Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A holiday at home

Me and Grandma
Me and Grandma
My amazing grandma turned 70 last Friday, and although she's not one to make a fuss, she'd planned a big party for months, and so I had to make the journey back up north. As I had quite a bit of holiday left to use (I'd saved a lot for Nepal in October, so when that got moved to May, I had a lot left over), and because I don't come back up very often, I decided to extend my stay for a week, rather than just a weekends as I normally do.

I love this little part of the world; when I'm in Brighton, the one thing I miss the most is the hills. I do like the coast, but the sea and I don't really get on (I get sea-sick, and the taste of the salt makes me sick). I've lived in the middle of the Pennines all my life, and find it very strange to not be surrounded by the countryside.

So where is home? I get asked this a lot down south, and most people have never heard of it. It's also quite tricky to explain, as a lot of the towns don't actually know where they are. I grew up in Littleborough, a quiet village that's part of Rochdale in Lancashire (or Greater Manchester - whatever it feels like at the time).

When I was 19, my Mum and Stepdad moved over the hill (about 15 minutes' drive) to Ripponden, a tiny village in the middle of the Pennines in West Yorkshire. My nan and brother are in Littleborough, my Dad and his fiancee are in Rochdale, and my grandparents are in Walsden, which can't decide whether it's in Lancashire or West Yorkshire. You see my dilemma.

Whatever you call it, this part of the world is stunning, and will always be home. There are hundreds of walks, right out of my door, and the views are beautiful. It's a pain in the backside to get anywhere (unless you have a car), but everywhere around here is worth a visit. It's full of quirky, independent shops, picturesque villages and amazing communities.

It's quite handy having a dog, as he makes me go out and explore, and no matter the weather I always love it. (I often wait for it to rain until I go out, as I love it and it means there will be fewer people around). There's nothing better for the soul, than walking through the woods, in the rain, in the autumn, with a dog. Perfect.                                                    

Countryside West Yorkshire

Littleborough isn't bad for walks either; I met my grandma for lunch the other day, and we walked to Hollingworth Lake along the canal, walked round it, then walked back to Littleborough through Ealees. Hollingworth Lake is a huge man-made body of water in Littleborough, built in Victorian times to supply water to the Rochdale Canal, and is used for a huge amount of watersports (I myself went rowing on there for around 5 years). It was a massive part of my childhood, as any walks usually meant a walk around the lake; it's not just been a part of my childhood, but also my parents' and grandparents'. My dad apparently swam across it when he was younger (mental!) and my grandad and uncle used to windsurf on it                        

Another of my favourite places is Hebden Bridge. Since I moved to Brighton, I can massively see the similarities between the two; both have a large LBGT community, are a bit odd and quirky, have a large concentration of independent shops (I think the only chain shops in Hebden are Boots and the Co-Op) and both have the same community feel.

This was particularly evident in Hebden Bridge during the Tour de France earlier this year; everywhere you went there were yellow bikes, bunting and decorations. A couple of years ago, Hebden experienced a particularly bad bout of flooding, on a few separate occasions. As it's a small town full of independent shops, it wasn't particularly well equipped for it, and more than a few were in danger of going out of business. Hebden rose to the occasion however, and with everyone helping each other, you wouldn't know now that it had happened.

So this is why I love to be home. I'd highly recommend anyone to visit the area, particularly if you like walking, watersports, climbing, and visiting lots of coffee shops! There are good transport links via train to either Leeds or Manchester, and lots of B&Bs, pubs and restaurants to make you feel at home!


Countryside West Yorkshire

Monday, 10 November 2014

Dream Dinner Party Guests

It's one of the age old questions, usually raised at dinner parties (so I believe, I haven't actually been to many (any) dinner parties!) - who would your dream guests be? It's something that I think about every so often, as I'm sure a lot of people do. If you had to have 10 people over for dinner, who would you choose?

Here are mine (in no particular order):

1. Professor Brian Cox
Picture from The Guardian

Yes, the charismatic physicist from Oldham. I don't know if it's his northern charm, his intelligence, his quirkiness, or his ability to laugh at himself, but he's very high up on my list. I think he'd bring high-brow conversation to the proceedings, but wouldn't bore us all to tears!

"We are the cosmos made conscious, and life is the means by which the universe understands itself."

2. J. K. Rowling
Picture from Hello Giggles
I absolutely idolise Jo Rowling. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I really do think she's fantastic. She's an intelligent woman who has gone from having absolutely nothing, to having everything, but she hasn't forgotten her beginnings.

