Scaring myself

This week my dad and a family friend and I went up a huuuuuge mountain the size of Everest: a week long trip in torrential rain; up steep precipices and wading through fast flowing rivers; fighting for our lives against the relentless wind; living off the plants and cooking sheep for dinner; purifying rain water and barely surviving with the skin of our teeth.

PROOF of my endeavours!

Not quite. We went up Ben Lawers this morning for a nice walk. There was lots of wind and rain, and we did in fact wade through rivers (if you can call it ‘wading’ when the water is an inch deep). I was given the task of carrying the bags in the name of training; I’ll be doing lots of manual work in Ecuador (something I’m totally not used to) made harder by the lack of oxygen. However I did feel just a bit stupid carrying the a huge bag (the same huge bag that I’ll take to Ecuador) up a small hill on such a short walk!

Wading through fast flowing rivers…

On the car journey there I buried my head into my Ecuador guidebooks. I’ve been in contact with the two girls I’ll be travelling with, Helena and Connie (who has also started a blog; have a look here!) and we’ve been making vague plans of the in-country trips we’ll make while we’re there. Looking through the guide books with this in mind seemed like a good idea. There’s just such a huge amount to do!

However, some advice to prospective travellers: don’t look at the Health section of a guide book. It’s enough to terrify you and make you cancel your flight. It all seems okay at first as I read the section titled Altitude and hypothermia: it’ll take a couple of days to acclimatise if I avoid alcohol and sleeping pills. However an extreme form of this is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which you get from going too high too quickly.

Symptoms include headaches, nausea and extreme tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, confusion and a staggering gait. The best way to relieve the condition is also the simplest – lose altitude.

I should be okay as long as I’m careful! The next section “Before you go” also seems fine, and advises you to get vaccinated at least 2 months in advance. Well, I’m almost sorted with vaccines so there’s not much to panic about there. However this is followed by a paragraph on insect-borne diseases:

Dengue fever is a painful and debilitating disease spread by the Aedes mosquito, which bites during the day. There’s no known vaccine for dengue fever and there’s not a lot you can do should you contract it … Symptoms include headaches, severe joint pain and high fever, though it’s usually only fatal if caught repeatedly.

Oh great. On the bright side at least it’s not like I’ll just die if I get it. Another section talks about the sun:

It’s not a good idea to strip off and soak up the equatorial sun. Serious sunburn and sunstroke are real risks, particularly at altitude, when the temperature is not necessarily that high but the thin air amplifies the harm done by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

I’ve not been brought up in a place where high factor sun screen is a necessity, so I’ll have to be on my toes when it comes to remembering to apply it. Especially when I only associate sun screen with hot places – and the  Cloud Forest isn’t exactly hot!

Just when I think it can’t get any worse, I read the section titled “Food and water”. Surely I’ll be fine with this – I just need to remember to drink bottled water?!

Avoid the following: ice made from tap water; fruit juices with tap water added…

That should be okay, if I’m at a restaurant I can ask the waiters.

… undercooked, partly cooked or reheated fish, crustaceans, meat or eggs; dairy products and ice cream made from unpasteurized milk…

Hm. I’m not sure my Spanish extends to asking those kinds of things!

… food that’s been lying around uncovered where flies can get at it.

Even if I could ask that, how rude would that be? “Perdón señor waiter, have flies been nibbling at this food you’re serving me?”

… and raw vegetables and salads.


Eeeeeergh. Oh well, it could be worse! To be honest, while it seems scary it’ll probably be fine when I’m there. Ha. In a weird way it makes it a lot more exciting! (I say that now…)

Anyway it’s quite sad, because I realised that this weekend was the last that I have free until I leave to Ecuador. Totally out of the blue I was invited to an orchestra course in Aberdeen which lasts 5 days from the 8th November. But before that I’m going to Austria for a week to see my brother! I’m leaving this Wednesday, I can’t wait 😀 So from Wednesday my schedule is pretty much full: Austria; 5 days later to Aberdeen; as soon as I come back I’ll be looking after my parents’ shop for 10 days; 2 days later I’m off to London for 3 days for the pre-departure briefing; 3 days after that I’ll hopefully be in Spain for 2 weeks; when I come back I’ll be hectically preparing for my journey while my German friend stays for a week; then on the 4th I am leaving forever! Well, 3 months.

It’s all happening at once!



I had my last set of vaccines today. The nurse was surprised that I had them done so early! But I’m glad I did because it gets a massive stress out of the way. Now all I need to worry about is what to pack, spending money and the fact that I can’t speak Spanish.

I can’t speak Spanish!

