Granite Mountains to Steamy Jungles

Destination: Sabah, Borneo

My personal account – by Marika Martinez

It is getting harder to take a breath in rhythm with my footsteps, at the point of not wanting to move another step in an upward direction, with shear exhaustion gripping my body; I stopped and turned around in the semi-darkness. The morning light was starting to filter through the rolling clouds in shades of orange against the dark silhouette of the rocky outcrops.

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My head torch was still lighting the steep granite of the final stage to the summit that I had begun to ascend almost 4 hours before at 2:00am. It is very cold with the wind whipping against my face, sending shivers through my body. At this point there is not another soul in sight apart from my mountain guide who has patiently guided me up the steep, rough rock face to the summit plateau. The sheer beauty of daybreak against the backdrop of the view far below was enough to spur me on to the top, about another 400 metres. The top was the summit of Low’s Peak, the highest point of Mt Kinabalu at 4,095 metres. On the other side of the summit is Low’s Gully with a spectacular depth of 1.6 km straight down. At the peak I was elated and at peace with the world, having achieved my first mountain climb.


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Mt Kinabalu is one of South-East Asia’s tallest mountains. It rises four kilometres straight up from the rainforest of Kinabalu Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 by UNESCO.  The granite massif is still growing at an estimated rate of half a centimetre a year. The mountain and its surroundings feature a huge variety of flora, and is one of the world’s most important biological sites. Mt Kinabalu boasts a high level of species which are only found within Kinabalu Park and are not found anywhere else in the world. It has over 800 species of orchids, over 600 species of ferns (of which 50 are found nowhere else) and is the richest place in the world for the Nepenthes Insectivorous Pitcher plants (five of the thirteen are found nowhere else on earth). The parasitic Rafflesia plant, whose flower grows to almost 1 metre in diameter and is the largest single flower in the world, is also found in Kinabalu.

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It is believed that the name of Mt Kinabalu is derived from Aki Nabalu – meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’, in the local Dusunic language. The local people farmed the slopes of the mountain, but the last 2,000 metres or so of the granite outcrop was the domain of the spirits, dreaded in all Bornean societies. Local porters and guides performed religious ceremonies on reaching the summit, where chickens were sacrificed to appease the spirits. This ceremony continues today by the local guides on an annual basis.

The long journey to the top had actually begun the morning before when our group of 11 adventurous women from as far a field as Esperance, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, started the steep climb from the base at Kinabalu Park from where the lofty peak could be seen. The track winds over steep and rough terrain for 6km, which took up to 8 hours of uphill slog to Laban Rata at 3,250 metres, our overnight resting spot.  It was from here that the final 2.7km ascent to the summit began at 2am. By the time I reached the summit, we had all spread out over a considerable distance and not everyone made it to the top.

However we were not done yet, as we still had another 7 hours of downhill to get back to the base of the mountain. The downhill was very hard on the legs, by the end of which we were limping along on sore knees and weary muscles. Relief was in sight in the hot springs of Poring, where we spent the next day recovering.

The mountain was absolutely inspiring, however there is far more to Sabah than just the mountain. The people of the region are friendly and beautiful; they welcomed us with genuine hospitality. We travelled by four-wheel drive vehicle to the village of Kiau Nuluh, which is set among the lush green forest on the mountainside. The Dusun people number around 1,000 altogether with another three nearby villages. Our reception was delightful with a special performance by the mothers group and a dance by the local children. With a spectacular backdrop of the surrounding mountains it was a wonderful afternoon with many smiling faces.  In the evening we were treated to the most delicious dinner as special guests of the village. The array of food cooked by the women was amazing, and all from local produce of the village. Then came the very potent rice wine, which soon melted away the shyness of our attempts at both the Malaysian and English languages. The locals all loved the opportunity of talking to us and practicing their English. There were laughs and singing all around and into the night. Some of the men of the village were our guides on the climb up the mountain.

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Our group then travelled to the community of Batu Puteh along the Kinabatangan River in eastern Sabah.  This indigenous rural community has had a millennia of traditional reliance on the rainforest for food, medicines, everyday commodities, as well trade with the outside world.

We spent the night in a rough jungle camp located a 20 minute boat ride up the river. Strange sounds through the darkness startled us on the night jungle walk, which revealed the native Civet Cat near our camp. Having spotted an abundance of bird life, monkeys, orangutans and crocodiles along the river, we enjoyed a hot meal and a good nights sleep to the sounds of the jungle under the stars in our hammocks.

