“Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination.”

We all have childhood dreams. Some of these get fulfilled over the course of life, accidentally for the lucky ones, or with great resolve, intent and effort for the tenacious ones. Some get forgotten or lost in ?adulting?, and some we hold ourselves back from due to fear.

Last month, Wildfire Expeditions spoke with someone who never let fear or apparent impossibilities of those dreams stop her. Watching the live interview, even having known her half my life, I was caught by the matter of fact tone she uses to describe experiences beyond what most of us could even fathom. As if she rolled out of bed one day, decided to be a freediver and went straight to setting national records!

I decided to do a deeper dive with a fellow adventurer, whose exploration of life has led her to discover new worlds both within and without.

 

WF: Would you describe yourself as a fairly patient person?

*both of us burst out laughing even before I finished the question*.[Aside]?A Tunisian memory sprung to mind. Back in 2009, our very first trip overseas together, Anqi utilised her full arsenal of 3 French words to goad the hapless mini van driver to moving with a less than half-full van ? something that NEVER happens. You allez! Toute de suite! We allez! Now! Something in her resolve must have communicated itself to him, transcending language and protocol. This is clearly not someone who takes No for an answer.

Anqi: So no, I am not a patient person. I was caught by the beauty of watching a freediver in action, the freedom of moving without big chunky apparatus, the elegance of his fish-like movement through the water as he cut cleanly through all our scuba bubbles. Then and there, I decided I am going to freedive. I was actually intrigued by freediving and read the manual of freediving by Umberto Pellizari, but I didn?t think it was something I could do. But when I saw the Freediver in action in real life when I was breathing air out of my scuba tanks, I knew right away it was something I wanted to explore.

(Watch the Wildfire Expeditions live?interview?with Anqi?for more context into her story and how she transitioned to freediving.)

 

WF: So being impatient, how did you first learn breath hold? And subsequently, how did you train yourself to record breaking standards in freediving? ?

Anqi: I would say that my freediving progress was very gradual. The advantage I had was that I was a Scuba diving instructor already so was already very comfortable being in the water. When I started freediving I progressed in small baby steps, overcoming different barriers initially in breath hold, to the fear of the deep and the most difficult challenge was equalisation, especially advanced equalisation for deeper dives.

From Philippines to Greece to Mexico, I trained all over the world and competed in freediving events wherever and whenever I get the opportunity. I was very fortunate in being able to interact with the best freedivers in the world, train with them and learn from them.

WF: In my mind, there was always that dichotomy between letting go and relaxing to allow yourself to go deeper and the motivation, desire, effort needed to push your body to extreme levels of exertion. Isn?t one at odds with the other? How do you manage that?

AnqiπŸ˜• Yes I agree that this is very contradictory indeed. Besides the physical demands, freediving is mostly mental, which has been the biggest difference for me in experiencing freediving compared to other sports. Initially I had pushed myself with certain depth goals, but later I realised freediving was not such a sport like a 100m sprint where you can use brute strength to reach your goal. I learnt from many failures that this strategy does not work. Instead Freediving requires a lot of inner awareness, patience and adaptation. It is the kind of sport where you need to arrive at the goal without the expectation of arriving. Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination. The way I manage it is to not focus on the end goal but to cherish every moment that I am freediving, for example practising all different disciplines is one way to be an overall well-rounded diver rather than one just chasing for the deep.

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WF: You told me once about the adage: scuba divers dive to see the world, freedivers dive to look within. I thought that was a beautiful summation. Do you feel that freediving has changed you or affected your perspectives, and how you live life?

Anqi: Freediving is probably the purest way to connect and explore our oceans. It is also for me a form of meditation. When I dive into the deep, I feel all my worries fade away. You feel so small, like a tiny drop in the vast ocean. It gives me perspective in life. Many things I worry about seem insignificant in comparison. The ocean is beautiful, life is amazing, and connecting back to nature can make you feel alive. That?s all I need, not societal status, great wealth or endless diversions. Freediving helped me see that a simple life can be rich if it is lived fully.

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WF:?You are the first Singaporean to medal in Honduras last year, finishing third in the constant weight no fins discipline at the Carribean Cup. You also set 4 new national records in all depth disciplines at the CMAS World championships?right around Singapore?s National Day in fact.

Being born and bred in Singapore, we both know that Singapore does not give handouts. For a non-mainstream sport, what kind of support have you been able to get?

