Claire Burgess’s Blog

The Couchsurfers

Posted in Claire Burgess, Fun, Travel by Claire Burgess on September 11, 2011

Since moving to Peterborough I have met some amazing people though a website called Couchsurfing. It’s like Facebook but for people who travel. If you move to a new place or are going somewhere new on holiday I totally recommend it.

I stayed with my first Couchsurfer for New Year in 2009 in New York, CJ. Having sent out lots of messages we finally got a reply. My sister and I turned up at his apartment just off 5th Avenue for a week staying on his couch. initially, a totally terrifying experience not helped by the fact that most of my friends thought he was probably going to turn out to be an axe murder or smoother me with a pillow in my sleep. As it turns out he was totally amazing. He didn’t seem to mind having English Twins sleeping on his sofa for 10 days…funny that?! and showed us all around his city. Including how to work out the ridiculously complicated subway, a Japanese karaoke bar and some of the best pizza the city has to offer. It was so much more than a free place to stay. CJ even had a long-term Couchsurfer who would stay regularly when she was passing through…she even had her own closet!

CJ shared his tips for how to pick out if a Couchsurfer was ok to stay on your couch.
1. They must wear a shirt in their profile photo
2. They must be small enough so they can’t take your tv

In fact, Couchsurfing is quite safe because you leave references for people you meet and stay with.

Peterborough has a really active Couchsurfing community, maybe because lots of people who live here are from elsewhere? I joined their group on the site and said hello when I first arrived here and had loads of friends ever since. I don’t know if it’s because we are all people who realise that Couchsurfers aren’t axe murders that brings us together or that it’s just we are all interested in meeting new people from all over. Whatever it is, they all seem like very cool people to me.

A Couchsurfer's trip to Skegness

Punting with some Couchsurfers in Cambridge

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Safari and Home

Posted in Claire Burgess, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 16- Tuesday 26th May

We got up early this morning to go on a safari in Chitwan National Park. We went out in the jeep again which we discovered was still running from the 1960’s. We got a long wooden boat across the river to look for crocodiles. We saw one as we went along the river just a few feet away. It was scary being so close to something so big. When we got off the boat we walked through the jungle until we reached an elephant sanctuary. Here we saw a rare set of twin elephants with their mother and lots of other elephants.

We then headed back to the river where we were last night to watch the sunrise to see the elephants with their mahouts getting a wash. They were all really funny getting washed and playing around . The mahouts didn’t seem scared at all of the huge creatures.

Later in the day we did the very last part of the safari and took a ride on an elephant into the jungle to see what we would see. We spotted a peacock, a mother and baby rhino and some deer. The elephant was a little naughty for his mahout and kept stopping to eat all the time. That made it more of an adventure for us though as we sat on the top.

The next morning we headed back to Kathmandu and are heading back to the UK tomorrow. It’s been a great adventure all round and a great experience. If your thinking of heading to Nepal to go to base camp or just to see what happens then I totally recommend it. I have had an amazing, tiring, surprising time and hope to go back one day. I have loved meeting lots of lovely people along the way. Thanks for coming on this journey with me.

Love Claire x

Chitwan National Park

Posted in Claire Burgess, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 15- Monday 25th May

We got up early this morning. Before the streets were busy to get the  bus to Chitwan National Park.  The streets in Kathmandu were much easier to walk down. We got to the bus stop and got on the little green bus. This is where we spent the next 6hrs listening to very cheesy pop music as we drove down winding roads along the edge of cliffs. We kept overtaking other busses on blind bends where we were all holding our breath and trying not to look. The roads were bumpy and at times you felt like you were on a big roller coaster. As we travelled along the road the senery outside the window changed from the big city to the green fields.

We arrived at a small village just outside of the park called Surgha. We were collected via an open top jeep and taken to our guest house swerving goats, cows, ducks and chickens that were wondering in the road. We wondered around the village being greeted by lots of smiling faces before watching the sun set at the side of the river on the edge of the national park. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Pashupatinath

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 14- Sunday 23rd May 2010

We have moved back to Pilgrims Guest House where we stayed on our 1st night in Kathmandu. We are having a little bit of trouble adjusting back into the pace of Kathmandu after the peace and quiet on the mountains. It’s hard going having all the cars beeping and people trying to sell you things all the time.

