Travel Hit List – 3 Destinations to visit in 2016 and why you should go now!

It’s a long weekend here in Australia (woo hoo!) and with three sun filled, glorious days ahead of us, It’s the perfect time to kick back on the beach, catch up with friends, dream a little and plan your 2016 travel adventure.

To get your ideas flowing I thought I’d highlight a few travel destinations that you should visit in 2016.

From countries that you MUST get to before they are changed forever, to cities where you’ll find our Aussie dollar stretching that little bit further. Inspiration to travel is everywhere!

Read more

I hiked to Everest Base camp, and all i took was …….

Hindsight (as they say) is a wonderful thing, and it’s all too common to return home from a trip and think ‘If only I’d thought of that’ or ‘If only I took that’…. Well I love that I can possibly help to eliminate some of those annoying ‘If only’ statements by sharing with you my packing experiences for the grueling (yet unbelievably rewarding) trek to Everest Base Camp.

Having completed the trek to Everest Base Camp back in September, I’ve since been asked numerous times by friends, colleagues and clients for advice on what to pack and if I had any particularly helpful tips for them, so I figured this is something that I could share with anyone considering this trek, or who may just be interested in knowing more about it.

So, where to start….

I’m not a seasoned hiker so I needed to invest in some gear. It would be easy to go overboard as there is sooo much out there – from state of the art day packs to hiking poles and everything in between – but I was thinking of the poor porters who had to carry my gear so I opted for the bare minimum to make their life easier.

I didn’t need high end gear, but I wanted to ensure that what I did get was comfortable and functional. In hindsight I probably would have waited and purchased most of the gear in Kathmandu, as Thamel is lined with mountain sports stores selling absolutely everything you’d need, and the prices are great. >> Beware of the ‘North (Fake) Face’ gear that they flog off at low prices but very average quality.

Anyway, as I was in the UK at the time and had expert local guidance (thanks Scott) we just went to Sports Direct. A huge sports store that had a great range of gear, where I managed to stock up on most of what was required.

Most trekking companies will provide you with a gear list, so if you have one … follow it, but as a guide this is what I took, what was useful, what I wish I had and some other hot tips that I picked up along the way.

* Day pack – 30-40 litres
I recommend the ones with the cushioned airflow or mesh gap between your bag & back. Without it, it gets awfully sweaty when you’re hiking in the sun for 8hrs.

I’d also suggest getting a pack with the Camelbak section. Staying hydrated is the number 1 thing to do, to avoid altitude sickness and it was SO good not to have to pull a water bottle out every 15-20 minutes.

This pack has to be 5kg or under (water bottles empty) for the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.  Remember, the lighter the better as you are carrying it, and once you fill up your water bottles, you’re adding another 2-4kg in weight.

* Main pack – North Face, 55L litres

This pack has to be 10kg or under to ensure it makes it on the light plane to Lukla with you, and so that the porters can carry it. Even though they are used to carrying large weights, they are trekking with up to 4 or 5 of them at a time, so be nice.

* Clothing

My #1 tip…. Take GOOD QUALITY thermals. Don’t skimp out on these.

Get WOOL as it breathes and has excellent moisture management properties which means, when you sweat (and you will), the wool will keep you cooler AND absorb the moisture. The other great part about wool is that it doesn’t smell, and with NO laundry facilities once you’re in the mountains, you want clothing that you can wear every day, regardless of how much you sweat.

I took Smartwool thermals, and they we’re perfect! Others on the trek who had lower cost garments in synthetic fabrics, not only found that they weren’t as comfortable, but they smelt! (No offence people… it’s a tough trek. We understood)

My next tip….. Pack SUPER LIGHT!

I was skeptical when I saw the packing lists….. 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants, for 15 days? We’re they serious? Yes they we’re! As I said, as long as you have good quality stuff it’ll get you through, and if you have 2 of everything and you just run it on alternate days, you’ll be fine. (It’s not a fashion show up there after all, and although you’ll see some people with a new outfit every day, think of the PORTERS!

Here is my clothing list….

-Hiking boots (Well broken in, with good ankle support)

-Thongs/Flip Flops (For the showers, hanging in the tea huts at night)

– 2 x pairs trekking socks (As I said, I had Smartwool and they still didn’t smell after 15 days!)

– Underwear

–  2 x long thermal bottoms (Wool)

–  2 x Thermal long sleeve tops (You guessed it … Wool!)

– 2 x short sleeve t-shirts (Wool, Wool, Wool!)

– 2 x super lightweight cargo pants. If they zip off to shorts, even better. (Yep, I’m a hiking nerd, but can’t deny that they are practical). If they don’t zip off, then take a pair of shorts as well.

-1 x pair of skins (I took these to hike in on the warmer days, other girls/guys hiked in gym tights or shorts)

– 1 x fleece jumper

– 1 x lightweight wind proof/waterproof jacket (Gortex)

– 1 x pair of lightweight wind proof/waterproof pants (Gortex)

– 1 x warm windproof/waterproof jacket (This could be replaced with a down jacket for the dryer cooler hiking months).

