Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sarah's Life | A Lot Can Happen In A Year

This week (Wednesday 10th October) it was World Mental Health day and it really got me thinking about how much of a different place I am in compared to this time last year.

Flash back to a year ago and I was in what I'd say was the worst time of my life so far. I had just gotten back from the most amazing holiday to South America and I had (and still do have) the most amazing boyfriend in the world, but aside from that, I was so unhappy.

A year ago today I was weeks away from being made redundant from a job I had been in since I had just turned 20, so a third of my life, and basically the whole of my adult life. Anyone who has ever been through a redundancy knows how much of a horrible time it is and it's something that I can only describe as horrendous. I was scared, worried, nervous, anxious and my whole personality changed. When I was with my friends, or on social media, I would put on a front and act like I always am, this happy, silly girl who was always cracking jokes and laughing. But behind the scenes around my family and Craig I was a complete mess and so broken emotionally. I cried every single day, sometimes multiple times a day, for over 6 months. I was overly sensitive and my confidence was completely knocked. I was anxious all the time thinking about big changes that were happening in my life that were completely out of my control and the furthest thing from what I wanted as I loved my job and the people I worked with. I was applying for jobs and getting nowhere. I had been applying for jobs for around 9 months and hadn't even gotten a call back for an interview. I felt like a complete failure. The anxiety over it all convinced me that I wasn't good enough for any other jobs and I was just going to end up struggling through life.

Alongside losing my job there was also other factors adding to how unhappy I was. My mum has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and at the time, her health was deteriorating in front of our eyes. She had just had a stair lift fitted in the house as she could no longer walk up the stairs and her breathing was terrible. She was in and out of the doctors and there was quite a few times she nearly had to go into hospital. She had to start using a nebuliser 4 times a day and her ability to do anything decreased so much that my dad officially became her carer. She began sleeping downstairs in the armchair as she couldn't breathe properly when she was lying in bed and she began to panic so much that she decided the only thing to do was sleep in the living room in the chair. She lost a hell of a lot of weight and she just generally looked so unwell. If we had to go anywhere she would have to stop every 10 seconds because she couldn't breathe when she walked, which meant our usual family gatherings and meals which we used to do together a lot started to slowly disappear. It was awful watching her go from this strong independent confident woman to someone I no longer recognised and who had to rely on someone else so much. I would cry all the time to Craig saying I had lost my mum even though she was still alive. It was heartbreaking.

Then there was also the fact I no longer spoke to my best friend. The girl who had been my best friend for the last 15 years. There was no argument, no big fall out. It was just one of those where we just drifted apart, and other people got involved and stirred the pot between us which pushed us even further apart. We had fallen out towards the end of 2015, then at the start of 2016 began speaking again and throughout 2016 we seemed closer than ever. Then stuff happened and the last time I saw her was the end of August. After that I didn't see her for nearly 2 years. At this point I am talking about in this blog post, it was just on the year mark of us not really being friends. Again, it was so upsetting and a year on, I still shed a lot of tears over it. It had gotten to a point where I just didn't think it could ever be fixed. We both had different lives now, friends and family had opinions and I didn't want to cause any arguments or fall outs, so I just tried to accept the fact that someone I loved so much was no longer going to be in my life, and the girl I had wanted as godmother to my children, who I wanted stood next to me on my wedding day, who was like a sister to me was not going to be in my life anymore. It broke my heart, but again I put on a front and acted like it was for the best. I would say things and act like it didn't bother me and I was better off without her anyway, when in reality I was devastated over it and missed her so much.

The result was I started to have mild panic attacks. I definitely didn't have them to the degree of some people, but I would definitely describe them as a mild panic attack. I would get pains in my chest, I would shake, I would be breathing as if I had just ran a marathon and I would just cry for hours where I was so overwhelmed and panicking about what I was going to do, all the changes I was experiencing and how I was going to get through everything and it would make me just want to run away and hide. It was an extremely dark time in my life and without Craig, I don't know how I would have managed.

I got made redundant in November 2017, with no job to go to, no idea where my life was headed and I was on my 11th month without a single job interview offer. I was absolutely terrified of what lay ahead. Then out of nowhere I got a phone call to attend a job interview for a company based in town. I was absolutely thrilled but so nervous. I went for my interview and came out so deflated. I had barely answered any questions properly due to nerves and was convinced I had messed it up. A few days later though I was offered the job and a month after I had been made redundant I was back in work again! This is it I thought, this is where my life turns around and things start going my way again. This company sounded amazing, and I thought my career was about to take off in this fab new business. Unfortunately though, that's not what happened and the new job I was so excited for turned out to be the job of nightmares.
I started the job at the start of December and straight away I hated it. The company was a shambles, and the staff were just awful. The team I was put on was extremely cliquey and no one bothered to speak to me or tried to make me feel welcome. I tried to speak to them and get to know them and make friends and got nothing back. I was there for 3 months and in those 3 months I sat and watched while they emailed each other talking about me in the emails and I felt so uncomfortable sitting with them. I sat with one girl off my team on my lunch break once and she actually got up and went and sat on another table. I sat in between two girls who would talk over me when I had my headphones on (we wore them as part of the job), and if I took them off and tried to join in, they would stop talking and put their headphones back on, then when I put mine back on, they would take them off again and start talking again. I would ask them how their weekends were and get one word answers back. In the whole time I worked there I don't think anyone asked me a single question about myself. It was my 32nd birthday while I was there and not one person knew. My team leader was on holiday for my first day, and when she came back in on my second day she didn't even acknowledge that I was there. It took her hours to even say hello to me or ask me if I was OK. She didn't speak to me properly the whole time I worked there. I don't think I had one none work related conversation with her. Instead of taking me to one side and speaking to me about any issues she had with me, she would email the whole team and make sly digs about me in the emails but of course not name any names, however it was completely obvious who she was talking about. I felt like I was back in school and being made to feel about 3 inches tall by this clique of god awful girls. They would laugh and cheer when people got let go. They would all be laughing and whispering when I came back from the toilet and then suddenly go quiet. I had absoloutley no training whatsoever in the job and basically trained myself, then watched another girl start 2 months after me and get loads of one on one training. Then I was expected to meet an absolutely unattainable target and then moaned at when I made a mistake which I wouldn't have made with sufficient training. I was again, crying constantly, feeling sick with dread every morning and every night. I would get home or go to Craig's and be this shell of the person I was before, grumpy and emotionally drained and tired all the time. It was a living nightmare and when I got let go in February I was so relieved that I didn't have to go back there anymore. As a result though, again my confidence completely plummeted. I was terrified of starting a new job again as I was so worried it would be the same as this one. My self confidence completely disappeared.

