Porters and Guides

Are you like me, you like to do things on your own terms? Maybe you’re a starseed, never feeling quite at home or comfortable where you are, never quite fitting in. If so you are not alone, but you may need to hear this.

I love hillwalking, I love being out in nature, high up, admiring the view. My happy place was on Tuesdays. Heading out to the hills, all located within a 2 hour drive from my home in Scotland. But if I was honest, I preferred to do them on my own. I held people back, I wanted to enjoy the journey admire the views as they changed, not just race to the top, and then head straight home again.

When I went to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, I learnt 2 big lessons. One was that no matter what you do, altitude sickness can get you, and put a stop to your ambitions.

Secondly without a certain group of people, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did. Those people are the Porters and Guides who accompanied us. It was very humbling to be in their presence. Yes they had an awesome “office”, but they had the likes of me to put up with. They are all stars in my eyes. They worked tirelessly carrying our belongings as well as all the food and water, cooking equipment and portaloos up and down the mountain-side, and they do it with a smile on their face. Each night when the team got into camp they were greeted with singing. I only managed to first day, as all the following days I was so behind everyone else, they had stopped the singing and dancing and were onto other duties. It is the thing that makes me the saddest, when I reflect back on that trip, that I missed the singing and dancing.

3 guides I spent an inordinately long period of time with, and can mention them by name. There were others that were the rest of my party, so I didn’t get to know them so well. During the evenings, when everybody else was around the mess tent, bonding and gelling, I was laying down, recovering from the days walk. I saw little of the mess tent after the second day. Despite huge attempts by some of the party, I was left to my own company in my tent. This was a shame as it meant I didn’t get a chance to speak to the porters much. To be a guide, you started as a porter for 3 years, and we were encouraged to speak to them, to help them with their english.

So a big shout goes to Benson and Sticky who got me as far up the mountain as was possible., occassionally literally dragging me up, as the altitude sickness just made me want to sit down and sleep.

Ayoub who escorted me off the mountain, and subsequently looked after me, taking me to clinics and internet cafes to get the necessary paperwork, before I could come home.

I am often asked if I have unfinished business on Kilimanjaro. I don’t think so. Sometimes you just have to accept that you may not realise the dream you set out to do. That is the unfinished business that I have. Coming to terms that there are places that we set out for, but never reach our destination. The real learning is in the journey. The last donation before I set out came with a message.

So what has this got to do with your spiritual development? Well sometimes you just have to admit that you need help. Without the expertise and knowledge of a team of people, I would have failed very early on. Self-awareness, self-development, dealing with trauma and experiences in life that can hold you back from experiencing joy in your life need a guide sometimes. That is why I am currently writing a book to help you overcome situations that are holding you back. Sometimes it may feel as though you have a mountain to climb, and from my experience you do. Sometimes you will need a little help carrying some of your baggage, and sometimes you might need dragging along, as it feels as though the oxygen has been sucked out of you. But using my book as a guide-book, we will get you along the track for a memorable experience.

Follow this blog or join the Aligned with Joy Community on facebook to be the first to hear news of the book.

Blessings and Joy, Joy

The mountain teams are seriously hit economically by the health crisis, which has gripped the world in 2020. If you are enjoying this blog please consider donating to the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project here This is a fund set up to help with finances and training. To become a guide takes, time, money and dedication and they need our help now, more than ever.

Kilimanjaro

It is approaching the year annivesary of heading out to Tanzania, and heading out to Kilmanjaro to attempt to get to the Roof of Africa. I use the word attempt, because that is what it was, an attempt, I did not succeed, and so I came home and licked my wounds and tried my best not to think about it. I had an amazing adventure, don’t get me wrong, and it was through no fault of my own that I didn’t get to the top. My body decided to give me the experience of altitude sickness. Nothing I could have done, I don’t think, could have prepared me for it.

I reached the grand height of 4600 metres, somewhere between the height of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. No mean feat, and when I look through my photographs I have great memories, but when I see the pictures of my fellow climbers who managed to get to the top, I am sad, and will admit to crying over not realising the dream.

I won’t go into the gory details, just suffice to say that for 24 hours I couldn’t keep a single meal down. Jo, the leader of the party took the decision that I did not have enough fuel onboard to continue onto the summit. Being successful of reaching the top means that those who are not fit, hold the rest of the team back and I understood that, so on the day that the main party headed for base camp ready to head out for the summit, I headed down the path, back to a bed on lower ground.

I will leave you with my photos.

Having spent some time going through my photos to put on here, I am eternaly grateful for the chance to have had the adventure. I must give a shout out to the tour operators 360 Expeditions, and their team “On the Mountain” lead by Mussa and his loyal team of porters and guides.