Essential Accessories

– 2 x Sunglasses (spare pair, just in case)

– Headband (To keep your hair out of your face if you have long hair)


– Beanie

-Thermal gloves

-Towel (Lightweight travel towel)

– Sleeping bag (Can be ired from Kathmandu, but probably invest in one if you can)

– Silk sleeping bag liner

-Torch (a headlamp is even better, especially for the Kala Patthar hike at 4am in the dark!)

Staying hydrated, healthy and protected!

– Camel pack (3L)

– 1L water bottle (I had this in addition to the Camelbak as once you purify your water, there is a ½ hr wait to drink it, so it’s good to have 2 sources).

– Hydrolytes / Electrolytes to add to your water.

– Water purifying tablets – Iodine

– Cleansing wipes (no showers above 4000m, but you might get a bucket of warm water if you’re lucky)

– Sun cream (50+)

– Diamox (Altitude sickness medication)

-General First aid kit, including stuff for headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea etc…

-Band aids (Blister kit)

-Hand sanitizer

-Face Moisturiser/Lip balm (Windburn is a b$#tch)

-Toiletries (Tooth brush, Tooth paste, Soap, Feminine hygiene products etc..)

-Any standard medication that you normally take of course (If any).

Other stuff…..

– Camera with 2 spare batteries (Charging is possible, but they charge you for it & it’s good to have backups. You don’t want to miss that photo of Mt Everest at sunrise!)

– A good book or a journal if you like to write about your travels

– Pack of cards (there are some GREAT Nepalese card games to learn along the way)

…. andddddddddddd that’s about it.

All of this condensed into my 2 packs, believe it or not! (It looks like more than it is). Looking back there is little that I would have changed or taken instead. I used everything I had, and didn’t want for much else.

 My TIPS to make it even BETTER!

Now, onto those hot tips that we picked up along the way… this is where we get into the nitty gritty and believe me, some of these tips we’re absolutely PRICELESS as we climbed higher, and higher and higher! Some we picked up from other trekkers along the way, and others we figured out for ourselves.

1. If you do two things to prepare for this trek, it should be HILL CLIMBS and SQUATS. When you’re up there, it’s all about your lungs and your legs. If you can breathe and you can walk, then you’ll be fine. At the end of the day the fitter and stronger you are the better, and the more you can forget about the trekking, and focus on the spectacular scenery around you, the better.

2. Stay Hydrated. As mentioned above, having a Camelbak meant I had constant access to my water without having to stop, undo my bottle and hold up the group. I sipped water all day, every day, and I think that this helped me avoid altitude sickness.

3. Don’t be a hero…. Go SLOW! It’s the speed of accent that is the major cause of altitude sickness, so it’s often the fittest people that get affected. Go as slow as your guide recommends, and make use of the acclimatisation days, and hike slowly to higher heights, and come back down to sleep. Know your limits, and speak up if the group is going too fast. It can be seriously dangerous up there if you don’t listen to your body.

4. Don’t start the Diamox (Altitude medication) too early. The earlier you take it at lower altitudes, the less of an impact it will have by the time its day 10 and you’re at 5600metres. Our guide suggested only taking ½ a tablet IF we started to feel any of the effects of altitude sickness, or as a preventative IF required and then we started taking the full tablets once we got to about Labouche. Of course, if you are suffering any major symptoms, then your guide will advise you on what to do, but unless you need them, wait until you are almost to Base Camp before starting.

5. Eat Chocolate. Don’t be afraid to eat a chocolate bar or two (or three) every day. You are burning some serious calories on this trek, and you need all the energy you can get. While the tea houses serve the food that will get you to the top (CARBS!), it’s also important to stay fuelled up in between meals.

6. Get Tang or Flavoured Hydrolytes to add to your water. Not only do they replace essential nutrients, but you get pretty sick of boring water. Plus the iodine and water purifiers sometimes leave an icky taste in your month. I stuck with orange, but there are lots of other flavours out there now too.

7. Keep spare batteries warm at night by sleeping with them in your sleeping bag. In the cold they lose charge really quickly, and while you can charge batteries at some tea huts, often there is a queue and it’ll cost you.

8. It gets colder as you go up, and there is nothing worse than waking up and having to put on freezing cold clothes, so sleep with the clothes you want to wear, under your sleeping bag, so that they are warm to put on in the morning.

And last but not least…..

9. Stop every now and then to look up & around you. It’s sometimes too hard to always look up while you’re trekking, and I kept tripping over my feet…. so STOP and take a moment.

RELAX, ENJOY, BREATHE and take it all in. It’s the most spectacular trek I’ve done with so much beauty, culture and wonder to experience, so be present in the moment, and it will take your breath away.


Kate xxx

If you want to know more about why I chose the trip and what I did to prepare, check out my previous post on the trip itself!

