Canada – the end of the first term of medical school

Wow how time has flown by! I’ve already completed my first term at Peninsula Medical School at Plymouth University!

It’s been a long term but one thats been busy with the formation of new friendships through many social events, climbing and caving trips, surf trips, hockey, netball, yoga, running, university societies and exploring! On top of all this I have of course been squeezing in a bit of medicine here and there!



After the last of my lectures on the 21st December, it was time to start the Christmas celebrations back home in Taunton. Bring on all the food and drink, carols, decorations, family and the Christmas park run! (got to pretend you’re burning off the turkey somehow!)


After a very merry Christmas with friends and family, we flew out of Heathrow on the 27th December; our destination… Canada!



A white Christmas was completed with the snowy scenes of the Rockies Mountains as we drove towards the Lake Louise ski resort in search of ten days of awesome skiing. We were greeted by a fresh dump of snow and some very cold temperatures (-34 degrees = inevitable frostbite as Georgie soon found out!)


Unfortunately Mummy was wiped out by a snowboarder at the end of the first days skiing and sustained a pretty nasty leg injury which resided her to the resting with ice and the hotel jacuzzi for the majority of the holiday with piggybacks to breakfast!


One afternoon, I ventured across the valley to visit the frozen Lake Louise and the Chateau with mum where we enjoyed beautiful views, gingerbread Christmas creations and ice sculptures!


Georgie went over to the dark aside for a few days to enjoy life on her bottom as a boarder! 


With some adventurous exploring in the trees and off piste we found some beautiful viewing spots as well as lots of powder! 

To finish off the final day of skiing we enjoyed apres ski on the mountain with mum too 🙂

Unfortunately we have now reached the end of our time in Lake Louise and we must say goodbye to our friends and the freedoms of life on the slopes and sadly return back to reality and exams 😭👋🏼 


 

Gold Duke Of Edinburgh Award Presentation

As many of you may already know, I thrive in the outdoors and therefore the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme suited me perfectly when I was at school. Consequently, I completed my Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards between the ages of 15 and 18, whilst studying at Queens College, Taunton and Canford School.

Through completing the different sections involved in the DofE awards, I was able to partake in many different physical activities as well as; develop my musical skills on the piano, learn British Sign Language, volunteer in a whole host of different environments (from dementia homes to children’s liturgy groups),  and teach younger children to climb in Spain.


However, the biggest challenges arose on the DofE expeditions of which, walking the length of Dartmoor, canoeing the length of the River Wye, and exploring the Brecon Beacons were some of the highlights. These expeditions required teamwork and determination with a large quantity of team morale! However, despite bad weather, serious injuries, and major navigation mistakes each expedition was successfully completed and I learnt a lot from working with 3 different teams all presenting a range of different personalities and abilities.

Moreover, all the effort was worth it when I was invited to visit St. James’ Palace, in London on the 29th November 2016 to be presented with my Gold Award by the Duke of Edinburgh himself!

I was allowed to take along one guest with me so an excited Mummy organised a London adventure! On arrival at the Palace we were shown into the Queen Anne Room along with all the other Gold Award holders from the South West. After a motivational speech from the TV presenter, Matt Johnson,who was the special guest for the South West presentations, we warmly welcomed HRH Prince Phillip into the room.


I was extremely lucky as HRH Prince Phillip came over and spoke with me about my award as he had a particular interest in those who had travelled abroad as part of their award, for which I had taught climbing in Spain. He was very charming and very witty and as a result got many laughs especially from the parents! He didn’t hold back when expressing his dislike for Dartmoor, backing up this remark with “there’s a reason they built a prison on there!”


After being awarded my certificate and having a group photo with the other Gold Award holders and Matt Johnson, it was unfortunately time to leave the palace and head out into the streets of London, which were wonderfully lit with the christmas lights!


In order to celebrate the achievement, Mummy treated me to a wonderful evening at Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar where we enjoyed an amazing night of excellent live jazz and delicious food – what a treat!


All the hardworking paid off with the skills I gained along the way and a fabulous visit to St James’ Palace and the opportunity to converse with HRH Prince Phillip!!

 

La Buena Vida, Ayampe

Wow what an amazing final week to my travels! 

For a final bit of relaxation and surfing I headed to La Buena Vida surf camp in the small coastal town of Ayampe in Ecuador. 


This very chilled family run place is located in the most chilled town ever! 


