but they're a tough bunch as well!

 
  

The husky team!

 
 
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Confessions from the underground

3 Feb

I love channel 4 for many reasons, they have the Simpson’s, My big fat gypsy wedding, Hollyoaks and Jon Snow. However their series of documentaries on controversial topics is definitely the largest reason for that love, I’ve spent many evenings with my flat mate Rachel glued to the television, having a bit of a lively debate on our differing views (me and Rach are a bit of a personality contrast, but that’s what keeps our friendship so interesting!)

So when I saw the programme ‘Confessions from the underground’ advertised there was no question that I was sitting down to watch it, as someone who has had a fair bit of experience doing the commute to London and tackling the tubes, I found this a fascinating programme from the viewpoint of people working behind the scenes on one of the oldest yet busiest subway systems in the world.

If you’ve gone on the tubes before, and I’m sure you have at some point, then like me you may have felt some apprehension for the first few journeys. I’ll never forget the first tips my dad (a hardened London commuter veteran) gave me when I started commuting. Never stand in the first row behind the yellow lines, try to stand behind two people who are shoulder to shoulder so they create a barrier if you get pushed, keep one foot forward as a form of balance and stability in case you do get someone who deliberately pushes you (yes apparently that happens) and try not to wear anything that has dangling bits which could get caught between doors. 

I watched interviews with staff who genuinely cared about the safety of commuters, tourists and other travellers using the underground, and created a compelling picture of an old and lagging system pushed to the limit by cuts, with underground staff barely holding the pieces together. One woman described the system as ‘running on  luck’ whilst another young man spoke out about how the drive to make the underground faster and efficient has led to severe breaches in public safety and was ‘killing with cuts.’ They raised interesting points and opinions on how London would cope with an influx of visitors for the 2012 Olympics, giving an insight into what I already imagined was a thankless job, describing some of the treatment and tasks they have to perform its a wonder they turn up to work at all.

With a great amount of in-depth research and  interviews on a system that a large majority of the country depends on yet takes for granted, this was an amazing programme narrated by one of the all time greats Richard Wilson. Watching this you can’t help but compare our subway system to other countries like Japan, Russia, France and China  and wonder why Britain wastes money on so many pointless endeavours, when it could be spending it constructively on updating a system that’s very much in need and in constant use.

Thought provoking and insightful, if you haven’t seen it, make sure you do!

101 places to go before you die……..2 down another 99 to go!

22 Aug

In third year I was looking for a few posters with my flatmate Rachel to decorate our new (and very magnolia) flat. We picked up the obvious ones, cute animals, Twilight, Pirates of the Caribbean..who doesn’t want handsome men or fluffy animals adorning their wall? Then I saw one that really caught my eye ‘101 places to visit before you die’ I looked it up and down and thought it would be something really nice to look at every day, exotic and faraway destinations to take me away from the stress and occasional boredom of uni.

Rachel pointed out that a poster indicating my eventual death is anything but cheerful and inspiring and said if I wanted that one it could go in my room. So university went on and I tucked the poster away, my desire to decorate ever disappearing as spontaneously as it appears and I completely forgot about it, it was only till I was unpacking today (a desire that also appears and disappears pretty quickly) that I found it again.

I was pretty excited, thinking that I must have at least done a quarter of the list, I consider myself pretty well travelled, I’ve been to Cuba and Mexico, done a lot of Europe and explored Greece and Cyprus, I didn’t think I could be that far off ticking a few on my precious poster. I was pretty disappointed to find that I had only been to two of the destinations! Ok so one of the destinations is the moon, pretty out of my reach but still…how could I have seen so little of the world? In terms of the poster I am way behind! 21 years old and only two locations covered.

Some of my friends and my family have been travelling and done trips all around the world, and said it was the most fantastic thing they’ve ever done! Although I like the idea of seeing new places, the idea of travelling hostel to hostel by myself always put paid to any ambitions of going off for a year and making my way around the globe. (I just don’t do hostels! I can’t help it!) But now I can see why people put up with the crappy hostels and occasional risks, the opportunity of seeing the world is just to great to miss! Sometimes when were stuck inside our routines and the pressures of our responsibilities, as well as other peoples expectations of us, it keeps us from going outside ourselves and outside our comfort zone, stopping us from exploring the possibility of other ways of living.

So this isn’t really a blog post, I guess its more of a promise to myself that will be so highly publicised that I can’t wiggle my way out of it. I will work my way through my poster, I will try and make my way to every destination (minus the moon of course) I guess I’ll be doing it my own way though, one destination at a time, and using a nice hotel as a camp base. 🙂

I think the first on my list will be the USA! (Hopefully fingers crossed) New York is calling me!  Its the first on the poster and I’ve always wanted to go and I even have some people that will hopefully want to come with me! Maybe next year after some time working and earning some money, I’ll make a start even if I have to go to every single place by myself. (My love life being the way it is this is a strong possibility) 🙂

So… 101 destinations…..99 to go…and only my lifetime to tick every box.

Lets get cracking! Theres a lot of world to see!

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