The Peruvian Experience: Trekking

Our trek began on the fourth day of our trip to Peru, and when that day dawned, I was terrified. We were going to be trekking through the Lares Valley and reaching altitudes of over 4450m above sea level – and I hadn’t done any training. Before I left for Peru, the thought of exchanging a good book on the beach for an hour on an exercise bike seemed laughable; once I was there, I began to regret it.

However, the trek wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be. Admittedly, I was expecting to be airlifted back to Lima within the first half an hour, but the point still stands. But I was pleasantly surprised: the trek was hard work, but it wasn’t too difficult for me to handle and I recovered very quickly. I was also fortunate in that I didn’t suffer from altitude sickness – the worst I had to contend with was shortness of breath and I minor headache. I was incredibly lucky not to be throwing up or passing out: at worst, the extent of my altitude sickness was never more painful than a minor hangover.

My lack of altitude sickness allowed me to really appreciate the beautiful Peruvian countryside. We began trekking at the best possible time, just as winter was easing into spring. It didn’t rain once – even though we woke up with ice on the tents more than once – and we were greeting by glorious sunshine every day. We really saw the Lares Valley at its best. There was still snow gleaming on the black mountains, enormous, blue-green lakes lay feet below the mountain paths, and scrubby green and brown plants covered almost every inch of the mountainside. As we walked, we passed herds of llama and alpaca grazing in between the rocks. Old shepherds’ huts were dotted around the valley, each one built of dry stone and looking as though they’d been abandoned for years. Occasionally, children from a nearby village would run up to us and ask for sweets, or try to sell us drinks or traditional Peruvian clothes. We learnt to carry a small stock of boiled sweets with us at all times, so they wouldn’t have to leave empty handed.

The full trek lasted about four or five days. During that time, I had a bath in a suspiciously yellow hot spring, almost fell down several mountains, almost got abandoned in some old Incan ruins and missed out on a chance to buy a litre bottle of beer. All the while, we were walking through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. At the time, it was a little bit difficult to believe that I was really there; it all looked so beautiful and so surreal that I felt as if I was trekking through Middle Earth.

And then, finally, we arrived in Machu Picchu.


Living Below the Line

For the next five days, I’m going to be living below the global poverty line in order to raise money for Practical Action. This means that over these five days, I’m only allowed to spend £5 on everything that I eat and drink.

It’s going to be difficult – it’s very likely that I’m going to go hungry – but at the end of the five days I will be able to stop. I will be able to back to my normal life – and to my normal diet – in a way that billions of people around the globe just can’t afford to do.

Please support me by sharing and liking this video on every social network site that you can think of; I’d really appreciate it. If you’d like to donate, you can do so here:

I’d really appreciate whatever help you’d be willing to give. Thank you.

Fancy Dress Week: Particularly Good Finders

The last costume in my week of fancy dress was definitely my favourite. On the last day I lived out my childhood dream and dressed as a student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


I have been a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter series since I was a teenager, so much so that my sister’s friends frequently call me in to settle trivia-based arguments, so I put quite a lot of effort into this costume. A while ago I joined Pottermore and took the official Sorting test and was sorted into Hufflepuff.

I was crushed.

I eventually came to terms with the fact that I would never be a Ravenclaw and decided to raise money for charity in true Hufflepuff style. The bulk of the costume was pretty easy to put together. Because I knew there was no way I could afford a proper Hogwarts robe I worked from the movies’ version of the Hogwarts uniform. It’s very similar to most British school uniforms, and while I didn’t get an exact replica I certainly captured the uniform look. I wore a plain white shirt, a black skirt, black pumps and a grey jumper.

The accessories was what really made this outfit, and they were surprisingly easy to find. I found a very close replica of the Hufflepuff tie for under a fiver on Amazon, and I happened to find a Hufflepuff badge lurking in my bedroom – I think it came from a Christmas cracker when I was ten. The scarf was a little more difficult. I actually went to the Harry Potter shop at Kings’ Cross station (and saw Platform 9 and ¾ OMG) but once I had gotten over my initial bout of squealing I was extremely disappointed to find that the shop did not stock Hufflepuff scarves. I skulked away – secure in the knowledge that no-one wanted to be a Hufflepuff – and eventually found one on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price. The best part was my Hogwarts acceptance letter, which my friends gave me for my birthday, and allowed me to pretend that I really was magical.

