June 2017: Travel Summary and Statistics


Nyiragongo during the day

I’m calling it: 2017 is going to be my best year of travel.

Oh god, I’ve just jinxed it, haven’t I? Fuck. I can’t believe I’m now going to die while travelling and someone will write an article titled, Author of How Not to Travel the World Dies While Travelling the World and everyone will laugh and shout, DARWINISM! in the comments. 

Welcome to the irrational world of an anxious mind.

But seriously, I do hope I haven’t just jinxed it, because after a challenging few years, 2017 is being unbelievably good to me.

I thought nothing would be able to top my fantastic trips to Mozambique, South Africa, and Namibia, but my time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo just smashed through every trip I’ve ever taken.

It was the single best travel experience of my life.

But let’s rewind to the start of the month.

Sandeman in Porto

I kicked off June in Porto, and I made sure to do it right.

On my first visit to this city, back in 2015, I was mid mental breakdown I spent much of my time in Porto having panic attacks, and whenever I ventured into the city, my stomach was too tied up in knots to allow me to eat. I liked Porto a lot, but I knew I’d need to return in order to do it justice.

This month, I finally made it back.

Porto bridge view

And I loved it!

I did all of the activities I should have checked out before, like a tasting tour of a port winery, a river cruise on the Douro, eating in rooftop restaurants, checking out Livraria Lello (the bookstore that inspired Harry Potter), wandering around Foz, and day-tripping to Braga.

Porto is such a lovely place and so underrated as a city break destination. I spent my entire trip smiling from ear to ear and snapping photos of the gorgeous buildings. I can’t believe it took two years for me to finally make my way back there, but now that I’ve fallen hard for it, I suspect this won’t be the last time I make this trip.

Lauren on her birthday

I travelled down to Lisbon just in time to celebrate my birthday!

And after unexpectedly transforming from the pickiest eater in the world to, apparently, the most pretentious eater in the world, I asked Dave for my birthday gift to be a meal at Belcanto, a fancy AF restaurant that’s rated one of the best in the world.

And it was easily the best meal of both of our lives. Easily. Which I guess wasn’t all that surprising, but damn. What an amazing way to celebrate together.

I even got to wear a dress that wasn’t a tattered backpacker one!

Nungwi beach in Zanzibar

Several days later, I kissed goodbye to Dave and boarded a plane to Tanzania. It was time to check out Zanzibar!

I based myself in Stone Town as a cheap way to see the island, and set about seeing as much of it as I could: stumbling through slave caves, skipping along Nungwi Beach, exploring Jozani Forest, touring a spice plantation, and learning how to cook delicious Tanzanian dishes.

My time in Stone Town was action-packed and fun, although if I’m being honest, Zanzibar didn’t capture my heart like I’d expected it to.

It’s weird: everyone I know who’s been has fallen in love with it, but something just didn’t click with me. I was bored by the end of my time there, and the harassment was horrendous. I even got scammed. I’ll be writing about this in more depth over the coming weeks. Maybe I shouldn’t have stayed in Stone Town; maybe Mozambique has spoiled me for East African beaches; maybe Zanzibar just isn’t my kind of place.

It wasn’t that I hated it, or even that I didn’t like it. I just wasn’t blown away.

Primus by the pool in Kigali

From Zanzibar, I made my way to Rwanda, and immediately fell for Kigali. What a refreshingly calm city!

People refer to Kigali as Africa Lite, and the ease at which you can travel there was startling. There was zero harassment, nobody so much as even looked at me, the streets were clean, and the locals lovely. After spending time in Zanzibar, it felt amazing to be able to walk for more than a few metres without having somebody try to sell me a boat trip.

I didn’t have long in the city, but it was enough to see why this is such a popular spot for Western expats. Although I have to confess that if I lived there, I fear I’d find it a little boring after some time. But as a tourist destination? I totally recommend it!

Dave and I are even currently researching whether it could be a potential scooter road trip destination for us in 2018!

Congo scenery

One sentence I never expected to say: the border crossing into the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the smoothest of my life.

And then I was in Goma, a city the British government advises against all but essential travel to.

What was I thinking?

I wanted to see a part of the Congo that didn’t involve being escorted by armed rangers in trucks in Virunga National Park, and Goma didn’t sound all that dangerous.

