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2nd April 2008 - Bonnie Scotland is full of haggis
I love Scotland. I've finished my work placement1 and have run away there for a while to train, see my Dad and have some fun, whilst my housemates hold down the Newcastle fort. We found a nice place to buy lunchtime goodies to eat in the car on the way up, then I was treated to some (vegetarian) haggis with neeps and tatties for dinner.

It's my first full day here today, and my bro and I have been helping outside in the Scottish air2. It's actually lovely weather up here, and the view is awesome! We acted as sort of a Grim Reaper for plants outside the house (sorting out any dead ones from the live ones, and taking them away), followed by rescuing the poorly plants so that any dead leaves didn't get in the way. The healthy ones just got fed by my bro. We also had the first (small) walk of the week.

Later on we helped dismantle a poly tunnel whilst avoiding getting poked by thorns, and had a go with an air rifle using DIY targets. Paper, biro and a penny can create very interesting-shaped targets, even if they were supposed to be circular. They were very organic-looking circles.

I've got a little fund-raising project to accomplish whilst I'm here. I've decided to make a few commissioned pet portraits, and have my first one to create. I doubt it'll be super-regular since they take so long to make, but when I'm ready to accept my next customer I'll let you know.

1. More or less - I have to help make a website for my uni afterwards because my placement was "too short" even after extending it.
2. My bro says it goes "Och aye" as it floats by.

3rd April 2008 - Time for a test drive
I've been up Scolty today with Dad and my bro, Mike. Dad called it a "Mini Roseberry Topping". It isn't that mini, and I decided today would be the day to test out my Jungle Boots and rucksack to up the difficulty. Well, it had to be done some day (the first day of your conservation trip would NOT be a good time to test-run your boots).

The Jungle Boots were comfy; the person they belonged to must have had similar-shaped feet to me, and my socks and liners worked well. The straps on my bag were adjusted and still need a little fine tuning, but I'd rather find this out now than when I'm in the middle of the rainforest.

The weather was unbelievable for Scotland; very pleasant when we worked our way through the forest, and frazzling nearer the top when the trees gave way to heather. Next time I will wear a hat, as well as bringing bottles of water. My face hadn't been as red as it became for a while!

Pretty Scolty. Hot hot hot!

On the way up we met several friendly people and dogs. Many people commented on the amazing view awaiting us. The dogs didn't say much but you could tell from their waggy tails that were happy. One man said the view was so clear "you can see... well... God".

Once we reached the top we basked in the stronger breeze, my bro catching some rays, and me catching some shade. The next challenge was the reason for the large amount of shade - an old, stone tower. I didn't leave my bag behind, so after feeling a bit wibbly because going round and round up a lot of steps makes you feel even higher up than you really are, I reached the top. The best view today was where it was harder to take photos, on the side with no floor and most sun. After coming down the tower I was awarded with a slobber from a happy doggy who kept peering into the entrance.

More climbing
Yes, that is me standing there. Honest.

The tower up Scolty
First Person View! Scolty Tower looms...

Our adventure continued on the way down where Dad chose a different route. Walking downhill is easier on the lungs but harder on the legs, but I survived the way down. There was even a little watery bit where I could feel the coolness through the soles of my boots.

I'm now back at Dad's house. My boots survived, my bag survived, and we survived, with no major mishaps. Actually, the nearest thing to a mishap I had was a miniature scratch on one had that I didn't even feel (when I travel in the rainforest I do believe it when people say you need a medi-pack to even help with scratches). I'd been splashing water around whilst walking up there so it probably got a wash.

For my first equipment test and the next stage in training, today has been excellently successful. Aching muscles expected, footwear will be rewarded with a good clean when I get home, and dinner is well looked forward to. Rest feels so much better when you've done some exercise to earn it.

6th April 2008 - Bonnie Scotland is full of white
I woke up this morning to white. The sky is white, the ground is white, buildings are white, and the snow is still falling. It started yesterday when the Scotland weather couldn't decide what it wanted to be - sunny in the morning, snowy rain, sun, windy grey, cold, snow... overnight it has settled on snow1.

