Alphabet Dating: L is for Levison Wood

Alphabet Dating – L is for Levison Wood

An evening with Levison Wood

ABCDEFGHIJL… something’s missing?!

Our ‘K’ date should have occurred in February but we went to Costa Rica (which unfortunately begins with a ‘C’ so doesn’t count – I’m not gonna start pulling that Kardashian shit on you) and then March happened along with our ‘L’ date sooooo….. here it is – L is for Levison Wood!

We went to see Mr Wood on his UK tour, giving talks about his various exciting escapades. For those who don’t know who Levison Wood is, he is a British Explorer famous for walking everywhere. But when I say walking, don’t be expecting some gentle National Trust type stroll through the English countryside, oh no, his first television show called Walking the Nile showed him walking the length of the Nile from Rwanda to Egypt, through some quite harsh and dangerous climates.

An evening with Levison Wood

Levison’s second television adventure Walking the Himalayas saw him walking the length of the world’s highest mountain range. While his ‘thing’ is walking everywhere, there was one point on his journey where due to some political unrest of some sort in Nepal, he and some people who were accompanying him on that particular part of the journey ended up having to take a short taxi ride to a nearby village. Ironically, the one time Levison decides to get into a vehicle, it shoots over a cliff and hurtles 150m down a mountain, nearly killing everyone in the car.

Thankfully no one died, although this isn’t the first time tragedy has struck one of Levison’s adventures. During Walking the Nile, he was accompanied at one point of the journey by some journalists. Tragically, an American journalist named Matthew Power died from heatstroke while accompanying Levison in a remote part of Uganda. Reminding us just how dangerous these expeditions can be.

Levison Wood’s most recent adventure saw him Walking the Americas. Starting in Mexico where he met his friend, a Mexican fashion photographer named Alberto, who walked the entire journey with him. And ending triumphantly in Colombia. Me, hubby and my two work friends who also love Lev actually got to meet Alberto on the night. He was incredibly funny and charismatic. I asked him where his favourite place was and he said Nicaragua but Costa Rica was his second favourite. He told me that Nicaragua was alot cheaper than Costa Rica too!

me: * adds Nicaragua to the ever-growing bucket list *

Meeting Alberto from Walking the Americas

We didn’t get to meet Levison himself but we enjoyed listening to him tell his stories, from backpacking along the Silk Road in his youth, to the time he lost his wallet at a theme park and it was returned by post to him from someone in the Army. He wrote back to thank them and then to ask advice on how to get into the army. Because that was how he was going to fulfil his childhood ambition to become an Explorer!

He inspired me by saying that you should take opportunities when you can, because even unpaid jobs can lead to bigger things. For him, this was an unpaid job he took after leaving the army where he delivered a couple of ambulances from London to Malawi for a charity project, which, to cut a long story short, ended up with him landing his first television gig!

At the end of the talk there was a little Q&A session which if you’re curious – his scariest moment was the car crash in Nepal. He was also pretty scared of a situation involving walking into a field where there were landmines in Africa. He wouldn’t tell us where his next adventure was but I know wherever it is, he is there right now as I am writing this. And there is another expedition in the planning for next year which will see Alberto accompany him again. As for Alberto, the thing he missed the most about his everyday life while he was walking the Americas was in actual fact his toilet!!!

See, I told you he was funny 🙂

Now hubby and I are playing a guessing game of where we think Lev might travel to next but I guess we will just have to wait and see!

Walking the... Nile, Himalayas, Americas - what's next?

A girl's guide to volunteering in Costa Rica

A girl’s guide to… volunteering in Costa Rica

Volunteering in Costa Rica

I’ve always had a fascination for the animal kingdom, so being rich in nature and wildlife, Costa Rica has been on my travel wishlist for a while. Costa Rica covers just a tiny proportion of our planet yet is host to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, something that the nation is particularly proud of. And you don’t have to venture too far to see some of its native creatures. Just relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Manuel Antonio we managed to spot lizards, capuchin monkeys and various birdlife, including toucans!

