It’s been a great first week for The Adventure Girl’s Guide – a huge thanks to everyone who’s reading and who’s subscribed. Since launching the blog to the world a week ago, the site’s had 500 hits and has attracted some fantastic followers on Twitter including ‘The Times Travel’ and leading luxury camping website ‘Go Glamping‘, who posted my article on their Twitter page.
The ‘Campr’ website has also got interested in what The Adventure Girl’s Guide has to offer and would like to run ‘Glamping it up in Yorkshire’ on their site. Here’s what James from Campr had to say: “If you would like to write anything else for Campr we’d love to feature your adventures! Anything Camping or outdoors related really.”
Result! So keep an eye out for that, I’ll let you know when more of my adventures get featured across the web. They’re sending me a camping essentials pack in the post to keep me stocked up for my next travels. It might not pay the rent, but that’s a good enough perk in my first week I reckon! York Yurts were really chuffed that I mentioned them and are going to feature my musings on their website – Sara the Yurt lady said she remembered us because of ‘the really romantic boyfriend’. Awww! You cringing yet Guy? The good start has also got a smiley face from my blogging coach, Brendan, who’s giving me tips on how to get published and break into the world of travel magazines.
Please keep checking out The Adventure Girl’s Guide and share your experiences too. Thanks for getting involved at the beginning of the journey; hope you still like what you read when the site gets thousands of followers (fingers crossed!). As ever, if you have anything you think would be great to try out and experience, post comments or message me. Always great to hear from you!
“Come on, come on! That’s it, do it, keep going, c’mon baby. Just. A bit. More.”
That’s pretty much how our Glamping trip started. He* wasn’t talking to me – he was talking to our new beloved ‘Gracie’, a duck egg blue VW camper van. Why, what were you thinking?
Anyway… our VDub for the weekend was seriously nifty. I LOVED her. If I can scrape together a spare £35K (hmmm), it would be money well spent on actually buying one of these cruising queens.
Guy had had a pretty rocky start to his relationship with Gracie. A few hours on the motorway going at 50mph had got him riled somewhat and, by the time he picked me up for the adventure, he was talking to the van like an old lady does to cats. Or my Mother to herself.
So off we pootled out of Leeds and headed north. But where were we going? You see, I had no idea what the weekend ahead held. It was Valentine’s weekend and I was just told to ‘be prepared’. Good job I was a Girl Guide in my childhood. After squealing in delight at seeing Gracie, all I could do now was wait…
An hour later and we were in total darkness in the middle of woodland. Gracie’s tyres crunched carefully along the bumpy country path and at this point I thought he’d just decided on a random spot to park for the night. Well, it was a campervan – so you could pull out a double bed and there were cushions, blankets, a cooker – it really was a marvel! But then I caught a glimpse of light. We weren’t alone? Guy flashed me a cheeky smile – one that says, ‘ha ha you still don’t know what we’re doin’ do ya?’. Erm, no.
A really friendly couple and their kids, even the dog, came out to greet us. They shook our hands and were making pleasantries and I just grinned inanely back, thinking who are these people? But then, I’ve got it, I thought – we’re going camping. There was a field next to us and they must be the campsite owners. Aha!
Only, we weren’t quite going camping. I don’t think it can be classed as camping when there’s a double bed, a love seat and a table and chairs in the tent. This is the glamorous version of camping – glamping. Geddit? Now this is how to do the outdoors. After making the careful trip across the farm in the dark, the cheerful couple proudly presented our circular, trellis-walled lodging.
Our abode for the weekend was a Yurt. Even though many people say ‘what on earth’s a Yurt?’ when I tell them about this weekend, yurts have actually been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, deriving from central Asia (the word ‘yurt’ itself has Russian roots). They’ve survived the ages because they’re portable, which I’m sure was fairly useful for the nomadic herders on horseback, and they’re easy to set up. So the site owners told us anyway. I’m personally painful to watch when trying to construct anything, apparently.
Flickering candles were dotted around giving it a honey glow and there was a wood burning stove to keep us toasty. We cosied up in our own little warm world, each wearing a head lamp so we could read. What a sight we must have looked, but boys, this kind of together time will earn you serious brownie points with the ladyfolk!
