Christmas will be upon us in no time and January 2017 is getting closer and closer - an important month for us here at THISWORLDEXISTS.
We will be welcoming 14 eager adventurers from around the world to our ongoing school build in Sorung Chhabise, eastern Nepal. The project has been officially running for several months now and has progressed well, with the first two classrooms almost complete. As we progress through the build of six classrooms, a hall, a long terrace, and a hygiene and sanitation area; we are constantly vigilant of the community’s needs and involvement.
Community Comes First
Before we engage with a community and begin to draw up the plans for a new THISWORLDEXISTS Education Project, we ensure that the local community is behind the project 100%, and if there are any issues among community members or school stakeholders; that these are addressed well in advance of the project commencing. We were very fortunate to know someone who was born and raised in Sorung Chhabise, and having gone to Kathmandu to run a successful business and raise a family, is well respected in the village. This man is Anish Sharma and he has been an essential part of the development of THISWORLDEXISTS’ presence in Nepal.
If it weren’t for his constant enthusiasm, logistical genius, and incomparable in-depth knowledge of all things Nepal, our going here would be far tougher. Anish acted as an intermediary between us and the senior community members who are directly involved with the new school in Sorung Chhabise. The volunteer principal of the existing, underdeveloped school, Prem Khatiwoda, was understandably enthusiastic at the premise of a large, NGO-funded school with a modern curriculum for children of the village who could not afford or reach the nearby public school. Community enthusiasm and emotional investment was confirmed when a local man selflessly donated a package of land to us to extend the school grounds. This generous act was a humbling moment for us and made us realise just how important ‘education for all’ is to this community. With the local people behind us, it was time to get building.
Local Labour, Local Materials
Our volunteers love to get their hands dirty and work directly on the build phases of our education projects - but at the end of the day, at least 90% of the work is done by local labourers. This is an important part of our ethical obligation to local communities.
By employing and paying skilled local labourers we not only stimulate the village economy, but we keep those skills localised. In many developing countries there is a notable ‘brain drain’ where many intellectual and manual workers are leaving their villages, or even the country entirely to search for better opportunities abroad. This negatively affects the economy in rural areas, and separates families as many married couples may not see each other for years at a time, or, tragically, never again. By creating lucrative work opportunities where labourers can continue to live in their own homes with their families and use their skills to benefit their own community, we believe we are doing the right thing. We have heard of several NGOs who mostly utilise paying foreign volunteers to do the majority of the work, thus robbing local people and economies of job opportunities and money. We don’t want to make the same mistake, and usually the local labourers are so skilled in working with the landscape and materials, that they can work far more efficiently.
We also invest in local materials, sustainably sourcing construction essentials from the immediate area to where the school is located. Before the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, concrete was becoming king in Nepal. Reinforced concrete is an unsustainable construction method in earthquake prone areas, as many tragically discovered, and now people are being urged to use traditional materials such as masoned stone and bamboo to reconstruct their homes and other buildings. Authorities are also urging locals to utilise earthquake resistant designs such as braced corners, single storey construction, and roundhouses to minimise the impact of future earthquakes. Of course, concrete still needs to be used for mixing mortar, reinforcing bamboo joins, and swelling foundations; but the dependence on it is understandably diminishing. This also enables us to source more materials locally, thus driving down the overall cost of the school and further stimulating the local economy.
Luckily for us, our first two volunteers and project pioneers, Mavi and Simon; are sustainable design experts. Trained architects from Italy and Germany, they have a passion for utilising local materials and labour, which fit with our ethos perfectly.
The design they developed is earthquake resistant, with very deep foundations (shallow foundations are an issue with many buildings in Nepal) and a structure predominantly comprised of bamboo. Using bamboo keeps the structure light, so that less heavy detritus can come down on people’s heads in the event of an earthquake.
It also ensures structural flexibility, meaning that the building can flex in the event of a tremor, giving it a far better chance of standing than a heavier, more brittle structure. Add these attributes to the fact that we had an abundance of strong, local bamboo available to us - and we had a design we, and the community; were very happy with.
Bringing the Design to Life
With the community behind us, local labourers itching to work, and a sustainable, earthquake resistant design finalised, we were ready to commence construction. Simon, Mavi, and Suman (Anish’s brother) oversaw the the initial phases of construction, as the first building comprised of two classrooms began to take shape.
They worked tirelessly, not only managing the build but also labouring hard with the locals to bring our dream to life. By the time our first group of 8 THISWORLDEXISTS Adventurers arrived, the foundations, lower walls, and many of the structural pillars were already in place. In addition, the land had been levelled to make way for the additional buildings, and the adjacent field had been flattened by an excavator - a process that had been in the making for 50 years! The local community had been wanting a larger piece of flat land to be developed for so long but due to the always difficult Nepali bureaucratic process, a lack of funds, and disagreements within the community; it was delayed for decades. To celebrate, the locals even hosted an inter-village football tournament the week after the land had been levelled.
Our volunteers found themselves in a wide variety of roles during their time in Sorung Chhabise, and worked very hard during their time there, despite the blistering heat and notable culture shock. Digging new foundations, beginning work on the 28 metre long terrace, reinforcing bamboo joins with concrete, collecting stones from the riverside quarry, and moving heavy bamboo pillars into place are some examples of the work tasks that our volunteers engaged in. Always under the watchful eye of our architects and of course our skilled team of local labourers, our volunteers attacked the rewarding work with gusto, and really enjoyed themselves. The feedback from the work component of our September THISWORLDEXISTS Adventure was overwhelmingly positive and just shows how hard work for a good cause can produce immeasurable joy in those who participate.
The Next Phase
Due to the large size of the project in Sorung Chhabise, the build will continue under local management and labour, with intermittent visits from THISWORLDEXISTS volunteers; for at least several months. In addition, our January THISWORLDEXISTS Adventure will introduce 14 volunteers to the project, who will have the same fantastic work opportunities and roles as the group in September. Following their visit, construction will continue locally until complete, upon when we enter into Phase 2 of our education project.