As someone developing a keen interest in all things zoological, I decided that I would like to combine my sightseeing holiday with volunteer work, so spent a week at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, around 20-30 minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - spending a week at an animal rescue centre was a very rewarding experience.
One of the many murals decorating the walls at the centre

We were picked up by a driver at the airport, along with 3 other jetlagged Brits. We arrived at the centre late afternoon and were shown to our 12 bed dorm. There are around 5 dorms in total and most were almost full, accommodating over 50 volunteers in total – alot more than I was expecting!

We met the owner Bernal and his howler monkey, Feluco. Feluco is an orphan whose mother was killed by a dog. Because he lost his mother at such a young age, his immune system is very weak. He also has a cleft pallet which gives him breathing problems. Feluco would stand no chance of survival out in the wild but luckily he is very well looked after at the centre. We learnt more about the other animals and the centre itself, but I will tell you more about the story of the rescue centre in another post.

An orphaned howler monkey being cared for at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica
Feluco

The next morning we were given a tour of the centre which at the time of our visit is home to an assortment of birds including parrots, owls, a peacock, a curassow and some chickens and ducks. There are also pigs, goats, 3 types of monkey (howler, spider and capuchin), two and three toed sloths, a tortoise, porcupine, marmoset, opossum, hedgehog, squirrels, two kinkajous, an olingo and a couple of pet dogs. There was also a toucan but as it was going to be released back into the wild, only the resident biologist was allowed anywhere near it.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center - rescue, rehabilitate and release Costa Rican wildlife.

As volunteers, the only animals besides the toucan that we were not responsible for were the spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys and some of the baby creatures inside the animal hospital.

A baby three-toed sloth being rehabilitated at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica
One of the baby sloths from the hospital with her teddy bear <3

For your first two days volunteering, you must shadow someone and not enter the enclosures, with the exception of the goats and pigs. I must admit being a little wary of Oscar the male goat, but the mama and two baby goats were sweet. I did enjoy going into the pig pen and we were encouraged to go visit the pigs to stop them from getting lonely.

Feeding the resident pigs on a Costa Rican volunteering holiday!
Feeding my piggy pals

A typical day

7am – Breakfast in the common area.

8am – Meeting in the common area – this is to go over any points of discussion and extra duties (one day every single person got involved in shifting a spider monkey cage, for example). Each volunteer is put into one of five teams and then each team has set tasks for the day on a morning and afternoon rota. The rota is repeated every 5 days so everyone has a chance to be involved with different animals and different aspects of the work.

Food preparation at a wildlife rescue centre
Food preparation for the animals – one of the rota tasks

A typical day may go something like this…

AM

  • Clean enclosures and supply fresh food and water for: the goats, the sloths beside the goat enclosure (aka The Goat Sloths), the owls, peacock, curassow and parrots.
  • Collect grass for the goats.
  • Tidy the garden.

The morning shift would usually last until 11am.

A scarlet macaw in Costa Rica
A cheeky scarlet macaw – the parrots were always entertaining the volunteers!

12 noon – Lunch in the common area.

Free time.

1.30pm – Meeting in the common area.

PM

  • Clean enclosures and supply fresh water for the porcupine, hedgehog, squirrels, opossum and teen sloths.
  • Feed the squirrels.
  • Give the porcupine, hedgehog and opossum their snacks at 4pm.
  • Give the teen sloths their branches at 5pm.
  • Feed the porcupine, hedgehog, opossum and teen sloths at 7pm.
Squirrel at a rescue centre in Costa Rica
One of these inquisitive squirrels decided to climb on me and run round my legs!

The afternoon shift would usually last until 4pm. Of course, every day was different as if your team were responsible for some of the nocturnal animals that day, you had a few jobs to do after 4pm, but who’s complaining when you have a kinkajou climbing on your head at the 7pm feed! You aren’t supposed to touch the animals but an excitable kinkajou did decide my head looked like a fun place to climb!

Vet feeding a pair of kinkajou. These animals are nocturnal but required veterinary attention during the day, giving us a rare glimpse of them during daylight hours.
Normally nocturnal, the kinkajou woke up to receive their electrolytes from the vet

6pm – Dinner.

Free time.

10pm – Lights out.

There was a swimming pool and some hammocks for chilling during down time. The living conditions were basic and I didn’t mind the cold showers and sharing a dorm, however the sleeping wasn’t easy due to the various, and quite loud, noises of the local wildlife and vehicles on the nearby road. My body also ached for somewhere comfortable to sit – yeah yeah I’m an old granny alright!