Anqi: It is my dream that Singapore will become a nation that supports Sport on a bigger scale. Sport is great avenue for youth development and community bonding.?Freediving is not in the Olympics or SEA games so it is not a supported sport in Singapore unfortunately. I have not been able to get any financial support for competing or training from the country or dive federation. Luckily most of the competitions I had joined were around the region in Philippines or Indonesia. I dug deep into my personal savings to fund my own training and competition. In order to compete at the world championships in Honduras last year, which was more expensive and further away, I reached out via crowdfunding and received enough support to join the competition. I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity. It inspired me to go all out to compete in 2 more competitions after the world championships and break more records. My hope is that the sport will be recognised internationally, so that future athletes can receive national or corporate support to pursue their depth dreams. For myself it may not be financially possible to be competing full time, but I know the depths of the ocean will be there for me and I will always dive for the love of it.

 

WF: Ever since I?ve known you, you have been pushing limits, in whichever sport or activity you choose to pursue. Running, touch rugby, ultimate frisbee, yoga, diving. You have either competed at national level or worked to achieve instructor certification in each of these sports. And they are so different. What motivates you?

AnqiπŸ˜• Sometimes I think I tried so many things that maybe I am a jack of all trades but master of none. I enjoy at different times in my life various activities and always try to do my best at them. I guess I am just motivated by a sense of adventure and the outdoors. I have always been active and love to be outdoors / in nature and I like to try different things!

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WF: What is occupying most of your time at the moment??

Anqi: I have started an ocean conservation project called the Sea Glass Project last year to bring awareness about keeping our oceans pollution free through making sustainable choices. This is a passion that has kept me very busy!

You can read about Anqi?s inspiration for the Sea Glass Project here:?bit.ly/seaglassproj, and purchase her amazing jewelry at:?Seaglassproject.etsy.com

Malaysia is open for diving for adventurers based in Malaysia! Explore the wonders of Pulau Sipadan, one of the top dive destinations in the world. Book now with Wildfire for the best availability and rates: wildfirexpeditions.com/tours/sipadan or contact us at info@wildfirexpeditions.com.

Are we there yet? Where is French Ridge Hut?!?! I remember clearly that the distance marker and signboard at Pearl Flat reads “French Ridge Hut –> 3 hr” after the river crossing, and we are now 3.5 hours into the hike and I still do not spot the bright red French Ridge Hut. The last 3.5 hours was sheer torture. The only consolation I had was the beautiful mountain backdrop behind us once we got high enough and we had a clear view of the red Liverpool Hut standing strikingly across the Matukituki Valley. This was definitely a full body workout. This section of the trail constantly required me to grab on big fat roots and branches of trees to hoist myself up the steep muddy terrain in the jungle with high-steps. And it definitely did not help that we had full intention to camp in the valley for this 4 Days 3 Nights trek, so we were carrying tents and food supply in our heavy backpacks.

I was trudging step by step with my face down, trying to avoid the strong glares from the hot sun. My perspiration was also washing off the sunblock that I had diligently applied in the tent this morning.

“Come on! I see the toilet!”, Patrick, my fiance, hollered loudly.

I peered up and squinted my eyes against the blinding sun, and there it is. The STRIKING RED TOILET. I have never been so happy to see a toilet in my life! My whole body is aching, but I am so glad we finally made it!

Finally, after what seems like eternity, we hear chattering in the distance, and we can see the toilet and the striking red French Ridge Hut! We are totally thrilled!?

A Guide to Hiking to French Ridge Hut (and Beyond)

Located in the Matukituki Valley area?and?Mount Aspiring National Park?in the?Otago?region (near Wanaka), the French Ridge Track is deemed as an advanced track that is 16.2km long one way, and you will return via the same track. Typically, most people would attempt this over 3 days:

Day 1 – Raspberry Creek car park to Aspiring Hut

Day 2 – Aspiring Hut to Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut

Day 3 – Liverpool Hut / French Ridge Hut to Raspberry Creek car park

Patrick and I always enjoyed doing these treks in a slightly different way, and this time round, we decided to do just that. Make this a camping trip and spend one more day in the wilderness and do a day hike around French Ridge Hut.

Start of French Ridge Track
Don't forget to take a peek at Rob Roy Glacier!
To the left of the trail, you will see and hear massive waterfalls too
I'm loving the clear turquoise blue water!

This section of the track is relatively flat, and the biggest challenge you face is probably the hot sun and a couple of small water streams that you will encounter along the track, but if you have the agility to jump from rocks to rocks, your shoes will be safe from getting wet!

Reaching Mount Aspiring Hut

The Aspiring Hut is gorgeous! This is a New Zealand Alpine Club hut, and sleeps 29 pax, and is definitely one of the better-equipped hut with facilities such as flush toilets. We took a short snack break before pushing on towards Pearl Flat to find a decent camp spot for the night.

Do note the capacity limit of these swing bridges that you will cross throughout the trek
Awe-inspiring!
Clear mirror reflection of the peaks and glacier on the water!