At THISWORLDEXISTS we don’t just want to build schools, we want to support the community over many years by developing outwards from the new school itself. Developing and modernising the school curriculum, improving teaching and learning outcomes by ‘teaching the teachers’ and encouraging a progressive approach to learning, and constantly upgrading and maintaining school facilities and materials are just a few of our Phase 2 deliverables. Once the school is thriving, and children who previously had no access to education are receiving a world-class learning experience; we move into Phase 3 where we focus on wider community development. Using education as the crux of our approach, we will engage in improving adult education, hygiene and sanitation facilities and practices, sustainable road and electric infrastructure, food security, and more - cementing our relationship with the local community and delivering benefits for years to come.
Join us in Nepal
Our January group is itching to get to Nepal and be an active part of our education projects there, and we have many more dates in 2017 where you have the chance to come to Nepal for the adventure of a lifetime, and of course to make a positive impact on our projects.
Upcoming dates are:
April 1 - April 16
Sept 23 - Oct 8
Dec 30 - Jan 20 2018
If you’re travelling to Nepal independently and want to get involved with the volunteer-only component (construction work, teaching and learning support) in Sorung Chhabise, let us know! We have a variety of transport, accommodation, and donation packages to suit you; all managed through our safe and reliable logistics managers based in Nepal.
The thing I remember most was the smell of smoke. The smell that crept through closed windows and filled your nostrils with the scent of fear. I remember the dust that coated the highways and filled the air with floating particles of ash. The smell that turned a familiar home into an unfamiliar alternate reality. I remember the feeling of fearful anticipation, of waiting for the knock and the quick, ten minute evacuation warning as wildfire threatened to consume.
This area has seen a lot of hardship over the past few years. Between the wildfires that charred the trees and swallowed the trails and the floods that broke the dam and washed away the lake, Bastrop State Park is a charred remnant of its former self. But there sure is some beauty in the ashes.
The trickling stream crawled sluggishly across the red earth as I wandered the paths through the remains of what was once a lush, green forest of tall pines. Their charred limbs baked in the harsh sun of a hot Texas winter day. The further I walked along the caked, dry trail the more layers I shed as the temperatures continued to climb and shake off the chill mist of morning.
My puppy wandered here and there at the end of her leash -- darting unexpectedly at times across my path and creating an almost Three-Stooges scenario as I tried to avoid what seemed like an inevitable trip and fall.
I paused for short yoga breaks and moments of exploring and clambering across giant boulders as my puppy sat on the ground, ears twitching side to side in confusion about why she could not join me up high. The gravel trail crunched underneath my feet and then came the soft swishing of the sand in the dry paths between the leftover trees.
There is something so enchanting and haunting about walking through the crumbling remains of a once great forest. Almost like a great cathedral or ancient European castle fell into ruins - the magic and mystery of the place remains. Dry and broken limbs reached towards the sky as if reaching for something they couldn’t quite grasp - a desperate search for meaning amidst the chaos of life and loss. Green shoots poked their heads through the piles of dead, dry limbs as the landscape struggled to heal itself. A colorful reminder amidst the black and brown that life always wins eventually.
Written by Lauren Bringle. Photos also by Lauren. See more of her adventures on Instagram: @laurenbringleyoga
"Yet somehow I still remain cautiously optimistic. Maybe, just maybe, as a society we can learn from our mistakes and shift our perspective to one of caring for the natural world rather than taking it for granted. We need to stop looking at the environment as a resource or something that needs conquering, but instead of something that needs to be cared for - because it's a part of all of us." - Nick Zator
It's been a while since I've put together a film project. As soon as I decided to make another one, I knew my inspiration would be based on how I've continuously let myself run wild & free throughout nature's playground, inviting many friends along for the journey and meeting new inspiring superhumans along the way. This is a special one for me, and my focus this time around isn’t necessarily about dance, but rather the energy we absorb from Earth’s natural lands, and how it can move our souls in the most simplest of ways.
To take my "Tuesday night therapy" outside the comforts of a studio was a first for us. After we spent a few days creating indoors, we ventured off for 4 separate days of filming in various landscapes. With that said, this journey didn’t come without new challenges, obstacles, and lessons along the way. Choosing to create with film in the great outdoors puts you at risk for almost anything - namely the dangers of the wilderness and unexpected weather changes. I’m thankful for having assembled a group who were willing to get out of their comfort zones without hesitation.
The last set of movement projects I captured through film ranged from 2011 - 2013 and I have to admit, it was a bit scary coming back to this familiar territory after taking time away from it all. It almost seems foreign at first and then it slowly returns, but with the feeling of unease and doubt. To be completely open with your art, vision, purpose, and to share your personal work to the world can be overwhelming but ultimately, uplifting. I commend all artists out there who puts themselves in this position repeatedly.
I created this new project to serve as a simple reminder - if you enjoy the natural beauty of our home, please
"take care of our public lands, teach respect and the importance of conservation, take only photos and leave only footprints."
Conservation International states it best - Nature doesn't need people. People need nature.
We hope that our project motivates anyone who watches it to somehow explore more of what the Earth has to offer and take advantage of nature's free therapy. And if you already do this on a regular - cheers to you. Thanks for reading and for taking a closer look. Let's continue to take care of ourselves, each other, and our home. If you're ever craving an adventure, hit me up and let's take you away...
An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity, but great fulfillment. -David Attenborough
Last week, I think I fell in love all over again.
I’m not exactly sure if it was with a “who” or with a “what”. Maybe it was with both? But it happened, and it started above 10,000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So... what exactly happened?
That feeling happened.
You know, that feeling when you first allow love to slowly take over your system after some sort of connection, interaction, or exchange. All this time I thought I was already in love with the great outdoors, but for some reason, this recent experience re-opened my soul, knocked me out, took me to another level, and had me seeing stars, literally. It felt different, yet familiar.
Was it just a reminder of some sort, resurfacing it’s way to the top? Perhaps.
Was it the altitude sickness affecting my brain? I wouldn’t doubt it.
Was it mutual? Hmm... no clue. I unfortunately did not stick around long enough to ask.
But also, who says falling in love has to be with someone? We can all be capable of falling in love with a new city, a new country, a dog, song, a best friend, a restaurant, our craft, our home. Love can be anything. Love can be free.
And my heart as of late, has never felt this free in a long time. More wild, open, fluid, adaptable, and constantly curious.