I was of the generation that grew up with Harry Potter; I was 9 when I was given the first book, and I've been obsessed ever since. I loved the anticipation of waiting for the next book, of speculating with my friends about what might happen (I was TOTALLY right about Snape, incidentally), and the whole series has given me so much joy throughout the years. I'd love to question (interrogate?) her about her motives behind certain things, but also just to speak to her as an intelligent, successful woman.

3. Stephen Fry
Picture from The Telegraph
Intelligence seems to feature quite highly on my list of guests - I know some may claim he's a pseudo-intellectual, but the fact is that he got into Cambridge, and if nothing else has a phenomenal memory, and comedic intelligence.

I'd love to have a conversation with him; to hear firsthand some of the stories he tells, and of course for the random facts and Melchett impressions!

4. Jon Richardson
Picture from
I love British stand-up, and I like pretty much all comedy. I had to choose Jon though, because he's my 'weird crush.' For those who haven't heard of him, he's a quirky, effeminate comedian who's a captain on '8 Out of 10 Cats,' and also does stand-up shows. He's quite OCD (likes things to be in the proper place, likes cleaning), and is quite anxious about a lot of things, so identify with him quite a bit, and again he does intelligent comedy. He's also trained to be a chef, so maybe he could do the food. ;)

5. Helena Bonham-Carter
Picture from Wikipedia

Bit of an odd choice, this one, but I love her. I've seen her in a few films (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter, Kings Speech, Les Miserables etc.) and I think she's a phenomenal actress (HOW has she not won an Oscar?!) but more than anything, I love how she's not afraid to be herself.

She's married to Tim Burton, and they make a very interesting, quirky couple, and they're very good friends with Johnny Depp, so I bet she'd have some stories to tell!

6. Graham Norton
Picture from The Mirror

Another odd choice; I love his chat show, and I think he's really funny. I like him for himself, but he'd mainly be there to put everyone else at ease, help everyone mix, and of course ask the intrusive questions. ;)

7. Jason Orange
Picture from

Well there had to be a member of Take That in here somewhere! I'm very grumpy about the fact that he's actually now left the band (although I think it's been coming for a while), but I'll still let him come ;) Not only is he incredibly hot, he's also quite intelligent, and I bet he'd have some amazing stories to tell!

He could definitely be the musical entertainment as well - get the rest of the band around for a sing-song.

8. David Mitchell
Picture from The Guardian
Yet another intelligent comedian - you detecting a theme here? David Mitchell's all about the panel shows and sketches though, and I quite enjoy his YouTube rants as well! I'd love to hear more about his work with Robert Webb, to try and persuade him to do another series of 'Ambassadors' and generally have him around for conversation!

I also feel an affinity with him, as he got a 2:2 in history too! Reassures me that it's not such a bad thing.

9. Chris Bonington
Picture from The Telegraph
I was a bit stuck as to who to have here - it had to be an Everest summiteer, but I was struggling to decide which one, as there are so many that inspire me! On my list were Kenton Cool, Jon Krakauer, Reinhold Messner, Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay; the list goes on. I had to go with Chris Bonington because a) he's alive and b) he seems quite genuine and down to earth, so I think he'd be easy to talk to.

10. Zooey Deschanel
Picture from Hello Giggles
I love Zooey. I want to be Zooey. Another strong woman who's not afraid to be herself, who's quirky and has a great sense of humour. I love New Girl, I love Hello Giggles, I love her films; I think she's awesome, and I think she'd make everything very cool and fun!

People who nearly made the cut:

Caitlin Moran, Emma Freud, Ben Fogle, Russell Brand, Taylor Swift, Russell Howard....

I love reading these lists, and think they reveal a lot about the authors (eep!). Who would your ideal guests be?

Monday, 27 October 2014

A visit to Shaka Zulu!

My housemate, Danielle, and I are a bit obsessed with Africa, and she'd told me several times previously about Shaka Zulu and how amazing it was.

Camden Lock

For those who haven't heard of it, it's a quirky South African themed restaurant, bar and club, in Camden Town, London. Danielle had been a couple of times before for special occasions, and absolutely loved it, so when I was stuck for a birthday present, I decided to treat us both to a meal there, along with 3 of our friends from work.

It's very easy to get to; in Brighton we live around an hour from London, and it's less than a 5 minute walk from Camden Town tube station. Head towards Camden Lock, and it's just there on the left.