After leaving that job I signed onto Universal Credit and it was the first time I was seeking any kind of benefits for being out of work for 12 years. It was such a hard thing to do, I felt like a failure again and like a bum and I was so embarassed every week going for my meeting. I never had any confidence in myself and couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel but even so, I didn't let it become me and I was determined to get a job and started applying for anything and everything that seemed vaguely related to my past work experience. Nothing I applied for came back positive, but then once day, 6 weeks after I had left the other job, I got a phone call off a company saying they had seen my CV on a job site and would love to get me in. I was excited but also extremely aware of the fact that I was excited about the previous job and look how that turned out. I went to my interview and a few hours later they invited me back for a second interview. A few days later I had my second interview and the next day I got offered the job. The happiness that I no longer had to go the job centre was unbelievable and I was so happy I would be getting back into work.

That's when things finally started to look up for me. I started that job in April and it's now October and I am so much happier there. The difference between the job from hell and my new job is so drastic. The people I work with were all so welcoming when I started and took so much interest in getting to know me and helping me to settle in. They took me out for a welcome to the team meal, I have got a thank you card off my team leader for work I have done, I am praised and thanked for my work all the time and trusted to do some of the trickiest tasks we have. Everyone is so lovely, when I'm not well they buy me medicine and look after me. If I'm not looking very happy they ask me if I'm OK. They support me and don't treat me like I'm a piece of dirt. It proved to me that one bad experience doesn't mean every other experience afterwards will be the same and my self confidence, though it's never sky high, has definitely improved massively.

As well as finally being settled and secure in a new job, my mums health hasn't gotten any worse in months. She's never going to be healthy, but it's definitely a good thing that it's just plateaued now and she isn't getting any worse. She has days where she can do loads and she seems so much more  herself.
My best friend is also back in my life after 2 years apart. We started talking again here and there around the time I was in the job from hell, and then finally after months of umming and ahhing, we met up and are finally getting our friendship back on track. We celebrated her birthday together at the end of September and I couldn't be happier that she's back in my life!  Sometimes even things you think you can never fix can be fixed and I'm so happy I was true to myself and decided to do what makes me happy instead of worrying about everyone else for a change because her coming back into my life has been one of the best things ever and it's made me so happy.
Another friend, my oldest lifelong friend, has also come back into my life recently who I hadn't seen for around 5 years, and even though it's because of a bad situation on her end, it's made me so so happy to have her back also.
Things with Craig are also going extremely well and we are thinking of moving in together next year which excites me more than anything in the world. He's the best thing to ever happen to me and we've just hit 18 months together, I couldn't be happier than I am when I am with him <3

The thing with worrying is, it doesn't change anything. I wish that was something I could take on board and my brain could process but unfortunately I can't and I will always be a worrier. But it's something I am definitely going to work on. Bad times don't last. Same as happy times don't last. This time last year I was in a really dark and miserable place, and here I am a year later, the happiest I have been in as long as I can remember. I am fully aware that this won't last, and am I anxious about it? Yes. But I know that when bad times do come again, they won't last, just like before, and the times before that when life hasn't been going too well. I will get through them, and the sun will come out again, and happiness will come back, just like this time.

The difference in where I was mentally and emotionally this time last year to now is so huge. I feel like me again. I still have days where I am anxious and panic. When there's a lot going on in work, or when I have to go to social events where I don't really know anyone, or when I have a headache and go on Google and end up convinced I am dying (Hello hypochondriac Sarah!). But that's never going to change, and that's who I am. I can sit here though and say that I am happy. And that is a great feeling :)

To anyone going through a bad time or who are in a dark place, just know that it won't last forever and with strength and time the bad times will pass and your days will be filled with light again. <3


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Sarah's Life | 1 Year.

07-04-18 marks 1 whole year with my Craig.
"Every once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale"

In 3 days me and my boyfriend hit the big 1 year mark! *does a happy dance*
Races Night seeing the Kaiser Chiefs May 2017      |      My cousins 18th Birthday Party June 2017

I am as a person very cheesy and very lovey dovey. I am also very very impatient, which is why this blog post has appeared 3 days before the actual anniversary haha! Some of this blog post is going to be a big massive block of cheese in blog post form, mushier than a tin of mushy peas and to be honest, mainly just for me to celebrate a year with my boyfriend and as something I can look back on and smile at in the future. If you're not into mushy posts, I highly recommend you log off now and don't read any further because loooooord am I going to get mushy and you may throw up! But if you do decide to read it, I hope that you enjoy it. :) (but do make sure you have a bucket next to you, just as a precaution...)

Before Craig I'd had some truly awful relationships and been in some very toxic situations with boys and as a result of that, all trust I had in men was gone, my self confidence was at rock bottom and all faith I had that I was going to find someone was shattered and I just came to the conclusion that all my life was going to be was me, myself and I.

Craig is someone who I've known of for 10 years. I never actually knew him, but I knew who he was and I was aware of him. He's someone I had worked alongside and seen in the corridor every week for the past decade but never actually spoken to. I thought he was really good looking, but I always thought he was SO snotty! He's a very confident lad and very very chatty, you would always seem him chatting to all different people all the time. Over the years he spoke to a few of my friends, but I would get blanked. It got to the point where I would be in the corridor with 3 of my lad mates who he knew from the gym and he would chat to them and not even acknowledge I was there! Because of that, I knew him as the gorgeous but snotty lad from the other company haha! I just thought he really didn't like me at all. He does know this as well. Turns out he wasn't being snotty, he was just shy around me! Something I never thought I would say about Craig!