I liked the tiny amount I saw of the city. I thought it’d feel dangerous as hell, with guns everywhere, but it felt like a normal city. It didn’t feel like a place where I’d be slaughtered within minutes of arriving. In fact, it didn’t really seem all that different to Rwanda, although I know I saw only a small part, so I can hardly make an informed assessment. And, as I write about below, I did have a tiny but hair-raising experience in Goma before I left the country.

Sulking gorillas in the DRC

The following morning, I awoke convinced I was going to be punched by a silverback.

I’d originally planned to trek with gorillas in Rwanda, but after discovering it costs $1,500 to spend one hour with them there, I began to look at other alternatives; that’s how my trip to the DRC came about.

In the DRC, it’s just $400 (it’s $600 in Uganda) to see the gorillas, and from my research it sounded just as safe. It’s always nerve-wracking when you’re accompanied by rangers with enormous guns, but when you take into account that no tourists have been killed by militia in Virunga National Park, I wasn’t afraid to be there. Knowing that my money was going towards Virunga National Park, where rangers are frequently killed in their attempts to protect the gorillas from poachers, was what convinced me the DRC was the best option for me.

Tracking gorillas is tough, and the family we were aiming for were on the move, so it took a full two hours of walking to reach them, and then we had one glorious hour of watching them play.

I couldn’t get over how humanlike they were, and how playful, and powerful. Our family had four silverbacks and two babies, and I had to clench my jaw to prevent myself from squealing with joy when I watched them tumbling through the jungle in each other’s arms. Videos to come soon.

It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life, made even more special by knowing there are less than 800 of them left in the world. What a privilege to be able to spend just one hour with a family.

Bulletholes in DRC Virunga

Having a monkey shit on my breakfast was not an auspicious start to my hike up a volcano, but that’s travel in the DRC for you.

I’ll be honest: I was nervous about this climb. I once experienced altitude sickness so severe that I threw up at a mere 2,000 metres in Mexico, and this was going to take me up to 3,500. I bought altitude sickness pills, I trained hard at sea level, and I even considered wearing a snorkel to the gym to try to get my body used to a reduction in oxygen. I wish I was joking about that last part. And I also wish I’d actually gone through with it, because those photos would have been hilarious.

And while climbing Nyiragongo was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, it was also easier than I expected. It took us five hours to reach the summit, and because there aren’t any switchbacks on the volcano, the climb was straight up. But the time passed quickly and our group were firm friends by the time we reached the top.

Somehow, I even found myself in the fastest group, which certainly wasn’t what I expected when I first set out.

Nyiragongo during the day

When we reached the top, I couldn’t believe the scene below me. It looked Photoshopped. I was so in awe, I could barely breathe.

Or was that the billowing clouds of sulphur?

But no. It was the most incredible moment of my life.

I’d expected it to be amazing, but it was so, so much more than that; it’s something you have to see for yourself.

I sat with friends and watched the lava bubble and splash, sipping hot cups of tea and taking hundreds of photos. “Wow,” was all that anybody could say for quite some time.

And when darkness fell, it was an even more spectacular sight.

Mount Nyiragongo lava lake at night

That night was one of the coldest of my life.

Even with eight layers on my top-half, plus gloves and a hat and a sleeping bag with a fleece liner, it was freezing. And the worst part was when you had to leave the cabin at 3 a.m. to pee in the bitter darkness, because altitude sickness pills are a diuretic.

But then at least the steam coming off the lava rocks briefly warmed you up.

I didn’t sleep much that night, but I didn’t mind either. I was still in awe of the spectacular sight that lay just metres from my cabin.

View from Mount Nyiragongo

As always, you never suspect the descent to be the worst.

But, as always, it totally was.

Embarrassingly, I was so bad at descending that my porter held my hand/carried me down the entire volcano because I couldn’t stop falling over.

And yes, I was the only person who needed so much help getting down.

Balance: I do not have it.

I also may have tipped my porter $50 afterwards, because if he hadn’t helped me out, I’d still be sliding my way down as I type this.

Tchgera Island views

I rounded off my Congo adventure with an night on calming Tchegera Island. It’s located in the middle of Lake Kivu, and was the perfect way to recover from my hike.

During the day, I walked the circumference of the island and contemplated kayaking on the lake. Yes, contemplated. At night, I sat outside my tent and watched Nyiragongo turn the sky red with its glow. It was such a magical sight after spending the night at the summit just 24 hours before.