Some of us that were still in Kathmandu following the trek went to Pashupatinath today, a complex of temples and cremation area used by Hindus. Getting there from Thamel was an adventure. 6 of us piled into a taxi- Adam even had to get into the boot. We were swerving vehicles  and missing them only by millimeters then crossing oncoming traffic. Then at a busy junction at the top of a hill we stalled. I thought we might have to get out and push until the driver opened the engine from inside the van with his screwdriver and got things going again as if it happened all the time.

We all found Pashupatinath very different from how we had imagined. It is meant to be the best place in Nepal for Hindu’s to be cremated as the water that surrounds the temples is considered holly. What we weren’t expecting was for ceremonies to be so public. From the river bank we could see a dead body being carried on a stretcher covered only by a serrong. The body was then placed onto one of the plinths on some blocks of wood before the moth of the dead person was set alight by one of the male relatives. The body was then covered in straw that had been soaked in the holly water. When nothing but ash was left it was shoveled into the river. It was kind of shocking. Crowds of people were stood watching while some tourists were filming. Nobody knew what to make of it.

At night those of us still in Kathmandu had one final meal before all going our separate ways. We were just tooking in when the rain began to poor down. The Nepalese consider this lucky as this means the Monsoon is going to start soon. We practically needed armbands to swim back to our rooms. We said our final goodbyes  and that was it…. just the 3 of us again.

Tomorrow we are going to Chitwan National Park in the south of Nepal. Hopefully we will see some Rhino’s or maybe even a Tiger.

The Last Road to Base Camp

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on July 27, 2010

Day 8- Monday 17th May

So in the end we were up at 4.30am after vertually no sleep because it was freezing cold even with all my clothes on. For breakfast I had ordered Peanut Butter on toast. I have a massive weakness for the stuff and was so surprized to see it there I had even been dreaming about eating it. Sadly, when we got up for breakfast they had ran out! Ah well, we are on the side of a mountain so these things do happen. It’s only when someone climbs with all the supplies can they get new stock.

After breakfast at 5.30am we headed from Lambuche to Gorekeshp. This was a 3hrs walk across the glacier as the sun was coming up. It was so tiring and seemed like we were walking for an age. The sun coming up was a lovely site though and it was just hard to take in the site of the glacier around us. Although, as we walked everyone became a little distracted as our minds turned to base camp.

We stopped at Gorkeshep for an early lunch and in time to meet a group of Columbians who were celebrating. They had just had two of their team reach the Summit. It had taken 6 months of planning and trekking. It was so amazing to finally meet people who were part of a team who had made it. It was absolutely, amazing then she told us that one of the climberes had a prostetic leg. It was so emotional that we were all holding back tears. I think everyone around the table then wondered if what we were doing could even compare?

After a massive plate of roast potatoes and a trip to what can only be described as the worst most stoumarch renchingly awful toilet I have been to in my life, We set of for our final 3hr trek to Base Camp. I can’t actually believe I’m writing this. We have made it so far. All of us, only 3 hrs from Everest Base Camp.

They felt like the longest 3hrs ever. I was struggling and got a bit of a head ache. I was really thinking I wouldn’t make it. I dragged myself there with the aid of Wine Gums and just using my poles, putting one front in front of the other. 1hour and 1/2 into the walk Will’s sole came away from his walking boots. No one was surprized being as he got them for £30 in Kathmandu. Hr still had 1 1/2hrs to go until base camp. Wondering what he was going to do with his food flapping around when Jenny produced a packet of hair bands and he fastened the sole together. Genius!

I totally didn’t know what to expect but at the same time I did have a picture in my mind of what I thought it would be. It wasn’t like that at all. We made it to 5364 meters and were now at 51% oxygen.  We were at Base Camp!