I've been having some relaxy time, some fund-raising time, but unfortunately not much training and it's my fault. I had the chance to go on a bike ride, but I haven't been on one for ages and it felt wibbly, so I chickened out until another day. I think I will try it later. It's not that I can't ride a bike; more like my self confidence for some things seems to have disappointingly drained over the past year or so. It was always a struggle to get me riding a bike, I remember a few bad memories such as falling into stinging nettles (a stunt that I did not plan on when I was tiny and do not plan on performing again), but I did used to ride around quite a lot with my parents on several trails.

It's the same with cars - I hate driving them, although I always did from the very beginning. Maybe I just had a bad experience at the start of driving to make it worse, but I never remember being really keen to drive a car. Strangely enough, I wouldn't mind trying to ride a motorbike2.

I've held a snake, done abseiling, white water rafting, horse riding, and climbing, yet I didn't want to ride a bicycle even though I used to years ago. You're probably laughing at me now. I suppose any intrepid explorer would face their semi-fears/ fears (except for Indiana Jones who tries to avoid snakes at all times). When the weather clears up I might try a bike ride with my bro again so I can prove I am capable. There is a nice tea place nearby that we were going to cycle to.

I have done the odd little walk after Scolty, but nothing really passable for training, and so I'm hoping to go somewhere else when Dad has time and the weather isn't too slippery. By the way, after Scolty I did ache, but not as much as I thought I would.

When I do undertake my next bit of training I should now enjoy it even more; my hair is now cut so that my lack-of-fringe does not blow in my eyes, and my glasses have been tightened up. Having a small fringe is a lot better than whole chunks of grown-out fringe falling in my face every time I look down, and my glasses will now not threaten to fall off, because they are now small enough to fit on my head again.

You're probably wondering about my current "fund-raising"; well, I have just finished my first fund-raising, commissioned pet portrait. I'm quite proud of it, here it is!

My portrait of a Bull Mastiff

I'll be collecting the money for it when I hand it over to the recipient, but it is done, and word will be getting round about what I'm doing. I'm ready to draw another!

As for non-conservation news, my bro and I have helped my Dad out a bit again, and a few days ago he took us to a little Scottish music concert held in a re-vamped barn. It was great! The place had a butterfly sculpture made out of scrap, and some other artworks of landscapes to look at before the band started. The landscapes were mainly made out of fabric and sewing, although there was some paint in there too. I wouldn't have minded buying my favourite little one, if I had the money. It was in three bits with an orange frame, and had a fabric landscape with a sheep on it - gorgeous colours. If I make a fraction of what is being asked for it, from one of my artworks, I will be a happy bunny!

The bands themselves were very good - fiddler, drummer, singer, accordion, flutey things and some instruments that can only be described as bagpipes that you don't have to blow, only they didn't sound like bagpipes. I used to play violin, and was enthralled by the bagpipey things. The musicians really got into it - two bands that joined together to create a superband at the end. They sung about all sorts of things; getting lost, "absinthe makes the heart grow fonder", a battle, and another battle, this time between a tiny dog3 and a rabbit.

If you don't like scary films, skip this chapter because that's what it's about. We also went to the cinema and saw a film called "The Orphanage", and all liked it. I'm not normally one for scary films and hate these gory Teen flicks, but it was not like that. It was Spanish with subtitles, and had some genuinely frightening moments in it that made everyone, including my bro and Dad, jump, which is hard to do. There was one bit that I really didn't like because yet again, I can handle real-life operations4 but I can't stand pretend movie gore (even though it wasn't 18 certificate standard) - but it also had some proper emotional bits in the film that tugged at your heartstrings without being soppy. Not once was there a load of teenage girls with mini skirts screaming all over the place, which seems the norm in the stereotypical horror films these days. My bro likened it to Sixth Sense, not in the likeness of the story because it was different, but because you were put on edge, it had mystery in it, and it wasn't just a mindless gore fest (which I despise). Well worth a watch if you like that kind of movie and are old enough.

I hear people downstairs. Time for breakfast!