The site owners even offer to bring you your evening meal. Yes please! We filled our boots with home cooked steak pie with creamy mash potato, veg and real proper gravy followed by a huge apple pie and custard. Nom nom.
It was so quiet; peaceful, tranquil. So much that we fell into the deepest sleep, our bellies full, under thick layers of duvet and a sheepskin throw.
The thin layer of transparent material at the top of the yurt was our gentle alarm clock, nudging us awake and letting us know it was morning. I opened one eye and saw my breath. But I was still snug and warm, just my nose felt like ice. Being the gentleman he is, or the little kid who likes to make fire, Guy got up to get the wood burner going. I pulled on my wellies and opened our hobbit sized door to a stunning morning to fetch the brews.
With the Yurt warming up and a cuppa char in hand, we sat happily drinking in the morning sun. It’s incredible how a little farm in North Yorkshire can make you feel totally new and ready to take on the world. I didn’t think the day could get off to a better start. But then I saw the farmer coming towards us, his playful pooch bounding ahead of him, with two huge plates of Full English. Now that’s food for the soul.
*This adventure involves my intrepidatious partner in crime, Guy. Don’t want to keep writing ‘my boyfriend’, because that gets tedious and sounds naff on repeat.
Want to go on this adventure too?
We cruised around in a retro VW camper van, hired from snailtrail.co.uk
I’ve never seen a turtle. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to see a turtle on my last dives in Mexico. I had to listen to some chump go on and on about seeing a turtle THIS BIG as he opened his arms at full stretch with a smug glint in his eye. I saw some amazing marine life, but turtle spotting is still on my must-do list. So where am I likely to see these awe-inspiring animals? One place I’ve been told to go for top diving is the Red Sea (come visit my blog again to hear all about that when I’ve been!). And I’ve heard Marsa Abu Dabbab is the place to see some of the magnificent creatures I so long to discover – particularly Green Sea Turtles. Problem is, some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to “develop” the bay into a marina or port.
Now you may have read in an earlier post how I found that diving teaches you respect for all living things in our waters. At least, that’s what diving stirred up in me. So hearing the news that Concord Development for Tourism S.A.E had announced plans to bulldoze an endangered species out of their home for the sake of cramming in a few restaurants and bars really gave me cause for wrinkle cream.
As if the poor buggers didn’t have enough to contend with – they’re critically endangered already thanks to getting hunted for their meat and eggs; thanks to fishnet-caused drowning; and now a bay that’s home to these special animals is under threat. And for what? Another Hilton and another Marriott? That’s worth destroying natural beauty for alright – I do enjoy the superior quality of mints these hotels leave on your pillow in the turndown service. They might as well get McDonald’s selling turtle Mcnuggets while they’re at it.
Many more agree, particularly the diving community. The dive centre, Diving Leisure Leeds, is now campaigning to stop these plans and has launched the conservation project MAD Green Sea Turtles. It’s working with wildlife and underwater cameraman, Jeff Goodman, who I met at a talk about his time with the National Geographic channel. His videos show what we’d all be losing out on if this ecological slaughter goes ahead. In protecting this area of the Egyptian Red Sea, they’ll also be preventing the commercial developers from destroying the homes of Guitar Rays, Titan Trigger Fish, Blue Spotted Rays, Trunkfish and Dugongs.
Green Sea Turtles are part of an elite club of species so ancient, that they’ve seen dinosaurs walk the earth and become extinct. 150 million years on and humans could put an end to these spectacular animals in a whimper. If you want to help keep their story alive, sign the petition here.
Here’s the next installment of my journey to becoming a published travel journalist. Mentor Brendan O’Brien had this to say:-
Budding photojournalist, Karli Drinkwater is about to embark on a journey to fulfil her ambition to become a recognised diving photojournalist.
She’s got the drive and enthusiasm, but like many in her situation, she’s not quite sure where to start. Getting your first by-line in any magazine often appears to be an insurmountable hurdle, which is why I’m featuring Karli’s journey on this blog, to show how achievable realising this dream can be.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be providing Karli with some ideas about where to start and in return Karli will provide this blog with a fly on the wall account of her journey.