One of the highlights of our trip was to see the ancient green turtle lay her eggs on Selingan Turtle Island in the cool of the evening. Some 44 turtles came to lay their eggs on the island that night, with each turtle laying up to 100 eggs each. It takes one to two hours for the female to complete her egg laying process, from sourcing a nesting site to returning to the sea when all is done. It was a touching experience to witness this miracle.
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Selingan Island is one of a group of uninhabited islands straddling the Malaysian and Philippine boundaries lying within the Sulu Seas. This cluster of islands namely three main nesting islands – Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kechil and Pulau Gulisan, covers an area of 1,740 hectares and are protected for the sole purpose of conservation and preservation of turtles and other marine animals inhabiting the area.

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Nepal Needs Your Help to Rebuild

NEPAL needs your help to rebuild Nepal by visiting Nepal.

NEPAL IS STILL SAFE FOR TOURISTS, Ground Realities of April 25 Earthquake in Nepal

  1. Out of 75 districts of Nepal, only 8 are affected.
  2. Out of 10 National Parks, only 1 is affected.
  3. All the highways and sub-ways are in operation with zero damage
  4. Out of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, only 2 have around 40% damages
  5. 90% hotels in Kathmandu Valley are safe and in operational conditions. 100% Hotels in popular destinations like Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Bardiya, Ilam, Annapurna Region, Everest Region etc. are safe and in full operation.
  6. Out of 35 popular trekking routes, only 2 are affected
  7. All the International and National airports are in operation with zero damage
  8. Communication (nets, phone calls, ATM’s, swipe machines) is working well.
  9. Hospitals and Clinics are safe and in operation. No viral diseases or influenza is seen.

Nepalese, globally known as the most hospitable people, are ready to welcome the Guests.

As, culturally, “Guests are God” In Nepal.

Experience the smiles even in sorrow.

The People of Nepal

The Sherpas are a tribe of Tibetan origin who occupy the high valleys around the base of Mount Everest in northeastern Nepal. In the Tibetan language, Shar Pa means “people who live in the east,” and over time this descriptive term has come to identify the Sherpa community. According to Sherpa tradition, the tribe migrated to Nepal from the Kham region of eastern Tibet over a thousand years ago. They crossed the Himalayas and settled peacefully in their present homeland in northeastern Nepal.

But in modern times, Sherpa it has also come to mean any porter, climber or trek leader — jobs Sherpas have been doing for about 100 years.

Traditionally, Sherpas have grown potatoes and raised yak for dairy products, hides, wool and load carrying. Working at altitude (Khumbu villages are at about 13,000 feet) has long been part of their way of life, but apart from a few sacred mountains, the peaks towering over them were not of much interest.

With the opening of Nepal in the 1950s, the number of Sherpas working in mountaineering increased, and the arrival in the 1970s of large-scale trekking made climbing and trekking pillars of their economy. From the first British Everest expedition in 1921, Sherpa strength, honesty and dedication have made them ideal companions on the mountain. Every Everest expedition since then has relied on Sherpa support.

 

The people of Nepal are friendly and open-minded. With crystal-clear lakes, towering peaks, mountain-bound monasteries, and adorable tea houses, an adventurous vacation in Nepal will surely inspire you. Enjoy a soft adventure in Nepal with Women’s Own Adventure in the company of like-minded people guided by experienced guides. There are many life-changing moments awaiting you in Nepal; embark on an inspiring view of stunning vistas, gape at fat yaks, and enjoy an adventurous trek to Mount Everest Base Camp.

Traditional Dress in Nepal

Before embarking on a women’s trek in Nepal, it is worthwhile to learn a little about traditional Sherpa women’s clothing. Women traditionally wear long-sleeved floor-length dresses of thick wool called tongkok. A sleeveless variation called engi is worn over a raatuk (blouse) in warmer weather. These are worn with colourful striped aprons; metil aprons are worn in front, and gewe in back, and are held together by an embossed silver buckle called kyetig.

Sherpa clothing resembles Tibetan clothing. Increasingly, home-spun wool and silk is being replaced by factory-made material. Many Sherpa people also now wear ready-made western clothing.