Or If you have any tips of your own that you can share, then please leave a comment. Otherwise if you need a hand planning your own trip, I’d love to help. Email me

The beautiful madness that is India!

Beautiful India

My Mum and Uncle travelled extensively through this fascinating country when I was little, so India always had a presence in my life. From the fiery curries they used to cook (sometimes so hot you couldn’t even eat them!), the silver jewellery Mum would wear, the smell of incense constantly burning in our house, and the endless stories and black and white photographs my uncle would share, there was always a hint of India somewhere.

As I got older and began my own travels, India had always been on the list and since taking up yoga it’s a destination that I certainly longed to visit. It was both a chance to see the sights that my mum and uncle loved so much, and to also get a deeper understanding for the spiritual side of yoga and practice in the country it all began.

My 2 weeks in India we’re a whirlwind, and with 1 week being my beautiful Yoga retreat I had just 8 days to see some of my ‘Must See’ sites. Luckily I had the help of a wonderful company LUXE INDIA who got me through it from woe to go, and in style I might add. I’d arranged an action package 8 days of sightseeing with Varanasi, Delhi, Agra & Dharamshala being my picks for this trip (aware that there is way too much to see in just 1 week).

I had my travelling companion locked in (Jodes from my Flight Centre days, who had longed to see India as much as I had) and my visa sorted…. Ummmmmmmm VISA?

With the crazy busy life I was living, I literally ran out of time to apply for my visa in Oz before departing for the first few weeks of travel through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & the UK.. (They always say travel agents are great at sorting out everyone’s holidays, but their own!) Anyway, I did some research and realised that I could get my India Visa in the UK. Sweet right? Well… what I didn’t read was that it takes 3 WEEKS if you aren’t a UK national, and I had exactly 1.5 WEEKS….. Shit.

After tears, tantrums, contemplation (I was seriously considering the 72hr / $2000 return trip to Australia to get it) and wondering what the hell to do, I took a chance (on the hot tip from some guy, that worked for a visa processing company) and lodged the application.  He’d said that the visas we’re coming through in around 8 days, and I had exactly 10, so what choice did I have? I prepared myself to miss my Everest base camp trek if it didn’t come through in time, and crossed my fingers… Fortunately, through some sort of miracle my gamble pulled off and it was in my hand 1 day ahead of time, and so I was off to INDIA!!

1st stop… Varanasi.

They say Varanasi is one of the most confronting cities in India, and even for a seasoned traveller like me, I can see why. (It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to make this the 1st city I visited, but at least now I have some great advice for my clients!)

I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with a descriptive word, that is well… descriptive enough to paint a picture of the sensory overload that I experienced, and I can’t! All of the sights, smells and sounds kind of smash together like a multi car pile-up, but somehow it all combines to create a feeling that is magical and kind of hypnotic. I’d been there less than an hour and I knew I would either love it or hate it.

Here is a glimpse of my initial observations of Varanasi on my first evening. We had been to the banks of the Ganges to witness the evening ritual of an Arti Ceremony (the Hindu ceremony of offering)…and finally returning to the sanctuary of the hotel.

Evening Arti ceremony, on the banks of the Ganges.
Evening Arti ceremony, on the banks of the Ganges.

I’ve been in India less than 6hrs, and I’m not going to lie… This place is madness and I’m not sure if I like it (yet!)

From the minute I stepped off the plane it’s been a sensory overload, and I have no idea where to look first! On one hand I have the stunning women dressed in brightly coloured saris & men carrying their goats on motorcycles (hmmm) to glance at, and then there are the countless beggars lining the streets, and so many people with no awareness of personal space (why would they… there are 1.3 billion people here). Then, there are cows, cows and more cows AND not to mention the cow dung that paves your path through the narrow lanes to the Ganges ….Crazy!

And then there is the noise! The never ending, always persistent honk of the horn. Ahhhhh!

Despite the severe culture shock, and the fact that I barely felt comfortable leaving the hotel without a guide, my couple of days in Varanasi we’re fabulous!! The Arti ceremony is truly beautiful, and a morning boat tour of the Ganges gave you a glimpse of daily life as a Hindu in India. You’d hear the distinct sound of beating of drums, as family processions made their way to the river banks, people brushing their teeth, The old, young, men & women all joined together to bathe and welcome the morning, and give offerings to their Deities.

The burning Ghats we’re an eye opener too, with funeral piles and processions taking place morning, noon and night. Rituals and spirituality that I’m just not exposed to in the west. I LOVED IT!

Ganges at Sunrise
Bathing rituals
Sunrise boat trip on the Gange River
Morning ritual
Morning ritual

Next stop, Agra!