I was on overtime one Saturday and so was he. That day he came over to speak to someone on my team he knew. He mentioned his Fitbit he had gotten for Christmas and I got brought into the conversation because I'd gotten one too. I heard my name and asked what they were talking about and Craig just stood there like a rabbit in headlights and blurted out "FITBIT!" (I am howling thinking back to this!!), and then I went on to ramble to him about how I didn't like mine and when I was at the gym it didn't record my steps properly and all this random stuff while Craig just stood there looking a bit bewildered.  He then just mumbled something, said something to the girls and shuffled off. Great conversation Craig! Haha!!
Before he had came over we had been talking about my none existent love life (a favourite topic of conversation on my team on a daily basis!) and afterwards one of them was like "Oh Sarah I think Craig would be lovely for you!" I was a bit confused and said to the girls that he definitely hated me and they were like don't be silly! Then the same girl was like I'll have a chat to him! I just went into pure panic telling her not to because it was pointless and I'd just end up embarrassed, what 31 year old gets their mate to go and talk to a boy for them?! But when she has an idea there's no stopping her. So for the next few weeks I was going into work every day wondering if she had spoken to him or not.  A few weeks later she said she had pulled him aside and mentioned to him that she thought he should ask me out. I was not happy one bit, why had she done that! He hated me and now I was going to look like an absolute idiot! Thanks a bunch! Another few weeks went by and he still hadn't mentioned anything. I had seen him a few times and he seemed a bit friendlier but nothing drastic, just the odd hello and carried on walking past, so I just came to the conclusion that was that, he hadn't been interested, and forgot about it.
Then on 24th March at precisely 2:10pm (I remember this because it was just before I went on my afternoon break), I'm sitting at my desk having a heated debate with the lad sitting opposite me about the film Face Off (for the record I hate that film and he loved it, I was not happy). I get the fright of my life when Craig comes over and plonks himself down on the seat next to me. He still to this day laughs about my face and how much I jumped when I turned around and saw it was him and not the lad who normally sat there.
It didn't go great I'll be honest. He introduced himself as if we had never met before which I thought was hilarious, "Hi I'm Craig..." to my response "erm yeah I no..." and then for a good 10 minutes Craig rambled on about how he had spoken to Tracy and she had said what a lovely, funny girl I was and she thought he should ask me out. Half way through his speech though, a fella he worked with came over and sat with us. The fella just sat there looking at us waiting for Craig to finish what he was saying. I genuinely thought he had come in to watch Craig ask me out and probably went the colour of a plum, but turns out he just needed some help on work and had no idea what he was interrupting haha. What a way to spoil a moment mate! When the fella had scarpered, poor Craig just looked mortified and apologised and then gave me an origami bird he had made with his phone number on and asked me out on a date in front of my whole office! All I could think was oh my god this lad has got some balls!! And is this actually happening! I couldn't believe he had actually just asked me out! With an Origami bird! In front of my boss, and everyone I work with!
1st date hair, makeup & Outfit - 7th April 2017
3rd date outfit April 2017 & 4th date and our 1st picture together April 2017 :)
I was terrified, convinced myself he had only done it because Tracy told him to and he didn't actually like me that much. I was scared to put myself out there again, scared of being hurt again, and intimidated because he had a well posher voice than me haha! And I put off texting him until the Sunday night two days later, aaaand he never responded. I felt so ashamed! But then 2 days later he text me back saying he hadn't seen it. Turns out he is a complete technophobe and there was probably a better chance of reaching him by carrier pigeon than on his mobile phone! He barely used it, and it's like something from 1991, it doesn't even have a camera on it haha! After that initial text he promised me he would change and he actually started using it more and more each day. After two weeks of texting we met up and on the 7th April, and with me absolutely crapping my pants, sulking about not being at Ladies Day and dosed up the eyeballs on Beechams thanks to a rotten cold haha, we went on our first date and went and played Crazy Golf in Jungle Rumble in town and went to the Roxy Ballroom for a few drinks.

That's the night my life completely changed.
I'm not going to sit here and say the beginning was all plain sailing, it wasn't. The first date was amazing, I was a smitten kitten straight from the get go. The first half an hour I was so nervous, which meant my mouth worked faster than my brain and for some reason I decided 20 minutes in to randomly start a conversation about Jessie J grabbing her lady bits in the Do It Like A Dude video and repeatedly saying the word vagina, which Craig found absolutely hilarous. I think I was a bit delirious from the Beechams haha. It was the best date I have ever been on though. He made me laugh so much, there wasn't a single awkward silence, I felt so comfortable around him and he made me feel like I had a million butterflies trying to get out my stomach. It seemed like we had only been out an hour or two and suddenly it was 1:30am and we had to call it a night as he was in work at 7am the next day. I told him so much that night and was so open and he told me all kinds too, I felt like I could tell him anything and I felt like we got really close really fast and after just a few hours, I felt like I had known him for years. I won the Crazy Golf as well, which I was extremely happy about! He put his cardigan around me when we were walking for a taxi because I was cold and he put his arm around me as we walked to the taxi rank and for this first time in a very long time, I felt sparks flying everywhere. I was so excited, but also really scared. I had let my guard down before and got extremely hurt, I didn't want it to happen again.
We arranged our second date for a week later and went into Southport and went bowling, on the arcades and for food. The second date was a bit of a disaster. The week leading up to it I had been so giddy telling everyone how much I liked him. He had left a flower he had made on my desk the morning after our date and when I went in on the Monday morning and saw it I was like an excitable teenager (I still have it now on my mirror in my bedroom), but then on the day of the date, halfway through I basically went into the state of mind where I convinced myself that I didn't like him, certain things were annoying me and I cut the night short. I made him feel so awful to the point where he went home and comfort ate a whole tub of ice cream and I went home and told my mum that I wasn't going to see him again. I basically freaked out half way through and then put a wall up through fear of being hurt again and made up stupid excuses for not seeing him again like his voice annoyed me or he was too nice, none of which were true. Despite the 2nd date disaster, he still carried on texting me every day and trying to get me to go on a 3rd date, which I dodged every time it was mentioned and eventually he just asked me outright if I wanted to see him again or not because he really liked me but he hated games. I was honest and said I wasn't sure and he said to go out with him one more time. If I didn't like him or want to see him again after it fair enough, he just wanted one more chance. I thought after him chasing me for a week and a half and him actually being open and honest asking me what was going on which is so refreshing these days, I had to give him one more chance, so I went. And it was the best decision I ever made. I went into that date convincing myself it was a waste of time, and as soon as he walked towards me while I waited outside the Alma de Cuba, I literally turned right back into that smitten girl I was on the first date. He looked so gorgeous and once the date got going, I just couldn't believe I ever had doubts, and that's how I've felt ever since. We had the best night and I haven't had a single doubt since that he is the one for me. In all honesty, I knew it half an hour into the first date. But damage from past relationships made me guarded and the fear of being hurt made me nearly throw away something so special. I'm so glad I didn't end up letting fear stop me from being happy.