1. Or the snow has settled on Scotland.
2. I've been trying to figure this out. The nearest conclusion I can come to is that I'm used to having a horse-like creature under myself, so having a chunky motorcycle may feel more like riding a horse than a skinny pedal-bike or a car.
3. The kind that some silly women carry around in their handbag. It's a dog, darn it, not a fashion statement!
4. My work experience years ago was at a vets.

7th April 2008 - Bonnie Scotland is full of walks
Later yesterday when the snow thawed, we went for a walk. It was a small walk, about half an hour, but it meant that I accomplished the amount of hours training I was trying to do on my first Scotland training week. My guide suggested three thirty minute walks on the first week, and what with the Scolty walk which lasted over an hour, my brisk walk yesterday with my day sack on my back, and the odd trips round about, I feel I've achieved the equivalent of that, therefore have achieved my target.

Yesterday's walk was the kind of walk I could do regularly. "Round the block" consisted of walking past a stream and through a muddy wood; very pleasant even in the chilly weather. No matter where I go in the wood I've been assured I won't get lost!

Gosh, it's really tipping it down with rain now. I'm glad I'm not outside training at the moment.

My place on the conservation trip is now totally secured. I received an email from Frontier saying so, along with information on what I need visa-wise and some other bits and pieces. As I always do I'm going to double-check information so I know exactly what is needed from me. I'm glad they have received the rest of the money safely.

I may have some more people wanting pet portraits. Let's hope so!

Later on...
I've snatched a half-hour walk whilst the sun has been shining! It was the same walk I did yesterday, but I walked even faster and did a weeny bit of jogging. I checked the time on this go; I was literally on the move for about thirty minutes so it might have taken me a little longer than half an hour yesterday.

I'm not looking forward to going back to Newcastle, training-wise. I think the nearest I can get to the kind of training I need will be walking and jogging around the parks there.

I'm thinking of sneaking up to Mum's after my trip to Scotland for a while; there are lots of hills and countryside there too!

10th April 2008 - Bonnie Scotland is full of friendly people; £300 TARGET MORE THAN REACHED!
By yesterday evening I had completed my week two training, so any more training is a bonus1. My second half-hour walk was completed via my bro inviting me out for a wander on Tuesday. We chatted and went round the usual two-woods track. The woods seem to be my local rainforest simulator - sure it's not exactly the same but it has mud, midges and trees. Luckily midge bites aren't as potentially deadly as a mosquito's, and company helped the training to be fun. I like admiring nature, but don't find walking fun due to it just involving putting one foot in front of the other. It's more of a way to get from one place to another to me rather than a fond leisure activity, but training is something that has to be done.

My hour walk was not so interesting, but it did the trick. I went round delivering a parcel and collecting milk, with my big rucksack on for practice. The walk followed a road for a while, and the only entertaining part of that was picturing one of the big living trees from Lord of the Rings slowly ambling across the tarmac when I spotted a sign that warned "Heavy plant crossing".

The walk was supposed to take about an hour, but by the time I arrived on the final home stretch with the milk I realised I still had about fifteen or twenty minutes to go. I had to walk up to the first wood and back, and then up and down a hill with an ivy-coated corner that made me curious about what was round it, before it came close to an hour. Still, by the time I arrived at my front door I had accomplished an hour's worth of training, with minimum leg acheyness.

I think that on the training list I borrowed from the internet, it starts you off really slowly. I've only been feeling a little stiff today and even though I did the Scolty walk in my first week and was fine, steep terrain isn't mentioned until even further down the training schedule.

After I go back to Newcastle for a few days, I've decided to visit my Mum. There are some friends up there that might like to go walking with me and the areas would be pretty hilly too. As for the Newcastle training pondering, I might start Martial Arts classes again to tone me up and aid with my training.

I still haven't written about what I did today! I have received some fabulous money donations recently - a big thank you to those people - and I have at least one more pet portrait lined up. My piece of artwork that I have created for BOS has a splash of colour2. I will mention about the rest of today's news tommorow... Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...

1. Although my muscles might not call it that if they start to ache.
2. I am too tired to recall whether or not I told you about starting it.

