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‘Kibo’ The story of Kilimanjaro’s ice caps

Since 1912, Mt Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its ice caps. After finding out this devastating fact I wanted to find out a little more about what is causing such a rapid response and what the local communities think about their largest mountain. Our wonderful tour guides at Sirikwa Travel told us about the stories that had been passed to them about the mountain and what they believe is the meaning for its name.

They believed that the name is a mix of the Swahili word Kilima, meaning ‘mountain,’ and the Chagga word Njaro, loosely translated as ‘water’ or ‘white’ (possibly due to the view of the ice caps from afar.) There is no doubt of the mountain’s striking appearance set amongst the plains of East Africa. The first sighting of it is overwhelming, especially when you know you have to then climb it!

Bearing in mind the historic meaning for the mountain it is truly unfortunate to think that Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are in fact melting.

There are a number of contributing factors causing the glaciers to melt, but scientists point to climate change as one of the leading sources. Fewer clouds and snowstorms means Uhuru Peak has a front row seat to the sun’s burning rays.

Also, we can’t forget that Mt. Kilimanjaro is a volcano. Though it hasn’t been active for hundreds of years, the molten magma that exists far below its surface may be enough to slowly melt away the glaciers at its peak.

“Like climbing icebergs in an ocean of sand” is how ice climber and consummate adventurer Will Gadd described ascending the melting glaciers in late October 2014.

There are also other human inputs due to deforestation, which leads to less vegetation, less rainfall on the lower slopes and finally less snow on the summit. It is feared that most of it is happening because people don’t have energy supplies so they are cutting down trees to make charcoal.

People are still not taking this issue seriously because the melting glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are not directly harming those that live around it. They no longer depend on the melted water from this dormant volcano for their needs in farming.

Yet, one can only imagine all the probable outcomes that can come off this melting scenario. Doug Hardy, a senior research fellow in the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts claims, “The shrinkage and ultimate disappearance of these glaciers will create tremendous ecological and social problems in the near future.”

Kilimanjaro, being a world tourist attraction, is a very big revenue-generator for Tanzania. And the motivation to climb this incredible mountains and reach snow almost at the equator is truly a bucket list experience. The Overseas Development Institute claims that about 35 to 40 thousand tourists visit the mount each year, with a total spending of about $50 million in the country. One can only imagine what will happen to Tanzania once its great protector, Mount Kilimanjaro, is no more.

 

Our tour guides also told us that the Kibo glacier was named after the Swahili word for Kibo ‘Wow’. Having climbed to the summit I can think of no other word that can be used to describe the beautiful view we had of Mount Kili every morning!!!

 

Kilimanjaro ice caps will remain in my heart and memories for a lifetime. I only hope generations to come will have the opportunity to enjoy it as much as I did.

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new recipe: mushroom, chickpea and turmeric one-pot

I have been experimenting with different flavours inspired by some research into my next adventure to Morocco.

I have described some of my master pieces in the past as ‘one bowl wonders’ and can be the perfect dinner to save for leftover lunches too, (Okay – they might not have all been a master piece and it could be seen as a lazy style of cooking!). I also love my collection of artisan bowls so it gives me a great chance to show you these too.

I have a very relaxed style of cooking. I don’t tend to weigh out the ingredients and if you prefer an item feel free to add more, or if you have some veggie leftovers feel free to throw those in.

Ingredients

one pack chestnut mushrooms – chopped into quarters

half pack cherry tomatoes – chopped in half

one can chickpeas

one onion – chopped

handful chopped apricots

tumeric

one red chilli

cumin

quinoa

coriander or pine nuts to serve

Method

Fry the onion in coconut oil until softened, add turmeric, chilli and cumin and cook for another minute.

Add mushrooms and tomatoes. Season and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add dates and chickpeas and continue to simmer with a little splash of water.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to to the packet instructions. Once this is done add to the mushroom and chickpeas and mix.

Scoop a large portion into a bowl and add coriander and pine nuts to serve.

Enjoy x

I’m in love with this bowl and spoon set I found at Broadway Market in East London from Etchd home. Each piece is beautifully handcrafted from the finest thin ceramics and individually hand-etched with a crosshatch design and matte charcoal finish. (The spoon is made from coconut wood.)

Their ethos lies in the cultivation of artisan skills coupled with good design. We choose to work closely with family-owned businesses in Vietnam who benefit from generations of traditional handicraft skills and ensure they are passed on to future generations.

 

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My favourite Yoga studios in London…

Namaste my beautiful adventurers..