From the outside, it looks like it's going to be a very cool, but tiny restaurant, but appearances can be deceiving! You immediately head underground to the club/bar area, which is absolutely gigantic. I think the restaurant can serve around 600 people, plus a large bar area, and lots of very cool decorations! You get the African vibe instantly, with carvings on the walls, statues dotted around, and live African music (think lots of drums and dancing).

It's advisable to book in advance, especially for large parties. There were 5 of us, and we'd booked well in advance. The restaurant is an entire floor (down another level), and was pretty much full. They'd called to confirm with me the night before, and informed me that we'd have our table for 2 hours, which I was a bit worried about (I didn't want to be rushed), but in the end it was absolutely fine as we finished dot on 9pm. I don't know what they'd have done if we'd run over, but we didn't have to worry about that, and weren't rushed at all.

We'd been really excited about the food for weeks, and there's so much to choose from! We had water and bread to share while we decided, and even that was amazing. The bread was warm, and we had different types of butter (that admittedly my friend Holly mistook for cheese and ate on its own!)

The big draw of the menu is the large amount of game and exotic meat available. The food is pricey, but massively worth it, as they have a selection of meats including zebra, ostrich, buffalo, crocodile, springbok and others. Surprisingly, they also have a varied vegetarian selection; I used to be veggie (purely for taste rather than ethical reasons), and although I've now started eating meat again, I always prefer the veggie options.

        Shaka Zulu       Shaka Zulu

We shared some crocodile cigars to start (crocodile spring rolls, with spices and vegetables), which were surprisingly nice. Crocodile appears to be a mixture between chicken and fish, but it's pretty tasty!

The best part of the whole evening (in our opinion) was the AMAZING cocktail we all shared. It was called a Cape Town Share, and had rum, watermelon and all sorts of amazing things in. It was served in a giant elephant which held our straws (too cute) with flaming alcohol served in a passion fruit! It lasted us all through our meal, and cost us £11 each, which isn't bad for a cocktail in a fancy London restaurant! I could have drank 10 of them, they were so yummy!
      Cocktail at Shaka Zulu        Elephant Cocktail

Three of the girls then had ostrich (they had sold out of buffalo, which Danielle was a bit disappointed about, but the ostrich was still good!), whilst Holly and I had sea bass (which was incredible). We had vouchers for 2-for-1 main meals, so we also got a springbok to share.

Both the ostrich and the springbok were red meat (which surprised me particularly for the ostrich), and were cooked medium-rare. The piece of springbok I had was particularly pink (I prefer my meat well done), but it was still very tasty! The quality of the food was phenomenal, and although the meats are around £30 per head, it's definitely worth it as a treat.

Shaka Zulu  Shaka Zulu

The good thing about nice food, is that it doesn't fill you up until you're stuffed, and we still had room for dessert! I wouldn't say dessert was its strongest point, but they were still very nice. I had a dark chocolate torte with Amarula cream, honeycomb and pretty sugar-work, and the others had Vanilla Crème Brulee (which looked amazing), and a Strawberry Trifle, which they also enjoyed.

It was then time for one more cocktail (I had a Madiba - passionfruit and melon!), before we headed upstairs to soak up some more of the atmosphere.

      Shaka Zulu       Shaka Zulu

For everything that we had (bread, water, starter, main meal, dessert and two cocktails), we only spent around £65 each including service charge! Admittedly we had 2-for-1 vouchers (check out National Rail Days Out - always worth a look, and GroupOn have deals too), but I was still expecting it to be a lot more. The food was amazing quality, the restaurant itself was amazing, and we had quite a lot to eat and drink, and I was perfectly willing (and expecting) to pay a little more as a treat.

       Shaka Zulu      Menu Shaka Zulu

If you're just going for a drink, I think there is a charge to get in after a certain time (may be just on the weekends), but I don't think it was particularly extortionate for the area, and definitely worth it. They had several live acts while we were there, and there was plenty of space to sit and stand in the bar area. I didn't really realise how busy it was until we went to the toilets, as when you're sat at your table, you have plenty of room around you, and it's quite dark.

It's definitely somewhere to go for a treat, rather than every weekend, but I will definitely be going again! Whether you love Africa, or just want a different experience, it's something I'd highly recommend!

Shaka Zulu  Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu


Sunday, 12 October 2014

A day in the kitchen.

England finally seems to have realised that it's no longer July, and has given up a seemingly indefinite summer to a week of heavy rain and thunderstorms! Autumn is my favourite time of year, so unlike those bemoaning the lack of sunshine, I'm quite glad of the chance to wrap up and cook some of my favourite foods.