Overnight stay at Leasowe Castle & a day in New Brighton June 2017

BBQ in Otterspool July 2017

Log Cabin July 2017

The last year with him has been the best year of my life. In so many ways it's been the worst but him being in my life has outweighed any bad that's happened. I've lost friends, I've lost two jobs, my mum's health has really deteriorated causing major changes in our family and household and my dad had a health scare but through it all, he's been the light I needed and he has always been there to make me feel like everything was OK. He hugs me and I feel like I'm safe from anything.

We've done so much and been through so much together in such a short amount of time. Some of my favourite memories from the last year are the little things we have done together like walking along the beach together chatting about nothing, or having a BBQ down at Otterspool.  Along with those times, we had an amazing New Year in the Lakes, we went on our first night away together to Leasowe Castle and had the best weekend of my life, we climbed Snowdon, we went on the funniest weekend away to a log cabin which we will always remember as 'Tarmac Weekend', we have been to theatre shows, cinema experiences, gigs, the zoo, parties, museums, seen Blackpool lights, saw the Coca Cola truck roll into Liverpool; We have just had so much fun together no matter what we are doing. Let's just not mention the Chinese New Year celebrations though shall we... haha!
We're not the perfect couple, we don't agree on certain things and sometimes our views on situations are different, we argue from time to time and get ratty with each other (mainly when it's a certain time of month and I'm hormonal), but we get each other, we bounce off each other, we fancy each other rotten, and we laugh together every single day. We have formed the best little team together and I love it.

Climbing Snowdon September 2017
Pumpkin Picking October 2017  |  Chester Zoo November 2017
Coca Cola Truck December 2017  |  Polaroid from our first Christmas together December 2017

He is so kind, caring, generous, funny, silly, stupid, honest, sensitive, sentimental, and unapologetically himself and I love everything about him. He goes out of his way to make sure I'm OK, always puts me first and just treats me like an absolute queen. Not to mention he's got the most gorgeous smile ever and I just think he's so gorgeous. (His legs are also GREAT!) He dances with me even though he has no rhythm at all, he duets with me in the car to cheesy pop songs, we have so many little private jokes that we laugh our heads off at day in day out, we teach each other new things and open each other up to new experiences all the time, he puts up with my road rage like an absolute pro, he would happily freeze to death and give me his coat even if I have one on just so I'm not cold, he carries my handbag for me because it's always so heavy and he doesn't want my arm to ache, he walks on the side closest to the road so he is closer to the cars, when I don't like my food he gives me his and he eats mine instead which come on, is that not just husband material right there?!

New Year in the Lakes December 2017

My Birthday celebrations January 2018

Our first Valentines February 2018

I always used to try and explain to my mum what I wanted in a lad and I thought the person I described just didn't exist, but Craig is absolutely everything I wanted. He is the most loyal person I have ever met, he has morals you don't find in many lads these days (honestly watching things like TOWIE and Made in Chelsea make me realise exactly how lucky I've got!), I trust him more than anyone in the world and he's so respectful. It feels good to be in a relationship where you never have to question anything, you aren't panicking he is talking to someone else and you aren't arguing like cat and dog every day. He stands up for himself and isn't afraid to voice what he believes in, he always has my back and he tells me every single day that I am beautiful. He has helped me become the person I used to be again, and he has helped me be Sarah again. I lost myself along the way and became a person I didn't really like, but he has brought the old me back out and everyone tells me all the time. Even a team leader I had pulled me aside and told me that since I had been with him, the old Sarah had come back. He has done more for me than he will ever realise. He has helped me to be comfortable and confident in the person I am and not ashamed or embarrassed to be myself. I couldn't imagine my life without him. Here's to many more years laughing through life together. 

My Dad's Birthday meal February 2018  |  Delamere Forest March 2018

"The best kind of people are the ones who come into your life and 
make you see the sun where you once saw the clouds.
The People that believe in you so much that you start to believe in you too. 
The people that love you, simply for being you. 
The once in a lifetime kind of people." 

I finally found my lobster.
Scrag 4eva! I.D.A.T ;)

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sarah Travels | The Amazon Rainforest

I have actually been into the Amazon Rainforest. I've been to the AMAZON RAINFOREST! Sorry just nearly 6 months later, it still hasn't quite sunk in.

This is going to be another long one, so get yourselves a cuppa, or maybe a glass of wine? A Pisco Sour to get in the Peruvian mood? ;) Whatever floats your boat, I do have a tendency to ramble haha.

Let's get the journey rant out the way, then the good stuff can start! The journey there was a stressful one to say the least. I'm not the greatest flier anyway, and landing in Cusco before the Inca Trail began was horrific and so bumpy because of the altitude so I was already a bit worried about having to take off from there. The day before we flew some of the "Assholes" had flown back to Lima to go home (see previous post if you're sitting there wondering why the hell I'm referring to assholes in a post haha). Anyway they had text our group whatsapp chat saying that they had to fly back to Lima without their luggage and they didn't think they were going to get it to them in time for their flights home the next day because the heat and air pressure from the altitude meant the plane had been too heavy to take off and they had to take loads of the luggage off the plane for it to be able to fly. Cue me and my anxious little brain starting to panic and worry.
The day of the flight, straight away the journey was a nightmare haha. We all got on the mini bus and just before we were going to leave I realised I didn't have my phone. I was back in the hotel frantically searching all over the reception, asking for the key to go back to my room to check it, begging the mini bus driver to open my suitcase so I could check inside. He wouldn't at first because he had struggled to get it into the bus (yes I am the person that took a 25kg suitcase on a backpacking and jungle holiday while everyone else had small sports bags hahahaha, "travelling light" doesn't exist in my vocabulary)  but I think he saw how upset I was and finally got it back out for me and when I opened it, there it was. It was like a light shone down, a choir sang and I had just set eyes on the holy grail! I actually dived onto my bus driver and hugged him, which he definitely wasn't impressed by hahaha! Finally after the phone fiasco, we could set off the airport. It is always me that these things happen to!!!

