My Golden Week 🌇

Beautiful Beihai Lake

After only a month of work, yes, I was already on holidays! #joysofteaching The first week of October is the Chinese National Day, a week-long holiday, also known as the Golden Week, to commemorate the founding of the People’s Republic of China on the 1st of October 1949. What a perfect opportunity to visit a new part of China and learn about the history and the culture of this vast and beautiful country! My first pick was Beijing, the national capital. At first, I was wondering why I was one of the only teacher at my school traveling in China, while most of them were escaping to other southeastern Asian countries. Well, I quickly understood why…

I left early on the Saturday morning allowing (I thought) enough time to head to the airport in Guangzhou, which normally takes 1h by bus from Dongguan. Well this “1h” bus ride turned into a 4h30 nightmare! If you think you’ve been in traffic before, you haven’t been to China! The highway literally became a giant parking lot… It seemed like every Chinese family in Dongguan decided to go on a road trip, on the same day, at the same exact time. Urg. I did practice my patience that day. A lot. Well I eventually made it to the airport, and, obviously missed my flight. However, it must be a common thing because they told me “Oh no problem, we just put you on later flight”. Oh ok then… and it was that easy! A few hours later, I was finally landing in the country’s capital. Lesson learned: Never travel on the first day of a Chinese holidays.

I won’t go into details of my whole trip. In a nutshell, despite the number of tourists, I had a lovely week visiting Beijing top attractions like The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, The Bell and Drum Tower. I also didn’t miss the chance to wander through the city’s countless hutong (alleyways) and of course I couldn’t leave without trying the capital signature dish, the Peking duck.

The highlight of my trip was definitely my camping trip on The Great Wall of China. What can I say, my happy place is in the mountains, not in the city, especially during a Chinese national holidays! I went with this local hiking group called Beijing Hikers (recommended by my lovely colleague!), which brings you to the unrestored sections of the wall, away from hordes of tourists. Let me tell you it was quite special not only to hike, but also to sleep on China’s most famous icon. You can see and feel the hundreds of years of history beneath your feet. What a thrilling experience!

So now it’s back to work until December. I’m really excited to be coming back home to Canada this year for Christmas. After spending my last winter in The Gambia, I’m extremely looking forward to be reunited with my family and friends for the holidays. Home is where the heart is they say… ♡

Mount Kenya Expedition

I got the idea from my parents. They started trekking a few years ago and since then, they’ve been hiking on almost every continent. Looking at their pictures each time was leaving me speechless. So I picked Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak after Kilimanjaro (and half the price)! January and February, being the beginning of the dry season, are supposedly the best months to climb the mountain. Perfect timing I thought! ….well Mother Nature decided differently this year. After quite some research, I booked a 5 days trek with Equatorial Star. I picked the Chogoria route to go up and down the Simiron route. It was my first multi-day trek, so I was very excited! Two days before my adventure, it started pouring (and I mean, pouring!) in Nairobi. Everyone was confused about this weather. The raining season in Kenya is usually from April to June (long rains) and July to November (short rains) then it’s hot and dry for the rest of the year. Oh well, there’s nothing I could do. I packed my bag with as much warm clothes as I could and hope for the best!

Day 1: 10km (950m ascent)

When the company came to pick me up, they told me I would be the only trekker this week, which means I would have my own personal guide, cook and porter! Wow! I didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing, but hey, three men for myself for 5 days, I’m not complaining! 😝 We drove to Chogoria, a little village on the east side of the mountain, our starting point. The first day of our trek was a 10km gradual hill on a dirt road. We walked through a beautiful dense bamboo forest all the way to the camp…in the fog. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of the scenery that day.

Day 2: 13km (700m ascent)

I had my first sight of the mountains that morning, but it didn’t last long before the rain and the fog showed up again! Grrrr. But it didn’t stop me from doing the longer walk via Lake Ellis (where we supposedly have a scenic view of the mountains). Patrick, my guide, and I arrived to our campsite drench and freezing. I spent the rest of the day in my little tent, all wrapped up, drinking tea, trying my best to warm up… How fun!

Day 3: 14km (600m ascent)

The rained stopped just as we woke up… For the moment anyway! Patrick and I made our way up the mountain beside the breathtaking Gorges Valley. The clouds, fog and rain, came and went all day… So I was making sure to take pictures whenever I could see something! It’s crazy how the weather forecasts of a mountain are totally unpredictable! We finished our hike looking like wet dogs… Thanks a million to my cook, Eldady, who always had hot coffee or chocolate ready for me in my tent! 😊It was early dinner and bedtime (7pm!) for me that night, getting ready for tomorrow’s big day! Praying we would finally have a nice day…

Day 4: 24km (785m ascent)

The alarm rang at 1:30am…. Ouff! I chugged a coffee, dressed up like an Eskimo and off we went. Patrick and I hiked for about 4 hours, in pitch black darkness with only our headlight on! The last part of the ascent was pretty steep and technical (we were almost doing rock climbing!). It was a bit scary but exciting at the same time! We finally reached the summit, just in time for the sunrise. As the sun was slowly rising, the scenery appearing in front of me was spectacular. For the first time in 4 days, we had a (semi) clear sky and I could finally see Mount Kenya! The view was simply beautiful! I couldn’t stop smiling. I thanked God for this beautiful moment. After enjoying a nice cup of tea, Patrick and I slowly made our (steep!) descent to the bottom of the mountain where I devoured my breakfast! We then hiked the long 14km to Old Moses Camp. Unfortunately but not surprising, the fog and rain showed up again, erasing the beautiful scenery… When we got to the camp, I ate and went straight to bed. I consider myself a fit person, but my god this day was one hell of a workout!!

Day 5: 9km (descent)

I woke up with sore quads and guess what, a perfect clear blue sky! Urg. Now that I’m leaving the mountain, the sun finally decides to show up! 😐 After breakfast we slowly trekked down to the entrance of the park, in Nyangan, where I could have a perfect view of Mount Kenya. After saying goodbye and thanking my wonderful support crew, I made my way back to Nairobi, reflecting on my beautiful journey in the Kenyan mountains.
Despite the unusual and not so favorable conditions, I still had an amazing time trekking Mount Kenya. The efforts, the rain and the cold were definitely worth the view at the top! I would do it all over again anytime (if my budget would allow me!). I will definitely try to do some shorter treks during my travels on the continent, maybe in South Africa? I really think I caught the trek bug like my parents! 🙂