Wednesday, January 06, 2010


After spending a relaxing week in Thailand, Jules, Whitey, Pete, Lynne & myself flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia. From there, we went to see the famous temples at Angkor Wat - the largest temple complex in the world. We got there for the dawn, and then spent a few hours going around a few of the temples in the cooler morning, before heading back to the hotel for a bit of an afternoon kip!!

We travelled by road (taxi) from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (approx 5 hrs). Pete and I had a very scary driver - it's not a trip I'd like to repeat any time soon!! Luckily, we survived - however our New Year's Eve celebrations that evening were somewhat subdued!

We spent a couple of days in Phnom Penh - wandering around the markets etc. We had some great meals - one in particular in a restaurant run by a charity which trains former street children. We all opted not to try the local specialty of deep fried tarantula however!

Sunrise over Angkor Wat

The moat around Angkor Wat - 190m wide! It used to be filled with crocodiles for defense purposes!

A bridge leading up to the entrace to the Bayon temple. This side of the road depicts gods holding a long snake. The opposite side shows devils, also holding a snake

One of the entrances to the Bayon temple

One of the many faces (approx 216) of the temple. These are said to bear a strong resemblance to King Jayavarman VII, who built the temple

The Elephant Terrace - used as a platform by King Jayavarman VII for public ceremonies and victory parades

Ruins of Ta Prohm. Strangler figs have taken over a lot of the buildings

Ta Prohm

The library at Angkor Wat

View of the Mekong from our hotel in Phnom Penh


Merry Christmas from Thailand!! I arrived on 22nd December and met my friends Jules & Whitey on Koh Lanta (ferry trip from Phuket). We spent the next week there, exploring the island by scooter and lazing on the lovely beaches!

It was lovely and hot, which made a nice change from the weather we've been having in the UK! Our toughest decisions each day were which beach to lie on, where to eat next and where to be for our sundowner in the evenings!

On Christmas Eve, we attended a Thai cooking class! There was one other couple there as well, so the five of us were taught how to make spring rolls, a spicy chicken salad, penang curry and tamarind seafood. Best of all, we got to eat the results AND drink wine while we were making it all!

We really struggled with what to do for Christmas Day, as our original idea of a BBQ on a beach somewhere proved to be a little hard to arrange! Also, may of the boat cruises weren't running that day - and we didn't really fancy being in a large group. Eventually, we stumbled across a place where we could hire our own traditional long boat and driver to take us to Koh Bubu, an uninhabited island about an hour from where we were staying! Sold!

Christmas Day was therefore spent lazing in our newly acquired hammocks, broken up by some frisbee throwing in the water and snorkling. We managed to get through some nice bubbly and a couple of G & T's before we headed back. It sounds pretty awful, I know!

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to Koh Lanta and head to Phuket where we picked up my friend Pete and then onto Bangkok where Jules' friend Lynne also joined us. Then - onto Cambodia!

View from a restaurant we stumbled across as we explored Koh Lanta by scooter!

One of the beaches further south from where we were staying on Koh Lanta

Bathing the elephants!

The serious business of spring roll making! We did a Thai cooking course on the evening of Christmas Eve

Our boat driver on Christmas day

As we headed out to Koh Bubu for Christmas, our driver stopped for us to feed the monkeys! They are obviously very used to the routine - jumping right on board without a problem! They are amazingly human like - if a bit of watermelon dropped in the mud, they'd walk to the water and wash it off before eating it! They also ate all the flesh first and dropped the skins, but then went back to eat the skin after everything else was gone!

Merry Christmas! As you can see, we had a really miserable time of it on Christmas Day. Just the 3 of us, our hammocks, some snorkle gear, a beach, some bubbly and a couple of G & T's.

View of our hotel area as we left Koh Lanta on the ferry back to Phuket. Our hotel was tucked into the back left.

We realised on the ferry, that my new flip flops may not be authentic Billabong.....

One of the smaller islands we passed on our way back to Phuket.


My friend Gayle recently came up from Kent to spend a weekend in Shrewsbury. We wandered around the town on the Saturday, and on the Sunday, we drove into Wales and headed towards Aberysthwyth (pronounced Ab-er-ist-with or close enough!).

It was a really lovely drive through the hills in North Wales and the town itself was quite nice. We wandered along the beach front and climbed the hill in the background of the first photo.

The beach front

Incoming storm

Perfect rainbow!

Part of the ruined castle


In early November, I went to visit our offices in Zambia & Malawi. This was my first trip with work and so it was the first time I got to see any of our projects first hand.

Most of my time was spent in our offices in Lusaka and Lilongwe, but during the middle weekend of my trip, I travelled overland from Lusaka to Lilongwe, with a stop made at Chipata, right near the border.