11th April 2008 - Oh what a beautiful moooorning!
What fantastic weather! Dew on the grass1, sun shining bright in the sky, and a small band of mist that's slowly dissipating; it all signifies the start of a new day. I don't know what's in store for me for most of the day, but I believe we're going to the barn again this evening, this time for a comedy night. When I finish this diary entry I'm going to do a bit more drawing to keep up with the growing amount of it that I have to do.

Now go back in time to yesterday. Yesterday we went out to Duthie Park, where the David Welch Winter Gardens reside. I felt a little stiff at the time so wasn't sure if I would enjoy a "walk round the park", but in the end I felt like going anyway instead of leaving it for another day. We had a small walk round the park and viewed the different statues and plants outside, but the bit that I was enthralled by was the winter gardens. It was free to enter but I popped a few pennies in the donations box. If you went to a similar place anywhere else you probably would have had to pay about £5 each just to get in.

As you'll see I took lots of photos, although some didn't come out as well as they could have done so I haven't included them all. The main annoyance was that the camera kept shutting down in what appeared to be an attempt to save energy, only it just managed to annoy me, as there were so many flowers I was normally in the process of taking a photo at the time. I blame it for some of the blurred close-ups - I'm betting the settings defaulted each time it shut down - but it was a nice camera apart from that, and I got some really nice pictures.

pretty flowers

As I made my way through the entrance and into the gardens the sheer amount of flora hit me (in the nicest possible way of course!). They were everywhere; all sorts of different shapes and sizes and colours. It was like a feast for your senses - some of the smells were amazing. In the first room alone, you'll see what appears to be a floral rainbow that lives in the soil, and then wander past some flowers that look like little daffodils, but their scent greets you like a gorgeously perfumed wall.

perfumed flowers

A banana plant grows happily nearby2, whilst a mini trickling waterfall leading to a little fish pond greets you on the other side of the room. The air feels warm and slightly damp.

Those fish are rich.

I was hoping to go into the Tropical House, but I'll have to go there next time (there will definitely be a next time). Work was being done in it, but here is a picture I managed to take through the barrier.

The Tropical House
I really want to explore in there...

Close-up red flower
This is what happens when I get the camera settings right. How cool is that?

If you stroll around, you'll eventually find yourself in the Victorian Corridor. I preferred taking close-up shots in there.

Close-up orange flowers
Here's a cluster of hanging flowers that my bro pointed out.

Close-up white flower
I'm really pleased with this photo.

There's also a room full of perfumed delights, such as masses of delicate jasmine blooms...

Sweet-smelling jasmine

Whilst the Arid house contains desert plants.


From fancy wee succulents...


To huuuuuuge cacti and succulent giants!


I've decided that the David Welch Winter Gardens are one of my favourite indoor places in Scotland, although it did spread outside too, into a Japanese Garden. I had though that the few plants inside represented the Japanese Garden and thought it was a very small collection, until we opened the door to outside.

A squiggly plant in the Japanese Garden.

That shiny bark is very smooth.


There were a lot more sights and smells than in my little diary tour. I ran out of space on the memory card3, so you'll have to imagine most of it or better yet, just visit there some day, because the experience is much more fantastic than seeing a few photos of part of it. I was really hoping for a book to keep but they didn't have any in their shop. Maybe they should make one, one day.

As an end to today's diary entry, here is a photo that I took especially for my boyfriend. Coffeeeeeeeee!


1. Although that is possibly raindrops.
2. Eating bananas is apparently good for many ailments; depression, SAD, different types of stress... maybe I should eat more bananas, it sounds like I'll always be happy!
3. There was so much to see. At times I was practicing taking some professional-looking photos. At other times I was happily clicking away like a snap-happy tourist. If you have read or seen Terry Pratchett's "Colour of Magic" and can imagine Twoflower with his luggage, then you have a pretty good idea of how I felt.

12th April 2008 - Bonnie Scotland is full of hills
Mmmm, I'm really looking forward to a nice, relaxing soak. Today I did some extra training, when Dad took as all up Bennachie. Bennachie is a huge hill with four summits; the summit we tackled was called Mither Tap. The top of that one is steep, and perched on it are the ruins of a fort. It takes about two and a half hours to go to the top then back down again from where we started.