The people at the rescue centre, both staff and volunteers, were really friendly and the work felt very rewarding. As someone who volunteers at a cat rescue centre close to home, it was a great learning experience to be so close to the native animals of a different country, and I could tell that the other volunteers felt the same.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - caring for howler monkeys among other animals.
Chew with your mouth closed! – Me in with the Howler Monkeys

I would like to thank Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center for being the wildlife warriors that they are and for allowing me to play a small part in their story.

And I would urge anyone who wants to make a difference, no matter how small, to get out there and do it!

Pura Vida!


If you would like to help the CRARC you can donate money, supplies or your time by following this link.

Famous for its wildlife, Costa Rica is a great place to spending some time volunteering with animals. This is my personal account of when I spent time at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center. Pin for later!

February Favourites

It seems a little odd that I’ve leapt from my January favourites straight into a post of my February favourites, but February has been all about one thing and one thing only, or rather one place only… Costa Rica!

So here are my Five February Favourites.

February favourites - Costa Rica Special - Read it on www.quirkylittleplanet.com

1. Instagram

I haven’t had chance to write any blog posts because I don’t tend to do that while I’m on holiday, but I have been alot more active on instagram than usual. So if you don’t already follow me, go ahead and check out my collection, especially all that amazing Costa Rican wildlife. Find my instagram here.

2. Volunteering

As you may already know, I volunteer at home for the Cats Protection, but I have wanted to do a volunteering holiday for a little while now. After a bit of research I discovered the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Centre and ended up spending a week with them before travelling around Costa Rica. It was a truly rewarding and memorable experience.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - caring for howler monkeys among other animals.
Chew with your mouth closed! – Me in with the Howler Monkeys

3. Wildlife

I do love to see animals when I’m travelling and Costa Rica is very well known for it’s rich and diverse wildlife. I will most likely write a post just about the different creatures we saw because we saw THAT MANY. Didn’t manage to see ‘The Little Five‘ but then there’s always a reason to go back, right?

Black mandibled toucan in Costa Rica
Nearly thought I wouldn’t see a toucan and then along came this beauty!

4. Art

There was vibrant art all over Costa Rica – from quotes left by travellers at the rescue centre, to stunningly detailed murals of the local flora and fauna. My favourite were these souvenir masks carved by an indigenous tribe known as the Boruca. There were some incredibly beautiful and huge (expensive) ones but we bought a smaller and more affordable one to put up on our global art/souvenir wall at home. Seeing all this art made me very excited to get the paints and pencils out for the art class I’m about to start soon!

Beautiful art created by the indigenous tribe called the Boruca, in Costa Rica.

5. Money… Costa Rican specifically

As I said before about the art in Costa Rica, even the Costa Rican bank notes are art in themselves! Hardly surprising for such a good looking country though.

How pretty are the Costa Rican bank notes?!

 

This was just a little taste of what’s to come on the blog, but follow me on instagram to have a sneak peek at some of the sights and creatures I saw!

Pura Vida x

Alphabet Dating - I is for Italy

Alphabet Dating – I is for Italy

November was the month for our letter ‘I’ alphabet date. November was also the month of my Dad’s 60th birthday, where we decided to surprise him by taking him to Rome for 4 nights with my mum.

So Alphabet Dating letter ‘I’ became ‘I for Italy’, slight cheat but hey ho, when in Rome (see what I did there?).

I hadn’t been on holiday with my parents for 10 years but things went pretty smoothly, infact I think they were glad of our company as my husband became Human Sat Nav and I became Event Co-ordinator.

When in Rome

We visited all the typical tourist attractions – Vatican City, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum etc. Plus I tricked my Dad into visiting an amazing Cat Sanctuary in the ruins (more about that coming soon!).

The joke of our trip occurred on our last day when my mum suggested that after lunch we head to Piazza Navona, which for the fact geeks out there was built over the 1st Century AD Stadio di Domiziano and hosted the city’s main market.

According to Lonely Planet it is nowadays “Central Rome’s elegant showcase square”.

According to my mum “There’s nothing there, but it’s all going on”.

