We’ve been in lockdown in one form or another for months now, and the urge to cure our wanderlust grows ever stronger.
But travel is still a way off getting back to normal and, though some countries have now opened their borders and flights are beginning to resume, many of us are still waiting to start our dream adventure.
Regardless of your situation, if you love adventure and you’re also sat at home – read these. Five Flashpacker travel stories – moments that took their breath away – to escape the living room. Let these traveller tales take you away, and we’ll be together on new adventures again before you know it.
Atisaa: An awe-inspiring hike up Rainbow Mountain, Peru
“After spending the morning with a local family learning about Peruvian culture, joyfully dancing whilst dressed in local vibrant dress and enjoying a home cooked traditional feast, we started day one of our trek to the summit of rainbow mountain.
The vastness of the colourful landscape ahead of us – with no landmarks, houses or shelters in sight and huge mountains towering in the distance – made me feel incredibly small in comparison. That was until we came across an Alpaca farm along the way, which really lifted our spirits during this physically challenging hike and made us forget about the high altitude for a moment.
Arriving at base camp, just before sunset, I began to feel pains in my legs and tightness in my chest from the altitude. But, as soon as I settled in with my fellow Flashpackers for yet another Peruvian home cooked meal, all the aches and pains seemed to just melt away.
After dinner, the sun had set and I stepped out into complete darkness with a sub-zero temperature. The cold icy air hit me suddenly, and felt like someone hitting me in the face with a pillow.
We all huddled around a camp fire together, sharing stories, drinking spiced rum tea and even salsa dancing to keep warm. And that’s when it happened. I looked up, and there it was, the most magnificent, magical sight I’d ever seen:
Never in my entire existence had I ever thought I’d be able to see so many billions of stars in the sky.
At a high altitude of around 4,000ft, with zero light pollution, you could see every single one of these millions of stars twinkling so brightly, along with the Milky Way and Jupiter. It looked as though someone had sprinkled glitter all across the night sky.
We sat in awe for hours – no one wanted to go to bed. All I wanted to do the entire night was spend it staring up at the stars, because it was the best show of Mother Nature I’d ever seen on earth, and I would happily binge watch it every day of the week.
Finally, we had to get some rest and turned in for the night, ready for the tomorrow’s adventure: the final trek to the summit of Rainbow Mountain.
I was tired and cold (it was minus 10 degrees) but I felt incredibly warm inside and full of hope. Remember, if it wasn’t for darkness the stars would not be able to shine.
Hiking Rainbow mountain in Peru was one of the most amazing travel and life changing experiences for me, a true physical and emotional challenge, but also an awareness and appreciation for nature and the wonders of our natural world.”
Tony: A sensory awakening on the Everest Trail, Nepal
“The rusty bridge creaked as I gingerly crossed to the other side of the river. Milky rapids swirled beneath my feet. “A bridge!” I snorted. I’m being generous. It’s more like a collection of old grates sewn together with wire and cable ties.
Trusting the bridge feels like playing roulette but my gamble pays off and I make it across without taking a deadly bath. I amble down a goat track along the riverbank. On the opposite side of the gushing waters I can see the mountain lodge we’ve pitched ourselves for the night.
The path leads me to a sloping valley leading up into the Himalayan foothills around the Everest Trail. The valley is filled with an ocean of titanic boulders, like a battlefield littered with the missiles of mountainous deities. Mist swirls mysteriously around the tops of the mountain peaks. The sound of a hundred rivulets trickling between the rocks fills the air like a symphony.
I follow one of the streams up the valley, leading up into the foothills. A colossal boulder has just the right purchase of subservient rock formations to allow me to clamber up onto its course surface. I take a long, slow breath, inhaling the spiritual landscape surrounding me.
My five earthly senses, and a sixth mystical sense, are ignited. The world feels like it’s stopped. Joy floods my consciousness, washing away any stress or anxiety. This place is special. I decide to meditate on the summit of the boulder, to fill my cup with the alpine energy. My hearing is consumed by the whistling wind and roaring rapids. Emboldened by my privacy, I jump to my feet and let loose a howl, “Awooooooooo!”
How can you describe this sensation? I feel incredible. Alive. Empowered. Connected. This is unforgettable.”
Kat: Embracing the freedom of adventure in Kosgoda, Sri Lanka
“I remember watching them scurry towards the lapping waves on that warm evening in Kosgoda, all of us lined up to release these tiny, baby turtles into the wild together on the final night.
Seeing these amazing animals, being carried out to start their new life and survive in the ocean, was breathtaking. As I held a tiny turtle in my hands, its flippers flapping in anticipation, it could hear the sea calling, a new adventure awaiting…
I remember thinking: this is what it feels like to go solo travelling for the first time. And how their eyes will be opened up to such a different, adventurous and free way of life.
This was the most vivid and utmost special memory from my recent trip to Sri Lanka, releasing baby turtles, just three days old, back into the sea. The experience was truly awe-inspiring, witnessing how small and delicate these endangered creatures are. Having the opportunity to be part of something so special, as they enter the realms of the big wide world for the first time, was magical. The incredible work that the sanctuary do to increase their chances of survival is extraordinary too – and I’ll never forget it.”
Travis: A cultural moment to remember in Abhaneri, India
“Despite its looks, India is a very “green” country. There were no plastic bags or bottles littering the streets as we walked. The bags used in the shops were all made of this extra strong fibre, that came in a variety of colours and could be reused a number of times.
One particular shop we stopped at was just outside of Abhaneri. Two men had set up a kind of “lemonade stand” selling coffee – each of us got handed a little clay cup about the size of a shot glass full of this hot liquid.
Of course, it was delicious. But something strange happened next. After finishing my shot of espresso, I was about to hand the cup back to the shopkeeper when he paused.
He looked at me and pointed to the ground. Slowly, he took my hand holding the cup and made a motion with it, like he wanted me to throw the cup on the ground.
The tourist in me cringed, these were really nice hand crafted clay cups, I didn’t want to dispose of it. But, despite my opposition, we all “smashed” our cups into the soil .
The shopkeeper uttered something in Hindi :
“Prthvee se kya aata hai, prthvee par vaapas aana chaahie”
That I later translated to:
“What comes from the Earth, must return to the Earth””
Dahlia: A winter wonderland escape in Kitilla, Finland
“The instructions were clear. Suit up, jump on, don’t show weakness.
It’s -13 degrees and I am hovering dangerously at the edge of the back of a husky sled, both feet firmly planted on the brake, as my team of six huskies howl with excitement and impatience to start the journey.
They’re ferociously tugging and pulling with immense strength for their size so that my sled still inches forward despite my weight on the brake.
“They are born to pull”, my Lapland guide Christina tells me.
Then off we go, our sleds brought to life, as we race through pine trees decorated with icicles and beads of snow. My heart races as the huskies speed through their home turf and I hang on with trepidation, my breath taken away with magical wonder.
Despite the adrenaline, at some point I manage to catch my breath and reflect on how I have been transported to a frozen world, where even in Spring, it feels like Christmas.
As fellow traveller Ian from sunny Florida put it, we were expecting to “open the wardrobe” at any moment. A true bucket-list activity on many a solo traveller’s list, this first foray into husky sledding in Finland was a really special moment to remember.”