I may have just fallen in love with this recent experience I had in the wilderness - which includes everything and everyone that was involved, intertwined with my childhood memories coming into the forefront.
Before I wrote this, I had finally finished unpacking my clothes out of my backpack, still heavily fragrant in campfire smoke, skillet-cooked meats, and burnt almond wood. My trip consisted of spending four days in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, approximately 6 hours away from where I live, disconnected from civilization, internet, traffic, and city pollutants.
We set up our home away from home next to Saddlebag Lake, which, on the opposite end nearly 2 miles away, holds the entrance to the 20 Lakes Basin in the Hoover Wilderness. To our west, the Tioga Pass entrance to a side of Yosemite I was excited to finally experience.
Along with me were 17 other colorful strangers & friends. We came together to unplug, and to strip ourselves of everything that society defined us to be. You put a handful of wild souls together from all over the map for several days, high above the treeline, and some beautiful things are bound to happen.
And something did happen.
So while it’s still fresh in the head, this is my brief poetic attempt in explaining my current state, in retracing my footsteps, in sharing my observations, in connecting the dots, and then, just letting it be...
So what exactly is my “love above 10,000 feet?”
In no special order...
It’s the weather playing mind games with you. Bi-polar, unapologetic, mysterious. No matter the circumstance, you’re prepared to either fight back or simply give in.
It’s pure, unfiltered, clean air. So fresh, that you’ll feel a tinge of suffocation when you return home because it instantly reminds you of something you’ve been living without for years.
It’s when the temperatures reach below freezing, and you accept it nonchalantly, because you have both the campfire and someone’s body warmth to make it all OK.
It’s your entire squad being unexpectedly separated in the open wild, and finding your comfort in a new friend.
It’s the moment when you realize that you’re going to be that last person falling behind on the trail. And when you look up, you find your friends adjust their pace to your level and push you all the way to the top.
It’s having an out-of-body, emotional experience simply by practising yoga outdoors. Natural ground with no mats, nature’s soundtrack and the scents of the Earth.
It’s meeting that married couple, whose support for each other is so addictive, adorable, and genuine, that it makes you rethink your own doubts on love & relationships.
It’s instantly connecting with someone for the first time, excited that by the end of the trip, you’ll be going home to the same county.
It’s also instantly connecting with someone for the first time, and then realizing that you’ll be going home to two different sides of the country.
It’s the sounds of water boiling in a pot, food sizzling on a cast-iron skillet, and coffee beans being ground by hand, ready to provide you fuel for your next trek.
It’s the childlike wonder. It’s re-entering your childhood, and re-living the memories of your family camping trips.
It’s meeting one of your best friends during your teenage years, growing up through your twenties, and finding yourselves together out here in your thirties.
It’s the mountains welcoming you, demanding your respect, and then embracing your every footstep.
It’s all the frustrations while trying to figure out the answers of childlike camp games.
It’s reuniting with friends you haven’t seen in a few years. It’s reconnecting with people who were meant to be in your life.
It’s jumping in the lake no matter how crazy it seems or how cold the water is, and coming back out with all of your senses fully stimulated.
It’s waking up next to your friend cuddling with your pack, and then low-key wishing it was you instead because you’re freezing your a** off.
It’s relishing the moments with your group in slow motion.
It’s the simple joy of having theme days (i.e. flannel day) on your trips, no matter how old you are.
It’s those surprisingly deep talks you share with someone as you make your way back to your campsite, and then slowing down your pace because you just don’t want the conversation to end.
It’s live music around the campfire and on the trails.
It’s your new friend giving you a personal kayak lesson, no matter how many times you think you know the way. It’s that friend who chooses your safety first over everything.
It’s the altitude completely wiping you out, and then suddenly breathing life back into your system.
It’s cleansing your whole being, while laying inside a natural hot spring.
It’s when you disconnect to reconnect with your soul through nature.
It’s the continuous flow of learning, growth, and acceptance that the outdoors can provide.
It’s the feeling of being humbled just by looking above and beyond. That personal reminder of how small of a speck you are in this world.
It’s the million stars sky high above your head, with nightly viewings of the Milky Way Galaxy and shooting stars so close you can feel it’s speed.
It’s when all of your personal expectations and all of the world’s distractions quietly fade into the background, and you’re able to finally see the forest past the trees.
It’s when you live for these moments. For newness. For that next adventure.
It’s when you realize that going outside...simply feels like going home.
An incredible feeling has to be shared. Wandering through dense jungle foliage, every turn of the corner looked the same as the last. This made us feel lost in the green expanse, yet safe with how effortlessly our guides led us through.
Located in southern Cambodia, the Cardamom Mountains express unique, pristine environments. Each day we trekked to a new waterfall, a welcoming retreat from the hot, moist tropical climate. We hastily leapt into deep rock pools and showered under powerful streams of water, taking care not to slip on the mossy rock below.
Despite our reluctance to part with this beautiful piece of Earth, we said goodbye and moved on to our next leg of the trip. We arrived at the Boeung Kunchang Primary School, remotely located in the Koh Kong Province on Cambodia, not too far from the mountains we'd been so strongly attached to.
We were welcomed with open arms and open hearts from the moment we arrived. Smiling faces were everywhere, the kids eager to start a football match under the hot and heavy midday sun. Keen to get to work, we delegated tasks and from that point on it felt like the work never stopped.
We chipped away at walls, dug up ground, slapped on paint, and sweated incessantly. The kids wanted to help out too, filling up water buckets, painting walls and mischievously playing tricks with us. We struggled to keep up with their non-stop energy!
After four days of intensive manual labour, litres of sweat and isles of smiles, the school had a refurbished library to move in to, freshly painted classrooms, and a brand new sanitation block to put to use once school resumes. Our vision was to transform the school into something the students and staff could be proud of. The success of this project was a testament to the passion held by the students, staff and volunteers to deliver and improve access to education in Cambodia.
Written by Renae Verboon. Photos by Tom Jessett.
Check out more of Tom's photography and adventures on Instagram: @trex.photography.
Click here to find out more about our upcoming trips to Cambodia.
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Many times, a 144 mile drive would seem pointless if there isn’t a worthwhile destination at the end. But the Icefields Parkway (HWY 93) is far from pointless. It's 144 miles of beauty found no where else. That's why we spent over 360 miles on this highway during our time in Banff & Jasper National Park.