There was a Base Camp sign and we all stood by to have our photo. a memento to show how far we had come. The sign was all wrapped in peace flags and memorials of others that had made it, and those who hadn’t. We could see the tents of those waiting to climb to Camp 1.

A few of us had a shot of Fred’s Everest Whiskey to celebrate that we had made it. It’s hard to discribe how happy we were to make it after so long. Rob celebrated by giving us a performance of Cheryl Cole’s Fight For This Love. It was so random it was helriaous.

I even managed to get a photo of Harry Hill’s Knitted Character at the top. I can’t wait to send it in to TV Burp.  I feel really proud that we made it. After all the madness, worrying and of course walking Rob said to Jemma and I today that “when some people drink too much they come home with a road sign or a traffic cone, you ended up here.”

Maybe we shouldn’t have but we a couple of small rocks as a momento and got ready to leave. It was so hard to go knowing that what we had come all this way to see this and now we were going.  We turned around and headed back to Gorkershep which is at 5180 meters and 52% oxygen. On the way back I had a great chat with Nick about travels and The Beatles which made the journey back fly by. Maybe, that was because I was still feeling high from what we had done.

Back at the Tea House we are all shattered. The boys are playing cards with Dawa and we are sitting huddled around the stove chatting. Early night for us though as tomorrow we are up at 4am to watch the sunrise over Everest on the summit of Kalapater which is 5500 meters. Night Night.

Snickers, Toilets and Up! The Road to Everest Base Camp

Posted in Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on July 4, 2010

Day 7- Sunday 16th May

When we woke this morning I have to say I was feeling all walked out. I was tired of the cold, the food and just generally walking. But when I realised we only had to get through the day and tomorrow we would be going to base camp it did seem doable. We had come so far I was just scared I would get sick or give up at the end. After all the chances of all of us making it is very slim.

The mornings walking was quiet easy apart from my head starting to peel so I now have huge chunks of skin in my hair…mmmm attractive. But by this point we were all looking a little deshevled so I was past caring. Instead I was distracted by my first choclate bar of the trip. You have to remember that we can’t stop thinking about food. A Snickers has never tasted so good. I got it from Rob instead of 50Rps he owed me. A bargain because they are now 250Rps in most of the Tea Houses. His Mum gave him 40 snickers before he left the UK and he has been traiding them and selling them since he got down to 29. He’s doing a roaring trade but has to keep it a little quiet so not to upset the Tea House owners.

At lunch Jemma also had an incident where she managed to drop her sunglasses down a squat toilet! Good job I’ve got a spare pair.

After lunch we had a steep ‘Nepally Up’ climb for about 45 minuites. It felt like an age. We were climbing through the Khumbar Glacier and when we got to the top we saw all the stone monuments for trekers who had died trying to conquer Everest. Some had placks and some were just small piles of stones. Our guide Dawa told us that anyone can make a memorial and no one will knock it down.

We climbed onwards and the path got flatter and easier. As I looked around it was exactly as I had imagined  the path to Everest would be. The path had now turned from the sandy path to dark black grey rocks with the clouds coming bellow the mountains.

I have been forcing myself to drink 3 litres plus of water every day which is so hard for me. I really don’t like drinking water but it has to be done because it really helps with the altitude to stay hidrated. This also makes you need the toilet a fair bit. Some people have been going outside inbetween rocks for the whole trip but luckily, today was the first time I needed to go…outside. In between two rocks. This is never fun but nessacery because there is nothing worse than trying to walk whilst needing the loo and there are deffinately worse views you could have.

Anyway, today we made it slowly just one step at a time to Labuche which is at 4940 meters after a 7KM trek that took 5 hours. We now have only 53% oxygen which means if you take the stairs too quickly you are really out of breath. Tomorrow is the big day. We are going to be up at 5am and are going to be trecking for 9hrs. Early night tonight so off to bed for me. Wish me luck!

Dhingboche

Posted in Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on June 27, 2010

Saturday 15th May-Day 6

Today was our second rest day. We are in Dhingboche to adjust to the altitude. After breakfast we did a 2hr trek up to 4600 meters. It was so hard because your heart felt like it is pumping so hard and you couldn’t catch your breath. At the top though when we all sat on some rocks looking at the amazing views all was well. We sat there just taking them in and adjusting to the height.

