Sunday, October 07, 2007


We (the 50 or so strong team of charity trekkers) reached heights of 4490m and although several people didn’t make it all the way – with one ending up in hospital – and despite the fact we encountered many other ups and downs with the weather and our energy levels throughout, I am thrilled to report our success. And what a success it was: just over 50 people raised a whopping £150,000 for a range of charities and as I write this, I am well on my way to making my own £8,000 target.
(Here is a picture of the group of girls I met on the trip and couldn’t have managed without. Left to Right: Alex, Emily, Me, Zoe, Clem and Fran)

To thank you for your generous support, I have compiled this short report of a Princess’ quest to conquer Peru (in pink rather than purple because purple hiking gear is incredibly hard to get hold of, mind you, pink isn’t that easy either!).

We arrived in Cusco after 3 flights and instantly felt the altitude. We were taken to our hotel by bus and told to drink lots of cocoa tea and walk very slowly to gently acclimatise. Eager to look around, after 2 cups of coca tea a few of us who had bonded on the flights headed up-hill to the main square where we took lots of pictures (including the one below, which was the last shot of any of us with clean hair) and settled down for a delightful afternoon of people-watching with a pot of yet more coca tea in one of the balconied cafes overlooking Cusco town.
Although later dinner of guinea pig didn’t go down too well…
The first day of hiking, which was deliberately gentle to allow us more time to acclimatise, took us through several local treasures including an Inca spring at Tambo Machay, and a site known as Sacsayhuaman (practically pronounced Sexy Woman, much to our school-girl/boy amusement). The Incas built Cusco in the shape of a Puma and Sacsayhuaman; its jagged rocks are believed to have represented the teeth. We were unable to clamber throughout the Puma’s dental-work, however, due to the Inti Raymi festival, which marks the coming of age of local teen boys. After this, the hiking started in earnest and we soon discovered that it was important to take things slow and steady and to drink lots and lots of water. Of course the water drinking had the upsetting side effect of making one need the loo ALL THE TIME, which meant ducking behind the nearest rock or llama pen and being as quick as you could so that the rest of the group didn’t catch up too quickly (I wont even go into the embarrassment of when half the group thought I’d stopped to take a picture!). You’ll be thankful I have no pictures of such activities, but I do have a shot of us en-route to the Ipsayccocha Pass. However we encountered a range of problems which made finding private places to pee pale into insignificance. For one thing, as we made our way up a sharp incline to reach a peak of 4590m, it started first to hail pea-sized rocks on us an a 45° angle and then to snow:
Then of course, as I assumed it might, my poor nose gave in:
And until I discovered I couldn’t get warm enough to sleep in temperatures of below freezing I was thrilled at the idea of staying in tents:
To be clear, I would like to point out that this trek did not involve walking the so-called Inca Trail. This is because the company organising the trip are pioneering new routes, well, I call them new, but in fact they too are Inca trails. Peru is utterly covered with trails built by the Incas and Machu Picchu itself is entered by not one, as many tourism companies would have you believe, but eight. Although The Inca Trail is somewhat greener than the countryside we traversed, it is lacking in one element which really made this trip for me: Peruvians! The Lares route is still inhabited by Amerindians who live in an entirely Inca way (using such rules as don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t be lazy). They still farm the terraces the Incas built to manage the land and live in tiny stone cottages which sleep entire families of up to eight or so on llama skins on the floor. We visited one such house, which will remain etched in my mind – perhaps never more so than when I snuggle up on my huge red leather sofas and watch the TV.
But my most indelible image of Peru will be the young children of such families who appeared to be sprinkled haphazardly across the mountain sides, watching serenely as we walked and waiting, presumably, for a relative to return from their work and gather them up in their blanket and carry them home on their backs for tea.
Soon I arrived safe, sound and smelly at Machupicchu (note the fact it is actually one word and is pronounced Machoopickchoo). Although we had been fed amazingly well all along the way, few of us had had even one decent night’s sleep, so the joy of making it to the amazing mountain top was marred just slightly by exhaustion (and an increasing desire to find soap and water and scrub ourselves raw).

There is really nothing I can say that would do Machupicchu justice so I wont try; photos really don’t capture it either. If you’ll excuse the Hippy-ness of this: there is an energy there that, whether the result of over-excited trekkers all assembling in one place after an arduous pilgrimage, or of the location (between three other sacred mountains) in the clouds, or of the worth it was imbued with by the Incas themselves, is definitely palpable.

That evening we went to the hot springs at Aguas Calientes and drank the odd Pisco Sour as we soaked our aching limbs and the next night (after a long train and bus journey back to Cusco) I found my make-up bag (and a new magenta scarf) just in time for the celebration dinner!
(My only let-down was not winning the award for being the most glamorous and still maintain that a tiara and pair of sequinned socks are worth a lot more in the fashion stakes than Ugg boots and lipstick ;-) but I enjoyed my hiking success nonetheless. In fact I’m happy to report that I really can’t wait to get my hiking boots back on!)