Today had been a relatively easy day, with approximately 4 hours of walking. And… decision has been made. We are sleeping here tonight! What more can one ask for? Snow-capped peak and glacier view, and clean water streams for cooking. So we?dropped our backpacks to explore the area and to see how close we can get to the glacier waterfall!

The moon is peering out as the sun sets. Better get the tent set up before the whole valley is covered behind the shadows of the mountains and we lose light and warmth.

It had been a cold night! We woke up with frost on our tent, and we were just waiting for the sun to hit our tent so we get motivated to get out of our sleeping bags and enjoy the view with a cup of hot tea in our hands!

Frost everywhere around us!

We could see hikers making their way towards Liverpool / French Ridge Hut, as you definitely want to get there earlier as you are unable to make bookings, and is on a first come first served basis. You definitely do not want to reach there late and without a bed for tonight in the hut if you do not have a tent.?

Sun is finally hitting where we are and warming up the valley

We got to the ice cold river crossing at Pearl Flat and this is the intersection where one will choose to go towards Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut. From here on, it will be a painful hike through the steep muddy terrain where the roots and branches would become your best friend. You will be hugging them non-stop along the way!

Stepping into this ice cold river water will wake you up for sure!
A much-needed rest as we trudge on with our heavy backpacks

Finally above the treeline but where is the hut?

We made it! But we are not done till we find the perfect campspot for the night. There were lots of bivouac shelters (or bivvy / bivy) made out of rocks that looks really decent! But unfortunately our tent was too big for that.?

French Ridge Hut
What an amazing backdrop for a toilet!
Guess this is it! Our camping spot for tonight

It is known that French Ridge Hut has some of the best sunset viewing spots. After our dinner feast of tomato sauce meatballs, is time to let our eyes have a feast too.?

Everyone's getting ready in their sunset viewing seats
It is going to be a night with bright round moon peering over us

Woke up to the sounds of Keas flying and chirping outside our tents. We were told that Keas are extremely curious birds and are especially attracted to bright coloured items. Hence, to avoid having our orange tents drawing too much attention to these beautiful birds, we dismantled our tents and left them in the hut before we start?our day hike up beyond the French Ridge Hut to get a better view of Mount French and the Quarterdeck Pass.?

Spotted lots of beautiful flora and fauna along the way

Followed some occasional cairns along the way and finally getting closer to the glacier and snow!

Spot the turquoise blue glacier lake that has formed at the foot of the cliff

After some hours of fun exploration, we start heading back towards the hut.?

Got back to the hut and as the weather forecast is calling for rain the next day, we decided to head towards Pearl Flat to camp so that it would be a shorter hike out to the car park before it rains on us. Right after lunch, we started making our way down.

It was still tough hiking down the steep terrain but it was definitely more manageable than before.?

Here’s our camping spot at Pearl Flat!

Clouds coming in later in the evening. New Zealand weather does change drastically at times

To avoid getting caught in the rain which was predicted in the afternoon, we had an early start towards the trail head. Beautiful and cool day out!

Back to Raspberry Creek car park

It had been an epic 4 Days 3 Nights adventure camping out on this track! It may have challenged me physically and mentally, but it was so rewarding and I would definitely go back for more. For more blogs on our adventure in New Zealand, check it out here!

Looking for unique experiences that does not follow a typical itinerary, is an off the beaten path trip that is not too crowded? Our New Zealand treks and?glacier exploration trips in this region might be the perfect fit for you. For more information, contact us at info@wilfirexpedtions.com.

Talk to anyone about trekking in the Central Asia region, and the list goes on and on. In particular, one of the most raved about treks in the Pamir-Alay area has been crowned the title of “Asian Patagonia”. It got its name from the stark resemblance to the majestic beauty of the South American Patagonia, which offers hikers the alpine meadows, endless valleys, high ragged peaks, and white snowy landscapes with glaciers surrounding the peaks of Sabakh (5823m) and Aksu (5365m). With anticipation, we drove to Uzgarysh village, and met up with our hosts. We were showered with typical Kyrgyz hospitality, served traditional home-baked bread known as Lepeshka with constant topping up of tea and coffee.

After a hearty breakfast with our host, we are ready to embark on our journey! Blessed with great weather and clear blue skies, we followed the trail by a massive river called the Laily-Mazar Canyon,?and the sunrays flicker like glitter on the river surface.?

Even the cows and horses were out and about to bask in the sun.

That’s where we are heading towards! The majestic peak that appears right before our eyes.

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. “- Dorothea Lange. There is always time to stop for a photo to capture that beautiful moment.

Curious adventurists we are, we decided to do a quick detour to the other side of the river bank to see what this captivating land offers!

Marching on!?

I was beguiled by the beauty of this place. As the sun sets, the?sky was ablaze with the rich and bold colours of the setting sun. As night falls, the moon rises and the sky changed to a purple tint. We fell asleep in the tent listening to the sound of rapids from the canyon, to the nature lullaby that relaxes our body and mind and were soon lured to sleep.

Good morning world! We woke up to motion outside the tent. Curious, we peeped out of the tent and were greeted with cows grazing the grass near the river.

After a quick breakfast, we are off to explore the peak that have been in sight the whole time.?

Relaxing day out! Quick siesta before we proceed with our day trip exploration.

The river valley is surrounded by birch trees lining the river banks, juniper thickets scattered all around, and as we got closer to the peak, we were so close to the glacier! Surrounding rocks and slopes bear the tracks of ancient glacier activity.

Found a great spot for a rest. Surrounded by massive glaciers and snow capped peaks in the background.

Much as we would love to continue with the exploration, we had planned for a quick 2 Days 1 Night trek instead of the whole Aksu – Sabakh trek itinerary, so at this point, we had to turn around to start our descent.

Our kind and hospitable host was very kind to offer to pick us up from the trail head at 3pm, so at the arranged time, he was indeed out there to welcome us back! We were excited to see him! Just like seeing our long-lost friend whom we have not met for years (in actual fact, it had only been 1 day)!

Back in the host’s guest house, we were offered food but we had to kindly decline the offer as we needed to continue a long drive to our next destination. And finally, I managed to convince the younger of the 2 little girls to take a photo with me! I guess she was amused at how I was playing peek-and-boo with her.

Time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts. Their hospitality and kindness towards guests are just beyond what one can ask for.

Want to experience the typical warm hospitality the Kyrgyz shower their guests with? Want to join us on this beautiful trip to the Asian Patagonia? Looking for more wild adventures in?Central Asia? Wildfire Expeditions offer trekking, mountaineering, sight-seeing and horseback riding trips within Central Asia region.?Contact us?to find out more!

During this unfortunate lockdown period,? I have had time to sort thru a lot of photos and I came across pics of a canoeing trip. And I was reminded of while doing the? canoe trek down the Whanganui river in New Zealand, I had the fortune?(or misfortune) to experience the canoe tipping over and take an unexpected swim. I thought I would share some lessons learnt from that cold splash.

 

Canoe weight distribution matters intently

Balance is everything in a canoe and a slight shift in weight can make the balance of the canoe one-sided.? If you are carrying lots of items, make sure the weight is distributed equally side to side.? That is, when you are in the canoe, make sure the canoe sides are balanced so that one side is not leaning more in the water. If it leans in the water, while just sitting in the canoe, once you are moving and steering, you will have an increased chance of water coming in on the side that is dipping down.? Once water comes in on that side, it will become even heavier, dipping down even more. Until eventually you will end up overturned.? Not the best way to be in a canoe.?? Evenly distribute the weight, left to right, front to back.? You may want to place heavier objects more toward the back. This will help to keep the canoe more streamlined in the front.? The main thing, keep the sides balanced, or you will end up swimming.

canoeing NZ
canoeing NZ

Water tight barrel / bags are essential.

Watertight bags or plastic barrels as we used, are essential for the trip to store your gear in.? Not only do they keep your gear dry, but it will also keep the canoe buoyant and floating more on top of the water rather than in the water if you overturn the canoe. An upside-down canoe that is partially submerged is a back breaker to get it back upright.? The watertight barrels will also keep the canoe from completely filling up with water while upside down.

 

Strapping everything in you want to take home with you

This may seem obvious, but I saw many water bottles and jackets floating separately from the owners? canoe.? If you want to take it home with you, tie it or strap it to the canoe.? An easy method is to tie a string to the canoe, thread the string through all of your small objects like cups with handles, waterproof cameras with long straps and such, and tie a two-litre empty plastic milk bottle to the other end.? This way the string will float with the object, if it is being dragged behind by canoe upright or upside.

If you follow these three tips, I can’t guarantee you will stay dry, but I can assure you that all of your belongings will reach the destination safely. If you enjoy canoeing and the outdoors, and want to experience nature on your terms, we can help.? Our trip consultants can build the perfect challenge for you.? Be different. Trek the lesser explored, and live Life with Passion.

Respect nature and those around you. Take out more trash than you packed in and Leave No Trace.

Do any research on Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia, and results will definitely prompt you to visit one of the beautiful, clear, breath-taking turquoise lakes in the region. One of the most raved about gem is located in western Kyrgyzstan, within the Sary-Chelek Nature Reserve in the?Jalal-Abad Region, which is also a designated UNESCO World Biosphere reserve. There are 6 lakes in this area, Kylaa-Kel, Aram-Kel, Cheychek-Kol, Bakaly-Kel, Chacha-Kel and the most spectacular of all is the Lake Sary-Chelek. To spice things up a little, we are going to explore this lake in the traditional nomadic way, on a horse! This is really exciting, because it is my first time doing a horseback trek!

So we started our journey towards Arkyt village, driving by a massive turquoise lake that has a yurt built by the bank of the water. How clear is the reflection of the mountain ranges on the water! What a view!

After meeting our local guide at the village, we were brought to what he calls his “humble home”, and like how all Kyrgyzs always treat their guests with immense hospitality, we were offered some tea and coffee, with home-made Lepeshki bread, or round loaves that have been baked in a traditional tandyr oven. We did have our breakfast already, but it was so hard to resist the kindness of the host (actually, the kitchen area redolent with the aroma of the Lepeshki bread was the real reason why we could not resist), so we dug in for our second breakfast of the day.

Time to get on the horse! With guidance and help from our guide, we are off to our journey to the renowned Lake Sary-Chelek! We rode around the village, and were greeted with big smiles from the villagers and inquisitive kids who were definitely curious about these new foreign faces they see in their village.

This boy definitely loves his soft drinks!

After around 20 minutes, the guide stopped by a house in the village and prompted us to join him in there. We were greeted by the family members of the house (I counted at least 10 of them), and we stepped into the dining area. To our surprise, in front of us, was a brightly coloured traditional floor carpet (known as shyrdak or syrmak carpet) with a big spread laid on top of it.

“Come join me!”, the guide says. In such dining setting, the guests are usually seated at a spot furthest away from the door, and the hosts and hostesses will sit closer to the door and pour tea and pass food to the guests first.

Guests will never leave a table hungry. As soon as we finish a plate of food, another dish was offered to us. In this case, it was the plate of fragrant and delectable lamb plov, or pilaf rice, laid in front of us.

Some of the table talks revolved around where we are from, what life was like in our country, about our family, and whether we are going to start our family soon!

After our repeated refusals for the food that was still being served to us since we were so stuffed, we were toasting with vodka shots next. After a few toasts, and the hosts are satisfied that we are 100% full (or maybe 150% full) and ready for the rest of our horse riding adventure, the head of the family said a little prayer by cupping his palms in front of him, and then raise his palms to his cheeks and then lower them again, before bidding us?farewell.

So back to our horses! The rest of the journey involved riding through lush green forests, up and down hills, crossing little water streams (where the horses would always stop to get their little water break), and riding right beside the smaller beautiful lakes.

Here we are, Lake Sary-Chelek!

Despite using padded saddles, the body still ache after riding for a couple of hours. A break to stretch out the body is definitely very much needed! The guide took out some snacks (more food again!), and we had a little picnic in the shelter. The kids (aged between 8 to 12) we met at the shelter were initially very shy, but I guess some sharing of snacks and chocolates that we brought along with us made them more comfortable chatting with us eventually!

Despite the weather being a little overcast and cloudy, Lake Sary-Chelek is still a beautiful sight to behold. Time to head back towards the village!

Had so much fun today! Spending time with the locals, experiencing the typical Kyrgyz hospitality, chatting with them, eating traditional home-cooked Kyrgyz food, and finally checking an item off my bucket list (i.e. attempting horseback riding). It was hard to say goodbye to our wonderful guide!

Looking for more wild adventures in Central Asia? Wildfire Expeditions offer trekking, mountaineering, sight-seeing and horseback riding trips within Central Asia region. Contact us to find out more!

Accomplishing and completing an amazing trek is it’s own reward, but you want the amazing photos to prove it! At least as great memories and to show your friends and family of what you accomplished. So the need to be a world class photographer to capture that amazing moment, is in the back of our minds these days.? I know that when I’m trekking or climbing, I’m looking for that random shot that will stand out and spark memories of the day.

As the smartphones have better camera options these days, we no longer need to drag the 1kg DSL camera with the 2kg zoom lens to get a photo.? We have the power in our pocket.? Here’s a few simple tips to help capture the moment without adding extra weight on your next trek….

1)?Keep the Photos Simple

With digital photos you don’t need to capture everything with just one shot.? (If you do want this, you can use the panoramic option) Just focus on what caught your eye and snap a shot of the subject.??One interesting subject is all you need to take great pictures. It?s easier to create a strong composition when your picture only has one subject.

Mount Arjuna Sign Post

2)?Focus on the Golden and Blue Hours

Understand the position of the sun and the time of day. Bright sunlight is one of the best to capture snaps. So if you want a crisp snap, turn your subject such that the sun is shining on them. ?It is a fact well established that clicking during sunrise and sunset, which offers diffused light always results in striking snaps.?Think the first hour after the sun peaks in the morning, and the last hour or two before the sun drops over the horizon in the afternoon.?The Blue Hour is when the sun is now below the horizon and the sky gives off this beautiful blue hue.

3)?Rule of Thirds?

A simple rule to significantly improve the quality of your pictures is the ?Rule of Thirds?, according to which, put your horizon one-third or two-thirds from the bottom and your main subject one-third in from either side. This lends a certain dynamic nature to the picture quality and enhances the composition.?Place the subject on the intersecting lines/points (rather than in the center of the shot) to make it more natural-looking. Using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it.?

4)?Take Photos of the Locals

Don?t forget to take pictures of people during your travels, especially the locals such as the driver, or a waiter you might have met along the way. It is always advisable to ask their permission, before taking the picture.?Travel photography should also be about the people you meet.? How do you get those amazing portrait photos without feeling rude?Simple ? just ask for permission.

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5)? Shoot From A?Different Perspective

?For example, shooting from a low perspective you can get more sky behind your subject.? If you have a distracting background in your scene, shooting from a low angle is an easy way to eliminate those distractions by using the sky as your backdrop.

6)? Use Reflections

?Use reflections In Mirrors & Windows, lakes, streams and even puddles to transform an image from ordinary to a creative work of art by incorporating reflections. Because this kind of perspective involves adding layers it creates a feeling of depth. So, look for reflections in windows of a building, a puddle of water in the street or even a pair of mirrored sunglasses.

7)? Try Panning for Action Shots

Try panning which is freezing fast moving subjects while getting a gorgeous, background. Pick your subject up in the viewfinder well before it arrives where you intend to press the shutter button, and start following it.?Follow Your Subject?s Motion.?Keep following your subject?s motion smoothly, in a horizontal position. If the subject is also moving vertically ? e.g. jumping ? ignore the vertical motion, just follow the horizontal motion.?Another important aspect of the panning technique is a good, steady posture which supports your camera well, preventing it from bobbing up and down as you follow your subject.?

One Bonus Tip!

If you want to capture symmetrical reflections that include both the reflection and the surroundings like mountains reflecting off the lake, turn your phone upside down and get as close to the water as you can.? Turning your phone upside down gets the lens closer to the water.? (Just don’t drop your phone!)

We love trekking in places where the scenery makes for amazing shots.? A great weekend getaway to practice your photography skills is Mount Merapi, Indonesia.? If you are more of an underwater buff, then let’s make a big splash at Sipidan.

Check out our blog on New Zealand and some of the amazing photos we caught on that trip.

Grab your friends and your smartphone camera and let’s snap some photos!

Imagine…

Trekking up the hills or through the forest with the bounties of nature surrounding you, setting up a campsite and lying down on the fresh green grass to admire stars spread across the rich blue sky.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it?
This is the pleasure of overnight camping. It will leave you with everlasting memories and a rejuvenated mind. However, this pleasure comes only after putting in the time to plan ahead, organise gear and pack the essentials.
To make your packing easier and camping experience more memorable, here is a list of 12 essentials that should go into your backpack.

1. Knife

The other item that goes hand in hand with a map is your knife. A good folding knife can be used for much more than cutting – it has endless uses! You can use it to open your food, as a tool or even to cut clothes for bandaging.

2. Headlamp & Batteries

Don’t forget you may need to see in the dark. Pack a headlamp and remember to drop in extra batteries. A good headlamp gives you hands-free light to build a campfire, cook your dinner, or find your way if you begin before sunrise.

3. Garbage Bags

One or two sturdy garbage bags are invaluable on a camping trip. Pack your clothes in one for extra protection from the weather. Just cut a hole in it and voila! You have a temporary hood to cover your head in case of rain. And don’t forget to leave no trace – bring all of your rubbish out with you.

4. Personal Essentials

These include insect repellents, sunscreen, toothbrush and other toiletries. Don’t allow any insect the chance to spoil your night under the stars. The day can seem innocuous but the sun is ever present. Be equipped with a good quality sun screen.

5. Ground matt

Though you have a tent to cover your head, a ground mat will help you get a better night’s sleep. Spread this light weight mat for a barrier which improves comfort, adds warmth, and protection from damp ground.

6. Camping Gear & Repair Kit

Bring out the compact packer in you and put together a lightweight tent and sleeping bag into your backpack. Grab the poles and stakes and also a repair kit which might come in handy anytime.