This week I’ve been recovering from the triathlon and enjoying a few yoga classes in the city.

These are my favourite choices in London whether you’re in need of a work de-stress (usually me!), fancy trying something different (also me) or spending some time here as a tourist. Enjoy!

Blue Cow Yoga – Moorgate

Tucked away underneath an office block you could easily wander past without knowing it’s there but when you venture downstairs it’s quick to notice that this is a well equipped yoga studio (also offering Barre classes). In the city it’s my ultimate favourite. The yoga teachers are on another level when it comes to class structure. I prefer the dynamic class which is both challenging and relaxing. And if I’ve had a long day at the office I feel incredible and zen.

Yotopia – Covent Garden

I am often in meetings in the west end so usually when I am I like to take advantage of being able to drop by the Yotopia studio. Some of the classes are 90 minutes long which makes them great value for money. Every teacher creates a different class, and offers beautiful words of mindfulness. They are often on ClassPass which makes them even cheaper.

Fat Buddha Yoga – Ministry of Sound

On a monthly basis I try to get to the Fat Buddha Yoga class at Ministry of Sound. It is truly unique and Jessica is my ultimate fave! She is also a DJ and offers such a fun, enjoyable class. Being in this epic nightlucb with it’s lighting and atmosphere just makes it  a real bucket list yoga experience. She has lots of other yoga classes popping up around some of the coolest parts of town so check her website for more details.

Yoga in the walkways – Tower Bridge

One of my favourite yoga experiences has to be an early morning session on the glass floor of Tower bridge’s upper level performing yoga poses with a suspended view of road and pedestrian life, all moving at pace 42 metres beneath me. The sun was rising, and everyone was rushing by on their way to work, whilst I pondered in downward dog above. The yoga was fantastic aswell so not just a gimmick. I’ve tried the yoga at the Shard too – great to try once too but this one I’d go back to again definitely. If you’re in London for a short period of time this is a great and unusual place to try.

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Ice Cold in Iceland

Iceland – Tips for a Golden Circle adventure

Flying over Iceland felt like arriving on the moon. We were told there had been a ‘dump’ of snow overnight, yet the flight landed without a glitch. Heaps of snow were simply pushed to the sides of the runway. We are not in the UK anymore, in Iceland – it snows and they know how to handle it. We visited in March so not deemed the height of Winter, so if you’re reading this and planning a trip At any colder month – these tips will be useful.

IMG_1653Here are some ways to help you plan an awesome adventure:

  • Take some loose change for some toilets and parking – sometimes it can be unavoidable to miss the spots that charge and we fell into the trap at our first stop – The Thingvellir National Park.
  • Pack gloves that you can use while using your phone. It is too cold to take photos without them on – especially waiting for an exploding geyser!
  • Pack a lunch – it is very expensive on the trail. We chose to hire a car which also meant we avoided crowds. We could take our time and stop for longer at our favourite places. The supermarkets are also a little pricey but we had some gorgeous tuna sandwiches and snacks on the go at much cheaper prices than the tourist centres.
  • Wait for a Geyser – The Strokkur geyser at Haukadalur erupts every 15 minutes or so!!
  • Layer on and layer off – The coldest place on the trip was the breathtaking Gullfoss waterfall and you will want to spend some time exploring.

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  • Just stop to take photos whenever you can. Although there are some obvious highlights on the trail, the views are breathtaking so take it in turns to drive, admire this beautiful country and just stop along the way.
  • If you’re lucky enough (like me!) to not be a designated driver, a tipple of a traditional Icelandic vodka is quite nice to keep you warmed up. We bought a few mini bottles at the airport and also some wine to enjoy in the apartment in the evening – a much cheaper option.

I’ll be sharing my top tips and information guide to the Golden Circle and Reykjavik soon.

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Enjoy, CityGirl

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Learning to swim.. again

When I try to recall my first memories of swimming, I think of joyful summer holidays by the beach and hours spent splashing around until my fingers were as wrinkly as prunes.

It’s at school when it takes a more serious turn. The earliest memory that springs to mind is taking a water survival class which entailed wearing a whole outfit including heavy trainers and attempting to rescue each other – I remember it mostly because I hated it!

After that, the teenager years kicked in and not being terribly gifted with naturally sleek hair and falling victim to the 80’s big fringe trend (I still haven’t forgiven my mum for this!) I remember it being such an awful ordeal to have a midday swimming class. Terrible hair, goggle marks and prancing around in front of boys on a cold winters day was never outweighed by a love to swim!