By way of a small bit of respite – a change is as good as a rest and all that – a few of us then travelled on to the Rainforest at Puerto Maldonado. Our visit involved more hiking, some floating in boats, climbing into trees,
and dressing like human Jelly Babies As far as I was concerned, however, none of these were more important than sleeping!

I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my stinky hiking boots) for supporting me.

There is a saying that ‘charity starts at home’, which is often misinterpreted as something to the effect of keeping your money for yourself and your loved ones. Of course what it really means is that kindness should begin with the ones closest to you, and resonate out from there. You all know that I lost my oldest friend almost a year ago in a terrible accident, and all I could imagine doing was showing her the greatest kindness I could think of and both learning from her and making a tribute to her; it was my hope that such kindness would in turn expand to encompass many others – through the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity. I am so excited to announce that I have been more than successful with my aim!

With lots and lots of love and gratitude…

Thursday, October 04, 2007


The princess returns triumphant (and not so princessy!). A short report and more pictures will follow soon....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm off!!!

This is a very quick entry to let you know that I'm off on my trek!

It is a cliche to say that the time has gone quickly, but over the last month it has been on fast forward! There has been so much to blog about and so little time to do it! In the picture above I have one of my birthday tiaras, bought for me by my Aunty Fay, which is of course going with me, and a pair hiking socks hand-sequined by Anne, which will also accompany me. As I write this, my total for fundraising is £7,000, but there is more to come in, so fingers crossed I'll make the (new) £8,000 target.

All of this activity has of course been to raise money for the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity, but is has also been to make a fitting tribute to the most outgoing girl I ever had the pleasure of knowing: Georgie Robinson. It has taken me nearly a year, but in that time I've worked as hard as I could to remember Georgie in a special way and to keep her with me. If I could, I would tell her that I'll be thinking of her all the way - now, on my trek, and beyond...and I'd hand her a glass of wine and let her laugh at the vision of me in hiking boots instead of heels!

I promise to catch everyone up with everything when I return and thank people properly for all their kindness and support, but for now, all I need you to do is just wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bountiful Booty on Ebay - and more!!!

The wonderful Piglottie has been holding fabulous yarn auctions in aid of the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity (and in support of my own fundraising efforts for the Rainbow Trust) all summer and auction winners have been lucky to snap up some real gems (someone even donated some Socks That Rock!).

Her last lot of booty is being bid on already over at the Crafty Threads 'n' Yarns Forum, so be sure to check them out - there is even a Knit Picks Options set up for grabs (on second thoughts don't check that auction out, I want those)!

And now I am excited to announce that Kerrie at HipKnits has added her support by both donating yarn to Piglottie's auctions AND setting up not one, not two, but THREE HipKnits CUSTOM-DYED YARN auctions on ebay (RIGHT NOW!!!).

They are as follows:
Auction 1:
8 x 100g skeins of HipKnits aran weight 100% silk yarn, each 100g skein is approximately 180m and will be hand-painted in colours of YOUR CHOICE!!! The yarn knits to a standard aran weight gauge of around 18 stitches and 24 rows to 10cm using 4.5mm needles.

Auction 2:
2 x 100g skeins of HipKnits 4 ply (sock) weight 100% cashmere yarn, each 100g skein is approximately 458m and will be hand-painted in colours of YOUR CHOICE!!! The yarn knits to a standard sock weight gauge and can be used for any pattern calling for 4 ply/sock weight yarn. 1 skein is enough for a long pair of socks or a small shawl, 2 skeins will make a lovely big shawl.

Auction 3:
1 x 100g skein of HipKnits lace weight 100% cashmere yarn, each 100g skein is approximately 1372m and will be hand-painted in colours of YOUR CHOICE!!! This is more than enough to make a gigantic shawl.
Don't let any of these fantastic offers pass you by, and remember, its for a really good cause!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Still Going Ahead

To all those who have checked, I can confirm that the trip to Peru is still going ahead, despite the recent earthquake. The Earthquake itself was further south than we are going, but the trip organisers are keeping tabs on things. The official line at the moment is:

"Following Wednesday’s earthquake in Peru’s central coast region, we would like to reassure you that this does not affect any of our trips. The worst-affected areas are south of the capital, Lima, and a long way from Cuzco and the Andes trekking region. Any impact on Lima’s services will be resolved long before our first groups fly there en-route to Cuzco next month.
Our thoughts are with those who have lost homes and loved ones following the earthquake."