I thought I’d made an unwise and dangerous decision in heading to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but I’m glad I stuck to my guns and decided to head to Virunga in spite of that. I felt safe and looked after by the park rangers, and loved that my money went to a park that’s doing fantastic things for conservation.

Go, go, go to Virunga National Park.

June 2017 travel map

Highlights of the Month

EVERYTHING WAS A HIGHLIGHT THIS MONTH!

Seriously, I can’t break it down into just three. This was one of the best months of travel of my life, and I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to top it!

Lowlights of the Month

I was bored in Zanzibar: Maybe I spent too long in Stone Town. Maybe I’m over beach destinations for now. But either way, I was bored in Zanzibar. I had a full week on the island but ended up wishing I’d decided to explore the mainland of Tanzania instead.

I got seasick on Lake Kivu: It turns out that when it’s windy in Goma, the waves on Lake Kivu can be as powerful as the open ocean. The weather was so extreme, in fact, that the tiny boat I needed to take couldn’t reach me at the normal dock. When we eventually found a spot on the lake where I could board, I was essentially sliding off the wooden bench every few seconds because we were crashing so violently into the water.

It reminded me of when my ferry started to sink in Thailand after the rough waves had smashed a hole in the vessel. Soaring up and catching some air, and then *CRASH*. I then had no more than two seconds to rearrange my organs before we were flying upwards once more. I tried to focus on the horizon to calm my churning stomach, but I could only see it for 10% of the time.

Thank god it was only a 15-minute journey.

I had a panic attack on my flight to Dar es Salaam: I’ve been fortunate to have not had a panic attack, or really even the slightest twinge of anxiety, for over a year now, to the point where I’ve well and truly put any lingering mental health woes behind me.

But for some reason on my flight to Tanzania, I had a full-on panic attack and I have no idea what caused it. Literally zero idea. I was napping on the plane and then I was suddenly feeling as though I was having a heart attack. It ended after an hour of hyperventilating, blurry vision, heart palpitations, and cold sweats, and I haven’t felt any anxiety since. Weird AF.

Incidents of the Month

I got scammed in Zanzibar: Oh man, I’m almost too embarrassed to share this, but hey, at least it shows that even experienced travellers still get scammed. That even travellers who have been scammed a dozen times already can still be naive enough to be taken advantage of. Sigh.

I needed to buy a SIM card in Zanzibar, so I asked at a store that had a Vodacom sign outside. No, they told me, we don’t sell them here, but our friend can get you one. I was suspicious, but I’d also been looking for half an hour and come up with nothing, so I was willing to see what happened next. A dude appeared from nowhere and motioned for me to follow him. Which, of course, I did, because anxiety sufferers have zero sense of intuition.

He told me he’d take me to the SIM card providers in a nearby market and if I was happy to tip him a dollar, he’d make sure I didn’t get ripped off. I agreed for an easier experience.

AND THEN HE SCAMMED ME.

Because I got the exchange rate muddled up in my head, I thought I was paying the equivalent $2.70 for a SIM card, which would have been about right, but I actually paid TWENTY SEVEN DOLLARS for it.

AND THEN I TIPPED THE GUY WHO SCAMMED ME.

I’m still kicking myself over it several weeks later, but hey, I can lose the money. I keep reminding myself that he most likely needed it far more than I did.

I was charged by a silverback: Because of course I was. It sounds more dramatic than it was, because it didn’t get super close to me. But damn, those guys can move fast. And although my ranger told me I should slowly crouch to the ground if I was charged at, you can bet I threw myself straight into the bushes with a yelp when it happened for real.

Goma Port crowds

I was abandoned at Goma’s port: If you wanted to know what it looked like when I was abandoned in Goma, it was essentially the exact opposite of a scene from Where’s Wally/Waldo. The only white face in a sea of a thousand locals; locals who were all staring directly at me.

I’d just spent the night in Tchegera Island and in order to leave the following day, I would need someone to ferry me over to Goma’s port, where I’d be met by someone from Virunga, who would then drive me to the border. My transportation experiences in the DRC had been seamless up until that point, but there was some kind of miscommunication and it turned out nobody was waiting for me when I stepped off the boat. The driver pushed me and my backpack up onto the dock and immediately turned back around and left me standing there.

Alone.