I wouldn’t say I ever disliked swimming, it was just the effort, and the thought of it that always put me off practicing and learning how to get very good at it.

As an adult, I am quite partial to a few breast strokes in the spa, nattering to a friend or choosing it almost as a ‘rest day’ activity but until last year I hadn’t really thought about taking it any further.

I supposed it was inevitable that I would eventually want to take part in a triathlon. I love to run – marathons, half marathons, corporate 5k fun runs, I’m up for all of it. And I just love the way I feel after I’ve spent some time to myself pounding my stresses on the road behind me.

I soon became intrigued by cycling, a bike ride to Brighton turned into a 100 miler around London and Surrey for the PruRide London, and then a cycle to Paris. I really enjoyed it but I still loved to run and wanted to keep up with both. The triathlon idea just evolved from there..

My previous blog posts mentions my first attempt at the sprint triathlon in London last year. I massively underestimated the most technical part of it – the swim. I was so unaware of how emotional and overwhelming it would be. I was completely terrified.

This year I wanted to challenge myself and overcome some of the fears I have with open water swimming. I’ve signed up to the Olympic distance triathlon which involves a 1.5km swim!

It’s difficult to swim outdoors until the weather warms up, so mid May I took myself back to the lake! I could not believe how terrifying it was that first time and how different I feel now. I wanted to share the journey for everyone who has felt overwhelmed by swimming in the past, or for anything in life that feels impossible at the start.

To start I wanted to share my top places to swim in London (Greater London):

Tooting Bec Lido

It’s 90 meters long  which makes it the largest swimming pool in the area, and I love that it’s lined with cute Art Deco changing huts. There’s a great communal spirit here, and its such a welcoming place, not in the least bit intimidating. It is not heated however but incredibly refreshing. The Swim Fit gang on a Saturday morning are great – and I think it was here that something clicked and made me feel at ease in the water.

London Fields Lido

This one is a 50 meter pool so shorter but still a great size for training. It has the benefit of being heated and a similar decor to Tooting. I love London Fields and Broadway market which makes a trip here also an awesome opportunity for a stroll around East London.

Shepperton Open Water Lake

There comes to a point where a swimming pool isn’t going to cut it. On triathlon day I knew I was going to be thrown into the Thames and it couldn’t be the first time I’d swam in murky, petrifying open water. (Yes – the Thames!!) I researched where to try and Shepperton is a super popular choice for South Londoners. They have a fantastic set up. Newbies are given a a briefing and heir swimming is supervised before they can venture too far into the lake. It’s scary! That I cannot deny but at least this option tries to ease some of those fears. Look out for my next blog post which talks about overcoming fear.

Stratford Olympic Swimming Pool

It’s another East London choice – the iconic Olympic swimming pool. There’s something about being here that creates a buzz. And again it’s 50 meters so a great chance to fit in the distance without having to do a thousand lengths (how it feels for me at the tiny gym pool!).

It’s also good to point out that these options are all very affordable, offer changing and shower facilities. There is decent parking at Tooting and Shepperton and the cutest cafes at Tooting and London Fields. I hope you feel a little more inspired to give it a try..

Look out for more posts on my attempts to overcome the fear of the open water.. And how I get on at Windsor triathlon!

Enjoy, CityGirl

XX

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Reykjavik Travel guide

Now I’m not self proclaiming that I’m worthy of hipster status but I can appreciate an 80’s bomber jacket, graffiti as art and smashed avocado as a brunch staple so I think I can offer a thing or two about Reykjavik and what it has to offer.

It’s a cool place (excuse the pun!) that isn’t trying too hard. That’s hipster in itself right?!

Pretty streets, cool shopping boutiques and cafes in abundance, it’s a great place to stroll around and not doesn’t have to be a stopping point en route to the wider country. Here are some top tips for your stay..

View Point…

The Church of Hallgrimur is the icon of this city. Walking towards it along the vibrant streets will take some time as you will want to stop for lots of pics! You can head inside and walk to the top tower to see beautiful views of Reykjavik’s colourful rooftops and further out to sea. The design was intended to resemble the natural landscape or Iceland with its ice caps, volcanoes and basalt columns. It’s a must see landmark in the city.