I really enjoyed wearing this costume. It was perfect: it was comfortable, it was pretty clear who I was supposed to be, and it was sufficiently nerdy, so I felt like I was in on some secret inside joke all day long. The only problem I had – and it really was a minor one – was that it was extremely cold and my paper-thin tights didn’t really keep my legs warm. I solved that problem by buying an emergency pair of long, grey socks, which kept my legs warm and kept the overall look of the costume intact.

I was very happy with this costume. I will be wearing it again – as part of my fundraising plan I said I’d wear the most popular costume in my final exam. I’m very pleased that this one won, as it’s by far the one I feel most comfortable in. I know it’s not an exact replica of the Hogwarts uniforms, but to be honest, I’m just proud that I made something so convincing in such a short amount of time.

Thank you for reading my costume posts; I hope you like them. I’ll be announcing my next fundraising project very shortly, so keep your eyes peeled! If you’d like to donate – and I would be extremely grateful if you did – then you can do so here:

Total so far: £1000 (yay!)
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1850

Fancy Dress Week: Elementary

The fourth costume in my week of fancy dress was, I’m sorry to say, less than impressive. I was dressed as Sherlock Holmes, and overall I’m not really happy with this costume.


When I first chose this costume I thought it would be relatively easy to put together. I’m more familiar with the recent BBC mini-series than with the original Conan Doyle books, so I chose to base my costume on the clothes Benedict Cumberbatch wore in the role of Sherlock. His style is quite formal, plain and dark – apart from the scene when he was wearing nothing but a blanket and I decided pretty early on that I wasn’t going to try and replicate that. This presented a challenge: while I had pretty much everything for the costume, because of its plainness it would be relatively difficult to convey who I was supposed to be. I did manage to get hold of a deerstalker hat – and from Baker Street, no less – and in the end I wore a black shirt, shoes and trousers to complete the ensemble.

Needless to say, this didn’t really work. Adding a hat is not the best way to make a costume, and without Sherlock’s iconic coat – either Cumberbatch’s grey one or the original tweed greatcoat – it just looked like I was wondering around in a silly hat. Oddly enough, when I had buttons taped to my glasses or was wearing a bright pink wig, I felt less embarrassed than I did in that costume. It was nice to be able to take off the hat and pass as a normal person for a few seconds, but ultimately, I would have preferred to have done this one properly. Unfortunately, time and money made this impossible.

I wasn’t really happy with this costume. I think if I was going to do it again I’d put a lot more effort in, and maybe splash out on a coat which would add to the costume (or perhaps a pipe, if my budget is going to remain this tight for the next few years). Strangely enough, going overboard on a costume actually makes it easier to wear in public; as I hadn’t really gone all-out with this one it was by far one of the most embarrassing days of the week. If I was to do the whole week again I’m not even sure if I’d include this costume, but that’s looking pretty unlikely.

Next time I’ll be looking at my last costume; my very own Hogwarts uniform. If you’d like to follow my progress – or better yet, to donate to my cause – you can do so here:

Total so far: £960
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1890

Fancy Dress Week: That Girl with Hair like This

My third fancy dress costume is one of my favourites, but also one of the ones I was most nervous about. I dressed as Ramona Flowers from the Scott Pilgrim series and sweet Jesus, it was difficult.


Ramona Flowers is a character who a lot of people have already cosplayed as, so the bar was set pretty high. My student budget meant that getting an exact replica of one of her outfits was way beyond my reach, so I had to put together something ‘Ramona-esque’ while spending as little money as possible. I decided to imitate one of her looks from the 2010 film, but based my choice on how much new stuff I had to buy rather than choosing one of my favourites.