A Scenic Adventurous Trek to Mount Everest Base Camp

Mt Everest, earth’s highest pinnacle is known as “Chomolungma” in Sherpa and Tibetan languages, meaning “Mother Goddess”. To climb Mt Everest is a dream for the many daring climbers. We won’t be climbing the mountain on this trip but you will experience all that is involved in the lead-up to a climb.

Enjoy an adventurous trek through picturesque and charming villages to Mount Everest Base Camp with Women’s Own Adventure.

This is regarded as a moderate plus graded trek which allows you a once in a life time experience to visit not only Everest Base Camp but to also climb Kalapattar for awe inspiring views of Mt Everest. A good level of fitness is required as the walking is strenuous at times in high altitude. The views of the mountains on this trek are arguably one of the best in Nepal. Starting at Lukla you will follow along the Dudh Koshi Valley up to Namche Bazaar. The trek passes below snowy peaks and through friendly Sherpa villages. Here you are surrounded by snowy peaks all times: Chomolungma 8848m, Lhotse 8511m, Nuptse 7879m, Makalu 8481, Amadablam 6856m, Thamserku, Taboche, Cholatse, and many more. You will be immersed in the stark beauty of these towering mountains that will take your breath away.

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Irish Ancestors and History: An Irish Walking Holiday to Explore the Culture

Archaeological studies show that Ireland has been settled for over 9,000 years. The majority of Ireland’s recorded history shows that the Irish people have primarily been a Gaelic nation. In the 12th century, parts of Ireland were conquered by Anglo-Normans. And, in the 16th-17th century, England re-conquered and colonised Ireland, bringing several English as well as Lowland Scots to certain parts of the island.

The Irish are traced to major Biblical figures, according to a medieval Christian pseudo-Irish history. The record states that the earliest lineage of the Irish people entered Ireland through Iberia and Scythia. While other medieval texts spell out a notion that the people of Ireland are all descendants of Eber Donn believed to be an underworld god.

Notable Irish People

Throughout history, there have been a good number of prominent Irish people. For instance, Columbanus, the 6th century missionary and monk is seen as one of the “fathers of Europe”. Other notable Irish people are Vergilius of Salzburg and Kilian of Wurzburg. Also, the “father of chemistry”, Robert Boyle is a famous Irish man. That’s not all, famous explorers; Robert McClure, Tom Crean, and Ernest Shackleton are also Irish.

Ireland’s current population is around 6.3 million, but estimation shows that about 80 million people all over the world have Irish descent. According to history, emigration from Ireland is said to be the outcome of conflict, dearth, as well as economic issues. Irish descendants are mostly found in English-speaking countries, particularly the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. Also, a substantial number of Irish people are found in Mexico and Argentina. The largest number of Irish descendants are found in the United States.

Indeed, the ancestry and history of the Irish people is fascinating. Learn more about Irish ancestors and history by joining Women’s Own Adventure tour “Feel the Soul of Ireland on Foot”  A Walking Holiday to Explore Ireland.

Walk in the company of like-minded people through the soft rolling Wicklow Hills to the mountainous coastline. Catch a breathtaking view of the Cliffs of Moher, the amazing Wild Atlantic Way, and the studded islands off the stunning coastline. Women’s Own Adventure takes you on a guided adventurous walk through beautiful villages. Get to familiarize yourself with the Irish history and culture. The mere sound of traditional Irish folklore and music will connect you to this amazing land and its people.

 

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Growing Popularity of The Camino De Santiago: How to Walk the Walk

More than ever before, the Camino de Santiago Walk in Spain is growing increasingly popular. The number of pilgrims who troop in yearly to walk the ancient route to Santiago de Compostela is almost growing in geometric progression. Also known as the Way of Saint James, the Camino de Santiago is a popular one. The walk is one of the most popular Christian pilgrimages that has outlived several decades. The starting point of the pilgrimage is any point on the many routes that lead to the Tomb of Santiago.

There’s no better way to walk this “Walk” than to be in the company of like-minded people. The women only Camino de Santiago offers great fun and adventure while walking through the stony pathways, paved roads, cobbled streets and wooded trails leading to the medieval Santiago de Compostela city. Make new friends and experience diverse cultures in the company of adventurous and high-spirited women like you.