Well, let’s hope this dream is achievable. Taking Brendan’s tips on board, here’s what I did next…
It’s Friday lunchtime and I’m literally elbowing trainspotters, planespotters and birdspotters out of the way. United in their passion and contentedly divided in their individual fascinations, this motley crew of fanatics could be auditioning for the part of Gollum in Lord of The Rings. Hunched over their respective ‘precious’, the captivated gentlemen revealed their primal side, guarding their territory like wild animals – not even moving for, ahem, a lady.
I was in WHSmith. Clearly British politeness was left at the door here. But I was a woman on a mission, so I ignored the tuts and grunts of one portly fellow with low-resting spectacles as he practically salivated over the sleek lines of a jet plane. The Sun‘s missing out on the latest Page Three sensation I think. I lunged for Diver, knocking rock climbing clowns to the left of me and snowboarding jokers to the right in the process. Clutching the glossy pages and breathing in their new page smell – I LOVE new book smell – I continued on my human ten pin bowling crusade to grab the latest Wanderlust and Lonely Planet. By the time I got to the counter I could finally stop holding my breath.
Now the heart rate’s back to normal and I’ve had a good look through the articles, I’ve got a better understanding of what each publication is all about and the content they go for. As well as getting a little too excited and adding to my ever-growing list of must-see places, my plotting to get a byline in those glossies has stepped up a notch.
Brendan has suggested taking the ‘Serendipities’ route to breaking into the pages of Wanderlust – so I flicked to the back page to see what I have to contend with. The winning submissions that got printed this month have given me an idea of the style the editors must go for: quirky, colourful and witty. I’m thinking of a few of my travel tales that could be suitable for my stab at getting featured. Clearly my diving experiences in Mexico could be turned into a good read – especially since I’m at the beginning of my diving journey and so, hopefully, won’t alienate people who have never dived.
Diver magazine could take a little longer to become a voice of authority in – I’m thinking a few hundred logged dives longer. But there is still a way… Brendan asked how my Advanced Open Water weekend went and unfortunately, not very well was my reply. My dry suit didn’t fit properly and I got drenched in ‘damn son, that’s cold!’ water. Shivering and feeling a little bit down about the whole thing, I decided not to carry on with the rest of the weekend’s dives until I got kit that would fit. “It’s supposed to be fun, so don’t push yourself if you’re not happy,” someone said to me as I sat there feeling sorry for myself and like I’d failed at something I really enjoyed. Being the good dive journalist that Brendan is, he suggested that I could make something out of this experience for Diver.
The Deep Breath column on the back page would be a prime space for this. The current issue has a piece from an instructor about how students are often overweighted and he calls for a reform in dive teaching to produce better and safer novice divers. This would be a great space to write about how many others must have gone through what I did. How many people have experienced something similar and never gone underwater again? I can see how this could happen – it’s only because I’m stubborn and don’t want to give up that I’m going to try again. And at this point I’ll be honest, I’m not overly excited at the prospect. As well as the dry suit not fitting, my BCD was too large and my cylinder kept rolling around. Buoyancy felt totally out of my control, another diver also struggling with the alien new kit kicked my regulator out of my mouth… Nope, my first impression of UK inland diving wasn’t the best. So I’ll be working on crafting something for this page of Diver whilst I read over my AOW manual. Again.
Scuba diving will take up quite a bit of blog space, because it ticks the box for heart-racing adventure and you’re also joining me on my journey to becoming an experienced diver – as well as a published dive journalist hopefully. So far I’ve reached the Open Water qualification with global dive body PADI. But more about that in time. I’m currently researching travel and dive publications to pitch to and, with the coaching of my photojournalist mentor Brendan O’Brien, I hope to get my name in those glossies in WHSmith.
So, this is the story so far – as featured on the site ‘Brendiver’s World‘ – and why I’m taking on this particular adventure…
I suppose I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline-junkie, a thrill-seeker, living for that next moment that will leave me with a stupidly wide grin on my face and a feeling that I’ve just experienced something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It’s why I got into journalism – the rush, the exhilaration, the sense of achievement from ‘pulling it off’ in such a fast paced, frenetic and demanding environment. Ever since I ran my very own radio station at the age of 8 – not as grand as it sounds, I was merely broadcasting to my mates in Mum’s bungalow attic with a ghetto blaster (remember pressing the play and record button at the same time to record your favourite tracks off the top 40??) – I knew a life of excitement was the only way for me.