We have some very successful projects in this area, which I was able to go out and see. Our work is based primarily in agriculture and involves working with local farmers to improve their methods, seek alternative crops & markets, purchase improved seed varieties etc.

At the end of my trip, I spent a couple of days at Mwaya beach, where I volunteered 4 (yeek - yes 4!) years ago! It was really wonderful being able to see the area again. Lots of people there recognised me and I was taken on a grand tour of 3 of the local nursery schools, which Thompson Taraz has helped fund since I was there.

A number of other projects are also underway in the area and it is so fantastic to be able to see the difference Ripple Africa is making to the area. A new secondary school is being built, there are some fish farms, plant nurseries and even a display farm has been setup by a local farmer with alternative crops, to show his fellow farmers what can be grown & how.

One of the women farmers of our Ulime project at Chipata, close to the Zambia/Malawi border. They are in the seed multiplication phase for a new bean seed, which is doing so well here that the bean has now been named after the village. For every 1 tonne of seed planted, they are harvesting 5 tonnes of new seed. Next season, they will begin using and selling the beans.

The beans are allowed to dry out on the plants, so that the seeds can be gathered for planting next season

An African seed nursery! These tomato plants have been planted very close together at the base of a tree for protection. The actual length is approx 1.5 metres long by 30 - 40cm wide.

Mwaya beach, lake Malawi. Each morning, we got up just before dawn to watch the sunrise and then have a morning swim. These fishermen very conveniently floated into the right place at the right time!

Just after the sunrise

One of the nursery schools built by Ripple Africa around Mwaya. All the nursery schools in this area teach the same curriculum, which is agreed in conjunction with the Standard 1 teacher at the local primary school. I spoke with him during my stay, and he says the difference in the children he's now getting is amazing, as they now actually have the basic skills they should have before starting school

Singing and dancing is a big part of the learning process. A lot of the songs have lifestyle and health messages etc

Sometimes you just need a break from it all!

This community library was opened just before I went to Mwaya 4 years ago. It was built and setup largely by one of my fellow volunteers from Ireland. The library is now very well stocked, and a new storeroom / reading room is being built next door. The librarian, Mr Longwe, takes enormous pride in his work and in the last 4 years, not one single book has gone missing!

A new classroom block, built by Ripple Africa. When I was volunteering there, one of the classes had to be taught outside due to lack of space.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


As I am sure most of the world knows by now, my friend Jules & I went to Dublin last Saturday for a few days before attending the final U2 concert there on Monday, 27th July.

I am also sure that you all know that we had the very great fortune to actually meet Bono and have a little chat with him in his local pub on the Sunday!! We let him know that we were going on Monday night, and even requested my favourite song (which they played!!!).

He was fantastic and didn't seem to mind us interrupting his Sunday pint. He even offered us a kiss each before we left, which of course we had to accept or else we would have appeared too rude!!!

Once I was able to pick myself up from the floor, we carried on with the best weekend ever! We had a great night in Temple Bar on the Sunday evening. Dublin was absolutely buzzing with so many tourists all there for the concerts. All the pubs were playing U2 music and there was a real party atmosphere! Wasn't hard to work ourselves up for the concert on Monday!

The concert was amazing - best I've seen them yet! Made all the more special for having met Bono the day before as well as the fact that they played my favourite song, which I'd never heard live before. I like to think that Bono was thinking of how happy he was making the lovely Aussie girl he'd met the day before when he sang the song!

Close up of Bono leaving the pub after we'd met him. We didn't get any pics with him, as wasn't really appropriate inside the pub - was a free for all once he left though!!

Jules & I in the Temple Bar - celebrating our brush with fame earlier that day.

At Temple Bar - surrounded by U2 fans and U2 music!

Jules and I about to leave for the concert - getting excited!!!

Me in front of the stage - before the crowds arrived!

Getting excited......

The crowd behind us

Bono's entrance! We were about 20 - 30 people back from the front of the stage!

Adam Clayton at the front of the stage - shows how close we were!

Bono on the big screen!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


My friend Pete and I had a short weekend break in the Snowdonia National Park last weekend. The park is in North Wales, so very handy from Shrewsbury!

We didn't really have much planned before we went - unfortunately the weather prevented us from climing Mt Snowdon. We did have fun walking around the area though - and found some beautiful sandy beaches on the Welsh coast!

Castle in the hills surrounding Mt Snowdon

View towards Mt Snowdon

One for Dad! We took a little steam train trip around a lake near Mt Snowdon

View over lake towards Mt Snowdon

Aquaduct, Pontcysllte, North Wales. The top of the aquaduct contains a footpath as well as a canal for narrow boats!

Canal and footpath on top of aquaduct

View of acquaduct from the ground!