Once we got the airport all was going well until we actually boarded the plane then we had the same problem as the others. Our guide had left us, so we were travelling alone without a G-Adventures rep accompanying us, and then all of a sudden our suitcases started being taken back off the plane and back into the airport. Then the panic set in, I didn't want to fly to a remote part of the jungle without my suitcase! The stewards on the plane were an absolute joke. We were trying to ask where they were taking them, if they would fly on a different plane straight after us, if they didn't where would they go, when would we get them? Fair enough they didn't know anything, but they could see we were all panicking and they wouldn't even attempt to try and find out anything for us. There was even another group on the plane who were travelling with G-Adventures as well, and we were desperately trying to get their rep to help us, but she wouldn't even speak to us because we weren't the group she was assigned to and then went on to pretend to be asleep until we got to the jungle! None of us were impressed and then to add to the panic, after pretty much all the luggage had been removed from the plane, we were then told that the plane was still too heavy and 10 people had to get off and they would be compensated £50. If no-one volunteered, they would pick people at random. Thankfully some people did and the plane could still leave, and off we went, waving our luggage goodbye.

When we landed and got off the plane, there was still no G-Adventures rep there to pick us up, and again the other rep was absolutely no help and just left with her group while we were stood there like lemons with no luggage and absolutely no idea what was happening. Finally after what seemed like hours, two of the guides from our eco-lodge resort we were staying in turned up to get us, but completely unaware that we didn't have luggage. They were an absolute godsend though and finally got people in the airport to help us and got in touch with people who let us no that our suitcases would be arriving there and being sent to the G-Adventures office by the time we were travelling back home again. Most of our group had absolutely nothing with them, so the guides took us to some local shops so we could get some toiletries and clothes if we needed anything, which we were told we could claim back the expenses for once we were home. Luckily me and Stacey had packed most of our stuff we needed and clothes in our backpacks because we couldn't be bothered messing about in our suitcases once we got to the G-Adventures office, so we weren't too bad. Being lazy does pay off sometimes! About 2 hours later than expected, we were finally on our way to our lodge, and finally all our stresses seemed to start to disappear and everyone started to be excited again. Talk about the journey from hell!! Haha!
Once we were on the mini bus we got given our lunch and can I just say, it was the nicest lunch ever! Egg fried rice, served in a huge leaf! If that didn't make you feel like you were on your way to the middle of the Jungle then I don't know what would have! We were on the mini bus for about an hour until we got to the Amazon River, where we all boarded a speedboat to take us to our Eco-Lodge Resort and cruised down the river for 2 hours, while the sun was setting in front of us. Watching a sunset on a boat on the Amazon River in the middle of the Rainforest, how was that my life? I actually felt like I needed someone to pinch me and wake me up because it felt like I was dreaming. I have never seen anything so beautiful, and to make it even better, we even saw wild Capybaras on the river banks which were just absolutely adorable!
Our eco-lodge resort was amazing. It was called Cayman Lodge in the Tambopata National Reserve region of the Amazon and it was the prettiest place ever. There was a big dining space where all the groups staying there met for meals, there was a bar which served the nicest cocktails, there was an area with all hammocks in where you could lounge around and chill out, there was so many little huts everywhere, there was even an area where you could charge your phone or electronics. I know, electricity in the jungle! Who would have thought it?! We didn't have any signal at all, but at least we could charge them! Our lodges were like no where I'd ever stayed before. They were pretty little lodges made from wood, with grass roofs and little raised walkways leading to them which branched off all around the resort. They had mosquito nets around the beds, and no electricity or lights in the rooms so when the sun went down, the only light you could get was using a torch or candle light! Just so different from anywhere I had ever been before.  Not sure how much the mosquito nets worked though, the amount of bites I came home with was ridiculous, most of which I got in the jungle. They even bit me through my clothes! They tell you to take long sleeved tops and trousers but they still got their little sneaky selves through, and a few have scarred me on my arms and face. I am so so happy I took Malaria tablets because my repellent did nothing haha!
We stayed in the Cayman Lodge for 2 nights but only one full day as we arrived late on the first day and we were setting off early on the 3rd day. While we were there we did some amazing activities. I wasn't sure what to expect from this part of the holiday, in regards to where we would be staying, what the Amazon Rainforest itself would be like, or what we would be doing here, but it was all just so amazing!
We missed one of our activites because we were delayed getting there but the 1st night we did a night walk through the Jungle with one of our guides and we got to see a snake and some creepy crawlies and then at the end before we turned back, we saw a spider that I'm not even exaggerating, was the actual size of a dinner plate! Just as we started to look at it, it scurried away because of the light off the torches and hid under a log, so our guide told us all to turn our torches off and see if it would come back out. I was so scared stood there not even being able to see my hand in front of my face just incase we put our torches back on and the spider was on my foot hahaha! It stayed hidden tho thankfully and didn't use my foot as a pillow, so we left it alone in peace.
On the second day we did a jungle hike through the Tambopata National Reserve which was amazing but SO hot! The humidity was like nothing I had ever experienced (cue Monica Gellar hair and me having to wear my hair in a bun the whole time to keep it at bay!) and hiking through a jungle in crazy humidity was an experience I'll never forget, but I loved it. I felt like GI Jane or Lara Croft! It was a 10K hike, 5K there and 5K back and then halfway through we got to cruise around in another little boat around this huge lake in the middle of the reserve. This boat was tiny and the whole time I felt like it was going to topple and I would be a Caimans lunch, but my god it was worth it! While we were on the boat we saw wild monkeys swinging in the trees, a massive Anaconda curled up on the river bank, a little group of bats sleeping upside down, and so many different birds and butterflies. It was unreal! When we got off the boat and sat around for lunch, the rest of group brought in this huge anaconda skin which one had shed that they had fished out of the water. It was crazy! After the boat ride we hiked back and spent the afternoon chilling in hammocks, reading, chatting and drinking cocktails! It was hard to think that a few days before I had been hiking through the Andes Mountains and now here I was, swaying in a hammock with a cocktail in the middle of the jungle surrounded by animals and hundreds of species of birds and not a care in the world! It was nice to get an hour or two to ourselves and just sit and think of how crazy the adventure had been so far, and how much we had seen and done while we were in Peru :) After our hour or two of chilled bliss, we all went to the little hut overlooking the river and watched another stunning sunset over the Rainforest and the River. Everything about this place was just perfect.
That same day and the last of our activities was definitely my favourite. We went on a night time boat ride Caiman spotting! We all got back on a speedboat after it had gone dark and we floated up and down the Amazon trying to find some wild Caimans. The river was so silent other than the sound of birds and monkeys in the trees. On the night spotting, the guides have huge torches and they shine them onto the river banks, and when they are shone onto a Caiman, their eyes glow red so you can spot them. I was so happy, I thought I spotted one from so far away when the guide shone the torch onto the river bank and then a minute later she shouted we've spotted one and it was the one I had seen! Just call me Sarah Attenborough haha! We ended up seeing quite a few for the hour we were out, all of them little baby ones and we saw them both in the water and on the banks. It was absolutely amazing, seeing these animals in their natural environments and in their own habitats rather than a man made one like the zoo's I'm so used to going to. It was one of my favourite things I have ever done. I am such a huge animal lover and love wildlife documentaries and Sir David Attenborough is one of my heroes so this couple of days was just something else for me.
Aside from the activities we did and the animals we saw, the food was so nice in the resort! One of our meals was noodles with chicken and veg followed by bananas in a passion fruit sauce which was delicious, and another was steak with rice and veg followed by some sponge cake. My appetite still wasn't back after the Inca Trail and I still didn't manage to eat much, but I did manage to eat more than I had done and actually got to enjoy some of the food this time which felt amazing. The staff in the resort were just absolutely brilliant, especially our two guides, and I literally couldn't fault Cayman Lodge at all. I loved sitting round in the evening having a few drinks with the Assholes and spending some time relaxing, having drinks and having toothpaste parties! Haha! Yes we all did our teeth in the same room, waving our torches around as if they were glowsticks, and dancing round to absolutely nothing! It was the best teeth cleaning experience I've ever had that's for sure! Going to sleep at night as well with the sound of all the wildlife outside was strangely soothing and I had such good sleeps there, probably the best sleeps I had the whole holiday!  I just wish we had been able to stay a little bit longer because I absolutely loved every second that I was there.