When you begin your drive north from Banff National Park onto the Icefields Parkway, you will be resisting temptation to stop and take pictures after every turn. But don’t be distracted too easily. Before you know it, you may have spent your entire day chasing only a fraction of the beauty.
As you continue on, and the scenery changes, you'll be able to utilize the highway pullouts to capture the beauty. Your first lake will appear in the distance, Hector Lake.
Your second lake will be a better view, Bow Lake. Which you'll be able to view from the road, or the parking lot that provides a different angle. While there, you can even trek and get a closer look of Bow Glacier.
As you continue ahead, take a moment to turnout to Bow Summit and take the short wander to a lookout of Peyto Lake, and its jaw-dropping peaks. Don’t rush—the quick changing weather may reward you with a variety of views.
Once you have your Peyto Lake fix, continue back onto the highway and reengage in the Icefields Parkway beauty. But don’t get too comfortable in the driver’s seat, you will likely develop an urge to pull over at Waterfowl Lake too.
As the lakes taper off, continue your drive up to Jasper. You will be rewarded with more beautiful peaks and glaciers. If you get tired of driving, pull over and enjoy the views or take a walk to the Athabasca Glacier (noticing how much it has receded from 1982—it is impressive!).
Before entering Jasper, catch a glimpse of Sunwapta Falls.
Shortly after, park and take a stroll to check out Athabasca Falls and its canyon.
Once at Jasper, enjoy some refreshments in the quaint little town. When you’re ready to head back, don’t dread the miles. The road may be the same, but the new direction will add an enormous level of novelty.
So sit back, push that gas pedal and enjoy!
Written by Michael Demidenko. Photos also by Michael.
See more of Michael's adventures and photography on Instagram: @michael_goesoutside
If you like animals, peaks, lakes and not getting lost, Glacier National Park might be for you. Just make sure to pack your bear mace.
At Glacier National Park, the Going to the Sun Road will take you through the heart of the park. You’ll barely notice the 50 miles from East to West—the views are incredible. You can turn out and enjoy as you go. But don’t take too long, parking fills up fast!
If you start early, you can catch the beautiful sunrise illuminating peaks while avoiding the traffic. An early start many times will get you to your destination in half the time.
If you happen to arrive when the park is covered in dense clouds, don’t worry! Take some time and explore some of the waterfalls. The St. Mary Falls trail will take you to a couple beautiful waterfalls. First, you will encounter St. Mary Falls, plunging into a beautiful blue pool beneath a wooden bridge.
A little under 2 miles later, you will reach Virginia Falls.
When you begin your sunny day explorations, don’t ignore the Many Glacier side of Glacier NP. Beautiful adventures and light crowds await. Here you can hike out to Grinnell Glacier, several lakes, and the Granite Park Chalet via the Swiftcurrent Pass—all of which are great choices!
Be attentive during your hike and soak in the beauty.
If you start early, always remember to make extra noise around corners – just in case bears are around. Although we didn't see one, the people ahead of us on the trail did. Extra noise = less risk of startling them. But bears aren’t the only animals you may encounter; we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of moose.
Depending on your planned hiking adventures, make an effort to hike the Highline Trail at Logan’s Pass. If you don’t intend on a backpacking trek, this is a worthwhile day adventure.
Mountain goats and marmots will likely greet you along your trek.
At the end of the day when you’re exhausted, pit stop at McDonald Lake for a sunset.
Written by Michael Demidenko. Michael is a THISWORLDEXISTS Ambassador. See more of his adventures and photography on Instagram: @michael_goesoutside
I think I just found my new favourite spot, Alligator Creek, Bowling Green Bay NP. This place delivered on so many levels and I can’t wait to visit again!
Don’t worry! Despite the name, there are no Alligators to be found here - just beautiful spots to lay in the sun and swim in the beautifully clear fresh water. A nice surprise was the variety of cool fish. The snorkel goggles came in handy.
A number of amazing hikes are on offer here, including one of Queensland’s highest peaks, Mt. Elliot via the famous Alligator Falls. If you’d prefer just to relax in the campground, you’ll see some amazing wildlife.
Only a quick 20 minute drive from Townsville, I can’t recommend this place enough for anyone travelling in Northern Queensland. There is something here to please anyone.
Note: The walking track to Alligator Falls is currently closed but scheduled to reopen on the 22nd of July.
Written by Joe Park
See more of Joe's adventures on Instagram: @j.park16
Patagonia is a hard place to put into words. On my second trip, I was deeply moved by my initial experiences here so I had apprehensions about my return.
Had I set my expectations too high? Was I going to get the same feelings I had coursing through my veins on the first trip? Was I going to lose interest due to the "already been there, already seen that" factor?
The flight to Santiago is pretty standard. Long hours, uncomfortable sleep, and heaps of ocean. It's coming into Santiago though, that's when you start to perk up. The descent gives you a sneak peak of mountains and volcanoes off in the distance and you start to get the jitters.
The flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas is where the scale of this place becomes real. Flying along a section of the Andes makes you realise it's size, with 500 peaks over 6000 meters, this place is seriously intimidating.
It's then that the Patagonian ice-field starts to come into view. This scene is indescribable, it seems never-ending. It's the second largest ice field outside the poles. Home to countless kilometres of glaciers, crevasses and ice falls, it's like looking into another time period. A time period of which is disappearing before our eyes.
We decided to keep things simple and hang around Lake Pehoe. I've never experienced wind like this before. Watching it race across the water and nearly knocking us over was something I'll never forget.
Another unforgettable experience was a frightening puma encounter. Jay, Trent and myself were cruising around the Pehoe camp ground when my torch caught two giant green eyes. Instantly I froze in my tracks. Pumas are not know for attacking humans, but that holds no weight to the initial reaction you get when you bump into one.
It's a feeling I will never forget, a humbling experience and probably one of the best of the trip. A feeling that the entire situation was down to him, we had no control over any of it. It came down to the fact that if he wanted to, he could easily take us. The puma continued on its way and we were left to pick our jaws up off the ground.
One thing I love more than seeing a place for me is the reactions of other people. When the crew arrived it was amazing to see everyone on cloud nine. It reminded of the initial feelings I had for this place and it drives home why I love what I do.