One thing I'm learning about hills is even though they may have public conveniences at the car park, it doesn't mean that they are convenient. Roseberry Topping was the same - more likely the public conveniences seem to be shut. Hence to say by the time we got to Bennachie we ended up stopping off at some kind of prehistoric learning centre1 nearby for a quick snack and a loo break. Do not buy any muffins or scones whilst at this centre; I believe they are prehistoric as well. Blech, stale! The cream was that airy cream instead of clotted cream too. Almost every other place I have been in Scotland has served nice to gorgeous food, and I've had several trips up (it's one of my favourite places!), but this was one of the two places I remember that doesn't2. I didn't go into the main part of the centre, but it looked as if was somewhere that could be really fun, if more effort and money was spent on particular areas.

Whilst on our walk up Bennachie we saw sun, wind, rain, hail, and dogs - lots of dogs. Most seemed nice although one for reasons known possibly only to it, decided to bark at me. Another dog seemed quite shy, but was happy to join in on a photo when we stopped near Hosie's Well.

Well well well
Woof! A doggy posing at Hosie's Well. I wonder if it read the story about the well on the notice board?

Left, right, left
Is it me or does the wood on the left look like a baby giraffe?

When we reached the summit, we found a more sheltered area to scoff down some pasties and SCROGN3. The weather was kind and waited until we'd finished eating before it began to hail. It was the kind of hail that hurt your face whenever you tried to turn to see where you were going. The change in weather made the summit rather treacherous, and slightly scary to go back down. We spent part of our times almost on our bottoms for fear of slipping down the hill. Unlike most of the way up, the summit was covered in large rocks. Some were wobbly, oddly shaped or super-slippy, but we made it all the way back down to the car park, at which time the sun peeped out again.

ouch ouch ouch!
Eek! Haaaaaail!

Even with the achy-ness from my back to my feet, today has been a great day. The fact that I do actually definitely ache at least signifies I've challenged myself a little. My boots have held out yet again, and the only thing I missed was a photo opportunity; a sheep with a crow standing on its head.

1. Meaning that they try to teach people about prehistoric times, not that the centre was super old.
2. The other place was somewhere I went years ago where cucumbers were yellow, garlic mushrooms made you ill, and burgers were so hard you could tap them on the table.
3. Sultanas, Chocolate, Raisins, Orange, Ginger and Nuts, all mixed in a bag. The recipe can be altered, but would it still be SCROGN?

14th April 2008 - Bonnie Scotland is full of interesting weather
I've spent most of today drawing. Another pet portrait is finished, and the artwork for BOS is coming on nicely. Soon I'll have other pet portraits on the go, including a pretty big one, so Dad and I decided to go on a trip out. Some of my old pencil crayon supplies were running low but there's no problem with that now!

Here is my latest portrait.

My drawing of a cat

Other activities I've been up to include having a mini walk and jog, rescuing a humungous spider from the bathroom1, deciding camomile tea smells, and tastes, like hay, and marveling at the weather. Having sunshine, rain, and hail in the same day is pretty amazing, but it hasn't topped the day where I saw sun, snow, rain, wind, and hail2 all in a few hours. Variety is the spice of life!

1. Good job I'm not really scared of them, especially since I'll be sharing residence with the more exotic kinds on my rainforest trip.
2. Some more than once.

15th April 2008 - Last full day in Bonnie Scotland, and £400 TARGET REACHED!
This week I've experienced several time warps; in my little selection, one was not so good, the other was funny.

For one, yesterday I thought the day was Sunday instead of Monday. When I found out that it wasn't, I realised that I had one less day than I thought to accomplish this week's training. What made it worse was that I'd been offered a trip out walking and I'd foolishly turned it down, thinking that I could delay it by a day so that it would be counted as this week's training. Silly thing to do - at times I think I'm too hooked up on routine and timing.

My Dad took me out for a walk today anyway. It was a different walk to what was planned yesterday and not quite as nice, since yesterday's walk was going to be up Scolty and today's walk was partly by the road, but this time I was equipped with my huge rucksack. Dad cleverly loaded it with my New Rock boots for a bit of weight and I added a smaller bag, and then we were off.