How to Walk the Camino de Santiago

The Way of Saint James also known as the Camino de Santiago is Europe’s oldest traveled route that attracts huge number of walkers and pilgrims, especially in summer. At first, it all started as a sacred voyage to Santiago de Compostela in medieval times. Today, it has become a sociable, well-organised walk, as well as an adventure through Galicia, Northern Spain. It is a Christian pilgrimage to the “third holiest city” in Christianity, next to Rome and Jerusalem, in search of salvation at Santiago Tomb.

Modern-day ‘pilgrims’, like their forerunners, come from all over, but nowadays those with purely religious motives are joined by lovers of adventure, art, history and legends, all with a desire to take part in an experience that is unique in the modern Western world.

Here are some tips on how to embark on Camino de Santiago Walk in Spain;

Choose a Route

No single route leads to Santiago de Compostela. What is obtainable is a network of routes from Spain, Portugal, and France, leading to the tomb of St. James; the spot where a vase discovered in 813 A.D. contained what was thought to be the remains of the apostle. Traditionally, the main route to Santiago de Compostela begins in St Jean Pied de Port, approximately 780km journey.

Make this walk adventurous and fun by choosing the most picturesque route that starts from Leon (one of Spain’s greatest cities) and ends in Santiago de Compostello. This route is also the most rewarding. A lot of women prefer to walk in the company of fellow women with the same passion and zeal. You can join the  Women’s Own Adventure Camino de Santiago guided tour, designed with the adventurous woman in mind. Every bit of the trip has been organized, leaving you with loads of fun, adventure and ultimately a fulfilled walk.

Accommodation

It is usually easy to find a place to stay along the way in inexpensive pilgrim hostels. These hostels are locally called ‘Albergues’ (usually bunk beds in dormitory style accommodation) , manned by volunteers and exclusively kept for pilgrims. A Pilgrims Passport is required to get accommodation in the pilgrim hostels. The passport must be stamped by host Albergues along the way. You can obtain the Pilgrims Passport from the local confraternity in the larger towns along the way.

On the other hand, if you desire more comfort than the Albergues can offer, you can book hotel rooms along the way, in the main towns and cities, or join a guided walk where the accommodation is already  booked for you in comfortable hotels and manor houses.

Women’s Own Adventure specialises in Walking Holidays for women.

Cultural Walking in Southern Tuscany

Women’s Own Adventure have a group of just starting the Tuscany trip, and here is a text message I received just yesterday from one of the ladies on the tour “First day in Tuscany was magic. Superb views, great accommodation. We are in a village built in 12th century and a lot of it is still standing”.

Our 2010 “Journey of the senses, cultural walking in southern Tuscany” departs 5th June. See a detailed itinerary and prices by clicking here TUSCANY

– signing off, Marika Martinez, Women’s Own Adventure

Stupa of Pokhara

Our group of Women’s Own Adventure in Nepal had to make a slight change of plan today. There were demonstrations outside the town which prevented us from reaching the start of our trek. So we had the pleasure of an afternoon spent in Pokhara.

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This beautiful town is a contrast to Kathmandu. At a much slower and peaceful pace, it is surrounded by mountains. Our journey to Pokhara was via a half hour flight on a small aircraft which afforded magnificent views of the snow capped mountains.

This afternoon we crossed the lake by boat to walk up a steep track to the Budhist Stupa which overlooks the town. It sits at 1,100 metres above the lake. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the way and marveled at the view. There were a handful of colourful paragliders on the opposite peak enjoying plenty of thermal lift. Nepal and its people are bright and colourful, with splashes of colour everywhere.

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Tomorrow we leave for our trek with our wonderful guide Ang. So you can read all about it in on our return to Pokhara in 6 days time.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Departing for Nepal on 4th April

A group travelling with Women’s Own Adventure are ready to embark on a 6 day trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal. These adventurous women will enjoy trekking around spectacular mountain scenery through charming villages.

April in Nepal and especially around the Annapurna region is the season of the brilliant rhododendron flowers.

Our adventures will then take us to the Chitwan National Park where we will search for the white horned rhino on elephant back through the jungle.

We will keep you up to date over the next 2 weeks with photos and stories of our journey as much as access to the internet allows.
– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Cultural and Historical Adventure in beautiful Sabah, Borneo

If you are a woman who enjoys adventure travel, this Women’s Own Adventure might be for you.