The Amazon Rainforest is such a special place, and will always hold special memories for me now. I feel so lucky to have experienced such a unique and amazing couple of days and been able to see animals in their true form deep in the middle of the Rainforest. The trip was expensive, I had struggles along the way, but everything that went wrong or every obstacle I had to face throughout the two weeks was worth it for the experiences I had. Oh and on the way back, we got our suitcases! *insert party popper emoji here*
Thanks for having me Amazon and thanks for the memories you gave me <3


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Sarah Travels | The Inca Trail & Machu Picchu!

Grab yourselves a cuppa, this is gonna be an extremely long one!

Towards the end of last year I completely threw myself so far out of my comfort zone and I travelled to South America to Peru to go on a 2 week trip of a lifetime called Amazon to the Andes which I booked through G-Adventures. I will link the trip at the end of the blog post for anyone wanting to know a bit more about it, prices etc! The trip itself consisted of starting in Lima, travelling to Cusco, doing a 4 day hike along the Inca Trail through the Andes Mountains and ending at Machu Picchu, and then back to Cusco to travel to the Amazon Rainforest for a few nights. It still blows my mind when I talk about it! This blog post though is going to be all about the most exciting bit, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu!

Right from the very start when I booked it, I was panicking. This is me we are talking about, the most walking I had done was walking around the shops. I had never camped before, I had never been away for longer than a week before, and to top it off, I was being made redundant around the same time I was going and I wasn't sure how I would be able to pay for such an expensive trip. My mum and dad were wary and telling me to work my money out and make sure I could afford it, my brother was terrified I was going to die in the mountains, but in a moment of madness I just thought sod it! And next thing I had agreed to go and was on my way to book it! When I was actually booking the trip, it took a good few attempts to get things moving and I was considering just forgetting the whole thing. I was convinced the struggles I was having were all signs that the universe was trying to tell me it was a bad idea. I had trouble with my passport, trouble with the travel agents systems, but after 3 attempts I finally booked it and crossed my fingers that it wasn't the universe trying to tell me anything and it was infact, just my nervy belly being a pain! Haha.

I'm not going to talk too much about the start of the holiday in this blog post as I'm going to split the trip into different ones, the same as the Italy posts, and that's basically just because the absolute impatient cow in me just couldn't wait to post this one haha, so I'm doing them jumbled up!

The trek itself started on the 4th day of the trip, on the 28th September 2017. That day will forever go down in history as probably the most terrified I have ever, and will ever be in my whole entire life. I remember getting up in the morning and sitting on my bed and I have never felt fear like it. I wasn't excited, I was just filled with nerves and dread. All I could think was this is it, there's no going back now and what have I gotten myself into, and all I wanted was a hug off my boyfriend Craig who unfortunately was all the way back in Liverpool. We were in Ollantaytambo, a little town in the Sacred Valley at that point, staying in the prettiest little hotel called Inka Paradise Hotel. Our wakeup call was really early, and our bus was picking us up at 8am. As I put my backpack on my back, tied my laces on my walking boots, and walked out of that room, not having a clue what was ahead of me, all I wanted to do was be sick haha.  The excitement did start to creep in once we were on our bus travelling to the starting point of the trail with our gang though, who later would be renamed "the assholes". Has a lovely ring to it doesn't it ;)