I had an awesome week of surfing at both Ayampe beach and at La Entrada, only a ten min drive away through the jungle coastline. 


With a couple of yoga sessions between surfs and some fitness classes with Keith Keller too, my surfing could only improve! An amazing massage at the end of the week was a great way to prepare myself for the long drag of flights back to England after leaving this magic place! 


I’ve made great friends with a couple on a workaway project here who I have been able to share many sunset surfs and evenings with as well as being warmly welcomed by the Keller family complete with their three young children and plenty of friendly cats and dogs! 


I will definitely miss the amazing chilled vibes of this small Ecuadorian town and the delicious fresh fish and healthy food! 


And of course the many number of awesome surf sessions I had here with Pelicans flying overhead! 


But unfortunately now I have come to the end of my travels and after some of the best months of my life, I start my journey home with a visit to Quito for a day enroute and back to good ol’ taunton on Friday! 


What a fantastic time I have had throughout Central and South America! I will certainly miss travelling along with all the amazing people I have been lucky to have met along the way and one of the Pacific coasts best treasures…its sunsets! 

¡Adiós y gracias por todos! 

👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼

Amazon Rainforest

Well this is somewhere that has been on my bucket list forever!! 



We arrived in the Amazon rainforest on Friday morning to the welcoming chorus of the jungle birds and monkeys! 
We have been staying in “El Paraiso de las orquideas” otherwise known as the “Isla de los monos” which is a gorgeous lodge in the heart of the jungle! 


After a delicious lunch, during which we were fed extremely well with lots of plantain, we settled into our rainforest lodges before beginning our afternoon walk. Our local Kichwa guide, Lenning, gave us a guided tour of his home…the jungle! 



We not only learnt the names of plants and wildlife but also their multiple uses in jungle life. The strength of some of the plants is phenomenal! To experiment with some leaves we made our own bracelets…

After a great introductory walk to the Amazonian jungle life under the hot sun, I made the most of a swim in the gorgeous swimming pool before supper! 


Overnight we learnt that sleeping in the jungle during the rainy season is not easy!! I’ve never seen so much rain even living in England…but atleast this tropical rain is warm! So all togged up in our ponchos, we began our second day in the jungle! 


After arriving at Huasquila Lodge we donned wellies and marched off on a 3hr trek through lots of mud and flooded rivers! Feeling like Mowgli clambering over plants and through bushes, we made our way to some caves and a spectacular waterfall! We even took on the role of Tarzan with face paint and swinging from some of the trees too! 




Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming amount of water, we were unable to fulfil our original plans of caving in the jungle for the afternoon but we found a yummy alternative way to spend the rest of the day…chocolate making! After picking some fresh yellow cocoa this morning, we set about making our own delicious chocolate which was quickly gobbled up! 


On Sunday, we took to the river in dug-out canoes, from which we saw the rainforest in a different light, travelling downstream to the “Amazoonica” Animal Sanctuary. Here the volunteers take in injured and badly treated animals such as monkeys that have been tied with a rope to a post as pets in local tribal communities and care for them until they can be realeased back into the wild again. As we explored the sanctuary we saw many different species from toucans, macaws and monkeys to pumas, turtles and caymans as well as many more!!



After a lunch of fish from the river, we arrived at the Tiyu Yacu community. Located on the banks of the river Napo, a tributary to the Amazon river, this community makes the most of these waters to wash gold. Intrigued as to how they collect gold in this way, I had a go! 



To fit in with the local tribe, they even painted my face (that’s twice in two days – my face is slowly changing colour!) 



A local woman then showed us how to use yuca, a traditional root vegetable similar to potato, to make Chicha, the traditional drink in the Amazon. I’d say it’s an acquired taste…it certainly doesn’t match with my taste buds! 


After a bit of pottery making, we then tried our hand at blow shooting – the traditional hunting method in the area! Shooting at a wooden toucan target, my accuracy wasn’t too bad but a moving prey may have been another matter! 


Exploring and meeting a Kichwa community was very interesting and an awesome experience! We were lucky to have our guide, Lenning, to translate the native language for us gringos! 


However, after another night, our Amazonian Jungle experience has come to an end and now we are making our way over the Andes once again, (dodging landslides on the way!), to the final destination of my overland tour with Dragoman, Quito. 

For now we say goodbye to the awesome biodiversity of the jungle and hope that we no longer need to protect our food from the greedy wooly monkeys! 