Explore a mystical land on our journey into Sabah, a place teeming with wildlife and natural beauty. Malaysian Borneo is one of nature’s most exciting playgrounds. From rugged mountain tops to idyllic islands, this land is a blueprint for true adventure. Pockets of pristine wilderness cover much of these Malaysian provinces, but there are also some fascinating modern cities and contrasting traditional villages to be explored. We visit remote communities where our local friends introduce us to their traditions and customs. You’ll remember every minute of this unforgettable adventure!

This special trip combines the best elements of a wildlife adventure, cultural interaction with the local people as well as an important moment of our history. This trip is fully escorted by renowned Historian Lynette Silver, author of the internationally acclaimed book ‘Sandakan – A Conspiracy of Silence’.

In 1942-43, over 2,500 Allied prisoners of war were transferred from Singapore to Sandakan, Borneo, to provide slave labour for an airstrip. Three years later, at war’s end, only six were left alive. The fate of the others remained shrouded in uncertainty and mystery until 1998, when Lynette Silver broke the conspiracy of silence which had lasted 53 years. Join her as she unravels the story behind Sandakan’s tragedy – one of world War II’s most deadly secrets.

Australian history and Australians at war in the Far East have been the passion of Sydney-based author Lynette Ramsay Silver for more than 20 years. Lynette, who has published a great deal of her research, has amassed comprehensive archival material on all her specialised subjects, particularly information on the fate of many hundreds of Allied soldiers and prisoners of war who died in Borneo (Sabah) in the Sandakan and Ranau POW Camps, and on one of the infamous death marches. Using data not readily available to the general public. Lynette is able to provide replicas of POW Death Records as well as other relevant information.

Lynette will provide expert historical commentary on the Death Marches of Australian and British POW’s during World War Two. She knows the Sabah region like the back of her hand, having travelled there extensively over many years. Experienced, local English and Malaysian speaking guides also accompany this trip.

The track cut for the death marches soon became completely overgrown and for sixty years defied all efforts to locate it. However, in August 2005, Australian investigative writer and historian, Lynette Silver, and Tham Yau Kong, Sabah’s premier trekking specialist, combined their considerable talents to identify the path taken by the prisoners of war. After sixty years, you too can now walk in the footsteps of the Death March heroes.

This trip offers a unique experience for those who are reasonably fit and with a spirit of adventure. The scenery is fantastic, and the historical and cultural experiences unforgettable.

You will also learn about ancient traditions, Homestay with the Dusun people, Get close and make friends with the amazing Orangutans, Witness sea turtles lay their eggs, Trek the Mt Kinabalu Heritage Walk, Be inspired by incredible views, Stay at the Sabah Tea Plantation, Enjoy scouring the local markets in Kota Kinabalu and spoil yourself with a massage and spa treatment.

Cultural and Historical Adventure in Sabah, Borneo
12days departing 31st July 2009
Price: $2,755 (land content only)
Package Price: $4,490 (including airfares and taxes)

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Contact: Marika Martinez
Ph: 1300 883 475 or 0449 570 102
E: info@womensownadventure.com.au
W: http://www.womensownadventure.com.au/

Across the Andes to the Sacred Valley

On the 28th of September we flew across the Andes mountains from Lima which is on the coast to Cusco which is in the mountains at 3,000 metres.

Peruscenery From here we traveled to the Sacred valley, a most beautiful valley with the Urubumba River flowing through the centre. We had the privilege of visiting the local Sunday markets in Chinchero which has got to be the most beautiful outdoor market in all of Peru, surrounded by snow capped mountains and spectacular scenery as far as the eye can see. Both Liz and myself were fortunate enough to celebrate our birthdays in this special place.

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The following day we visited some of the archeological sites at Pisac and Olyantambo, along the Sacred valley. There is so much fascinating Incan history all around.

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The next 2 days were spent trekking through beautiful hills and valleys with a backdrop of mountains and the most stunning vistas to arrive at a small community village where our group of Women’s Own Adventure were greeted with the warmest welcome possible. As honored guests we helped the families plant 5 trees as a memorial of our visit to their community and had a wonderful opportunity to interact with these lovely people.

peruweaving We stayed in their homes and spent time at the pre-school with the beautiful children. In the morning we trekked back to our lovely hotel in the Sacred valley to enjoy another wonderful Peruvian meal.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure