Chilling complete, back to the travelling

And we’re really looking forward to getting on with it again, we fly to Cape Town tomorrow to explore the southern reaches of Africa. We are both very excited indeed and it’s thanks to a couple of weeks chilling with Rightee that the travel magic’s back!

Under our collective, Mary style, name of VAJ (Viv, Andy and John of course!) we don’t half know how to chill out. Jody(same style) really know how to bloody drink too, they slip into a nocturnal existence as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I try but I’ve clearly not had as much practice as these two.

That makes us sound really wild and crazy doesn’t it? Maybe if you discovered the amount of time we spent playing dominos and backgammon you might change your mind.

The island of Koh Tao is a great holiday spot with miles of beaches and it’s lively without being too busy. We found the dogs really interesting. They all have their own personalities of course but they were not like the pet dogs you’d get in Britain as the island has a collective dog community which doesn’t seem to feature people all that much. My favourite was only one that liked to play and enjoyed trying to catch handfuls of sand when you were in the sea. She wasn’t much interested in anything else you threw but if it was sand she was there. I liked the way she wagged her tail when looking at the fish, pretty cute. ‘Jon’ the dog from next door is an abnormally short legged and not particularly pleasant dog (John was mortified when he discovered the similarity in name). He (Jon not John)picked a fight with the old dog at the bakery every afternoon. If this didn’t happen you’d wonder if something was wrong, the poor old dog was absolutely paranoid. As I said after the last post the Myna birds are ace too, we could even recognise individuals. There was one that always sang really nicely to us and was followed around by his scraggy girlfriend, another had a bent beak. show_random($num=4, $tags=’kohtao’); ?>

We did do some useful things, like trying to sort out the fundraising but I’ve also been applying for University in 2007. Back to student hood for me and a working life dedicated to conservation (hopefully).

I’m not going to do a round up of Thailand as we’ve not really ventured off the beaten track and have been holidaying rather than travelling which, believe me, are very different. Holidaying is more like relaxation and travelling, for us, is about broadening our understanding of the world.

Here’s a few comments about Thailand though.

It’s true, there are ladyboys around
Thai people are pleasant, straight forward and well organised.
I love Chaing Mai
Thailand is a good place to go on holiday – Hooray for that.

Oh and just one more minor detail. South America is off and we’re coming home for Christmas. Hooray for that too!

Your help needed! – John and Viv’s charity fundraising challenge.

In October we will be going to Madagascar for 10 weeks of voluntary work out in the jungle. During this time we will be living in a tent and will pretty much eat nothing but beans and rice (mmm, lovely beans and rice!). We also need to learn French, and fast, as that’s the only language spoken on the island. We’ll be working on projects to help some of the poorest people in the world and to protect the rainforest habitat of Madagascar’s lemurs.

As well as donating ourselves to charity for ten weeks, we’ve promised to raise 4000 English pounds for Azafady and we need your help! Azafady are a UK registered charity, more details below.

Being half way across the world makes it a little tricky for us to organise events and the like to raise the money and this is where we call on you, our esteemed friends, families and other assorted waifs and strays, to help us out. There are a number of ways in which you can lend a hand, most of which need not take up much of your valuable time or even money. Anything that you can do to help us will be rewarded with our eternal gratitude and beer. Anyhow, those options are:

  • Volunteer to sell raffle tickets (we can provide them)
  • Come up with your own (wacky or not wacky) fundraising ideas
  • Remember us for existing or planned charity events
  • Donate directly. You can donate your life savings through our special Azafady web page or send us a cheque (just email one of us and we’ll send you an address).

We’ve started the ball rolling ourselves by donating 1000 pounds. This more than pays for any costs Azafady might incur from us being in Madagascar and we’ve also paid for our flights and transportation. That means that any donations or help from you will go 100% direct to the charity.

Ok, that’s the begging letter done with, what follows is some information about Azafady and the work they do that our fundraising efforts will directly support.

WHO ARE AZAFADY? – They’re a UK registered charity (no 1079121) and Madagascar Non Governmental Organisation.

Azafady means ‘please’ in Malagasy. The charity aims to help the people of Madagascar by providing sanitation, clean drinking water and basic health care and the environment by promoting sustainable livelihoods and improving conservation research.

Last year alone Azafady gave access to clean drinking water to around 4000 people, access to basic health care to at least 10,000 people, planted thousands of trees, numerous gardens and created small income generating industries in 5 villages.

SOME FACTS ABOUT MADAGASCAR

About the People:

  • Most people live as subsistence farmers, their extreme poverty (70% living on less than $1 per day) drives deforestation as they clear land to grow crops.
  • 10% of children will die before they reach their 5th birthday, most from preventable diseases.
  • Only around one quarter of the population currently have access to safe drinking water.