We spent the next couple of days exploring the Pehoe area. With mixed conditions we managed to snag a couple more shots to add to my portfolio. I'm still pinching myself over one of the best sunrises I've ever seen.
We then made the long hike up to Torres del Paine and the Three Towers the park is named after. The weather held and unbelievably we got a second bumper sunrise.
Our last journey for Torres deal Paine was over the Glacier Grey on the other side of the park. We spent a night exploring the walks and marvelled at the glacier for set viewing points. The next day, however, was the money ticket, the boat taking us on a round trip in front of the glaciers face. This one completely blew my mind.
The glacier itself is 27km long, 25km of that its on land, the rest is floating on the lake. It's on average 500mm wide. Last year it lost 13m of its height across the entire glacier, and retreated 130m in length. It's frightening to witness the planet change so rapidly.
Then it was onto Argentina. The border crossing alone from Chile to Argentina is hilarious, these two countries don't exactly get along so my interpretation is that both refuse to fund the roads in the 10km "buffer zone" between the two boarder control stations. This results in a poorly maintained dirt road between two highways. Wait till you go there, it's hilarious.
The drive from the border to el Chalten is long and pretty flat, about 2 hours out peaks start to materialise on the horizon. We drove through the most incredible light piercing the clouds as we pulled into town. Although magical, it was the start of a fairly decent storm.
We hiked up to Laguna Torres in the hope the clouds would lift in the next couple of days and we'd get a chance to again shoot Cerro Torres. They did lift.... On the last morning at that spot. It's actually pretty rare to get clear days so we were lucky we got anything at all.
After a quick pit stop in town we start back off on the final journey. With one of the boys feet completely covered in blisters it was a slow walk in. Eventually, we made it to Pinochet, a campsite at the very base of Mt Fitzroy.
By now we were all growing pretty tired from the trip and used the last two days of camping as a bit of a kick back and relax time. I got a tent shot and on the last afternoon we were blessed with yet again another crazy sunset.
Written by Jake Anderson, a THISWORLDEXISTS Ambassador. See more of Jake's adventures and photography on Instagram: @jakeandersonphotography
Some of the most fun I've ever had has been on last minute weekend getaways. They're the kind where you hit up your friend a few days before and wonder whether they've felt "the urge" too. You know the one.
The urge to break free from concrete dunes, to forget about last week's gossip, to distract from looming Mondayitis. That urge to kiss the air and hug the trees, to love to the wilderness and let it love you back.
The old red Toyota Landcruiser squeaked as Chrissie, my adventure pal and inexperienced driver, crunched it in to third gear. The sun was out, hot for April in south-eastern Australia. Perfect conditions for a mountain getaway.
The air around Cathedral Range State Park was distinctly scented by Eucalyptus and road-dust, reminding us that we were well away from Melbourne. Headed North, we looked to our right and were stunned by the enormous mountain formation next to us. Jagged rocks jutted out along the length of the mountain range, like the scales on a Stegosaurus' back.
Ned's Gully camp-ground emptied of day visitors a few hours after our arrival - and with that, we had an entire camp-site almost to ourselves, except for the curious Kookaburra waiting for us to drop our crumbs.
Bright and early the next day, we'd met about 15 creatures in less than an hour. A pack of Kangaroos of varying sizes on our way to the outhouse, and two hikers making their way back to their car. We shortened their way as we lengthened our own - reaching the car park to the razorback climb. Bracing ourselves, we tightened our straps and pulled up our socks and walked.
Somewhere we took a wrong turn, and rather than exploring some awesome caves, we dangerously climbed a few rock-faces to get to the peak. The trail was little more than scrub and rock, making it difficult to navigate. Our sense of direction relied solely upon previous hiker's track marks and the only way being up.
Sugarloaf Peak was spectacular, and the conditions were perfect. A stunning view of the Razorback was before us, with a hazy horizon providing a eerie feel to our surroundings. While Cathedral Range doesn't host the tallest mountains in the world, it still managed to deliver on everything we were out there for: the opportunity to enjoy nature's finest with a great friend.
Wondering where to spend that free weekend? Dreaming of a place to get lost on your week off? Or maybe you’re lucky enough to live near Sydney and looking to kill some time after a day at the grindstone. Look no further than the Blue Mountains.
I was fortunate enough to find myself exploring this amazing location on a recent trip to New South Wales. I was astonished when I learned these magical mountains were only a short hour and a half drive or train ride from Sydney!
hether you’re after an adrenaline packed adventure trip abseiling down waterfalls, a quiet relaxing break from the bustle of city life, an afternoon of shopping in one of the beautiful townships neighbouring the mountains, or a bush walk through some amazing Australian scrub, the Blue Mountains has it all.
I found myself staying in one of the many hostels in Katoomba, a gorgeous little town situated in what feels like the heart of the mountains, from here you can map out exactly what you plan on accomplishing on your stay. Visiting one of the many adventure companies in town will have you swinging from a rope down a deep canyon in only a matter of days. Or you might head out for a 3 day trek into the scrub learning about the native animals, fauna and indigenous history of the land.
A short 10 minute drive or half hour walk will find you at Echo Point gazing in awe at the Three Sisters, from here you can set out on a number of different bush walks all offering their own unique experiences, waterfalls, cascades and hidden oasis’ are just some of the things you can expect to find.
I found myself happy to just wander around without much consideration of where I was headed. Not once in the 150km covered in the 4 days was I disappointed with where my feet led me. I do recommend a certain degree of fitness if you are planning on heading out on a waterfall hunt. To get to the base of Wentworth Falls, for example, requires a steep descent down a flight of stairs you could comfortably climb like a ladder, some tracks even requiring anchor points to tie off ropes to!
As I sat and watched a magical sunset from Boars Head lookout I found myself gazing upon the scorched remnants of the tree line along the west facing cliffs. It was a subtle reminder of the power of mother nature and her unforgiving force. I was overcome with a sense of insignificance to the vastness of these mountains, as I set off for my next adventure I can only hope to be engulfed in such beauty again.
Until next time I’m losing myself to nature’s beauty.