If you are considering doing this trip when we are all allowed to get back to travelling, do not skimp on your support staff. If the trip looks cheap, then your support staff are probably not of a good calibre. They can make or break your chances of success. Mussa and his team are excellent. They took such good care of us all. I can highly recommend them, and I hope they survive what we are going through now, as they are certainly the best on the Roof of Africa. They work as a team, but I will give a shout out to the porter and guide who came down with me, in a post of it’s own, watch out for it in the next few days.

I still have a lot of processing to do from this trip. Writing this blog has given me another opportunity to process what I did actually achieve. I certainly don’t feel that I want to go back and prove a point…..there is no point…..altitude sickness sucks. But Mount Mehru looks amamzing, and to look over and see Kilimanjaro, now that would be a view worth training for.

Have you set out to do something huge, and not made it. How did you feel? Leave me a comment.

Blessings and Joy, Joy x

Staycation Anniversay

Anniversary Lunch onboard the Seaflower of Skye

2020 was supposed to see us cruising out of San Francisco, for our tenth wedding anniversary, heading for the Bay of Alaska, but the whole world has been held hostage by a microscopic alien, apparently from China, so we had to thnk again for somewhere to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversay.

It was touch and go as to whether or not we would be going anywhere. Restrictions had been put on places to stay, things to do and places to go, with many of them still closed and uncertainty hung over the date of when they would be allowed to re-open, like a threatening grey cloud. We spent most of June wondering if we could get away at all. Eventually our leaders deemed it safe for self-catering accomodation to open on Friday 3rd July. Unfortunately our leaders took the decision to not allow any eateries to open until the following Monday, unless they were take-aways, so for the first weekend, you could stay in self-catering, and well, self-cater! No eating out in a restaurant, the alien knew where to find you if you ate out, best to stay in.

Gradually the news started to come in that restaurants could open up, along with some activities, so we breathed a sigh of relief as we could now plan with some certainty to go to the Isle of Skye for a five day break.

We had pinned our hopes on the Seaflower Skye boat trip being operational too, to spend our anniversary on a boat, and being taken out to the small island of Rona, just an hours journey from the harbour town of Portree. It went right up to the wire. Their first trip after a 4 month enforced break was on 21st July. We were due to go out on the 24th.

On the morning of our anniversary, the god’s and sun were shining on us, as we made our way from the Lambing Shed to Portree, a drive of just under an hour, to head for the harbour, to meet up with the crew of Seaflower Skye, Ewen and Janice.

We were asked to meet at 10.50 am for an 11am start. After knowing my husband for almost 14 years, I know how much it means to him to turn up in plenty of time, and so we had 30 minutes to wait, and spent 15 of those pottering around a gift shop, looking at my favourite Skye keepsakes, art by Cath Waters. We almost drove past her front-door on Skye, but her studio was closed due to this pesky alien, so we left the shop with a promise to come back after our boat trip and buy some mementoes.

Arriving at the meeting point still ahead of time, we waited. Ewen arrive slightly late, apologetic, with the explanation that the seagulls had taken to do some magnificent artwork on the deck overnight. My mind conjured up images of broad white strokes of paint, intermingled with streaks of grey, and I was reminded that long ago, guano would have been collected to soften leather. I assume that Ewen just used soap and water to wash the deck down and didn’t collect it to send to the tanners, although the way 2020 is going, returning to the simplicity of the past, is very inviting in some instances. maybe not in this one though.

The sparkling clean Seaflower Skye has the capacity for 12 guests, but we were lucky enough to only have 4 couples signed up for our trip, so with all the social distancing in place, it meant we could all have our own space and table, for both the trip and for lunch.

We were welcomed on board by Janice, the skipper’s mate, who kept us safe and entertained with her Irish wit and charm, running first through the safety features and then with island history as we sailed past the bigger island of Rasaay, and then the history behind the inhabitants of Rona. Binoculars and budweisers were available to add to the enjoyment of our trip. As we came closer to our destination, seals were spotted sunning themselves on the rocks.

Sunning Seals

Coming alongside the jetty, and after finally securing the boat, the crew needed 10 minutes to set up for lunch, so we all set off for a wee walk, whilst that was being done.

Lunch preparations underway whilst we walked and took in the View.

When we returned, lunch was all laid out, and looked devine. Lunch consisted of langoustines caught fresh by the skipper’s brother, accompanied by two different types of salmon, a fresh salad and fresh bread all washed down with a chilled glass of wine. This was turning out to be a memorable day indeed, for all the right reasons. Ewen gave us a demonstration on how to get the meat out of a langoustine, whilst Janice told us tales of how most of the catch caught around Scotland, ends up in Spain. For the non-seafood lover there was quiche, again freshly made by Janice.

After lunch it was time for a 2 hour exploration of Rona. We were provided with a map, with the 3 main highlights marked out, but told to feel free to roam around, in those 2 hours.