Insta Shot…

This was an easy decision and it just has to be the Harpa, the striking Concert Hall and Conference centre and recipient of the prestigious Mies Van Der Rohe award for architecture. It is situated in the heart of the city and features stunning views of snowy mountains and across the Ocean. Wander inside and take a good look at the different light that the centre draws to it. There are shops that offer Nordic designed crafts and gifts. We didn’t watch a concert but I’d love to check out the listings if I was heading back.

Something different…

For a population of just 320,000 people, Iceland has produce chart topping music from well known, respected artists Björk, Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men to name just a few. Reykjavík feels like the beat of the country and is home to a buzzing live music scene. Café Rosenberg was our favourite evening choice playing live jazz and some of Iceland’s breakthrough bands. An awesome stop during the daytime has to be Kaffe Vinyl, a new bar/cafe and record store. It wouldn’t look too out of place in Dalston and also hosts live performances in the evening.

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Something active..

So Iceland is renowned for its hot water springs but what about its cold water swimming! Not to be put off by ‘ice’ being the former syllable in the country’s name and being quite used to a cold lake or sea swim training for triathlons in UK’s great excuse for a summer I was quite up to the challenge. Close to Reykjavík town is the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, where the sea temperature can reach minus 2 degrees in the winter. After a very short swim attempt, when actually deemed a terrible time of year to try it we committed ourselves to the hot springs close by. All year round, people enjoy the use of the geothermal beach’s hot-tubs, steam-bath, changing facilities and showers, even when the water drops below freezing. Whichever you choice it’s a great addition to a stay in Reykjavík.

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Something to eat…

So when we think of a hipster, what culinary choice often comes to mind is street food, or pop-up style, cheap and inventive food in a minimal setting. This could not be a better choice for a pricey country. We tried Icelandic Street Food, considered the first fast food concept in Iceland with traditional Icelandic food. It is a family owned business with recipes made from the owner’s Grandmother. He was in attendance on the evening we visited and pointed out that his Grandmother had made the cakes, which meant we just had to try them! I tried the seafood soup, and ordered a can of beer. This came to less than £20 so still expensive but much more reasonable than other options, and a lot more tasty than an overpriced spaghetti Bolognese.

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Something to drink…

Named after two Icelandic words for birch, Birkir (birch schnapps) and Björk (birch liqueur) are a fantastic showcase of native Icelandic ingredients.

Birkir, the stronger of the two at 35%, has a boozy and earthy aroma and mixes well with soda water or tonic for an easygoing cocktail. We bought some at the airport to take advantage of cheaper prices. Most of the rest of the team we enjoyed a beer or two!

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Something interesting…

I’d recommend a city tour with I Heart Reykjavik. They take you to their own favourite places in the city centre and teach you a few words of Icelandic. This is a great tour to get an overview and introduction to the city. I was amazed to see so much awesome graffiti art dotted around!

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My next post will share some of my favourite stops along the Golden Circle.

Have a great weekend all.

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CityGirl x

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Four things I’ve learned from my first triathlon

A triathlon is such a great way to get fit. It is also so easy to train on holiday. I love swimming in the ocean, running across the mountains and exploring a city by bike. I’m so proud and happy to have completed my first tri taking part in the sprint challenge in London. Here are some tips if you’re thinking of signing up..

The swim is a different kind of beast

 

As runner and a cyclist the swim was always going to be my toughest challenge. It differs to the other disciplines because to me it felt like a real test of mental strength, me against the elements, the beast of the open water. And technique is absolutely crucial for efficiency! I realise now that I should’ve got to the lake more for training as there really is no other way to get to grips with the murky waters, the claustrophobic rubbery wetsuit, the crowded free for all and the lack of any ledges to catch your breath.

 

It’s really difficult to hydrate 

 

After the swim, I struggled out of my wetsuit feeling lightheaded and flustered. There’s a lot to think about and it’s hard to adjust your mindset. I find it difficult to grab my water bottle on the bike and it’s difficult to hydrate sufficiently during those manic transitions. I already want to sign up to another one so I intend to spend a day on my bike with the sole purpose to practice a cycle – grab water bottle – drink – put water bottle back routine

 

The run feels kind of strange..

 

It’s something every expert warns you about but it’s really easy to underestimate how different your run is compared to a normal training run. The cycle can lead you into a false sense of security. You’ve got your rhythm and just the run left to tackle. After dropping off your bike you notice a feeling of slow motion, it’s takes a while for your legs to respond, like running through treacle, slow and sluggish. I noticed that my muscles eventually got back into the swing of things and I could’ve tested the waters a little earlier! I intend to try a spin class next week and run home afterwards to get used to the sensation and to know my limits.