We heading back to the Tea House to relax for the rest of the day but it was time for Jenny and I to do some hand washing as we were running out of clean clothes. Although it is really difficult to keep clean on this trek we are trying to keep our limited clothes as fresh as we could. It was really different to be doing our washing outside on the side of a mountain. It was absolutely stunning. It seems like we weren’t the only ones who had this idea as everyone at the lodge seemed to have their clothes blowing around in the wind amongst the yaks.

As we finished our washing I had a funny turn. I had absolutely excruciating pins and needles in my hands and feet. This is a side effect of the diomox. I have had this on other parts of the trip but nothing like this. It made my feet feel like they were on fire and I was dancing around like a mad women trying to stamp out the pain. It did eventually go but I have decided to reduce my dose to half a tablet twice a day instead of the full one.

We had the rest of the day to kill but couldn’t actually do a lot because we had to conserve our energy. I did however, make time for my second hot shower. It was so lovely to be clean again. We then spent the rest of the day playing cards. I don’t think I’ve ever played as many games of cards in my life as I have on this trip.

There is also a lot of time to think mostly, on this trip about food. We seem to be hungry a lot of the time so always talk about the food we will have when we get home to celebrate making it to Base Camp. It’s not that the Nepalese food isn’t delicious, it is. But on the mountain it is a limited menu made up mostly of Dhal Baht which is a Nepalese curry with rice, vegetable Mo Mo which are like stuffed pasta, vegetable fried rice or fried potatoes. Every menu is roughly the same so it’s easy to get board. Tonight though it’s omelette and chips for me.  My stomach is growling at the thought.

The Everest Massive

Posted in Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on June 15, 2010

The latest from my trek to Everest Base Camp.

Friday 14th May- Day 5

We left Tengboche early this morning and I had massive indigestion from last nights potatoes and vegetables. Initially though the route was really easy and flat. We were only walking 7KM to Dhingboche which is ONLY a 5hour walk I thought. It will be fine.

After lunch it started to get really cold though as the paths opened up a little so it felt more like we were walking up a mountain than ever before. Suddenly, the green paths we had seen in the beginning seemed far away as the landscape changed to something a little more like a something out of Lord of The Rings.

By the times we arrived in Dhingboche we were cold from the wind whipping around us, tired and now at 4350 meters and are at 57% oxygen. I had to put most of my clothes on to keep warm.

We sat up in the Tea Lodge Dining Room area all together and ended up laughing lots which heated us up. I haven’t told you much about the other trekkers in my group yet but here is what I know about them so far:

Rob – Cheryl Cole fan, was a dancer on ITV’s Britannia High, Likes Snickers and water skis for England.

Fred– Loves David Cameron, has a twin that is 6 minutes older and is going to University in Nottingham.

Will– Went to Kings Canterbury with Fred and wants to be a Marine.

Rosie– Was a famous songwriters Nanny and went traveling in India.

Demaris– Is a Fashion Buyer, speaks lots of languages and is very good at organising things.

Nick– Has climbed up Mt Kilimanjaro is an experienced climber and works for an elevator company.

Andreas– Is a Security Consultant from Norway.

Anna– Is also from Norway, is the traveling partner of Andreas and is scared of heights.

Adam– Workes for a travel company, likes dance music, card games and is doing a charity bike ride in the Isle of White

Jemma– Lived in Thailand with me, doesn’t like beer and is amazing at poker

Jenny– Also lived in Thailand with Jemma and I, studied law and has a German boyfriend

Dawa- Is our head guide and has been to Base Camp around 80 times.

Krishna– Is the youngest guide on our trip who is always taking care of those in the middle.

Bibek– Always at the front leading the group, his favourite phrase is “Jaam Jaam!” which means “Let’s go!”