Written by Kris Penn. Check out more of Kris' photography and adventures on Instagram: @kris_penn
Surrounded by mountains, Lake Eildon really is a serene place to visit, whether you're camping, on a houseboat or in a caravan. Although it’s a small town, holiday periods attract hoards of eager adventure-seekers to the area, keen to explore the pristine surroundings.
Lake Eildon offers two completely different options, relaxation or hiking. Amongst those hikes are incredible mountain views that myself and many others would take over relaxation any day. However, if hiking isn’t your thing there’s always plenty more fun to be had including water activities such as jet-skiing, canoeing, water skiing, wakeboarding, boating etc. The list goes on.
Along with hikes comes lookouts, and certainly some great ones. Different hikes with spectacular lookout views include: Blowhard Circuit (22km), Estate Spur Circuit (8.5km), Cook Point to High Camp (10.5km), Rock Peak and the Pinnacle (7.3km). these hikes range from roughly 4-8 hours and you will need to be well prepared for them.
Located roughly 250km from the Melbourne CBD, night time is the perfect opportunity to get amongst it with the camera. Being so far away from populated cities and towns mean that the stars are noticeably more visible. The Milky Way can also be spotted, and while it's not as visible to the naked eye, it shows up on camera much clearer and makes for a great photo subject.
Lake Eildon is a perfect getaway - a must see Victorian treasure. To say you need to visit here would be an understatement.
Written by Ben Hawkes. Photos also by Ben.
See more of Ben's adventures on Instagram: @ben_hawkes
Have you ever wondered what it is like to attend a THISWORLDEXISTS adventure?
Our combination of adventure travel and supporting education projects in disadvantaged communities is something we are really proud of and have put together a concise summary of our recent trip to Nepal.
We look forward to continuing to support education projects throughout a range of countries in disadvantaged communities throughout the world and value the ongoing support of our community to travel with us, to support our fundraising by purchasing our products that fund our work or simply donating directly to our projects.
Do you want to join us on our next Nepal trip?
September 17 - October 1st 2016
Whether you visit in the morning, afternoon or even at night, there's something breathtaking around every bend and atop every mountain. Situated inland from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, here are four different peaks in the Glasshouse Mountains National Park that are open for scrambling:
1. Wildhorse Mountain
A short 300m steep concreted walk brings you atop this mountain. On the peak is a fire lookout that gives you stunning 360 degree views.
2. Mt Ngungun
It takes about 20-30 minutes to summit Mt Ngungun going at a brisk pace. After scrambling the last few metres, you're greeted by breathtaking views of Mt Coonowrin and Mt Beerwah. This is a favourite amongst locals to watch the sunset.
3. Mt Tibrogargan
Tibrogargan can either be scrambled up one elevation which will take you approximately 1-2 hours, maybe less if you're quick on your feet. For more of a challenge, it can be climbed using ropes up the opposite face.
4. Mt Beerwah
Recently re opened to the public, Mt Beerwah is the highest of all the Glasshouse Mountains and provides sweeping views of the landscape below. With its added height is added difficulty, the first few hundred metres are a near vertical scramble up some incredibly slippery rock. If you can get over your fear of heights then push on to be rewarded at the summit!
This group of mountains are surrounded by pine plantations which are also great for exploring both by 4x4 and on foot.
So what are you waiting for?
Written by Matt Lamberth. Photos also by Matt.
Check out more of Matt's adventures and photography on Instagram: @lambyyyy_
Maui, Hawaii - Normally you'd think of beaches, waterfalls, snorkelling, and sun. I had similar images in my mind prior to researching adventures on the Emerald Isle. With a bit of research a much more unique adventure stood out to me, catching a sunrise from the summit of Haleakala.
Haleakala is a 10,023 foot dormant volcano that makes up roughly 75% of the island of Maui. Haleakala is believed to have last erupted in the 17th century but the signs of volcanic activity can still be seen in this amazingly beautiful and stark environment. Few places on earth allow you to stand on the summit of a volcano, watch the clouds beneath you, and see the sun illuminate fields in a Mars-like illusion.
Here are some tips to help you on your way:
1. Get there early
Our first attempt failed because we got to the park too late. Lines begin to form on the entry road up to 2 hours before sunrise. This number is reduced in the off season but do not underestimate the time it will take to get there. Parking lots will fill, too. If you’re like me and enjoy taking pictures get there early to grab some night shots...it's a great excuse and ensured success.
2. Decide where you'll watch from before you arrive
Because of environmental sensitivity, people are expected to stay on marked paths and pullouts. The three places you can park, walk, and shoot from are the true summit, the Haleakala visitor center, and the Kalahaku overlook. My favorite spot was the little hill that rises from visitor center but each are unique vantage points.
3. Be prepared for cold, wet conditions.
10,023 gets chilly, especially standing outside waiting for the sunrise. There was frost on the ground, and as mentioned before, clouds are below you. Sometimes these clouds come up to greet you creating a very wet and windy morning. The clouds obscured the sunrise on my second and third attempts so be prepared for cold and wet conditions!
4. Look around
When the conditions cooperate you can look across the channel with the big Island and see Mauna Kea, the largest and (from the base) tallest Mountain in the world. Also, if you have binoculars or a telephoto lens, looking into the clouds below you as the sun starts to rise reveals and amazing looking scene. Looking behind you can often result in beautiful rainbows and the earth's shadow. There is A LOT to see up there!
If you watch the forecast, get there early, get to your spot, are prepared for cold weather, and look at the beauty all around you will be able to witness one of those most amazing experiences in the world. Make sure you let that sink in and keep the smile on your face!
Written by Eric Schuette
You can see more of Eric's adventures on Instagram: @ericschuettephotography
These two words kept popping up as I searched for hikes on a last-minute trip to Oahu.
News was popping up about people of all hiking abilities dying on ridges when they slipped, the lava rock crumbling in their hand or the wind blowing them over the edge.
The warnings didn't stop me.
Here are five ridges worth doing to test your island mettle:
1. Olamana Three Peaks
If you’re determined and the weather is wet, consider starting this one by 5:30 a.m. to bypass a guard who may close off the trail-head. The first half mile kept us on flat, muddy ground until gradually sloping up a hill and over two vertical sections of class 2/3 rock. There were fixed ropes to help but the slick mud was a hindrance.