 

And one last tip for us ladies.. 

 

After spending the day amongst a range of ladies of different ages, shapes and levels of fitness I noticed a pattern when it came to hair style. There were a lot of plaits! Let’s be honest it’s really not an attractive look, the rubbery wetsuit that you can never quite get on properly, the butt padding, the goggle marks (say goodbye to waterproof mascara in these conditions!) and the compulsory helmet! How are we supposed to feel feminine and confident. It was great to see so many ladies with different styles of plaited hair. It’s very versatile for a post swim and it doesn’t interfere with head gear. I now feel like I’ve ‘got the note’ regarding triathlon uniform and will be embracing this feminine touch. After all, we should all be very proud to be female triathletes

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Rome – Off the beaten path

Rome is simply stunning, and just iconic! The Vatican, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps.. the List goes on! And just being in this city feels like a majestic step back in time. I just love it which is why I’ve been back twice! It would be easy for me to make this blog with a city that offers so many incredible places to visit so I thought I’d challenge myself and do what I love best. I’ve tried to search for hidden gems and spent my second visit on a mission to show you an alternative side to Rome. If you want to try something different you really wouldn’t be disappointed.

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Best Viewpoint..

Who doesn’t love spending a sunset on a rooftop with a prosecco in hand? And it would be rude not to mention ‘when in Rome’ in this blog so I’ll get it out of the way now. Luckily Rome has quite a few that offer breath-taking views of the city. Our favourite has to be Eitch Borromini which is positioned in the historical centre close to the Pantheon. The terrace has a 360 degree view of Rome, that almost no other rooftop bar in the city can offer. Even the locals here wandered around snapping photos of the gorgeous skyline in between sips of their drinks. And an aperitvo arrives with each drink so although it is a little luxurious it really is worth it. Best to book in advance.

Insta shot…

Street Art is encouraged by local institutions in Rome and as a result there are quite a few tours in operation. But if you just fancy a wander Metro Spagna has been recently involved in a non-profit contemporary urban art project. Here, widely known French worked together for two days to convert this high-trafficked area into something worth visiting, just before the iconic Spanish Steps. A great photo opportunity for an alternative trip in Rome.

Something different…

Well the whole blog is suggesting this but here’s my top suggestion. Why not take a visit to the other Colosseum? The Palazzo della Civilta Italiana or more commonly referred to as ‘The Square Colosseum’. An impressive structure in the EUR suburb which was built by Italy’s infamous dictator Mussolini. Every Sunday a flea market takes place at the foot of the building and although it has a controversial history there’s no doubt of its iconic beauty. It has also appeared in a number of films including ‘Equilibrium’

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Something active…

I was fortunate enough to find some time to fit in a run on my break. Rome is stunning and so impressive to seriously impressive ancient buildings sat beside modern coffee shops. It was great to cover so much ground on foot, and the sights helped me to keep pushing on. I loved making my way into Villa Borghese park past the boating lake and the gardens. If you’re feeling even more adventurous they host a well-regarded marathon in May which features on many people’s running bucket list.

Something to drink…

The first time I visited Rome, I struggled to find a nice post-dinner bar or any nightlife that didn’t involve more food! So this time I decided to do my research and that sent me on my way to Trastevere. Even on the walk over, slightly warmed by a few red wines I was stunned at the beautiful bridges and canal reflections of Ponte Sisto, so with a quick photo break we finally ended up at the cobble stoned area of Trastevere. To my delight there were plenty of bars to choose from, small in size but offering lots of character. It’s certainly worth a visit if you want to meet some locals, drink some limoncello (which is only ever a good idea after wine!) and dance off some of Rome’s glorious gelato.

Something to eat…

For a chance to sample some of the best produce in Rome head to Campi dei Fiori. In this square, otherwise known as ‘the field of flowers’ one of the most famous markets in Rome is held. The beautiful square surrounded by elegant palaces is full of the bustling markets every morning except Sunday. Colorful produce is beautifully arranged everywhere, and you can’t stop taking photos. There are also food and small gifts that can be purchased far cheaper than other places in the city. Grab a slice of pizza, pick up some beautiful Italian prosciutto and enjoy!

Something interesting…

The Romans constructed numerous aqueducts to bring water into cities and towns—often from distant sources. I really could not believe how incredible they were up close and I couldn’t recommend seeing them enough. They a colossal and how they were built is still a marvel today. I’d definitely say they are must see part of Rome and a perfect addition to seeing this beautiful city from a different perspective.