About the Environment:

  • Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the worlds and sits 400 km East of Mozambique.
  • 80% of the plant and animals species in Madagascar are found nowhere else on earth, this includes the critically
    endangered Lemurs, two thirds of the worlds chameleon species and the cancer treating rosy periwinkle.
  • 85-95% of the original forest cover has been destroyed, mostly due to slash and burn agriculture.

To solve the environmental issues Azafady aim to tackle poverty and promote sustainable livelihoods to ease the pressure on the forest. To that end Azafady is as much a humanitarian charity as an environmental one.

Please help, we live pretty cushy lives compared to this lot. Even if it’s just one less bottle of wine or one less Chinese takeaway, the money could go towards helping some of the poorest people on Earth and protecting a habitat that’s really on its last chance. Without intervention it will be gone forever, extinction isn’t reversible.

And lastly……. Some quotes from famous people

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH on Azafady and Madagascar in 1999.

‘Although this immense island has now lost much of its vegetation, its forest still survives on the South East Corner and it still contains spectacular populations of monkey like Lemurs and much else besides. At the moment the forest is gravely threatened by short-term development and by the risk of fire. Project Lokaro [a conservation initiative of Azafady] aims to save it.’

GERALD DURELL on Madagascar in 1994

‘It is essential that the world realizes the biological importance of the island and the plight of its people and hurries to the rescue of this extraordinary corner of the globe’

Chilling in Chiang Mai

What have we been up to in the last couple of weeks? Erm, not a lot to be honest. After over 7 months of fairly fast-paced travelling we decided that we were long overdue a bit of a break to slow things down a bit.

The three days of travelling to get to Chiang Mai from Luang Prabang in Laos was a test of endurance involving 12 hour days sitting on hard wooden seats on a noisy boat. It was the closest we’d come to relenting and opting for a flight instead but we have made it all the way through Asia without flying and it would have been a shame to have cracked now so the more environmentally friendly, but far slower, mode of transport it was. As it turned out we were glad to have taken the boat as the boat journey was interesting and we got to meet fellow travellers Dave & Mey on the boat and have since spent much of our time in Chiang Mai with them, having a lot of fun in the process.

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Last week we took a trip out to the Elephant Nature Park, a bus ride away from Chiang Mai. They do really great work rescuing elephants from lives where they have suffered unspeakable brutality at the hands of their owners. Although seemingly little publicised, cruelty to elephants is endemic in Thailand – an attitude that doesn’t seem to fit with a Buddhist country who has the elephant as a national symbol. What we learnt was that in almost all cases a working elephant is an abused elephant and most spend their lives in misery. On a previous trip to Thailand I have been elephant trekking, suffice to say that I would never go again and would implore anyone to do the same. The day itself was a fantastic experience – we got to meet the elephants and feed them crazy amounts of bananas, pineapples and cucumbers. Elephants are definitely clever creatures as they rejected the cucumbers – a sure sign of intelligence! After that we got to wash them in the river requiring the stealthy skills of elephant turd avoidance as the floating feaces drifted by. It was so much fun spending time with the elephants and seeing their different personalities and social groups – a really worthwhile and enjoyable day, even the bit where we got charged by a baby elephant and another elephant stole my shorts and swung them around with its trunk!

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That aside we did a significant amount of football watching (an unpleasant experience when England are involved given the crap performances), went on a day cookery course a nearby organic farm and otherwise spent a lot of time relaxing and drinking with Dave and Mey.

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One thing I feel I should mention here, as it was particularly prevalent in Chiang Mai, is the stupid squeaking shoes that so many South East Asian parents insist on making their offspring wear. The shoes have an absurdely loud squeaker (like in a dog toy) in the soles so that every time the child takes a step they squeak. They drove me insane especially when you’re lying in bed with a hangover and all you can hear is an incessant squeak, squeak, sq-squeak from downstairs. ARGH!!! They definitely top my list of the most irritating and pointless inventions ever.

Anyway, back to the story. After Chiang Mai we headed to Bangkok where we met up with Rightee at the airport and then spent the next couple of days being drunk, having hangovers, groaning at England matches again and forgetting to retrieve clothes from laundry shops once we’d left Bangkok.

From Bangkok it was down to the southern island of Koh Tao where we have done more drinking and relaxing as well as a great day’s snorkelling yesterday and not a lot else. Tonight we are going to have the usual tortuous couple of hours watching England.

And think that just about rounds things up for the moment, pip pip!