Agra was on the itinerary for the sole purpose of visiting the beauty herself, the Taj Mahal. You’ve seen pictures of her in books, magazines and in movies all your life, but nothing can quiet compare to that moment you walk through the arch way, and see her standing there in all her glory. Time seems to stand still, and every image you’ve seen of her vanishes away, as they in no way do her justice. There is an awe and a kind of magic that seems to radiate from her and despite the tens of thousands of people swarming around you, it sort of feels like it’s just the two of you. She is majestic and that moment, took my breath away and brought a tear to my eye.

The beauty herself!

We sat in her shadow, learning about the love story that brought her to life… True love cut short, after the death of Mumtaz Mahal during the birth of her 14th child. Her grieving husband Shah Jahan swore to build a mausoleum so grand in her memory that it took him 22yrs to complete, with stories of obsession where he would cut off the hands of the architects and artists to ensure nothing was replicated.

The Taj Mahal is one of history’s greatest declarations of love that leaves every woman with just one question…‘Why doesn’t my husband/boyfriend do that for me?’ And the answer my guide gave? ‘You’d have to die first!’

Leaving the Taj Mahal I took one last glimpse back, and said my goodbyes. Having the opportunity to explore her at both Sunset & Sunrise was a true ‘pinch myself’ travel moment, as sunset unveiled her shimmering in Golden light, reflecting from the white marble domes… and sunrise had her radiating a soft pink tone that bounced from the symmetrical towers of the complex. I’ll never forget that first glimpse, and it’s something everyone should have on their bucket list!

Sunset at the Taj Mahal
Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
One last glimpse ..
One last glimpse ..

After Agra, it was off to Delhi where we explored the frenzied streets of old Delhi by rickshaw, and visited Jama Masjid, the congregational mosque built back in1423. We cruised past the Red Fort, and visited Humayun’s Tomb which was the 1st garden tomb on the Indian Sub-continent.

All the stories about Delhi you hear are true. It’s crowded, loud, chaotic and smelly, but after Varanasi it was a piece of cake! It did get tiring trying to stand your ground when yet another driver or guide takes you to their ‘families’ silk, statue, carpet, perfume or jewellery store (and EVERYONE has a family business in India). Clearly they get commissions when you buy something, and while you tend to be polite initially and humour them with questions, and wander around the store… by the end of our visit and yet another battle with a driver you have to say NO! (Unless you are genuinely interested in purchasing any of these items!).

In Delhi we stayed at the uber glamorous Dusit Devrana which was brand new and a stark contrast to what stood behind us outside the gates. Sleek and modern with polished concrete floors, curved walls, manicured gardens, and yoga platform and delicious guest bathrooms (I love a good luxury bathroom!), it was heaven! A true LUXE experience to end our 8 days of madness in India, before I headed to Dharamshala prior to the commencement of my Yoga retreat.

Dharamshala and McleodGanj up in Northern India, felt like another universe! With the dramatic Dhauladhar Mountains as your backdrop, it gives you the feeling that you’re more in Tibet or Nepal than India.

It is a busy bazaar town, that is home to the Dalai Lama and a large Tibetan community who’ve fled Tibet, and living in exile in Northern India.  If you’re lucky you can see the Dalai Lama, however he wasn’t in residence at the time I was there.

There is a beautiful waterfall and snow-capped mountains surrounding  the area, which would offer wonderful hiking experiences, and it was clear that backpackers and travellers alike like to call this place home, with a quite a young, hippy kind of vibe. With yoga studios, meditation retreats and all sorts of traditional classes to immerse yourself in, it’s somewhere that I’d definitely love to visit again sometime in the future, but for now a couple of days had to do… and next stop was my Yoga retreat at beautiful Basunti in the Kangra Valley. (Follow link for Blog post:


And that my friends, is my glimpse of India and all the feelings and emotions it evoked. All in all it was an assault on my senses and a spiritual awakening.

My initial feelings about India we’re true… I’d either love it or hate it, and I can honestly say that I fell in love with the beautiful madness that is India!

Kate xx

To Everest Base Camp & Beyond!

The amazing Himalayas!

Nepal and the trek to Everest Base Camp has to be one the most rewarding travel experiences I’ve had to date, and I apologise in advance for the long post. There is no short way to describe the sheer magnificence of this trip (And the views that went along with it!)  but I am certain that by reading this post you’ll be inspired to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails, so enjoy!

Why Nepal?

Meeting local people and wandering through mountain villages are part of why i love hiking holidays!
For this 3 month trip, I was keen to see some destinations that I’d always wanted to see and I wanted to incorporate something that would be physically challenging. I love being active and I’ve had my fair share of beach resort holidays that revolved around sun, surf and cocktails, so I wanted something different. I wanted to push myself towards a goal, which would therefore be more rewarding once completed.

Completing the hike to Everest Base Camp has been on my Travel ‘Lust’ List pretty much since I hiked Machu Picchu, Peru in 2009. It’s a big thing to tick off, and while I had the time to do it, it seemed perfect. Even though I’m not generally a keen hiker at home, there is almost no better way to get a first hand look at a new culture and their way of life, than wandering through towns and villages, Interacting with the people & eating local food.