Since those innocent days I’ve actually become a broadcast journalist and spend my days doing what I once played make-believe over. I’ve secretly whoop-whooped inside when I got shifts at national news channels and I’ve kept my excitement at interviewing Basil Brush for the BBC schtum. Not cool to show you’re in awe of celebrities you know… even those as legendary as Basil. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that the thrill I got from reporting live on location and breaking stories as they happen spilled over to my life outside the newsroom.
I fell in love with diving in Bali in 2009. My equally adventurous other half had qualified as a diver years before in New Zealand and suggested we go for a jaunt in the Bali Sea (Indonesian: Laut Bali). If I’m being honest, I was up for it, but a tad nervous. A bad experience a few years earlier in the Dominican Republic had me worried that I’d experience the same pain in my ears – thanks to some surly and impatient instructor who wouldn’t wait for me to equalise. But you might have guessed I was pleasantly surprised this time.
That dive trip blew my mind. The instructor was a gem and she made me feel so calm and confident that I felt like I’d been doing this all my life. Being unqualified at that point, we couldn’t go deeper than 12m, but who cared? I saw so much life at 5m and kept looking at my boyfriend with huge happy eyes. I knew then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. On surfacing the instructor said: “You’re a fish. You belong in the water.”
And so I began the adventure when I got home. I started the PADI Open Water certification and spent my Friday nights in the classroom and the pool, just itching to jump into the practicals.
It was worth the wait. I completed the Open Water certification on the world’s second largest barrier reef – off the Riviera Maya in Mexico. That’s the best ‘exam’ you’ll ever take – I saw lobster, moray eels, angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, pufferfish, blue tang… a lot of marine life anyway. And brandishing my newly qualified status, we rushed to the dive shop to book some more trips. We were $1000 lighter in total (I’m sick of beans on toast now) but how often are you in Mexico? We just couldn’t miss out on diving a cenote – breathtaking limestone sinkholes where freshwater and saltwater meet at a foggy halocline.
The Chac Mool cenote was my first dive as a qualified Open Water diver. Bit ambitious I suppose, but I thought it’d be rude not to. I know how lucky I was to see this – not just because it was an amazing sight and experience for anybody, but it was unforgettable as far as dive experiences go too. The clear freshwater made you feel like you were flying and navigating your way through the nooks and crannies formed by the rocks was an adventure like no other. Carefully avoiding the stunning formations of stalactites and stalagmites, it took me all my concentration not to let my regulator fall out my mouth I was gawping that much.
The day after, geed up by my other-worldly exploration, we dived the C-56 off the coast of Puerto Morelos – a wreck that had been sunk 8 years previously thanks to a donation from the US Navy. I didn’t think I could keep getting this amazing buzz, but there it was again. Diving had served me up a whole new world once more – and it was dawning on me that it would always be a blast. No wonder veteran divers still chatted like little kids at a theme park – it never stops being a total buzz! Floating through the engine rooms and passing by a fish or two as I tried to maintain as good buoyancy control as I could to squeeze through the doors had me totally hooked.
When I touched down in Gatwick and made the jet-lagged journey back to Leeds I was already plotting. I booked on to the Advanced Open Water course at the next dive club night with the local dive school. Cold quarries would be a bit of a change from tropical, clear waters but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
And that’s where you enter my story. The passion and respect I feel for diving got me thinking – I love writing and do it for a living, so how about I try to write about diving? I want to be able to share my newfound love and hopefully one day, after zillions more dives and pushing the boundaries of adventure, become a respected dive journalist too. The cliché’s true – diving opens the door to a whole new world, one that few have the privilege or pleasure of. It also brings with it a deep reverence for the creatures that live in our waters and a need to help protect them. I know that I’m a changed woman for good because of it. This could be the start of a new career, a new life, a new me.