A local ran up to me and told me he was immigration and would need my passport now. A child took my water bottle from my hands. A lorry almost reversed into me. Somebody else told me they needed to see my passport immediately and everywhere I looked, people were staring, staring, staring. I had no idea where to go or what to do or why everyone was so desperate to get their hands on my passport.

I tried to remain calm and tell myself that everything was fine; that it was cool to be alone in Goma. The city the British government specifically advises against all but essential travel to. You know, in the Congo. One of the most dangerous countries in the world. A country most travel insurance providers won’t cover you for. I was reminded of how some of my friends had told me the UN doesn’t allow its workers to take taxis in the city, which now seemed to be my only option. I was reminded of the many news reports I’d read of kidnappings in the area. Of murders outside of Goma. How thousands of militia prisoners had recently escaped from prisons across the country, one less than 200 miles from here. How the people I’d met last night, who lived in Goma, had told me I was brave for coming alone. I tried to call someone from Virunga but my phone was out of credit.

What. Have. I. Done?

I felt like crying, but tears were not what this situation needed. But what else could I do?

I didn’t know how to safely get myself out of Goma.

But it always works out in the end.

Or, at least, it did this time.

Someone from Virunga turned up 45 minutes later, and until then, a kind local had let me seek shelter in his hut away from the crowds to wait. It was a nerve-wracking moment, although I doubt I was ever in any real danger in a crowd so large. People are good, people are good, people are good.

Right?

Either way, you have no idea how glad I was to cross the border into Rwanda an hour later.

July 2017 travel map

My Next Steps

Surprise! I’m going to be spending July on a magical mystery tour of my homeland and I couldn’t be more excited!

You know I’ve seen very little of the U.K. in my lifetime, always favouring far-flung destinations over the rainy-and-familiar at any opportunity, but I’m currently determined to explore more of the land that made me socially awkward and far too polite.

I’ll be hitting up some of the biggest hipster hotspots in the U.K., from Stokes Croft in Bristol to Chorlton in Manchester; Headingley in Leeds to Leith in Edinburgh. I’ve been to none of these places before (unless you count the five hours in Manchester where I had an interview at the university then threw up at a bus stop before boarding my plane home) and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to see what makes these places so special.

I’m not yet convinced whether walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall will be a highlight or lowlight, but it’ll undoubtedly be a challenge. I’ll be trudging my way from the east to west coast of England in the middle of the month, most likely with a thermos in hand and blisters on my toes, and oh god, please don’t let it rain as well.

Wish me luck!

What are you up to in July? Got any exciting travel plans? Share away in the comments below!

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58 Comments

  1. July 10, 2017
    Reply

    Hey Lauren,
    Love the UK trip. If you’re staying in Leith in Edinburgh definitely go to Pitt Market on Saturday, and walk by the Waters of Leith. I’ve just writen a blog post on local places to hangout while in Edinburgh, in case you’re looking for tips!

    • July 10, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Claudia! Will check out your post now :-)

  2. July 10, 2017
    Reply

    Wow! What an adventure! I doubt I’d ever be so brave as to visit a place during an active “essential travel only” warning, but I’m glad that you did and write about it. It opens up the world, in a way. It opens up minds, too.

    • July 10, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah, it was a little nerve-wracking, but I probably did around 500+ hours of research for this trip (seriously, all I did for weeks was read trip reports for the DRC) and nothing I read gave me much cause for concern. And while things were a little scary for half an hour in Goma, you’re really safe on a trip to Virunga National Park. Having said that, I know this definitely isn’t a destination for everyone!

  3. July 10, 2017
    Reply

    Also, I love your birthday dress!

  4. July 10, 2017
    Reply

    That’s a lot of adventure for one month!! Sorry about the scamming, never a good time. Looking forward to hearing more about the UK trip this month. My wife and I are planning some time there this fall and am always looking for inspiration! Trying to get out of the mainstream so only minimal time in London and hopefully some time smaller towns.

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, fun! Have you ever been to Cornwall? I went a couple of years ago and it was amazing! So many cute villages, pretty beaches, and great food.

  5. July 10, 2017
    Reply

    Wow Lauren, what a month! I was completely fascinated by your trips! I am glad that you are able to get out of Goma safely. The view of the lava and volcano was simply stunning. It really opened my eyes!

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you! The lava lake was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.

  6. Lana
    July 10, 2017
    Reply

    I know someone who was robbed on the taxi, and barely made it out alive. DRC is scary. But I really want to go to that national park now. I will have to research how to get there.