I am of course extremely sad for all the people whose lives have been affected and to be perfectly honest, quite apprehensive about visiting Peru, but I am glad that we will not directly encounter any of the affected areas, I am not sure that I could handle such devastation. It isn't that I don't care, I just don't think I could cope.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nature AND Nurture

I guess some things naturally go hand-in-hand, like gin and tonic, wine and cheese, champagne and strawberries (sorry, there's a bit of a theme there...), anyway, what I have found since I started my training is that appreciating the outdoors means protecting all that is natural. I'm gradually getting greener in my ways, but I've also rediscovered my appreciation for natural and organic skin care. I used to be really good at avoiding products containing SLS/SLES, but if you shop in local supermarkets and chemists, its difficult to keep up with your good intentions. Thanks to my pal G (whom I should add I got into natural products in the first place), I've been uncovering a array of products that I can order online (often without paying any postage) and I can honestly say they've been life altering.

Among my favourites are Dr Hauschka for my face, Faith in Nature for my hair, Lavera for sun protection, Jason for shower gel and Avalon Organics for deodorant.

Why am I so in love with these products?

Well, I've had quite a few compliments on my hair since I started using Faith in Nature and unlike other SLS/SLES-free shampoos that I've tried in the past, their products really, thoroughly clean my hair but also leave it soft and shiny - shinier than any of those awful silicon-filled products like Pantene or anything else that gets endlessly advertised. Its a pet peeve of mine that so-called Herbal Essences don't appear to contain even a trace of a herb! If I was going to get all hot and bothered in the shower (over a shampoo that is), it wouldn't have anything to do with these chemical-filled nasties, but Faith in Nature can get me pretty excited!

Dr Hauschka products, which are a really treat, not only leave my skin clean and clear, but they are also extremely relaxing to use. I love getting to the end of the day and immersing myself in all manner of oils and unguents crammed with essential oils and plant extracts. At the moment I actually look forward to taking my make-up off!

The real winner for me though, the complete revelation, is the Jason Satin Wash Shower/Bath gel. I have very dry skin and occasional eczema, and have NEVER found a shower product that left my skin feeling comfortable and as a result have been addicted to the strongest body moisturisers and oils I can find. I'm always itchy after showering and can get itchier as the day goes on, sometimes even after applying loads of creams. This is why I got into soap-making last year, although soap-making requires a lot of time and effort so I prefer to reserve it for gifts and special occasions. Anyway, the Jason Satin Wash is the first product I have EVER used which doesn't leave my skin all dry and sore and in need of some serious TLC. I can just wash and go! ;-) I get really wound up when I see adverts for body washes by Dove and Imperial Leather which suggest all manner of added ingredients will leave your skin like silk or cashmere, because when you look at the list of ingredients, usually the second biggest (after water) is SLS/SLES which dries your skin out terribly. Never mind silk extract, if you've already washed in a big helping of drying SLS/SLES, if you have dry skin, nothing is going to get the moisture back. Satin Wash however leaves your skin soooooooooo much softer than any of those heavily advertised washes and, curiously, as the day goes on, my skin seems to get softer!

I can honestly say you can keep your Clinique and Clarins, dump your Dove and anything by Pantene can just push-off, there is nothing (absolutely nothing) like a bit of natural!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Frost's 15th on Foot

Yesterday the weather held out for the Frost's 15th Anniversary Sponsored Walk, in aid of the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity and in tandem with my own efforts as the Princess of Purple.

We set off at 12.00pm from Frost's Chequer Street branch (although Mum and I had actually walked from Harpenden to get there, so that we could prove to everyone how easy the walk was). Then, as a slightly fractured group of Frost's staff, family and furry friends, we walked to the the Leyton Road branch of Frost's in Harpenden.

The picture above left shows us all ready to go (with me and my Mummy and Molly and Coco on the far left).

As a few people got distracted by the cricket being played on Harpenden common, my Dad managed to arrive first, at 1.20pm, and to ensure success sprinted the last few feet - which was very amusing to watch. And then everyone else arrived ready for champagne and to be taken for a three course celebratory lunch at the Harpenden House Hotel.

So here we all are at the Harpenden branch with our champagne. I'm drinking mine from a special hiker's wine glass that my friend Robert bought me - the thought it was the first thing I would need to get through my training, and he wasn't wrong!

So, to reiterate, Mum and I had already done the 5 mile approx walk twice, but then Mum decided to see if anyone would offer any more money for her to walk it again, and when £140 was speedily laid down on the lunch table (inlcuing £20 from the waiter), we reluctantly set off again back to St Albans.

So in this final shot we have a picture of me half way between Harpenden and St Albans collapsed under the PYO sign!
It was a really fun day though, and I look forward to everyone's sponsorship money rolling in!