With my housemate away for the weekend, and it only being a couple of weeks until payday, I couldn't afford to do anything particularly exciting this weekend, so instead I spent all day in the kitchen! I'm an avid fan of the Great British Bake Off, so will take any excuse to try some of their recipes, and I also planned to batch-cook for the week ahead.

First of all, I wanted to try out Richard's toffee apple doughnuts from Advanced Dough week on Bake Off. I actually wanted to make his rhubarb and custard ones, as they looked amazing, but the recipe isn't online yet, so I thought I'd give these a go.

The full recipe is online here, but first you begin by making the dough

              Baking         Baking

I've made dough quite regularly before for bread, but this is 'advanced dough' and so my first batch was an utter disaster. I'm not 100% sure what I did wrong - I have a feeling that I retarded the yeast at the very beginning of the process - but the dough was basically liquid and didn't prove at all. Fortunately, batch two was a little more successful.

Richard's recipe did call for an electric mixer and a dough hook. I barely have a whisk, so this may be why my dough wasn't as good as I hoped, even on the second batch. I kneaded it by hand for 15 minutes instead, which worked, although it wasn't quite right.

The next step is to make the apple filling for the inside of the doughnuts.

               Apple Filling         Apple Filling

It's a mixture of apple, sugar. butter and cinnamon - quite nice on its own, as it tastes like grown-up baby food haha! Doesn't look too inviting once it's been blended, but fortunately it's not on display.


Then, once that's done, it's time to make the caramel. This was the part I was the most worried about - I was pretty sure I was going to ruin the pan! The recipe is quite vague here, and just says 'melt the sugar.' As I'm not a baker, I didn't know if this meant literally putting sugar in the pan over the heat, or adding water to it first. Fortunately, Google provides all the answers, and you are of course supposed to add water. Once the sugar is golden brown, time to whisk in the butter and the cream.

I forgot at this point, that I don't actually like salted caramel, so I followed the recipe and added the salt. If I were to make it again, I'd leave it out as I can't stand the stuff and means I now can't eat half the doughnuts haha! I'm sure it's very nice if you like it though.

                 Caramel       Salted Caramel


At this point, my dough had proved enough to create the actual doughnuts. As I say, my dough wasn't quite right I don't think (although I don't know what was wrong with it. Can anyone help me out for next time?) but I just about managed to create blobs from my dough, with the addition of a little extra flour. They weren't quite spheres, as the recipe dictated, but they were around the right shape...

I then had to leave the balls to prove for another hour. They were supposed to double in size, but I saw no real difference, so I clearly did something wrong! Bread is incredibly easy to bake and prove; doughnuts are not, and I don't really know why. More research needed, clearly.

The next job was to deep fry the doughnuts. As I don't have a deep fat fryer, I did them in a pan, which scared me a little, I'm not going to lie! I had the oil at too high a temperature at first (I must invest in a cooking thermometer...) so this happened after 1 minute of cooking...

                                      Burnt Doughnut

I soon got the hang of it though, and soon all my irregular shaped blobs had cooked. I still didn't actually know if they tasted like doughnuts, as they didn't really look like them at this point!

                Doughnuts      Toffee Apple Doughnuts

Fortunately, they tasted ok, and with the addition of some cinnamon and sugar, and the salted caramel, they actually look vaguely like they're supposed to! (I'm not going to put a picture of Richard's here for comparison, mainly because I can't actually find one, but also because it's embarrassing haha!) Bring on the rhubarb and custards!

Whilst my doughnuts were proving at various points, I also batch-cooked a couple of meals for the next week. Fortunately, I've made these before, so they were much more successful!

First up is one of my all-time favourites - spicy chickpeas! Pretty much what it says on the tin - onions, garlic, potatoes, chickpeas, tomato puree, spinach and spices. It's a quick and easy recipe, freezes well, and is very filling! Here's how you make it:

Cooking  Spices

Fry 2 onions and 2 garlic cloves (my favourite smell in the world!), then once soft, add turmeric, ground coriander, cumin seeds and chilli powder. Add veg stock and 300g potatoes (boiled) with the tomato puree, then simmer until the sauce has turned thick. Wilt in some spinach, and voila!

                          Spicy chickpeas

I also had some halloumi to use up, so made a very quick and easy halloumi and quinoa salad, recipe available here. It also gave me chance to laugh at my favourite cheesy(!) joke (sorry).

What did the cheese say to itself in the mirror?
Hallou - mi! ;)

                                     Halloumi and Quinoa Salad

So there you have it. My day in the kitchen with some successful, and not so successful results! I did come to a few conclusions after today though:

1. I need some bigger pans (I had to use two for the spicy chickpeas), some better kitchen equipment (blender, dough hook...) and a dishwasher, as I washed up 4 separate times today!

2. I'm getting old if I'm considering asking for said kitchen equipment for Christmas.

3. Despite my working class roots, I am most definitely middle class, as these recipes wouldn't look out of place in a Waitrose!

Next week? Veggie Chilli and Parkin! Happy Autumn :)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Travel Talk on Twitter #TTOT

I have long since been an advocate of Twitter. I joined Facebook very early on in 2006, and find it a great way of keeping up with family and friends, but Twitter is something more. It's a global community; a network of people, places and stories, and I just can't get enough.

Twitter is a place where celebrities and nobodies; journalists, artists, authors and everybody in-between, hang out side-by-side, almost equals (if you disregard follower numbers). It's become a place where you can (attempt to) speak to your favourite pop star, comedian or TV star; THE place to get live news updates, literally as and when they happen, and a place to meet and talk to like-minded people.

One of my favourite times of the week is a Tuesday evening, around 9.30pm GMT (also at 9.30am, but I'm hard at work at that point ;)). Hosted by several Twitter and Travel fanatics, there's a set 5 questions based on a theme every week, that are then posed to the travel community on Twitter.

Twitter Logo
And what a community it is. There are some regulars, and there are those who happen upon it every so often, but each week it's a fascinating mixture of travel stories from around the planet. It's basically like being in a room with lots of other people who are just as interested in travel as you, and exchanging tips, horror stories and ideas.

It's a fantastic way to meet new people, get new travel ideas, and get lots of new travel blogs to have a nosy at! Everyone is interested in everyone else; no-one is there to (outwardly) promote themselves - everyone is just having a great time reading what everyone else is sharing.

Just to give you an idea, here are the questions from the last my favourite #ttot topic - Mountains! (16th September 2014)

Q1: Which mountain adventure is on your bucket list?
A1: Wow! What isn't?! I have to say Everest Base Camp because I've been dreaming about it for so long (booking my flights in two weeks, argh!) and it is, but there are so many more! In no particular order, Kinabalu, Island Peak, Kilimanjaro (again), Annapurna Base Camp, trekking in the Alps, Toubkal, lots of trekking in Nepal, Mount Kenya, the Rockies... the list goes on! Some part of me dares to dream of Aconcagua, but that's a long, long way in the future yet.

Q2: What was your most dangerous climb and why?
A2: It has to be Kilimanjaro, just because it's the highest I've ever been. Altitude sickness was a real killer for me, and I was very lucky not to be more seriously ill.

Q3: Describe a time and place where a mountain inspired you. 
A3: Wow, mountains inspire me all the time. Physically, again it has to be Kili. Otherwise, Everest has inspired me for a long time. Something about it caught my imagination, and it has been the sole focus of my travel plans to see for a good few years now. About to be a dream come true in May! Something about its history, both dark and happy, its spirituality, and its beauty draws me to it.

Q4: What is the most important piece of advice you can give to someone going hiking in the mountains?
A4: Hmm, just one? Be prepared, and be determined. Sheer stubbornness and determination got me to the summit of Kilimanjaro, so it's something you'll need reserves of. Also, appreciate where you are. Don't just focus on the summit - enjoy the climb!

Q5: Show us a picture of your favourite mountain adventure.
A5: Just one?! ;) Have some pictures of Kili!

Camp on Kilimanjaro



Uhuru Peak Kilimanjaro

It's fun re-living your own travels, but even better to see what other people have been up to! Give it a try - join the travel community on Twitter on Tuesdays at 9.30(am and pm) with the #ttot - I'll definitely see you there!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Tips for climbing Kilimanjaro

In 2010, I did my first big trip to Tanzania, and had the absolute time of my life. I led a group of 22 volunteers in fundraising for Childreach International, climbing Kilimanjaro, then travelling around Tanzania for a couple of weeks afterwards. (Full blog of the climb here).

At the summit!
Kilimanjaro is quite honestly the best thing I have ever done. When people ask me why, I can't quite explain it. It's certainly the hardest thing I've done, by far, but it's also one of the things I'm most proud of. I pushed myself to the absolute limit, did much more than I ever thought I was capable of, and yet still managed to enjoy myself.

I'm not going to lie and say that every minute was amazing. There were times, especially on the summit attempt, that I was SO close to turning around and giving up. There were times, when I was being sick onto the rocks, or hallucinating on my descent to Millenium Camp on summit day, that I questioned why I was even there, but the trip as a whole massively outweighed all those downsides.

The scenery is incredible, and changes every day, so you never get bored. If you have a good group, the camaraderie is brilliant, and above all, the guides and porters are absolutely phenomenal. They cook for you, carry most of your equipment, organise everything, and do it all with massive smiles on their faces. They'll be your chefs, doctors, porters, friends and more during your week on the mountain, and you could not climb without them.

View from the tent

I've booked quite a few people to do the climb through work, and people always ask me the same thing. What are your tips for the climb? I've documented some of my main ones below - it's by no means a comprehensive list, but it's the most important ones I can think of.

1. Enjoy yourself. Having the right mindset is key to this climb; if you go there believing it's going to be too hard, and you're never going to do it, you probably won't. Acclimatisation is at least 50% psychological, and I would say that sheer determination and stubbornness got me through the summit day. The guides and porters are amazing; they'll cheer you up, sing you songs and look after you, so do them a favour and go into it with a positive mindset, and you'll be absolutely fine.

2nd degree sunburn - ouch!

2. Bring a first aid kit with you. You're climbing a mountain for a week; the chances are, you're going to at least get a scratch from a rock. Cuts heal less quickly at altitude, so it's important to keep them clean. Anti-septic wipes, baby wipes, anti-histamines, plasters and painkillers are vital - I used them all. Also suncream! I was too ill to remember to apply this on the summit attempt, and paid dearly for it, so I can't stress enough how important it really is.

3. Bring water purification tablets with you, preferably chlorine if you can, as they taste much nicer than the iodine ones. Water will become purer the higher you are, but it's all from the streams on the mountain, so don't take chances.

4. Wear layers. Lots of people in my group brought big down jackets, which were great for the summit attempt, but not so good for the lower slopes of the cloudforest. I took a thin waterproof coat, but packed fleeces, thermals and jumpers, and piled them all on underneath for the summit attempt, when you're climbing through the night and it's much colder.

5. Prepare yourself for illness. Most people get some form of altitude sickness, even if it's just a mild headache, so if you resign yourself to it not being the most comfortable few days, and don't fret about it, you'll be absolutely fine. I completely lost my appetite, and didn't eat for about 4 days; I also had problems with my breathing. Let your guides know if you're suffering, and they'll keep an eye on you, and make sure you don't continue if it becomes dangerous. As I walked for miles, and was running on empty, I felt dreadful and pushed myself to the limit, but at no point was I in any danger. Had I been, the guides wouldn't have let me continue.

6. Bring a headtorch. Quite a simple one, but very useful for both the summit attempt, and for navigating the camp at night.

7. Take LOTS of photos. I had bought a wrong battery for my camera, so instead of having a spare battery, I was left to conserve the one I had as much as possible, determined to keep it alive until summit night, for the all important summit photo! As camera batteries die more quickly at altitude, and the fact that I didn't have the energy a lot of the time, I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted to, and no videos, which is something I regret. Take as many batteries as you can!

8. Appreciate your guides and porters. I know I've gone on and on about this, but you really won't appreciate them until you're there. I tipped mine at the end around $100, but wish I'd had more. The assistant guide that was with me the whole way to the summit, and practically dragged me up there, is an absolute life saver. He kept my headtorch after looking after it for me, but I didn't mind in the slightest, and would have given him more if I could. I wouldn't have reached the top without him.

9. Eat and drink as much as you can. I'm a massive hypocrite for saying this, as I lost my appetite half-way through day 2, but I kept myself going on soup, juice and water. I wouldn't have felt half as ill as I did had I been well enough to eat, and keeping yourself as hydrated as possible helps you to acclimatise.

10. A good sleeping bag, daypack and walking boots are possibly the three most important pieces of your kit. Make sure your bag and boots fit you well, and are well worn-in, and make sure the sleeping bag is warm enough and a good quality.

If Kili is something you've always thought about, but been unsure as to whether you should do, I have one last piece of advice. DO IT. I've never met anyone who hated it, and to a lot of people it's the most special thing they've done. I shall be doing it again at some point in the near future, and I don't imagine it will be the last time. Amazing people, scenery, and an amazing trek - what more could you want?

Jambo, jambo bwana;
Habari gani, mzuri sana;
Wageni, mwakaribishwa;
Kilimanjaro, Hakuna Matata