To lessen the stress of the latter problem I have been taking Spanish lessons. But there’s nothing like going to the country to learn! So I will (hopefully) be going to Spain for 2 weeks in December to WWOOF in Barcelona. Here I will work on an organic farm in exchange for food and accommodation. I’m really excited – and scared! This will be the first time I’ve been in a foreign country by myself with only a limited knowledge of the language. It does bring up more stress however, as the WWOOF hosts that I’ve emailed so far have all emailed back to say they don’t need any help at the moment… But I will persevere! Surely there are farms in dire need of a helping hand in December…?! I will post when I get a positive reply from a farm – it’d pretty awkward if I didn’t…

What to pack…

I am now in the process of buying/finding the essentials: a raincoat, a backpack, insect repellent, *ear plugs, waterproof clothes, money belt, **sports gear, malaria tablets, sun protection, pen knife, a torch, a plastic poncho, gardening gloves, adaptor plug – you get the gist. Of course I won’t need to buy all of this as I’ll have some things around the house. The problem is actually finding them!

*I was told in my informal interview with the director that the one piece of equipment that volunteers never think of to take is a set of earplugs. The forest is just a cacophony of sound and it can be near impossible to fall asleep at nights!

**Ex-volunteers have spoken of the problems when it comes to finding suitable clothing to work in the Cloud Forest; you need to wear long sleeves to protect yourself from bites (so no tees or shorts), but it’s really difficult because you get so hot working so you just want to take off all your clothes! We were advised to take sports wear because this is designed to absorb sweat and cool you down as well as covering your body.

Spending money

Outreach advises us to take £150 a month, so that’s £450 for the whole journey which will come from my savings. We were advised to pack lightly because  some of the essentials we need to take can be bought in Ecuador.

Aaaaaaaah I can’t believe I’m actually going! I’ve gone into this quite obliviously – it hadn’t really dawned on me until now how big the whole thing is. I keep getting sudden bursts of panic/excitement/distress when I actually think about it. But I feel a lot better when I think of the good that I’ll be doing. So yeah, this has become a whole lot more than a little adventure!

Fingers crossed that my next post will talk of my firm plans to stay at a WWOOF host in Barcelona!

I have done it!

Today I received a letter in the post, with a cheque of £250 – this kind and generous and amazing donation was from the Churchill University Scholarship Trust. I wrote them a thank you card, but honestly, I can’t express my thanks enough!

I was reading through my blog from the beginning and realised it’s made up of about a million thank you’s. There’s not one post where I don’t go on about my appreciation for everything etc etc – but that doesn’t make it any less true! That’s one of the reasons why I did the concert, because I thought people would think that my thanks are getting habitual. Although now that’s over I feel like that again!

So I say it again, for the last time:

Thank you absolutely everyone who has donated, supported and given encouragement; to Leigh from the Meadows Directory, the Edinburgh Rotary Club and the Churchill Trust. Oh also to my brother’s friends and my friends family. And to those who have only heard of me through my parents! So yeah, to everyone. Thank you thank you thank yoooou!

Sorry this is getting slightly over the top – it’s just with the Churchill Trust’s donation, I have now reached my target of £4200!! (I made up the remaining money through working, sponsors and pots.) I am totally shocked and happy and thankful:

There really should be a cue for fireworks but here’s my chipmunked face instead:

Sorry I really don’t know why I stick photos like this up here. Fireworks:

I will now close my Paypal account.





So in the next couple of weeks I will make a page to help future fundraisers. At the beginning of the whole thing I tried finding that kind of information over the internet but surprisingly there’s not that much! A quick word of advice just now: blog it. This blog encouraged people to buy pots and Lizzie’s poetry, and brought me over £1000 directly through donations!

I will of course keep those interested informed of my trip, especially those who have supported me.

Thank you!

Concert success!

The concerts today were a total success. About 30 people wanted to come, so I had to split the whole thing into to two smaller concerts, one at 3pm and one at 7pm.

After the concert there was food and drink and a chance to talk about my trip, and to say thank you (again).

Because it was really a concert to say thank you, I was never expecting to raise more than £100. But it turned out, I raised a huge astonishing £550! Aaaah. On top of this, through the week I sold 4 mugs and was sponsored £74. So that adds up to £664!

So that really means I am so so so close – £3600!! 😀 Thank you, to everyone who has supported me. I actually can’t believe it!

Post concert awkward posing:

The whole thing seemed to go down well! Including the food, I made chocolate muffins. For those interested, the programme was almost the same as last time:

Ballade in D minor (Edward), Brahms
Vision Fugitives nos 1 – 5, Prokofiev
A selection from the Children’s Corner Suite, Debussy

In other news, I’m travelling to London for a pre-departure briefing at the end of November where I’ll meet the other volunteers yay! However I also have appointments for more vaccinations this week… Eurgh.