Choosing to do the trip with Intrepid travel was also an easy choice. They are an Australian  based company that specialise in small group adventure journeys all over the world and I’d previously travelled with them in Egypt, Africa and Peru, so I knew what to expect and the prices are fantastic. They get you up close and personal with the destination by staying in local style accommodation that reflects your surroundings. You generally travel on local transport (except in this case I was hiking!) and most importantly they have responsible tourism program’s set up all over the world, in the destinations they operate in. They also support local issues & ensure that they give back to the communities we visit as well.

So, Nepal it was…Now to prepare!

Preperation is KEY to a trek like this. You want to be as fit as you can so that you can enjoy the spectacular views!

A trip like this does require a fair amount of physical preparation & there is a long list of hiking essentials that I didn’t yet own, but it was easy enough to pick up everything I needed. Looking into the trek I also knew that 13 days of hiking in the Himalayas wasn’t going to be easy, so I wanted to be as fit as I could be to enjoy it.

Other bloggers and trekking companies will try to tell you that you don’t need to be that fit… They’re wrong!

You definitely need a reasonable amount of fitness to not only complete but actually enjoy this trip. While we saw people on the trek of all fitness levels, sizes & ages (including kids!), I suggest trying to be as fit as you can be. The reality is, the fitter you are the more you’ll enjoy it and to be honest some of the hills on this trek are intense! I’m talking..3hrs of going straight up some days, and with the added altitude factor (there is up to half the oxygen in the air up there to what you’re used to at sea level), the stronger your legs, the more you can forget them and focus on your breathing (oh and the spectacular views!).

The Trek!

Lukla, Valley

On arrival in Kathmandu it was hot, dusty, loud and the roads were mayhem… Exactly what I expected. I was excited!

We were checked into the Kathmandu guest house, which is located right in the middle of Thamel, tourist mecca of the city and the perfect base to explore. The hotel had a great restaurant & decent rooms to get your last comfy sleep before commencing the 2 week trek. (That’s if you don’t mind the sounds of stray dogs barking at all hours.. But hey, it is Kathmandu after all!)

Thamel is where you’ll find restaurants, bars, mountain wear stores, rickshaw drivers offering to take you to see the sights and all kinds of local wares like pashminas, rugs, silk, giftware and everything in between. It was here we met with our guide, the amazing Deepak Rai. The 23yr old Nepali local who was entrusted with leading our group to the highest point we’ll ever set foot… Everest Base Camp, and Kala Patthar. Sitting at 5610m above sea level.

Our group was small which was ideal and exactly what I’d hoped for. (No waiting for 20 other people to eat breakfast, shower, pack and hike). There were just 4 of us in the group. Myself (Australia), Scott (UK), CC (from the USA) and Marty (also from Australia), along with our guide Deepak, assistant guide Prem and 2 porters to assist us with our bags.

Before departing Kathmandu we had to stock up on a couple of essentials: Water purifying tablets (as bottled water gets pricey the higher you go, and it’s bad for the environment), baby wipes (knowing that showers would be limited, if any!) and finally chocolate bars!! This trek is very physical and would mean that we’d be burning upward of 8000 calories a day, and normal meals wouldn’t be enough to sustain, let alone replace the energy we’d be burning, so it’s the one time in my life I didn’t feel guilty that I was going to ‘have to’ eat at least 2 chocolate bars a day. Excellent 🙂

Next up, the white knuckle flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, voted as the worlds ‘scariest’ airport. The runway is just 450m (an average runway is between 2000-3500m) and has a sheer cliff at one end, and a brick wall at the other. Planes can only land if the weather is perfectly clear, and there is literally NO room for error. A mistake that we witnessed first hand when a helicopter, upon trying to land just after us, clipped a wire fence, sending the chopper to the ground, injuring 4 and killing a local Sherpa 😦

Fortunately for us, ours was a smooth flight where we got our 1st glimpse of the magnificent Himalayas.

Our arrival in Lukla, the mountains we’re epic. The temperature dropped, the air was clean and the sky was bright blue against the green valley & snow capped mountains. This was the Himalaya!

Before setting off on our trek it was time to fuel up. We had our 1st meal in a tea house that gave us a glimpse at what life & meal choices would be like for the next 2 weeks. We’d be staying in basic wooden huts with a common dining area, twin rooms, with paper thin ply wood walls. There was no heating, other than the kerosene stove (conveniently located in the middle of the main dining room). Mostly only cold showers (unless requested earlier and a pot of warm water would be boiled for you) and the always delightful squat toilets. Basic? Yes but we were in the mountains after all.

The food looked just as basic, with the menu offering mostly Dhal Bhat, the traditional Nepali dish consisting of rice, vege curry and lentils. Other choices included roast potatoes, fries, spaghetti, rice, eggs and a few other local delicacies…. But in the end the menu proved to include all of the things the body craves when hiking for 8 hrs a day… Carbs!!

The blog post will be as long as the trek itself if I try to recount it day by day, so ill spare you the specifics, but ill try and paint you a picture …..

Day 1 to 4 involved hiking from Lukla at 2800m to Namche Bizaar, at 3440m, the biggest Sherpa village in the region. It was here that we caught our 1st glimpse of the spectacular Mt. Everest! While it was off in the distance and the scale was hard to judge, you could sense the grandeur of the mountain as she stood proud & tall amongst her equally impressive neighbours. (Did you know Nepal has 8 of the worlds 10 highest peaks, all surpassing 8000m? Madness!)

Intrepid group, and Mt Everest (In the background)

The hike to Namche Bizzar itself involved steep climbs and narrow tracks, leading through small villages, across rivers by suspension bridge and up the green valley and farmland, away from Lukla and deeper into the mountains. It was magnificent! The sun was shining and as we walked we passed countless porters travelling with loads of up to 70kg on their backs between villages, all still managing to exchange a friendly greeting of ‘Namaste’.

There was also the unmistakable sound of cow bells, which were worn by yaks as they also passed by with their loads. Porters and Yak Trains are what keep these Himalayan villages alive with the delivery of food, fuel, building materials and anything else you can imagine. There are no cars or even roads for that matter… so villages can only be reached and goods transported, by foot.

We also quickly learnt that ‘flat’ in Nepal, is definitely not flat! (More like a hill climb program you’d find at home on your local treadmill!), but the tough days were compensated by the fact that there was always something new to see & the ever changing landscape was a sign of just how high we were climbing.

Namche Bizaar was the 1st of our 2 acclimatisation days, which were required to get our bodies used to the altitude. We spent an extra day here (and at one other village) and the acclimatisation days were in no way a rest day. They involved steep climbs of at least 400-500m, then we’d turn around and hike back down to sleep. Mental torture, but luckily there was the amazing scenery to take in, as well as other sites like a Sherpa museum, and the worlds highest airport (Syangboche airstrip, but no longer used for passenger flights) sitting at 3750 metres.

Prem, our guide having a rest as we climbed on our rest day at Namche Bizaar.

After Namche Bizzar, it was another 6 days of climbing to reach Lobouche, before our push to Gorak Shep sitting at 5140m (one of the original villages where mountain expeditions used to set up base camp) and finally Everest base camp (5364m).

During those middle 6 days we hiked from 3500m to 5364m to reach the point where so many expeditions have come to tackle the mother of all mountains…. Everest Base Camp.

While the hiking was tough, and the air became more difficult to breathe as we ascended, for me it was almost like meditation. Where I’d normally have a million thoughts running through my mind, I found that when hiking along the trails for hours and hours on end, all you are doing is trying to get your breath into a rhythm, and not trip over…. so there is literally nothing else to think about and by the end of each day I was somehow more relaxed, It’s amazing what a still mind can do for your energy levels.

The sheer size of the mountains blew my mind everyday!! Prayer flags

Sadly, the day we made the ascent to base camp it was snowing and foggy, so the visibility wasn’t very good. We had no idea what the mountains surrounding the glacier looked like, but the snow sure did make the hike a little more interesting when snowball fights broke out between our group and some random porters! Lots of laughs.

Despite the fog, we first caught a glimpse of the Khumbu glacier on which base camp sits, and the treacherous Khumbu Ice Falls, which all the expedition groups (led by local Sherpa) have to navigate to get to the second stage of their Everest quest….and we were on a high as we crossed the glacier to the marker that welcomes you to base camp. We’d made it!!

Everest Base Camp!  Expediton tents!

While normally most trekking groups end their trek here, take a photo and turnaround (the oxygen in the air is down to 50%, compared to 100% at sea level, so it’s recommended to stay only a maximum of 20minutes), we were in good shape so we wandered around base camp, onto the ice fields and we enjoyed a chapatti next to an expedition camp. They were Italian climbers, set up and living at base camp for up to 2 months, acclimatising before attempts to summit Everest would be made after the monsoons in September/October or again in May.

After a small break we ventured to the edge of the ice falls for a couple of photos, then the classic group shot once our gang were all together and back to Gorak Shep we hiked, Triumphant & exhausted.
Our Intrepid group at Base Camp!
Weather permitting we still had our climb to Kala Patthar to tackle the following morning, so we hit the sack, praying the weather was clear for our 4am hike up to 5610m, for a panoramic view of Base camp, Mt Everest and the other magnificent mountains that make up the Himalaya. (Sleeping at altitude is tricky in itself! Your breaths are short and sharp, so sleep was always broken as you often woke to find that you are struggling for air).

Prem, our always smiling, ever energetic assistant guide had the task of getting us awake and up the mountain. His normally positive demeanour was a little off, as we woke to the fog and snow lingering, and I think he was hoping we’d all decide to stay in bed!

We knew it was a long shot….. We could climb all the way up there (a gruelling 2.5hr hike, straight up!) and the fog be so bad that we didn’t see a thing or we could luck out with good weather above the cloud line. It was a chance we wanted to take. We were only going to be here once after all, and if it paid off it would be spectacular! So, we set off with our head lamps and crossed our fingers.

I’m not going to lie. For the 1st hour, I struggled. It was dark, cold, snowing, foggy and with only 2 headlamps between 4 of us you couldn’t see much. I think all the hiking from the last 10 days had taken its toll too. My legs were tired and a headache from the cold air was starting to pound, so my energy levels were low, and I didn’t have much hope for the views.

Then, as we reached the top of a ridge and climbed higher, I caught a glimpse of star. One solitary star, surrounded by fog, but it was visible! It was enough to lift my spirits slightly, and my headache seemed to lessen. As we rose higher to the summit of Kala Patthar, the fog became lighter and out of the shadows behind us came the triangular outline of 2 mountains. They weren’t exactly clear, but they were there, we could see Everest!

Taking a couple of pics in case this was as clear as it was going to get, I felt a surge of adrenalin kick in, and my legs no longer felt tired…. I was about 150m from the top and I knew I had to get there! I climbed as quickly as I could, looking back every few steps in awe of the landscape around me, and as the mountains became clearer and clearer I was almost running to get to the top before the sun made it’s appearance.

With a massive push of energy we reached the peak just as the last of the fog had lifted, and the sun was peaking its head over the worlds highest mountain! It literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. Not only Mt. Everest, but all of surrounding mountains were visible, and I was astonished at the size and beauty of all of the snow capped mountains that were glistening in the morning sun. Mountains, we had no idea were there the day before, as the fog had been so thick.

Everest sunrise, 1st glimpse Himalayan ranges at sunrise!

The view was one of the magnificent sites I’ve ever seen, and literally brought tears to my eyes! Knowing that we had hiked 10 days, and gained almost 3000m in altitude to see it almost seemed surreal.

Base camp from Kala Pathar The amazing Himalayas!  View of Everest from Kala Pathar

There were plenty of photos taken, cheers and hugs once we’d all made it to the top, and as the weather that morning had been iffy, there weren’t too many people up there to spoil the serenity. We thanked our guide for making the effort to wake up & lead us up there and after about half an hour or so at the peak we headed back down for breakfast. We still had a 7hr hike to complete that day, as a part of our 3 day journey back to where it all began in Kathmandu.

The remaining 3 days of hiking went by in a blink, and I think I almost liked going uphill more than down, as it was tough on the joints, but we made it.

Gorgeous kids greet you along the way!   Heading down...

As we descended we passed fresh faced groups who’d ask if the hike ahead of them was worth it, and we could do nothing but reply absolutely!! (Except poor CC who was plagued by headaches the whole way, so we soon told her she wasn’t allowed to reply to them negatively! Lol)

We had a beer to toast our success and back in Lukla we bid a very fond farewell to our wonderful assistant guide Prem and the porters. Then it was a harrowing downhill take off in the light plane, and back to Kathmandu for one last group dinner with Deepak and our new friends.

Sitting here now, and looking back at the trek I can certainly say that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and right now I can’t see how any other trip will top it for sheer beauty and reward.

Yes, ill hopefully see other iconic sites the world over, but little could compare to the pride I feel for completing such a physically demanding hike and to see something as beautiful as Mt. Everest at sunrise. Most other destinations and sites that I’ll likely see and visit in future will be more accessible, so that’s what adds to uniqueness of this trip.

Yes, the hike was tough at times and even though each day proved to be tougher than the last, with little or no flat / downhill sections for reprieve, I was genuinely looking forward to each day. I would strongly recommend to anyone with an active/physical nature, an interest in natural beauty/mountains/hiking or anyone looking for a travel experience that will reward you like no other (that I’ve yet to experience), DO THIS TRIP!

Of course, the people you meet along the way and share the memories with are also what make these travel experiences memorable, so I am grateful that we travelled with Intrepid and lucked out with the great group and guides that we we’re teamed up with. It’s certainly an experience I’ll remember forever.

So, until my next adventure,
Kate xx


Magic in the motherland – Basunti Yoga retreat with Lucy Roberts.

Beautiful Basunti!

Basunti yoga retreat, India
October 17-24th, 2013

It was 10 weeks since departing Sydney and my journey was coming to an end (rapidly!) I had just one last week left to immerse myself in yoga, find peace and prepare myself for the return to reality and I am so so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience Basunti!

After a mad week exploring Varasnai, Delhi and Agra (Blog posts to come) it felt like a different world up there and it’s magical. From the moment I walked through the gate I knew this is where I was supposed to be.

Basunti is a retreat centre located in Himachal Pradesh, in Northern India, Right near the border of Pakistan & Nepal, at the Himalayan foothills. Surrounded by water and a wildlife reserve, the area is pristine (which is rare in India!). Water so clean you can drink it, without coming down with a vicious dose of Delhi belly (yep… I’m not kidding) and bird life, butterflies and dragonflies like you wouldn’t believe.

A thatched yoga shala, rooftop terrace, veggie gardens, sparkling pool and a menu of home cooked vegetarian food (including lots of tea!) completes the picture & I felt it a privilege to be in such a stunning location, practicing this ancient form, in India – The birthplace of Yoga.

The Yoga Shala
The Yoga Shala
The gorgeous pool & grounds of Basunti.
The gorgeous pool & grounds of Basunti.
Surrounded by a lake & wildlife reserve, Basunti retreat is the perfect place to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
Surrounded by a lake & wildlife reserve, Basunti retreat is the perfect place to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.

The yoga retreat itself was run by ‘Lucy Roberts’, a beautiful person (inside & out) whom I was referred to by Rachel, at ‘Ray of light Yoga’ in Bulli. (Another very special yoga teacher who inspires me greatly!)

Lucy has been practicing yoga for 17yrs and teaching for twelve, and with gentleness, compassion and grace, there is an aura about her that captivates and inspires you. In her own words Lucy’s teaching, seeks to nourish and enliven the body, mind and heart in equal measure, and she did just that.

I was lucky in the fact that the group was small (just 4 others & myself), and 3 of the 4 were yoga teachers themselves! After a fleeting moment of intimidation and battling with a little voice that said ‘I’m not good enough to be here’, I tried to let go & embrace the opportunity to learn from these inspirational women.

The week had a fairly relaxed schedule, and comprised of morning & afternoon 2hr yoga practice, including both dynamic and restorative yoga asana, meditation, pranayama, yoga philosophy and mantra. We were also lucky enough to have been in India for a full moon, where Lucy engaged us in a ‘Puja’.

A Puja in the Hindu religion is a ceremony of offering to their deities (God, Goddess, supernatural beings) at various times of the day, and for many types of occasions. It was beautiful, sitting under the full moon listening to our small group chant various mantras, whilst Lucy made offerings of sweets, flowers and incense to a crackling fire. It brought to life some of the Hindu philosophy we’d been learning about & the spirituality that is rich in India.

Whilst at the retreat we also had the freedom to explore the wildlife reserve on kayaks or by swimming in the lake. We also visited a local village by finishing boats, where they put on a pot of chai and attempted to chat to us (despite our limited language skills). There was also an opportunity to do a little shopping at a local shall manufacture, where we were invited to stay for lunch by the owner & served fresh chapattis with delicious home made chutneys. (We must have spent up big!).

Gorgeous kids at the little village across the lake that we visited.
Gorgeous kids at the little village across the lake that we visited.
A local family hosting our group, with hot chai and cookies.
A local family hosting our group, with hot chai and cookies.
Samosa snacks
Samosa snacks

Overall I was hoping that the week of yoga immersion would help to expand my own asana practice, deepen my knowledge of yoga philosophy and give myself some balance after 10 busy weeks of travel, and upon reflection of the week, I realised that my last yoga practice on the morning of our departure highlighted it all and brought it all together for me…..

There was a warm, beautiful sunrise above me, and a cool breeze against my skin. My body felt open, relaxed and rejuvenated (the best I’d felt after months of hiking, gym workouts, biking, diving etc..) and I felt love, freedom and gratitude in my heart.

At the start of the retreat we had to come up with a mantra for the week, which I would chant to myself during meditation, and mine was ‘Let go, Have faith, Be free’.

To let go of all the pain, stress, fear & worry about the past & future.

To have faith that what will be will be, and that no matter what I am surrounded by beautiful people in my life who make me smile everyday.

And to be free! To live in the moment, and be true to myself… always.

Now that I’m back to reality I know it will be more important than ever to remember my mantra, as it’s so so easy to get caught up in the stresses of day to day life, but for the 1st time in a long time I truly believe that I’ll be ok.

For me yoga brings peace, strength & freedom and this experience is something that I’ll remember forever.

Love and gratitude to Lucy for running the retreat despite the small numbers, and to Lis, Dave, Mandy, Lisa and Sangeeta for sharing the experience with me, and creating a once in a lifetime experience.

Thanks also to Dave & Izzy at beautiful Basunti. They’ve created a retreat centre built with love, and it truly radiates out of every element within the property. You have to see & feel it to believe it.

If you’re wanting an experience such as mine, Mandy Grant who I attended the retreat with is running her own retreat at Basunti in March 2014, so have a look at her page

Otherwise keep Lucy Roberts in mind, as fingers crossed Lucy will be running another Basunti retreat in Seprember 2014! See the link to her site –

…..and of course I can help you get all the way to India and back ☺️

Kate xx

Beautiful sunset from my yoga mat.
Beautiful sunset from my yoga mat, with Lucy and Lisa.

Sunshine, tea & a good book... the perfect way to spend my downtime.
Sunshine, tea & a good book… the perfect way to spend my downtime.