It took us about 45 minutes to travel to the starting point where we got off the bus and met with some of our porters who had our duffle bags and sleeping bags lined up ready to collect (I was number 216, I'll never forget that number now haha.) Next up was passport control, which I was also panicking about (I think you may have caught wind of the fact that I am infact, the biggest worrier to have ever been born haha!) but I think my worry was justified here as my passport number had been wrong in the induction meeting and they told me that if it was wrong you couldn't go any further. They promised me they would sort it but I was panicking so much, I had no reason to though and I got through easy peasy. After walking across the bridge to the starting point, we all took the classic beginning photo by the sign and then we were off! And the craziest 4 days of my life began!
Day 1 was apparently meant to be the easy day.  The trek was 26 miles and to say it was intimidating that first few hours is an understatement. The first couple of hours was really enjoyable and I was thinking "If it's like this the whole time it will be great!" but the more I walked, the more the sun got to me and when you are walking in scorching heat (us British only see the sun about 3 days out of the year you know!), high altitude, a heavy backpack on my back, and clompy walking boots, I was already starting to struggle. The views everywhere you looked were just beautiful. The Andes Mountains are definitely a breathtaking place (literally as well), and as I was walking I couldn't believe where I was and what I was seeing. I felt so lucky to be there. The porters were amazing as well, they carried some of our stuff and each day carried approximately 15kg each on their backs, and the speed they walked up was ridiculous! Anytime they passed we had to move to the left so they could pass us on the right and every 5 minutes all you could hear was shouts of "to the left!" coming from behind you. That quickly became a catchphrase and lots of instagram photos were tagged with it once we were all home haha! About half way through the first day when we stopped for lunch, that's when I really felt it and I nearly had to turn back. The altitude was already affecting me really badly and had been since we first landed in Cusco a couple of days earlier. My appetite had vanished and I felt sick just looking at food and then to top it off, I got heatstroke when we were trekking. I tried to eat some of the meal, which was trout pie, but I just couldn't face it and I was taken to sit in some shade to try and cool down. My head was pounding, I felt faint and I felt so nauseous and our guide David said to me that if I threw up I would definitely have to turn back. I was devastated because I really didn't want to come all this way to have to go back on the first day and I was determined to carry on. I wasn't going to let all my loved ones back home, and myself down at the first hurdle.
After lunch we carried on walking and I started to feel a bit better although my backpack was really really hurting my back and my neck. My Aussie Action Man Mark came to my rescue though and he offered to carry my backpack for me as well as his own! He literally was my hero on the trek and I will always be so grateful to him because without him, I really don't think I would have gotten to the end!
The hike on the first day was quite short and by 3:30pm we were at our first campsite. The site was so cute and the porters already had our tents sent up with our duffel bags ready and the food cooking for us! The food on the trip was just mind blowing, I have no idea how they managed to cook everything that they did up in a mountain, they even made us fresh popcorn every night! They even clapped us when we arrived at camp. They trekked so much faster than us, carrying so much more stuff than us, set up our camp and cooked us food, provided us with water and made sure everything was done for us, and there they were, clapping us! It was baffling! My highlight of the food and drink situation was definitely the hot chocolate. As my appetite has completely vanished and I literally didn't eat a thing for the whole trek, the hot chocolate was just heavenly.
The night time and interacting with the group was my favourite bit of the trek, sitting in our group tent where we ate together and playing cards and getting to know everyone was such a lovely experience. We played a game called Asshole, and that's where our group name came from.
As the sky went dark and the sun went down, I have never seen anything like it. The sky was so clear and just completely filled with stars, and we could even see the milky way! As I sat there and looked up at the stars and looked around at where I was, a million miles from home and living out this amazing experience, I wasn't going to let a bit of altitude sickness get in my way, and I made a promise to myself that I would get to the end no matter what it took.
Day 2 was the hardest day, and the day that involved the dreaded Dead Woman's Pass. Our wake up call was 5am and we got ready and all had breakfast together. Our breakfast was Porridge and Pancakes and then we set off seriously early at 6:20am. The day was a really long day and the first half of the day consisted of 6 hours of constant stairs and uphill walking and 30 minutes in, I already felt like I was going to cry. I was already struggling with my bag and my legs were already sore. I couldn't breathe properly because of the altitude and I had hardly slept because the altitude had caused me to have nightmares and I was awake nearly all night, so I was seriously tired. It was at that moment I just wished I hadn't been so lazy with my training. Although no amount of training can determine how your body will react to the altitude and unlucky for me, mine reacted really badly. About an hour into the trek Mark came to my rescue yet again and he took my backpack for me. I tried to tell him no but he tricked me pretending to help me look for something in it and next thing he had it on and wouldn't give me it back. He had his own on his back, and mine on the front like a baby carrier haha! He was so amazing! After a few hours I was really starting to feel the pain, I had excruciating pain in my hips and knees and any time I climbed a step it was agony. It was just step after step after step and they weren't small steps, they were the size of boulders! I wanted to give up so many times but I pushed through the pain and just kept telling myself it will all be worth it. The views were just spectacular and each time I felt pain, I looked around and took in where I was, took a deep breath and carried on. There's not many people who can say they had seen those views I saw and I wasn't going to let a dodgy hip stop me from enjoying everything that was around me.
After what seemed like a lifetime we got to the main stop point and to our shock, there was stalls there selling snacks, water, soft drinks and beers! Haha! Mark told me to have a Gatorade (like Lucozade) and I got a kitkat but only managed to eat half before putting it back into my backpack as I couldn't face eating it. The group photos were a regular occurrence at this point thanks to our camera man Dan and along with that came the other catchprase of the trek "it's been a while!" Haha.
After an hour we headed onto what is known as the hardest part of the trek, Dead Woman's Pass. Dan kindly took over from Mark carrying my backpack (which he seriously regretted by the end of the climb! haha!) and off we went. I really took my time doing Dead Woman's Pass and trekked up really slowly, stopping so many times for water and to catch my breath. It was so hard, probably the hardest couple of hours of my life, I can see where it got it's name from. I couldn't breathe and every step was a struggle, but we made it and got to the top to a massive cheer and applause from the rest of our group who were already there. It felt amazing knowing what I had achieved that day and knowing the pain I had pushed through to get there, and at that moment in time, I felt like I could have achieved anything in the world. It was the highest point of the whole trek and at the top we were 4215m above sea level. The views from the top were incredible, we were actually in the clouds, looking out at snow capped mountains, and I just looked around and thought "this is why I'm putting myself through this, I am actually on top of the world." It was like nothing I had ever seen before and I had gotten myself there. It was amazing.
The rest of day 2 was downhill and me and Stacey got to the campsite before nearly everyone else! I found walking down so much easier and by the time I got to camp I just felt so relieved that the hardest day was over and my altitude sickness and dodgy hips and knees and lack of sleep hadn't got the better of me!
Day 2 was also the first experience of the hell we endured with the toilets! Let me tell you about altitude. It seriously knocks your stomach off! When you have one or two toilets between lots of different groups of trekkers and everyones guts are going wild, the smell is like nothing you have ever smelt before. We all sat around for dinner which was Rice Soup followed by Alpaca in sauce with potatoes and veg, none of which I ate surprisingly. Thanks for nothing appetite!
The funniest part of the day came at the end when me and Stacey went to the toilet. If you are squeamish or easily offended I would skip straight to day 3 now haha. We got there and Georgia, our gorgeous little Aussie "Asshole" was with us. We were all desperate but when we got there none of us could stomach going, as there was just poo everywhere! The toilet we had to use, had a massive poo right on it, so Georgia decided to go and get a stick and we howled laughing while we flicked the poo away with the stick. Now I don't know if it was the altitude sending us loopy, but I don't think I have ever laughed so much in my whole life as I did for them 10 minutes!