They are all really nice, people . They are all really great in their own way that really makes me think we have been really lucky and have a great group. We have spent lots of time together, mostly laughing until our eyes water and our sides hurt. One of the best things about being with this bunch of travelers is all the stories. Between us we have traveled all over and had a lot of adventures. It was great to hear about everywhere they had been from Mexico to Mongolia.

On My Ipod– My ipod is broken because of the altitude. The battery just went dead then it started to make a lot of noise. It’s going to be quiet without it.

On the Path to Base Camp

Posted in Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on June 13, 2010

Here is the next instalment from my trip to Everest Base Camp.

Thursday 13th May- Day 4

We left Namche to go to Tengboche which is 9Km away. The route started fairly steeply but I’m starting think the start of the day is always like this. The path seemed to wind around and in between the nearby Mountains. As we followed the path we came across the men who maintain the Everest path. We saw them re-building parts of it which looked like hard work so made some donations.

It was the most beautiful day today and we all started chatting about what it would feel like if we made it to Base Camp. It seemed so strange, the amount of people who had probably walked the path before us but it made it all the more mysterious that I didn’t know anyone who had been to Base Camp. We had met people along the way but I didn’t actually KNOW them. It made everything much more exciting.

After Lunch (and being locked in the squat toilet by Rob, the class clown of the group) we made our way up. It was the same steep path as yesterday but somehow not as hard.  I just took my time and listened to my music even though that meant that sometimes the rest of the group were 10  minutes ahead and I was walking alone with Dawa. It was all very relaxed and so I didn’t really mind.

Dawa said today he thinks I will make it. But I don’t know at this point if I will. I guess I will just have to see how it goes. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s meant to be hard otherwise everyone would do it.

We got here this afternoon and are now at 3867m with 60% Oxygen. It’s started to make me out of breath if I climb the stairs at the Tea House too fast. So much so it makes me feel like my heart is going to burst out of my chest. There is a temple here right next to the Tea lodge and we went to the afternoon ceremony although I have to be honest and say it was so relaxing in there after such a long day listening to the Monks chanting was sending me to sleep.

Everyone is really sleepy but we have been advised not to sleep until tonight. It’s so hard because I love a good nap at the best of times, but I need one even more when we are walking these kinds of distances. It got cold too and we just sat around the fire chatting. Oh and tonight I have definitely got a room with a view. Out of the window I can see Everest!

On my ipod- Blur- The Universal

The Day of ‘Rest’

Posted in Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on June 11, 2010

This is the latest from my trip to Mount Everest Base Camp.

Wednesday 12th May- Day 3

Today was a ‘rest day.’ We have these built-in to our programme to try to help us acclimatise. We walked up to Syanbocha which is 3800 meters at 60% oxygen. It was only 2 hours up but as soon as we started, everyone seemed to be finding it hard. It just seemed like 2hours of relentless climbing up. Think climbing the stairs for 2 hours! I’m definitely going to be super fit after this.

I was at the back again with our guide Dawa and a few others and fought my way up by taking really small steps. When we got to the top at Syanbocha it was so worth it. It was the first time we got to see Mt Everest. You know, I never thought I would be that in to climbing but today It was so amazing to see it. Not on the telly or in a book.  We stopped for a group photo, a cuppa and some wine gums before heading back to Namche.

Going down hill took only half the time and although it was really sandy and steep we all got back in one piece. When we

got back, there was a Canadian lady at the Tea House. She was on her way back to Lukla from Base Camp. She was the only one out of her group of 4 to make it. God I hope I make it. I will be absolutely devastated if I have come all this way and don’t. She said she just took her time and listened to her body. Oh, and she didn’t eat the rice nearer Base Camp because apparently it is a bit old. I have to remember that.

She scared us a bit so we had a game of Poker to take our minds off it. Now the rest really begun. We also took a trip to the Bazar to pick up some more water purification drops as the ones I bought from the UK don’t see to react like the

instructions say. They save a fortune on bottled mineral water not to mention the massive amount of plastic bottles.

And the best news of the day was that I had my first showers since we left Kathmandu. It feels fantastic to be clean again. Now I’m all ready to climb again tomorrow.

On My iPod – Kylie – Wow