This walk took us a different route to my normal one. The first part was full of birdsong and wild deer. Dad showed me bracket fungus, and we spied a pheasant taking flight. I was impressed at the power of its wings; the pheasant had a chubby body and had to flap like mad to get off the ground, but it still managed it. I wish I could fly, but with all the flapping in the world, I doubt I could!

The second part of the walk was along the road so it wasn't so interesting, but I did experience my second "time warp", thanks to Dad. I felt as if I'd been walking a lot longer than Dad had said. That was because he'd pretended that we'd only been walking for about twenty minutes, when he was actually teasing. By the time I got back, we'd been walking almost fifty minutes instead of thirty, so I just strolled up to the first wood and back again to make my walk an hour. I'm happy about that, because I'd much rather get my hour walk done in Scotland than attempt to find a nice hour walk in Newcastle! I'm missing my boyfriend but as you can tell, I'm not missing Newcastle one bit, in fact I feel the opposite.

I've been thinking about my fund-raising competitions. So far, my first competition in terms of donations has been a flop. In fact, on a scale of nought to ten on the flopometer, where nought means a perfect success and ten means nobody entered, my Palm-Free Name Me competition has earned a magnificently rubbish nine out of ten. I am so disappointed. To do something like this you either need an event to do it at, or a lot of advertising, and unfortunately at the moment, I have neither.

I am definitely not buying or asking for any more competition prizes at the moment - frankly if my competitions go as badly as this one then I may end up losing money rather than gaining it. When a prize costs more money to send to the winner than it has earned via donations, then you get sad.

I am definitely not buying or asking for any more competition prizes at the moment - frankly if my competitions go as badly as this one then I may end up losing money rather than gaining it. When a prize costs more money to send to the winner than it has earned via donations, then you get sad.

As for the competition prizes I have left, well I may have to think my next competition strategy. Maybe I'll be allowed to do a quick-fire competition whilst wandering round uni; the first few people to donate a certain amount of money to my trip and answer a particular question correctly wins a prize. I'd have the competition advertised on my bag or something. That way I don't have to fork out post and packaging. That might be a better method than my online competitions - unless someone wants money for me to do that kind of thing, of course.

17th April 2008 - Back home
Here I am! For the people reading my diary entries, now you have an influx of them as, as you can see, I've uploaded them after my first training trip. Time to read into the past...

My jungle boots are in their own time warp, because they're improving in quality as time goes by, rather than getting worse. At first they sat neglected in a store, but now they have a new lease of life. By now they've had a new set of laces courtesy of my boyfriend, and have been polished and polished. Each time I give them a polish they get shinier, and Dad let me use some polish that makes them more supple and cared for. It reminds me of when I used to polish saddles to make them perfect... I did have before and after pictures, but the friend that took them is having problems getting them on the computer. Oh well!

19th April 2008 - Portraits agogo
I've now got a little queue of people wanting portraits, so I'm going to be working on them over the time I'm spending at Mum's. I've also paid in the rest of the money for my flights so thatís another job out of the way, and have received some more money donations and some item donations; suntan lotion and a mosquito net.

This evening I went out for a walk round Heaton Park with Mum and her friend, so I have one more half-hour walk to fit in tomorrow before declaring this week's training target complete. I've even had time to do some programming, which I really enjoy. All is well in the world of Jo!

21st April 2008 - another mission completed successfully
Well I made it; I managed to fit in a thirty minute walk round town after I had travelled to Mum's, and so have accomplished that week's target. It took me half as long as I thought to walk around town, so I had to walk around some more to make up the other fifteen minutes. I don't feel as if I've got much done today, although I now have the outline of another pet portrait to colour in.

My bro and I have planned to do a walk tomorrow that should be more than long enough to count as my two hour walk for this week - training is steadily picking up pace, and so am I.

23rd April 2008 - Carsington Water
My Bro took me out training yesterday. We went to Carsington Water and travelled around part of the reservoir; round part of a little island, then up to a mini-Colosseum-looking area situated next to something that my Bro likened to an underwater James Bond villian's secret base, and then back again. As you see we like to use our imaginations! It didn't count as the two hour walk because we set off later than planned, but we made it last an hour, so that is like doing two half-hour walks. It felt more worthwhile than just wandering around for half an hour then going back home, and I like getting two parts of my training over and done with.

Whilst walking around the reservoir there were places were there were a tonne of bugs whizzing around. A few days ago when the mosquito net was donated, my Mum spotted a brimmed, foldable mosquito net hat. The only one the shop had was too big for me, but I'm more convinced that I'd like one similar to it now. If it's going to be like that in the rainforest with mosquitoes at all then I really think I'd like my brimmed hat to have a mosquito net on it too. If you've ever played a computer game called Diablo II and come across the swarms of bugs; it was like a mini one of those each time we came across them. The bugs appeared harmless but nobody likes bugs flying around your face1. They must like hot days and large water sources because I never remember them being there before.

Talking about water sources; I carried a two litre bottle of water in my rucksack during the walk. The shape of the bottle wasn't very comfortable, but it felt lighter than I had expected.

1. Except for you're a very keen insect enthusiast or related to a venus flytrap.

25th April 2008 - Learning and karma
I made a delivery to a local school today, and met a fellow orangutan-lover in the process. I knew the walk to and from the school wouldn't take two hours1 so I didn't time it, but I'll be that tiny bit fitter for my trip.

The delivery was one of the Orangutan Foundation's orangutan and rainforest awareness posters. I've got a little collection of them to give out and I get to keep one for the society I'd like to create. The posters are very big, and full of artwork and little snippets about rainforests and their inhabitants.

There must be some more good karma flying around, because thanks to that I have a chance for more people to hear about orangutans and my trip when I arrive back from it. I think it's for a local newsletter.

I've also got my plane tickets by now, and I've been working on my secret orangutan project. That you've probably forgotten all about if you even read about it in the first place. I'm still not letting any secrets out; my diary entry ends abruptly here.

1. Unless something really weird happened.

26th April 2008 - Carsington Water RETURNS!
My training for this week is complete. Today Mum, her friend and I travelled back to Carsington Water for a long walk in the sun while we had the chance. We were going to do it earlier on in the week but it tipped it down with rain and hail. This time the sun shone the whole way. It gave me chance to test out what my donated suntan lotion would be like, because my Mum had her own bottle too and let me borrow some. The lotion was even better than I thought; high SPF, water resistant, and as I slapped it on I also realised that it doesn't smell of much. Other lotions might contain fragrance that would attract bugs, but I can hardly smell anything at all with this one. What I can smell is pleasant and not particularly flowery; I think that it's the best kind of lotion I could have hoped for.

The delivery was one of the Orangutan Foundation's orangutan and rainforest awareness posters. I've got a little collection of them to give out and I get to keep one for the society I'd like to create. The posters are very big, and full of artwork and little snippets about rainforests and their inhabitants.

Our walk went from Sheepwash car park to the visitor's centre, over to where my Bro and I walked before, and then all the way back, with a little stop for ice cream and a trip to the visitor's centre shop in between. If there's one thing I noticed whilst walking at Carsington it's that everything seems closer than it really is once you're walking along the breezy reservoir side. You spot one car park and think it's only a few minutes away. Half an hour later you're wondering if what you saw before was a strange mirage, because you've only just reached it. Still, when you turn back, the visitor's centre only looks a few minutes away...

The two litre bottle I brought last trip wasn't enough, so this time I doubled the weight as well as at least doubling the time out walking. By the time I got back tot he first car park I was also holding a waterproof, heavy duty waist bag to take with me to the rainforest. It's on my list but nothing is coming out of the donations for it because I've bought it myself. I don't like to use the donations so much when kit is expensive... sounds contrary but this is how I think; I could have used some donations on a super cheap waist bag. Sure it would be small, badly made, and have about as much waterproofing as a sponge in the bathtub, but I could have. Instead I've chose one with different places for my camera, inhaler, maybe a small water bottle. It will cope well in the rain and it won't fall to pieces in at a moment's notice. It is also more expensive than a super cheap, bog-standard waist bag. I don't feel it's right to go overboard spending people's donations on kit, but I liked the waist bag I saw, so I bought it with my own money. Everyone is happy!