Day 3 started after another sleepless, nightmare filled night with a 5am start. I think I had a total of 5 minutes sleep, but I was feeling OK and I wasn't as nervous for today knowing the worst was over and I had gotten through that. If I had gotten through day 2, I could easily get through whatever today threw at me!
We started our trek at 6am and the first 2 hours were uphill and an absolute killer but no where near as bad as the day before. I fell over so many times this day though, the first being in the first two hours, which resulted in me dropping my water bottle and a porter running after it while another random porter picked me up off the floor haha! Mrs.Bean in full force! After a couple of hours we reached the highest point of the day and the rest of the day was so much better. We seen so many alpacas this day at our stop points, they are the cutest thing ever!
We trekked for another 2 hours to our next stop where we came across an amazing Inca Ruin. I looked around this on my own and just spent my time taking in the views and where I was and then went and met with the group to carry on the walk. The rest of the day was a lot easier with a lot of flat and downhill mixed in with the small bursts of uphill. I was really enjoying myself by this point and even though my body was destroyed, I was having such an amazing time. We stopped for lunch and to our shock and absolute amazement, after everyone had eaten, they brought out a homemade cake for two of our group, Iain and Claire who were on their honeymoon! None of us could believe it and still to this day, we still say we have no idea how they managed to bake a freshly made cake so high up in a mountain 3 days into a trek! It was definitey one of the highlights of the trek and the only proper thing I ate the whole time haha. Even altitude didn't stop my cake love!
The last part of the trek that day was completely downhill and my god my legs were wrecked! My hips and knees were in absolute agony again, and I fell down the steepest and narrowest steps and landed so hard on my bum that I still have a mark now 5 months later! How do I even get by in life?! Haha! It was a hell of a lot more enjoyable than previous days though and I was feeling the happiest I had felt throughout the whole trek! I managed to carry my backpack the whole day as well which I was so happy about! I didn't feel as much of a cheat anymore haha. We got to the campsite, ate, played cards again and then it was a seriously early night getting sent to bed at 7pm for a 3:30am wake up call the next morning!
Day 4 and it was Machu Picchu Day! I woke up feeling sooooo ill and my stomach was so off, even though I had ate a grand total of 1 slice of cake for the whole 4 days but I was raring to go and I was so happy it was the last day and all our efforts and all the struggle I had endured was going to be worth it in a matter of hours! We got to the entrance of Machu Picchu at 4:30, waited an hour and then started the trek to Machu at 5:30am. It was still dark, and we trekked for about 2 hours at a nice steady pace, a mix of uphill and down, but a hell of a lot easier than the last few days. I think the fact I knew I was going to get to Machu Picchu in a matter of hours just gave me this total burst of energy and I trekked so much better than I had done previously. Towards the end of the walk just before we got to it, we had to climb some stairs. These stairs are known as the Oh My God Stairs, because everyone who approaches them always has the same reaction haha. Those stairs will haunt me forever. They were so steep and the actually steps themselves where so narrow, it was absolutely terrifying and actually felt like I was full on rock climbing, but I took a deep breath, dragged myself up with my sticks (shaking and swearing) and at the top there was a short stretch of path and then there it was. The Sun Gate, the moment the whole trek had led to. David our Porter and Mark were waiting at the entrance to the sungate and clapped me while I walked through and then gave me the biggest hugs and as I walked over the edge, and laid eyes on Machu Picchu for the first time, I just broke down in tears and then cried for a good 10 minutes. I had done it, I had actually done it! I had fought through altitude destroying my body, causing me sleepless nights and nightmares, a constant pounding headache, trekking on absolutely no food, my hips and knees causing me the worst pain, and heatstroke and I had won. I had defeated them all and on 1st October 2017, I got to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas!

The absolute overwhelming feeling of relief, pride and happiness was the most incredible feeling I have ever felt. I think that feeling is gonna be really hard to top, and it's a moment that will stay with me until I die. When I first started the trek I really didn't think I was going to make it. I didn't think I was strong enough, I didn't think I was prepared enough, I didn't think my mind was mentally ready to do it. But there I was, stood there after accomplishing something I had only ever dreamed of, and I was strong enough, and I will always be so proud of myself for pushing myself to the limit and doing something completely new to me and completely out of my comfort zone, and absolutely smashing it despite the speedbumps I faced along the way.

We trekked down to Machu Picchu which took about 45 minutes and we explored the ruins for a good hour or two. It felt amazing walking around and taking it all in and witnessing first hand something I had always wanted to see. It's like nothing I have ever experienced and I am so happy that any time I see a photo of Machu Picchu I am able to say, I trekked through the mountains for 4 days to get there and saw it with my very own eyes.
After spending a few hours exploring we got a bus down to the town of Machu Picchu called 'Aguas Calientes' and went souvenir shopping and then for a meal with our group where we said thankyou and gave each of our guides some money as a thankyou for everything they had done for us. They were the best guides we could have asked for and helped us so much and made every night having "asshole time" so fun. They couldn't really understand me though because of my accent but still haha! It was the 70th anniversary of the town when we were there and there was celebrations all through the streets. They had dancers, singers, so many people all celebrating and enjoying themselves and it just made me feel so happy. Afterwards we got the train back to Ollantaytambo and picked up the rest of our stuff we had left behind and then got the bus back to Cusco and arrived back at our hotel where we all finally got to have a shower! Which by the way, was the best shower I have EVER had in my life after not showering for 4 days. I absolutely stank and the dirt that came out of my hair in that shower could have filled a garden haha! Once we were ready we went and met up with some others and had another meal. A few of the group were leaving us to go home the next day so we wanted one last meal all together and it was such a nice night. And going to bed that night felt AMAZING! Haha!
The trek itself was everything I could have asked for and more. The Peruvian Mountains were the most beautiful place I have ever been and I will treasure the memories of the trip for the rest of my life.  I feel so lucky that I got to experience and go through it and I will never forgot the feeling of pride I felt getting to Machu Picchu for as long as I live.

Inca Trail, I loved you, I hated you, and I beat you!


For Amazon to the Andes trip information click here.
For More trips from G-Adventures (they have so many amazing ones) click here.