7. Cooking Essentials

Campfire meals are part of the great experience! Pack a compact cooking kit, including a camping stove, lighter, fuel, pans and utensils. Avoid bulky utensils and share the weight among your group.

8. Water & Food

A thirsty man is a tired man – always carry plenty of water in your backpack. Bring enough to drink before you feel thirsty. Energy bars and/or protein bars need to be ticked off your check list as they are instant energy providers. Dehydrated meals are light and easily prepared at camp.

9. Warm Clothes

Temperatures in the night may drop, so be prepared. Select light clothes that you can wear in layers to keep you snug and comfortable. Always carry gloves and an extra pair of socks.

10. First Aid Kit

Nature trails can be rocky, paths can be slippery and thorns may be in the most unexpected of places. Carry a compact first aid kit in case of any injuries.

 

?A road less travelled? A statement often overused, but in this case under-describes the road between Langhar and Murghab, Tajikistan.? Also known as the Afghan corridor or Wahkhan Valley corridor, the lonely stretch of road was once travelled by large caravans from Europe and Persia that wanted to reach the Far East,to buy and sell their goods. I guess this stretch of road is most commonly known as part of the the Silk Road.

A journey to the mountainous Lenin Peak (7134m) brought us to Kyrgyzstan and the lure of adventure on this lonely highway brought us to Tajikistan. The Pamir Highway is officially considered from the city of Dushanbe, in Tajikistan to the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan.? Most of this road has small villages and towns along the way, but the section from Langhar and Murghab, is extremely desolate with the exception of a few ranchers during the summer season.? I found myself spending 3 days exploring just this piece of the highway.

With a 4×4 vehicle, plenty of food, water, and camping gear, we set out to take a step back in time and see what the travelers of the caravans saw, some 500 years ago. I was warned that if I had car trouble, do not expect to see another car for two or three days at least. It wasn?t quite that desolate, we did see at least one car of locals each day. But the conditions of the road did give us our share of challenges.

The road itself goes thru several high-mountain passes and we were camping at around 4300 meters each night. Having just finished our Lenin Peak attempt, we felt acclimatized for our day walks we took, but the surprise was the temperature in the evenings.? Dropping down to well below 0 degrees Celsius at night, we chose to sleep in the back of the SUV.? The sleeping bags were more than warm enough and the early morning Sun gave a pleasant warm up before climbing out of the car.

Each day, it felt as if we were visiting different worlds.? First the beautiful greenery of Earth, then the barren landscape of the Moon, and moving on to the red sand mountains that resembled Mars. It was truly remarkable.

The high mountain lakes with it?s glacier water and mineral deposits reflected a blue so deep, that it couldn?t be captured in photos. The reflections of the mountains in the water was as clear as highest quality mirror that money could buy.? Each remarkable landscape that we passed, we tried to photo but the photo just didn?t capture the beautiful realities of the surrounding.

The Fortresses of the different khans during the period still stood in it?s weakened form.? But one could imagine life in these mountains behind these walls.? The petroglyphs inscribed on the rock, tell of stories of Marco Polo Sheep and the Ibex that populate the area.

Though we spent only 3 days in this section, it truly felt like time travel, stepping back to another time. ?This is a time travelers dream.? Interested in experiencing the Pamir Highway? Contact us at info@wildfirexpeditions.com and we can make it happen. The road less travelled is waiting for you…

You love diving and adventure travel, so you?re taking the plunge (excuse the pun) and booking yourself on your first liveaboard! With so many options, how can you possibly decide among all the available choices? Here are a few considerations when planning the ultimate dive holiday.

Island Diving Maldives Liveaboard

Location
Research how to reach your dive adventure destination. Some trips might have different start and end points, so consider travel time. When travelling to remote areas, give yourself enough time to get there. Consider flight delays, re-routing, and religious holidays. You might not always get connecting flights on the same day.

Also consider the season. Is it ?peak? season due to weather, diving conditions, or marine life migrations? If your dream is to see manta rays, hammerheads, or whale sharks, research whether they remain year round or are seasonal.

Type of Diving
Are you looking for crazy currents? Mindblowing macro? Pelagics? Or a little bit of everything. Make sure you do your research on the type of diving available. Also consider the time of the month you are going. In some places the currents are tied to the moon phase, often with the strongest currents being around new and full moon.

Be aware if your operator has a set daily/weekly plan for dive sites. If they have a set plan that does not deviate, and you are in an area where there can be strong currents, be confident that you can handle yourself in any conditions.

Group Size
Bigger isn?t always better?