The outfit wasn’t that difficult to put together. After re-watching the film a few times – all in the name of ‘research’ – I had a pretty good idea of the way she dresses. Ramona’s outfits all focus around layers, usually aren’t very girly, and have a lot of bright colours teemed with darker, edgier stuff like leather jackets and studded belts. This was pretty much perfect for me, and in the end I wore my Captain America T-shirt, a purple hoodie, a black leather jacket, denim shorts, black tights, a studded belt and some gothy boots that you can’t see in the photo. I had to buy the belt, hoodie and the shoes but everything else I already had.

Unfortunately, I did have to do some more arts and crafts for this outfit. I bought a pair of steampunk goggles as part of the outfit. They looked perfect, but when I tried them on they made my hair bulge out in odd ways, and seeing how important Ramona’s hair is in conveying the character, I really didn’t want that. So I improvised, bought a cheap hairband from the local supermarket and literally taped it to the goggles. I had to pin it all in place to make it stay on when I moved my head, but all in all I’d class that as a success.

That just left the hair. Ramona is famous for her brightly coloured hair, and recreating it was going to be a challenge. I didn’t want to go the whole hog and dye my hair permanently, as bleaching my hair and then dyeing it would be incredibly expensive and I didn’t want to make that permanent a change, even if it was for charity. I’ve experimented in the past with spray in hair dye and the results had been pretty good, so I bought a couple of cans from a fancy dress shop and just sprayed them in on the first day of my fancy dress week, when I’d originally been planning to wear this costume.


The dye looked awful. Thankfully there’re no pictures of that fiasco, but I can assure you all that the ‘forest green’ hair dye I’d bought was both the colour of pond sludge and the colour of radioactive waste at the same time. To top it all off, the dye made my hair look really slick and greasy, and the end result just looked like the Incredible Hulk had sneezed on my head. I washed it all out and wore another costume that day, and then ordered an emergency wig from Amazon, which I had to alter before I could wear it. I only just got it done in time, so I’d definitely recommend a little more planning if you’re thinking of wearing a Ramona costume yourself.

Once the costume was all put together I was very happy with it. It was pretty clear who I was supposed to be, and while it wasn’t quite what I had in mind at first, it was definitely the best I could put together with my budget and time constraints. The one major problem I had apart from the hair was my headgear. I had to wear a skullcap to keep my real hair out of sight, and after wearing both the wig and my steampunk hairband on top of it for a day, I had a colossal headache.

I think this holds up as a beginner’s cosplay, but perhaps not in more experienced circles. I’m certainly proud of the way I put this costume together despite my limitations, but if I was going to wear it again I’d spend more time on the hair so I could really get it right. Apart from the wig, everything I bought can be worn again, so overall I’m pretty happy with this.

Next time I’ll be looking at my Sherlock Holmes costume. If you’d like to follow my progress – or better yet, to donate to my cause – you can do so here:

Total so far: £960
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1890

Climb Every Mountain

This summer, I’m going to walk the Inca Trail to raise money for Practical Action. In order to get there, I need £2850, all of which will go directly to the charity.

Yikes. That is a lot of money.

For those of you who don’t know, Practical Action is a really fantastic charity that funds development projects all over the world. Their projects range from providing clean water that is safe to drink to building up infrastructure such as transport, urban planning and effective waste management. It’s a UK-based charity but their projects are based in the Sudan, Bangladesh and Peru, to name but a few.

As for the Inca Trail, it’s a monster. I’ll be going through the Lares Valley and on to Machu Picchu, reaching altitudes of more than 3660 km above sea level. The trek ends at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu, and I’m willing to bet that as I enter the majestic ruins of the Inca city I’ll be on the point of passing out.

So in order to get there – and to get through the trials and tribulations that fundraising will undoubtedly bring – I’m going to keep track of all of my fundraising efforts on this blog. I’ve been raising money for about four months now and am just about on track. To see my total – or to donate, if you’d like to – please go here:

Over the next few months I’ll be writing up my fundraising efforts. So far, I’ve gone to a week of lectures in fancy dress and operated a Valentines’ Day Delivery service, and I’ll be discussing the merits of both of those events and giving any tips to future fundraisers. I’ll also be doing a breakdown of my fancy dress week, including giving details of how I put together my five costumes and didn’t break the bank!

Thanks for your support and wish me luck!

Total so far: £676
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £2174