It’s a mile and a half to the top of the first peak. The 360 degree views of the Windward side will leave you breathless.
Next up is a 15-minute jaunt to the second peak, which is unimpressive in light of its neighbouring peaks, and resembles more of a hump than a mountain.
It's a steep climb down on the back of peak 2 but it’s assisted by three sections of ropes, so fear not. The ridge narrows considerably here and it’s easy to miss the sheer drop-offs on either side because they’re obscured by foliage.
Traversing a rock pillar and climbing one last section of vertical rock will deposit you atop the third peak.
2. Pali Notches
This trail starts behind a sign insisting it’s not a trail just before the Pali Lookout. If you’re OK with that, trudge up a slick, muddy hill and then wind your way through shrubbery – use the branches to help haul yourself up.
The first manmade notch arrives soon and it’s an easy climb down and short walk to the second notch. The views are best here so if you’re already testing your comfort level, stop.
If you want to keep going, use the fixed rope leading down the back of the notch but be warned - it doesn’t reach the ground and there is a serious drop-off below.
Be sure to look behind and see the shorter, more frequented Pali Puka trail. If you venture further, the ridge narrows but will take you to Konauhanui.
3. Crouching Lion
Killer views of Kahana Bay come immediately but don’t stop at the overlook or rock formation. Keep going until you reach the summit of Pu’u Manamana. The hike leads straight up the hill and then stretches across the ridge. There are a few sections of rock scrambling but it shouldn’t be a problem for most hikers.
4. Ka’au Crater
Although the views were beautiful, the journey makes this hike worth it. It goes through a forest, crosses a stream several times and passes two waterfalls before forcing you to scramble up a third waterfall. Once you’ve done that, turn right and begin the loop across the crater’s rim.
The climb can be steep in places but fixed ropes are in place to give your legs a breather. The Jurassic Park-style hills and a birds-eye view into the meadow-filled crater should be enough to distract you. Follow the trail until you see a pink ribbon and then head down the ridge and out a different forest trail. You’ll end up near your starting point at the stream.
5. Kuli’ou’ou Ridge
This made our list because it involved zero risk during a downpour. The trail follows the ridge but it’s well-maintained and even includes a series of stairs leading to the summit. From there, you can see Waimanalo, Koko Head Crater and the Mokuluas.
Written by Stacia Glenn
Unlike most mountaineering adventures, mine started with 2 weeks of backpacking around the Caribbean coast, through the jungles of Chiapas and onto the Pacific coast in Oaxaca. After 2 weeks “de-acclimating” at sea level, I flew into Mexico City and shortly after was in a rover on my way to the mountains.
Mexico’s five highest summits are four inactive and one (very) active volcanoes. Looking to climb over 15,000ft, I set my sights on:
Nevado de Toluca – 15,350ft
Iztaccihuatl – 17,160ft
Pico de Orizaba – 18,490ft.
My first summit trip was Iztaccihuatl. The amazing Izta-Popo National Park takes only a few hours to reach from Mexico City. The road winds up through a huge forest to the saddle between the volcanoes. Settling in to La Joya basecamp at 13,000ft you can really appreciate the scale of both Izta, “the white woman” and Popo, “the smoking warrior.”
Legend has it that Popo was a great warrior who went off to war. The princess of their tribe, Izta, was told that Popo died in battle. She then died of sadness. When Popo returned, he was so heartbroken that he carried her to the top of the mountain and then died beside her. Flying over these mountains, Itza resembles a woman on her side while Popo routinely erupts steam and smoke.
As with all big mountains, climbing Itza begins with an alpine start. There’s no better way to climb than under the brilliance of the stars. Nothing but our headlamps guided us as we moved up the mountain cautiously over the steep terrain. Several hours into our climb - fighting off altitude headaches with little more than water and well wishes - the sun began to rise. The sunrise created a silhouette of Mexico’s highest mountain off in the distance. It’s easy to tell why they call this route “La Arista de Sol” or “The Ridge of the Sun.”
This route is a long, psychological climb full of false summits. At the full mercy of my poor acclimation strategy, I was exhausted and running on sheer willpower. Every time I managed to peel my eyes from the ground and look around, I was filled with the joy and reward of this challenge. My favourite part of the climb was an easy low-angle snowfield crossing where I strapped on crampons and trotted along.
After 2 weeks of beaches, being back on the snow gave me the surge of energy I needed for the final push toward the summit. I had never been at this altitude before and the feeling climbing up onto the summit block was one I’ll never forget. One thing I also never forget is that the summit is only halfway! After a short, emotional break, hugging and taking in the view, we turned around and started the much less glamorous trek home.
15+ miles, 4,000+ ft of elevation, and 15 hours later I came to a stop back at our basecamp. There was an overwhelming feeling of success. During the descent my head felt better as my legs felt worse. We gave out high-fives, hugs and tears as we ate and drank hot tea. Packing up and heading home, I knew that I was now addicted to high altitude climbing.
Written by Stephen Underhay
See more of Stephen's adventures on Instagram: @stephenunderhay
The sky was a deep blue and huge white crowns were within a seemingly reachable distance. We resisted the urge to clutch at these monsters whilst the morning sun began to spread a glowing amber haze on the entire landscape. Detail and deep beauty continued to be amplified during this stunning pre dawn earth show that was unfolding right in front of our eyes.
Schoolyard sounds of excitement, amazement and pure wonder woke the rest of our group that hadn't made the most rewarding 5:30am wake up in human history.
Annapurna South, Annapurna I and Macchupucchre were slowly being undressed, becoming increasingly exposed by the rising sun.
Fissures, cornices and avalanche debris could be spotted clearly on these towering mountain faces that stretched high into the deep blue sky.
Countless steps, heavy packs, bone chilling cold and sweat soaked clothing was rewarded in droves with the world's best sunrise location; the Himalaya.
Prior to leaving on our trek we explored the stunning Davis Falls of Pokhara. Despite in the middle of winter and the Nepali dry season, the waterfall still thumped down it's shallow river and plunged deep into the earth below us.
Leaning over the rail, water tumbled into a deep, dark and intriguing ravine. It took no words to agree on exploring further to find a way inside the cave.