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, wow. I’m glad I didn’t have to resort to that! The country is a very dangerous place, but the park is, in my opinion, safe for tourists to visit.

  7. July 10, 2017
    Reply

    Those pictures of the volcano and the lake are breathtaking. You are definitely living the good life lately. :)

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      And me being me, I’m totally waiting for it all to come crashing down around me, haha. But it’s true: I’ve been super fortunate to have had so many amazing experiences this year.

  8. Helena
    July 10, 2017
    Reply

    So excited that you’re coming to Manchester! I’ve lived here for the last 6 years and absolutely love the city. Some great places to go; John Rylands Library on Deansgate (would basically fit right into Harry Potter!), the street art in Northern Quarter (loads of great places to eat too and check out Affleck’s Palace) and I love going to Salford Quays or Fletcher’s Moss for a chilled afternoon. If you’re looking for hipster areas then Ancoats is the place to be with loads of new and trendy places opening up. Try to get a seat in Rudy’s neapolitan pizza, I still haven’t managed! Have an amazing time x

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      That’s amazing! Thank you so much, Helena!!! :-)

  9. Wow what a busy month! Those volcano pictures are terrifying / incredible. You’d think camping on a volcano would be nice and toasty but while I was in Guatemala a group of travelers actually froze to death on top of one of the active volcanoes.

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, wow! That’s scary. And yeah, the altitude really makes it cold at night. I was shocked by how freezing it was at the top, but the park says specifically to bring a ton of warm clothes, so my backpack was stuffed with them.

  10. Atanas
    July 10, 2017
    Reply

    That thing at Goma port really sounded like an unpleasant experience. Thumbs up for the courage to go only by yourself in a developing country like Congo!

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      Every single person I met told me I was incredibly brave to go to the DRC, and that they would have never come alone, but it really didn’t feel like I was doing anything special or brave! And I made so many friends while I was there. Maybe it’s the whole lack-of-intuition thing because I never have any idea if a situation is really dangerous or I’ve made it feel that way in my mind, so I was just whatevs! I’ll go to the Congo! And it sounded about as dangerous as me leaving the house in Lisbon to go to a coffee shop (both terrifying)

      • Atanas
        July 16, 2017
        Reply

        Well, honestly, sometimes dangers in different countries are exaggerated by the media and when you get there, it turns out it`s not as bad as it is being presented. And dangers vary in different part of the countries. Take Guatemala, for example. High crime rate in the capital, but I think regions like lake Atitlan, Antigua or Tikal are pretty much safe, aren`t they?

        • July 16, 2017
          Reply

          Sure, but Selcuk in Turkey is safe and yet I developed a case of vertigo that was so severe I couldn’t stand and had to be hospitalised. The U.S. is thought to be safe, and yet I developed an auto-immune disease while I was travelling there, and had I needed to go to the hospital, the bill could have been enormous. Lake Atitlan might be low in crime, but that doesn’t help you if you, y’know, fall over and hurt yourself, or have an allergic reaction, or have a stroke, or get stung by a poisonous animal, or get dengue fever, or are in a bus crash, or are run over, or are caught in a volcanic eruption. I just think it’s unbelievably stupid to travel somewhere and not spend like, $50 in order to be protected in case anything goes wrong. You get it for the medical cover, not for anything else.

          At the end of the day, the one time I didn’t bother to get travel insurance, I was caught up in a tsunami in Thailand. Had it been far worse than it actually was and had I have died, man, knowing my parents would have faced a huge bill to fly out there, try to recover my body, etc, was just sickening. I then promised myself I’d always travel with insurance.

          We’re obviously not going to agree on this. But yeah, let’s hope nothing bad happens to you when you travel.

          • Atanas
            July 18, 2017
            Reply

            Hey, Lauren.
            I think this tirade should have actually gone on the discussion under ” How to visit Zanzibar on a budget”, where we were discussing travel insurance :) Cause, here I was more like admiring your courage to visit the DRC alone. And I do agree with you about insurance when you travel intensively like you do… But what is that “Life sucks…and then you die” attitude? What about the joy of life? The entertaining part of traveling? I mean, if we think only about tsunamis, erupting volcanoes, dangerous animals, catching diseases, etc., we should never get out of our homes.

            • July 18, 2017

              Oh, haha, whoops.