I opted to drag my husband out to Church cave, the most difficult route out of the three. We were promised spectacular views out to the outer isles. It is not a walk for the faint hearted as there were parts that were very steep, which we were told were only twice the height of the ladder up to the observation deck on the boat. Believe me it’s a bit more than that, but quite do-able even for someone with a dodgy toe like mine. Thankfully there is a rope to help you haul yourself up and down the steep part! Let me know when you’ve checked it out Janice! 😉

We were greeted on our return back to the boat with tea or coffee, accompanied by shortbread or a Tunnocks tea cake. If you have never tasted a Tunnock’s teacake, you haven’t tasted one of Scotland’s traditional joys. If ever you find yourself on Scottish soil, be sure to try one.

As we untied from the jetty, we were met with the news that a mother and calf Minke whale had been spotted off Skye, so we were treated to a whale hunt. The sailing community around the islands are a very close knit one, and a friend of Ewen’s had alerted him to the sighting. Traditionally the community would have been a fishing one, but with the decline in the fish industry, many have now turned to tourism for an income. The owners of the Seaflower Skye have done exceptionally well, being voted as #1 boat trip on Island of Skye on TripAdvisor and earning 5 star from Visit Scotland in 2020. The service we received reflected the passion and pride that team Seaflower Skye have for their “little part of heaven”. Their delight in being able to take us to waters that were not in their usual horizon, to give us the chance to see the wildlife just goes to show how far they are willing to go to give their guests a memorable trip. As none of the 4 groups were bothered about getting back to portree slightly later than planned, we headed to the area of the sighting on the minkes.

We were rewarded by the sightings of not 1 but at least 3 minke whales. With the engine cut, and the boat sitting in silence, it was quite eerie to watch the backs of the whales slide gracefully through the water’s surface. We stood watching them circle around the boat, at some distance, feeling envious of those who witnessed them, in the story that Ewen and Janice told us of them approaching the boat, and playing around them, last season. We had to do with distant sightings. Minkes are smaller than the whales we saw off the east Coast of the States several years ago, so the time between hearing them and seeing them is much smaller, so I had little time to position the camera towards the direction that I heard them, to focus it, and snap away. I only managed 2 very poor pictures which could possibly try and pass off of as Nessie if i was ever to go to Loch Ness!

As we headed back to Portree, we passed a small island and was told the place it had in fishing history. In days gone by, young boys had to prove their fitness to join the fishing boats, by rowing out and around this island and back to Portree within six hours, or one turn of the tide.

Fisherman’s Test

We returned to Portree with a head and heart full of memories, spent upon the water, aboard the Seaflower Skye. I have writen this post as a memory for oursleves, and to use as writing experience. I have received no financial reward for mentioning the Seaflower Skye. I do so out of appreciation for the excellent service we received in helping us celebrate our wedding anniversary. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say, and our day spent aboard the Seaflower Skye, more than made up for our disappointment in not being in Alaska. Our outing aboard the Seaflower Skye with such generous hosts as Ewen and Janice will long live in our memories as a day of joy, very similar to the day 10 years ago.

Blessings and Joy, Joy

If after reading this post you decide to go to Skye and take a boat trip out on the Seaflower, please mention this blog. I won’t know that you have, but it would spread the joy, and I don’t know about you, but in this time in history we could all do with more joy in our lives. You can also join us in the Aligned with Joy Community on facebook, by clicking on the button on this blog.

Staycation 2020

My husband and I had big plans this year for our holidays in 2020. We were planning on flying out to San Francisco, to hop on a ship and cruise up to Alaska, but something happened that put the kybosh on that, and so we had to rethink our trip. We opted to go to the Isle of Skye, an island part of the Highlands & Islands in Scotland. We went there for our honeymoon 10 years ago, so we have a soft spot for it, and decided that we would like to spend 5 days there. About 2 weeks before we were due to go, I signed up for the Hay House online 7 day book writing challenge. Definitely a lockdown-bonus, as cruising means the wi-fi is notoriously slow and expensive. So being in Scotland for it, rather than on ship heading northwards on the pacific Ocean heading for the Bay of Alaska, was a Brucie bonus. So we packed the car, and headed up the A77,M77 A82 towards Skye.

After a six and a half hour journey, we found our accomadation and started to take our things inside, only to be met by the girls who were providing our breakfast. Later on in our stay we came across a darker one which I nicknamed burnt toast, and so these creatures were just toast. They were very friendly and often joined me at the table when I was trying to write.

We kept our eye on the weather, which changed rapidly from minute to minute. One of the activites of our trip was to watch the view from our window change from minute to minute. One morning I watched the clouds lift from the hills opposite, only to see a gentle veil of mist fall, like a bride placing her veil over her face, before going to meet her groom at the altar.

There is so much more to say about our wonderful Staycation. Please follow the blog and get notifications to be the first to read the posts as they are published.

If you would like more joy in your life, then consider joining us in the Aligned to Joy Community on facebook. We post regularly about all things joyous and joyful.

Blessings and Joy, Joy xx