The winter air was crisp but once inside the tunnel entrance to the cave, humidity and air temperature spiked dramatically. Sweat followed.
Peering at the tumbling waterfall from deep inside the underground cavern was a highlight of Pokhara. Our group had no idea of just how spoilt we would be for waterfalls over the coming days trekking in the Himalaya.
Ancient moss covered forest framed snow capped mountain views during our incredible Himalayan adventure.
Cloud passed through the high ridge line trails that led us up and down countless steps, through a forest that seemed like it came straight from a children's book and continued to lead us from one postcard scene to another.
Waterfalls were the biggest surprise of our trek. Leaping out from the forest and into crystal clear blue water that was ice cold.
Some of our bravest guests made it a ritual to bathe in as many of these natural showers that they could find during the hike. It would have been great to help loosen up tired legs after a long days trek. Others enjoyed an equally ice cold Everest beer.
The Himalaya are the roof of the world, Mt Everest being the highest of them all. Whilst our trek was not in the Everest region, scale is quickly thrown out the window when you are amongst these stunning peaks.
Dhaulagiri (8,167m/26,795ft) was the highest we got to see and is ranked 7th in the world's highest peaks. Annapurna was the second tallest we saw and is the 10th highest in the world at a monstrous 8,091m above sea level.
Any words would not do these mountains justice. Just check out some of these views!
THISWORLDEXISTS Nepal trek started in Nayapool where the group began hiking to Tikhedhunga for our first night in the Himalaya. Ghorepani was our next destination that provided close proximity for our pre dawn hike to Poon Hill for sunrise. After sunrise, we made our way to Tadapani then returned to Nayapool via Ghandrung.
We would love for you, your friends and family to join our next Nepal trip - please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to notify us of your interest.
Like no other, the southernmost Australian state is an island filled with epic adventures just waiting to be explored.
In 10 days I circumnavigated the incredible coastline of Tasmania in a 4WD in search of the most beautiful scenery I could point my camera at. 2500km of driving started in Hobart, the capital city. 100GB of photos later, here are the essentials for an epic Tasmanian experience.
1. South West Wilderness
I just found your dreamland...
The South West wilderness area is as remote as remote gets, with 4500 square km of nature, jaw dropping scenery and not a town in sight. It’s so incredible that it's listed a world heritage area, meeting 7 out of the 10 criteria! The reason this place is so epic and remote? No roads!
If you want to get here you have two options: Hike the staggering 85km South Coast track over 9 days, or get a light aircraft to drop you there from Hobart! Due to time constraints, we had to opt for the scenic flight with ParAvionTas. A lot less dedicated, but it sure was incredible to view from the air flying in! Once there, you have breathtaking scenery, incredible hiking and mirror perfect reflections on the water to feast your eyes on!
2. Great Eastern Drive
Flying back into Hobart from the South West, it was time to drive North via the Great Eastern Drive. This stretch was just voted the best in Australia! As soon as you hit the coast it’s not hard to see why. Beach after beach via small country towns scatter along the coast as you drive along! Then arriving at Freycinet National Park, home to Wineglass Bay and the Hazards mountain range. It’s yet another jaw drop moment.
If you want the best views of Wineglass bay, hiking is the best option, you can get to a relatively easy one within a 25min stroll, but for real awesome views climb Mount Amos and see for miles! To get the full experience, a boat trip around the Freycinet Peninsula to Wineglass bay is a must, not only can you see the area's scale, enormous cliffs and the remarkable views of Wineglass Bay, you also see heaps of marine life. Being joined by a pod of several thousand dolphins was a bucket list tick for me anyway!
What really blows people away by the East Coast is that it never seems to end. But if you can only do one more location, make it the Bay of Fires. Dreamy turquoise waters meet lichen covered rocks and white sandy beaches that make you never want to leave!
3. Cradle Mountain National Park and Surrounds
If you're after the iconic Tassie, then you best get yourself to Cradle Mountain national park, just like we did. But don’t forget to stop at one of Australia’s best waterfalls, Liffey Falls! Located between Launceston and Cradle Mountain, this series of waterfalls is the picture perfect Tasmania scene, where luscious rainforest meets beautiful falls.
Once you have the fill of waterfall goodness, stick that jumper on and head to the mountains! Cradle village and Dove Lake sit 900m above sea level, so even in the summer it can be a bit chilly. You'll meet epic views across Dove Lake to the monstrous Cradle mountain.
This area is hiking heaven, so pack your trekking gear and be prepared to see some of Tasmania’s finest scenery along with its native wildlife. If you have a real sense of adventure, get on the Overland track. 65km of amazingness from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, that’s going on my next itinerary for sure!
4. Tarkine Coast
Tasmania’s Northwest is the meeting of the gentle, dreamy sandy stretches of beach from the Northern coastline to the extremely dramatic, windswept gnarly rocks of the West Coast!
To appreciate this in all its epicness I took a helicopter over the area to get the full extent of the contrast, what my eyes looked down on blew my mind! This has to be one of the coolest scenic flights in Australia, just for sheer epic contrast alone.
The aptly named ‘Edge of the World’ was our destination! Open seas all the way to South America really makes you feel alive when you clamber up the huge, jagged rocks to take a look out at sea. With waves breaking into a foamy mess for hundreds of meters out into the ocean it was hard to get the camera out rather than just sit and take it all in!
This stretch of coast in the Tarkine is known to be some of the wildest in Australia, creating some of the coolest looking land formations. A stop at the notorious Sarah Anne Rocks was a no-brainer before we left the region.
5. Central West Coast and Highlands
The last stop before returning to Hobart is the enchanting town of Strahan. Home to the longest beach in Tasmania, a harbour five times the size of Sydney’s and the world famous Gordon River.
Ocean Beach is unmissable to really appreciate a West Coast sunset in all its glory. After a cruise down the Gordon River, you'll never want to leave! If you're hungry for more, you also have unreal waterfalls to visit before tripping back to Hobart. Hogarth and Nelson Falls are both epic, I highly recommend them!
It’s not hard to see why Tasmania should be done before you die. Release your inner adventure and get over to the Island state!
Written by Tom Jessett.
Travel and landscape photography is my game, if you want to see all the photos and hear more of my stories on the road, tune in to my social media channels!
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