              But sure, travel is wonderful, but when you work in travel, you see so many people (and their families) get screwed over by not having travel insurance that you realise it’s a necessary precaution to take. Burying your head in the sand doesn’t keep you safe. People who are like, YEAH! Travel is the besssst! So much funnnnnn! Party party party! I don’t even need to *think* about travel insurance because life is awesomeeeeeee! are the people who end up with gofundme pages trying to raise money for their life-saving operation, because they got injured while travelling and selfishly didn’t want to spend $50 on having insurance.

              But my point wasn’t that you should spend your time obsessing over volcanoes/disasters, etc, but that having insurance means that you *don’t* have to spend any time worrying about it, because you know you’re covered. At the end of the day, shit happens, and travel insurance protects you from it when it happens to you.

  11. July 11, 2017
    Reply

    Wow, those gorillas… What an incredible experience! I got a bit teary-eyed just reading about it. Going to check out your book now, and looking forward to your UK adventures.

    • July 18, 2017
      Reply

      I think you can get jaded sometimes, when you’ve travelled for as long as I have, so I didn’t have my expectations sky high when I decided to do the trek. But the experience completely blew me away! Had I not immediately climbed the volcano afterwards, the gorilla trekking would have undoubtedly been the highlight of my travels.

      Hope you enjoy my book! It’s quite different to the blog :-)

  12. Scott
    July 11, 2017
    Reply

    You always make me feel better about traveling, because I can look at your posts and all of the things that happen in them, and think, “well, Lauren survived, then so can I”. So thanks for paving the way for pessimists! It’s a good thing for us, but not necessarily for you, since you’re the one that always seems to go through these things! It’s like I always say, there are no bad happenings, just good stories!

    So what hotels did you stay in, or did you camp out while in Rwanda and the DRC? When you were in Rwanda, did people hit you up all the time for stuff/money/etc? I’ve heard (from reading another blogger’s post) that that’s the case.

    Keep up the good work!

    • July 11, 2017
      Reply

      Ha! It’s true — whenever something bad happens, I’m always mentally composing the blog post in my mind, haha.

      I found the opposite to be true in Rwanda. Nobody tried to sell me anything while I was there, actually. When you compare that to Zanzibar, where someone tried to sell me a tour every couple of metres in the streets, it was bliss! You stay in hotels that are owned by Virunga while you’re in the DRC (or can stay in hotels in Goma to save money if you want), and I just stayed in a basic hostel in Kigali.

  13. July 11, 2017
    Reply

    Interesting to hear your thoughts about Zanzibar. I just got back from there and although I loved Stone Town, enjoyed the monkeys at Jozani, liked our daytrip to Chumbe island and loved the sunset dhow cruise…I didn’t come away loving the island as a whole. Possibly because we split our time between Stone Town and the east coast – beautiful as the beaches are I’m not much of a lazing round all day person!

    We didn’t get much hassle in Stone Town, in fact it was great being there during Eid, Forodhani market was buzzing at night! But I’m well aware that if I’d been wondering round on my own instead of with the Mr, it might have been different.

    • July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, that’s interesting! And it’s good to hear from someone who also didn’t fall head over heels in love with Zanzibar.

  14. Wow, this is adventurous travel to the max! Africa is a continent I would love to explore more, but it feels daunting attempting it by myself. And here you are exploring countries like Congo & Rwanda. You are awesome! Ha, I totally relate to how you had to get down from the mountain by the way. That’s how I ‘roll’ too ;-) It’s a good thing your porter helped you out!

    • July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Ha! I sometimes joke I should rename my blog the Accidental Adventurer, because I never intend to do things like this, but somehow end up doing them anyway! But Rwanda is incredibly safe. The ninth safest country in the world! :-)

  15. Tessa
    July 11, 2017
    Reply

    Very impressed and all looks amazing! Well done Lauren

  16. Lindsey
    July 11, 2017
    Reply

    YAYY it’s so awesome to see people having awesome experiences in Rwanda/DRC. I hiked Nyiragongo a couple of years ago, and ALSO made a 3am toilet trek. Best night of my life though. Lived in Rwanda for a year, and yes, you do not need to spend any more time there than that.

    • July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Isn’t it the most incredible experience in the world? I’m already dreaming of returning to do the hike all over again!

  17. Heather
    July 12, 2017
    Reply

    Loved this post! The first paragraph had me laughing out loud. Wow what an exciting month of travels. Good luck with your trek across Hadrian’s wall.