Rio Verde, Baños 

Welcome to Ecuador’s adventure capital! With our campsite name of Pequeño Paradiso, we knew we were in for a treat! 


Here we spent three nights and I can safely say we have experienced Ecuador’s rainy season! Located in the ecological corridor between two jungle crammed national parks, we had plenty to explore…


Unfortunately, due to the recent downpours of rain, the river was up to high at grade 7 for us to try the popular white water rafting at Baños and once again this affected our likelihood of doing some canyoning too! However this area has a lot more to offer so on Wednesday morning we set off up to the Canopy at Puntzan Zip lining. Despite the constant rain, we enjoyed flying across the canopy and canyons on six different long lines! 


Next we set off uphill to the famous “Casa d’arbol” to enjoy a swing over the edge of the world! Despite the clouds we got some good photos! 


After another night of rainy camping and we woke to the beautiful rays of the scorching sun. This made for a great day of hiking and exploring the waterfalls in the area!


We even climbed up behind the huge falls of “La Cascada del Diablo” which gave us a great powerful shower! Lucky the sun was warm enough to dry us off! The rainbows created by the waterfall were amazing! 


We spent the rest of our day exploring the town of Baños before heading back to Pequeño Paradiso for our last night. 


All in all despite the rain we had an awesome time and now look forward to our days in the Amazon jungle! 

Quilotoa Loop

On Sunday we started the famous Quilotoa loop. Spending a few hours driving along the scenic loop, we arrived at The Cloud Forest hostel where we stayed 2 nights. 


This was an awesome hostel decorated with loads of wine bottles and filled with lots of Trekkers! And that’s exactly what we came to do….trek! 


The next morning, fuelled with a humongous breakfast, we set off up to the crater of the Quilotoa volcano. We were quickly met with amazing views as we hiked around the rim of the crater, looking into the bright blue crater lake! 


The wind was incredibly strong but that just added to the entertainment! 


From the crater we hiked for 6 hours to the village of Chugchilan and then back to our hostel. 


The terrain was very sandy and the ground was very loose so we were not surprised when we were met with a large landslide blocking our way down into the canyon! We soon became accustomed to the falling rocks until one boulder narrowly missed my head – I quickly scrambled away as fast as I could! 


With only a minor detour we safely arrived at Chugchilan and back to our hostel where a shower successfully removed our dusty coating of dirt which was inevitable after a day of wind, sand and landslides! 


A fantastic hike was topped off with the scenic drive along the remainder of the Quilotoa loop during the following morning as we set off towards Rio Verde, Baños. 

Peru/Ecuador Border 

What a wonderful last couple of days we have spent in Peru on the coast! Four nights camping in two amazing beach side campsites! 


First we arrived at the surfing town of Huanchaco where we spent two nights in a tightly packed campsite with two fellow overland trucks. 


Having experienced our fair share of ruins in Peru, Sophie and I opted out from yet another cultural ruin visit in exchange for a day on the beach and exploring the town along with a tough run along the coastal road to Huanchaquito and beyond! We rewarded ourselves with a visit to the legendary well decorated “Surfer Burger” restaurant where Mitch even tried the Quadruple Burger challenge!


After a day or two swinging in hammocks, we set off on the long drive towards the Ecuadorian border to the coastal town of Punta Sal. Here we spent another two nights in blissful paradise, swinging in yet more hammocks! 


With our tents pitched deep with in the soft sand of the beach, we made the most of this paradise-like campsite from morning beach runs to watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean as we sat sipping on piña coladas in the pool!! 


During our time in Punta Sal, Sophie and I also made sure to complete our Peruvian bucket list with a bumpy ride in a Peruvian Tuctuc as we made a brief visit to the party town of Mancora, experiencing some other interesting transport en route! 



After a fantastic final few days in Inca land, we were ready to cross the border at Tumbes into Ecuador on Friday! Another long scenic drive through jungle lamdscapes led us to the country’s third largest city, Cuenca. 


Here we have stayed for the past two nights. As well as making the most of the city’s culinary offerings, I have enjoyed the sporting Ecuadorian culture through its gym orientated parks and riverside running routes as well as learning about the manufacture of the famous Panama Hat which originates from this beautiful city. 


I have also climbed to the top of its popular cathedral as well as roaming the many markets selling flowers to food and drink along with many shoe stalls! 



Next we are off to the town of Chugchilan for some tracking around a volcano before heading into jungle territory in Rio Verde and then the Amazon!!