When diving, especially if the conditions are challenging, smaller groups can be much better. Up to 8 divers per group is common, but on some boats, groups can be as small as 4 divers to one guide. That?s almost personal service!

liveaboard komodo

Cost
Much like bigger isn?t always better ? more expensive does not always equate to better service. There are ?flashpacker? style boats with shared toilets, cold showers, and sleeping on deck. Then there are the luxury boats with aircon, ensuite toilets, maybe even a jacuzzi on the sundeck! You are there to dive, but consider what level of comfort and service you want on the boat also. Some divers will love the phinisi style boats that have a pirate-like feel; others prefer the roomy modern boats with wifi service and a bar.

Dive Maldives Emperor Liveaboard??

Certification and Experience
Some operators expect a minimum level of certification ? generally advanced diver ? and some may require at least 100 logged dives. This could be because the majority of dive sites are deeper, or subject to more challenging conditions. Safety first. There are also liveaboards for the less experienced divers! Consider how comfortable you are in water and plan accordingly.

Dive Safely
Above all, pick a good operator. Like any other adventure sport, diving comes with skill requirements and safety measures. On a liveaboard, you will typically be exploring more far flung sites, possibly without any other means of transportation or ready access to medical facilities. Make sure you choose an operator who is experienced in the area, knows the site very well and has a good safety record.

New Zealand is a well-known destination for adventure sports and adrenaline junkies. From skydiving to ski-touring, from glacier walking to rock climbing to hiking and trekking, the South Island of New Zealand, in particular, has lots to offer the intrepid traveler.

What is less known is that you need not be a veteran mountaineer or experienced adventure seeker to enjoy the great outdoors of New Zealand. Many of the hikes in New Zealand can be done in just one day. This suits the beginners to hiking who want to ease themselves into the activity, or for the more seasoned who just want to do some training hikes.

In preparation for our 5-day expedition in March 2018 to Rabbit Pass in Wanaka https://wildfirexpeditions.com/lessons-waterfall-rabbit-pass-new-zealand/ , we tackled Scotts Track for higher intensity gradient training. Having hiked mostly tropical mountains thus far, I was captivated by the beauty of the alpine scenery of the Arthurs? Pass National Park. Compared to the lofty peaks of the Himalayas, the mountains of New Zealand can seem deceptively small. But the challenge is not so much in altitude as terrain, dramatic changes in weather and microclimates. As a first-timer hiker in New Zealand, here are my lessons learnt:

1) Always check the weather forecast at the local Department of Conservation (?DOC?) i-site

New Zealand has a number of Great Walks and the DOC has done a wonderful job of supporting these routes with plenty of useful information and tools for the independent hiker. The weather forecast in New Zealand is remarkably accurate. Tuning in will enable you to plan your route well, prepare the necessary gear and keep dry.

2) Safety first

In the words of famed American mountaineer Ed Viesturs ?Getting to the top is?optional. Getting?down is mandatory?. Always make a plan and set a turnaround time and pay close attention to the time. Look out for signs of impending weather changes. A point of caution is that the weather can change very rapidly in New Zealand. We have made the decision to turn back just an hour shy of the end point when the visibility turned bad and the clouds started rolling in. Our mantra is: Live to hike another day.

3) Prepare your gear

Always waterproof your bag. You never know when the sky will suddenly open up. Take rain gear, warm clothing, rain cover and enough food and water for contingency. A torchlight or a headlamp should be a mainstay of every tramper?s packing list. Pack light, pack smart, pack efficient. You do not want to be weighed down by unnecessary luxuries when you are only doing a day hike. Place snacks, water, light, rain cover, rain jacket at easily accessible points, preferably enabling you access without having to remove the entire pack to save time and for ease of access on the go.

4) Do not feed the animals

Through our day hike, we encountered many Kea, those beautiful birds indigenous to the South Island of New Zealand, the world?s only alpine parrot.? Known for their curiosity, Keas can be very friendly and approach hikers to a close distance. We have been warned by the locals not to feed them. Although keas are not aggressive by nature, hikers have changed their behavior. Some hikers have been feeding the keas encountered on the trail, leading to these birds now recognizing hikers as food source and sometimes pecking at their backpacks or trying to snatch food when hikers stop for a snack break. Do not feed the animals. Respect Nature as you see it.

5) Smell the roses and have fun

Well there are a number of considerations in preparing for a day hike, they should not detract from the main purpose ? to have an enjoyable time. The slopes of New Zealand are beautiful at any time of the year. If it is your first time, pick a good season where the weather pattern is the most stable, when the paths are clear of snow and ice. Do your research and plan your trip. Visit the DOC website and do a walk in the day before your planned start to check for updates. Once you hit the trail, pay attention to what?s around you. Breathe in the fresh, crisp air. Luxuriate in the wonders of Nature and have fun.