    • July 17, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you! I totally failed to make it across, unfortunately.

  18. Ashley
    July 12, 2017
    Reply

    Wow love this! Volcano pic is amazing and can’ t imagine being so close to gorillas in the wild! Africa is the one place I’ve been hesitant to tackle solo, but this gives me new inspiration. ( ;

    • July 18, 2017
      Reply

      You can definitely travel solo there, Ashley! I’ve felt in very little danger in most of the countries I’ve visited in Africa, and Rwanda is in the top 10 safest countries in the world :-)

  19. LG
    July 15, 2017
    Reply

    If you’ve not already passed through I can give you plenty of recommendations for Leeds/Headingley. I’ve lived here for 4 years and I absolutely love this city

    • July 17, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, I’ve just left! But thank you so much for the offer. I loved Leeds — such an underrated city!

  20. Catherine
    July 15, 2017
    Reply

    Hi- I LOVED your article about the DRC. Can you please tell me if it was difficult to breathe once you reached the summit (with all the smoke), and even during the trek up? I am currently training for this exact trip in Virunga and I havent been able to find much information on this subject. It’s my dream to do this, but I’m worried about the air quality . Did anyone have severe eye irritation or trouble breathing when you were there? I hope not, for my sake. I am more anxious about this than the safety factor, believe it or not. Good Luck with your future & Many Thanks!!

    • July 16, 2017
      Reply

      Oh no, that’s really not something you need to worry about! There was a vague smell of sulphur if the wind was blowing towards you, but I’ve been in places with far worse air quality. You really don’t notice it at all. No eye irritation or trouble breathing for anyone up there.

      • Catherine
        July 21, 2017
        Reply

        Thank You!! I feel better now about this trip..Many Thanks!!

  21. July 17, 2017
    Reply

    Wow what an awesome month! So great to see you are having a fantastic time!!

    Enjoy England! It is hot and humid here at the moment but keeps deciding to randomly rain (just as I start the BBQ of course!)

    If you are spending much time down south I have spent a bit of time in Eastbourne and Hastings and they are nice quieter seaside resorts – like Brighton but a bit less crowded and with better fish ‘n’ chips!

    Can’t wait for the next monthly summary !

    • July 17, 2017
      Reply

      Definitely not hot or humid up in the north, where I currently am! Just had a full day of freezing cold sideways rain :-) I’ve actually been to both Eastbourne and Hastings when I was a kid, but don’t remember much about them! But this trip will be all about the north, so I won’t get a chance to re-check them out yet.

  22. Cara
    July 18, 2017
    Reply

    Honestly, I feel like you shouldn’t be recommending your readers visit somewhere so dangerous. What if someone blindly follows your advice and ends up killed?

    • July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Virunga National Park is not dangerous, in my opinion. Exactly one tourist has died in Virunga National Park over the almost 100 years it’s been open, and that was a woman who fell into the volcano. They close the park if there’s even the slightest risk to foreigners. How many other national parks around the world can say that only one tourist has ever died there? More people die in Yosemite every year.

  23. July 28, 2017
    Reply

    I actually got scammed in Zanzibar too. I paid for transportation to the company and when the bus driver arrived he pretended like I never paid for anything and I had to pay twice. Then he said ‘it’s a return trip’, but obviously the bus never showed up to pick me up on the way back and stopped answering their phone.

    • August 16, 2017
      Reply

      Oh man, that really sucks. I can’t believe they made you pay twice then didn’t even pick you up on the way back! Scammers are the worst.

  24. ANJANA
    October 3, 2017
    Reply

    Really you’re an adventurous traveler. In most of your travels, you come up against many difficulties but you manage to overcome all them and start afresh. Inspiring.

  25. December 11, 2017
    Reply

    Hey Lauren,

    Wow! 2017 blessed you with exciting travels! :) By the way, how did you manage to sleep with lava bubble and splash just around the corner? I just can’t.

    • December 14, 2017
      Reply

      You couldn’t really hear it that much.

  26. August 16, 2018
    Reply

    Yay, what a busy woman! It`s terrifying and incredible. I love that beer, I love that monkeys, I love that volcano, I love everything from your trip. Want the same…))

    • August 21, 2018
      Reply

      Ha, thank you! I hope you get to experience the same one day :-)

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