Here is my latest pet portrait. Ta daaa! It took longer than I thought to draw all the stripes.

My portrait of a stripy cat

To top it all off, I've been getting a few more competition entries to add to the collection. Now I have a little more competition in the competition. It's still not quite what I had expected number-wise, but I am feeling relieved that the competition wasn't the class A flop it was beginning to appear as!

28th April 2008 - Orangutans on the news
I'm getting a pair of leeeech soooocks! After enquiring about them, I finally purchased a pair along with another book on orangutans. They're going to be breathable and cool, and can be worn on top of normal socks or instead of normal socks1. For where I'm going I decided a pair would be a good idea. I bought them from my friends at Orangutan Appeal UK.

I've also been browsing hotels for the night I have no accommodation in Medan. There's a few that might fit the bill; near the airport, breakfast supplied, clean but not stupidly expensive. The last thing I want is not to make it to the collection point after getting all the way to Sumatra!

Speaking of travelling, I've done one of my tiny thirty minute walks today, trying to find the most wiggly, long paths to get me to the post office and back. I made sure that the journey contained a hill, but since where I am at the moment is full of hills, that wasn't hard.

During my walk I popped into the local Traidcraft shop to gaze at the goodies. I'm going to go back in there tomorrow, because on one of the shelves I saw the most gorgeous tea lights that I have ever laid eyes on. They all looked like little delicate, exotic flowers in a variety of colours, but unfortunately there wasn't any information about them. Someone might be able to tell me more about them if I go tomorrow, so that might be my next half hour walk.

The people I talked to in the shop were friendly, and the one I got into a conversation with was aware of the palm situation, and very enthusiastic when I mentioned my conservation trip. In a way it was great to find someone who already knew of the problem, because it meant that word is getting around about it. The local newsletter was mentioned again, so I might send them an email now instead of of after my trip.

I've just been watching an article on the news that my family informed me about. It was all on orangutans. Photos have been taken of the apes to suggest that they're even more like us than we originally thought. The photos show orangutans swimming in a river - the first photographic evidence that some orangutans have learnt to swim. Others show orangutans hunting for fish with sticks. Some of the techniques they were trying had been copied from local fisherman.

1. The leech socks, not the book.

29th April 2008 - Walkies and tea lights
Yesterday I managed to escape most of the showers whilst on my walk. I set off after the first shower, and the weather chose the next time to rain to be when I was in the post office. Today I was even luckier; it did not rain at all until the evening, so my training was totally rain free. I popped into the post office again to send off a few bits for the Discworld Convention1, and survived going into the bakery to collect some bits without buying anything for myself.

I ended up buying the fair trade tea lights. There's still a mystery over what they are made of, although I found out the name of the company that helps distribute them and peeked on their website; some things point to the wax being ok, including the mention of checking for sustainable materials online. I've written an email to them just to see anyway, so if the source is sustainable I will feel happier, and if it is not I will have raised awareness so that the people making the candles can hopefully find a sustainable version.

I haven't been doing any pet portraits today. My BOS UK picture however is gaining a rainforest background. It's fun seeing a rainforest appear instead of disappear, even if it is via me drawing it in a picture. I wish I could keep it for myself but it is being given to BOS UK to sell. I'll have to make do with a scan to remember the original version by.

1. It's a shame that the Orangutan Foundation probably isn't going to be there this year, but there is another deserving Charity doing a talk (Starlight Children's Foundation), and I'm pretty sure there'll be some fund-raising going on for both charities!

30th April 2008 - The package arrives
Wow, that was quick; I have my leech socks and book already! I've been given a newsletter too, so have spent a lot of the day either reading about or researching rainforests and orangutans. The book is really nice - smaller in size than I imagined, but packed with interesting information and fantastic photos. The fact that it's small only means it's easier to carry. I'm especially pleased because the place I'm helping at (Bukit Lawang) is mentioned in the book too.

I will really have to get a photo of me in my new leech socks some time. Mine are dark green, and truly are very light to carry.

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