Lonely Planet call it "Central Rome's elegant showcase square". My mum says "There's nothing there, but it's all going on". Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy. #Inspiring #Travel #Quote

When we got to Piazza Navona however, we realised that it really WAS all going on. There were cameras rigged up, important looking people busying about, crowds of gawkers and part of the square had been cordoned off. We later found out, through the brilliance of twitter, that they were filming a Hollywood movie that day! The film is called American Assassin and stars Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. And if you see a girl in a yellow coat hovering about in the background, then that will be yours truly!

Making a movie in Rome

The filming of 'American Assassin' in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

We had a wonderful time in Rome, sadly it was too cold to eat as much gelato as I might have liked but otherwise November was a good time to visit as the crowds were alot less (we queued for 30 minutes to get into the Vatican unlike the 3 hours we could have spent if we had gone earlier in the year).

Stay tuned for more Rome posts coming soon and keep an eye on my instagram for a few of my pics!

Arrivederci Roma!

Milford Sound – is it worth it?

aka My Worst Day at New Zealand’s Number 1 Attraction

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
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Milford Sound – is it worth it? It’s often touted as New Zealand’s number 1 must visit attraction, but is it worth the hype?

That greatly depends. Many people come back from there with wonderful experiences having spotted seals, dolphins and penguins as they’ve glided their way on a beautiful boat through the majestic waters. I, however, want to tell you about my visit to Milford Sound, because well, I’m all about keeping it real and sharing what the likes of Lonely Planet probably won’t tell you…

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
Milford Sound – image not my own unfortunately. Image via Unsplash.

Although we had hired a car in New Zealand, neither of us really fancied driving the lengthy journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, so we booked an organised coach tour. There are plenty of operators based in Queenstown but we chose to go with Jucy.

Our driver Lucy (you can’t make this up!) picked us up in the morning and remained bright and friendly throughout our trip. She told us all stories of her childhood on a farm and made several rest stops on route. Sadly for us, the weather was not being kind and even though we’re British and quite used to the rain, the more than damp weather was dampening our spirits the closer we got to Milford Sound.

After a long journey, we made it to the boat where the rain was still pouring and the wind was blowing a gale. The crew on board could obviously sense our coach load of disappointment as they tried to remain enthusiastic and marvelled at the many waterfalls spilling down the rocks because of the torrential downpour. I don’t know if they were genuinely that excited about the waterfalls or if they were just putting a positive spin on things in order to lift our spirits.

Many waterfalls can be seen at Milford Sound when it rains
Expect to see all the waterfalls when it rains

We received lunch on board the boat – wraps, cookies and drinks. I chose a falafel wrap and shortly afterwards found myself in the toilets with an upset stomach.

Needless to say, the rest of my Milford Sound experience was spent locked in a cubicle. But I didn’t miss much as hubby didn’t see any wildlife or rainbows beyond the drizzle and clouds, but he did venture out on deck to battle the elements. Sure, you could say it’s dramatic and atmospheric but when you’ve got food poisoning and you’re having panic attacks about spending another 5 hours stuck on a coach, who really cares?

What the travel guides DON'T show you about Milford Sound
* sigh *

The 90 minute boat ride was soon over and everyone was pretty keen to just get back to Queenstown. Lucy from Jucy had to ask another couple (who had prime location seats at the front of the coach) to switch with us so I could be at the front of the coach incase I needed to ‘go’ again. I would have felt guilty and mortified had all my energy not been focussed on making it through the next 5 or so hours. The trouble with New Zealand is that rest stops are few and far between but fortunately having dosed myself up with the necessary medication, I made it back to Queenstown just fine.

And thus concludes the worst day I had in my whole backpacking trip down under.

Milford Sound in bad weather
Image taken by my hubby 🙂

So, is it worth it?

In my opinion, no. Perhaps if we’d driven ourselves and stopped in Te Anau for a night maybe? But I feel it is my duty to present the less glossy, sunny and perfect side to travel.

There are two sides to every story of course, so if you want to read a good experience of Milford Sound then I’m sure there are a bazillion other travel bloggers out there who will gladly share that.

Milford Sound in New Zealand
Here’s what we *could* have seen. Image via Pixabay

Have you been to Milford Sound? What did you think? Or have you had Travellers Tummy at the worst moment? Share, we’re all friends here!


You can find some of my more pleasant New Zealand adventures right here.