#ExploreTheElements

Hi everyone, this is my blog entry to the #ExploreTheElements competition that Thomas Cook are running. Myself and Phil have been watching this show on Netflix recently called Departures, it’s about two Canadian guys who pack in their jobs, leave their lives behind and travel the world for a year. We actually just realized it was filmed in 2007 but it doesn’t matter, it’s still amazing and what they did is my BIGGEST dream ever. To travel the world for one whole year? Amazing. Myself and Phil would do it in a heartbeat, the only thing getting in our way is that little thing called money. With each show of Departures we watch, the longing to travel grows within me, it’s literally all I can think about these days. And although myself and Phil have done our fair share of travelling, there is so much more to do, so much more to see. So when I came across the #ExploreTheElements competition and saw that the main prize is $5000 towards your travel fund, it was like a sign! I’m not a photographer, so picking these four images was tough and they may not be the best photographs in the world, but they each represent something. They are each real, raw, un-edited, un-filtered photographs taken during some of our amazing travels.They each represent a time, a memory, a part of my life that I will never forget, and a time that I sometimes wish I could travel back to. These four pictures stir emotions deep within me and make me want to travel this entire beautiful world of ours, so here are my four pictures, enjoy. EARTH Rachel's pics 992 This picture was taken in Queenstown in 2011 when we travelled around New Zealand for two months. It was the best two months of my life and New Zealand to this day remains my number one place I’ve visited in the world. It is simply a spectacularly amazing country, the South island particularly beautiful. The picture was taken after a long cable ride to the top of a peak, where you could then take the luge back down to the bottom. As a side note, the luge is super fast, and somewhat terrifying, but oh so fun! The image is looking down over Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world and I chose it to represent Earth as you can see the snow-capped mountains looming in the background. The sheer physicality of these mountains, forever visible, is a sight to behold. We did our skydive in Queenstown and as we descended over these mountains it was both terrifying and amazing to witness them as you hurdle towards the earth at a ridiculous speed, its enough to take your breath away. Mountains like these are a constant backdrop in many parts of New Zealand, quiet in the background yet remaining powerful and solid. WATER 20131121_105823When looking through my pictures, I had so many of water to choose from; amazing beaches in Boracay with blue waters like you’ve never seen before, bright turquoise lakes in New Zealand that would take your breath away, sparkling waters in Fiji so clear that its hard to believe what you’re looking at is real, but I didn’t want to use any of them. Everybody has nice pictures of bright blue waters off an island somewhere. I chose this picture, not because it is a picture of water, but because of what it means, what it stands for. This picture was taken in Varanasi, India in 2013. It’s the Ganges or the “Ganga”, probably the most famous and definitely the most spiritual body of water in the world. This river is a living, flowing thing that is sacred to millions of Hindu people. It represents both life and death. Hindus believe that if their bodies are put into the Ganges after they die, they will be released from the circle of reincarnation, that is, they will finally be laid to rest once their bodies reach the Ganges. For this reason, many of them flock to Varanasi, one of the holiest places in India, in order to die there. Their bodies are burned at the burning ghats on the banks of the river and then placed in the Ganges. And this continues 24 hours a day. There are constantly fires burning along the river banks in Varanasi and if you watch for long enough, it can be easy to forget that you are watching the end of a humans life. I can’t describe the experience in words, it was chilling, haunting, overwhelming and interesting and at night-time, it had a certain eeriness to it, yet at the same time, it was amazing. People use the river to live, washing in it, bathing in it, drinking from it and then finally, their ashes been laid to rest in it. So although it’s not your typical beautiful picture of clear waters, I think it’s a perfect representation of water and what it can mean to people. AIR 20131122_164154I chose this photograph to represent Air, which may seem strange. But when I was reading the competition guidelines and the piece on what air represents, I thought this was the perfect picture. Air is associated with elusiveness and evasiveness – this is the elusive Bengal Tiger. The picture was taken in Ranthambore National Park in Rajastan, India in 2013. People travel from far and wide to see the tigers in Ranthambore National Park, but of course you are not always guaranteed a sighting. When we were there, many others staying at our hotel had been there for over a week and done more than five safaris in an attempt to see one of these magnificent tigers up close yet in the wild, in their natural habitat. We spoke to many people who had extended there stay in order to try catch a glimpse of a tiger, and many others who were leaving in disappointment. Myself and Phil were amazingly lucky and privileged to see not one, not two but THREE separate tigers on our 3 day trip there! Many travellers in our hotel were openly jealous that we had been so lucky – it was the luck of the Irish, it’s the only logical explanation! The picture above is the first tiger we saw while dong our very first safari. That picture was taken without zooming, that’s how close we were. It was a fantastic experience and also terrifying. There we were within mere feet of this powerful beautiful beast, with no windows on our jeep, no roof and no protection. If that tiger had wanted to, she could have easily eaten all 6 of us in the jeep…easily. The driver got up as close as possible, and then killed the engine. We sat there in complete awe of this magnificent beast that was walking  out of the bushes, alongside us. I was terrified, excited and amazed all at once. To be that close to a wild tiger is certainly an experience I will never forget. She (the guide informed us it was a female) emerged from the wooded area and crossed in front of our jeep, once she had passed the jeep she stopped, turned around and looked right at us. I swear I made eye contact with that tiger. I have a picture of that moment too, and I was torn about which one to use. But in the end I chose this one as I thought it portrayed the tiger best, in its natural environment, emerging from the shade of the trees in search of food, thankfully she did not feel like human meat that day! My heart was beating out of my chest, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life and the adrenaline rush it gave me was something else. This is one of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced on my travels. FIRE 20131104_175317 I really struggled to find an image to represent fire but I decided to use this one in the end. It was taken on Gili Trawangan, a small island off Bali and I really like this photograph. I think this picture represents fire well as the sun is so forceful, so powerful and beautiful. After spending five days in Bali we headed for this island to get away from the non-stop tormentors in Kuta. If you so much as make eye contact with any of these guys on the street in Kuta you are in trouble, they will follow you for the night trying to sell you the most ridiculous and absurd things. So off we set for a smaller, more relaxed place. We spent 4 days on Gili Trawangan and it was definitely laid back and relaxed. There are no motorized vehicles on the island so you either walk, cycle or get a horse and cart. The skies were blue, the sea was clear and turquoise and the seafood was amazing. We were told that if you continued walking around the island to the quietest part that we would see amazing views at sunset and it didn’t disappoint. That side of the island was remote and didn’t have any restaurants or hotels and just had one bar. It was so enjoyable to sit on the beach with a cocktail in hand and enjoy the sunset. And once the sun disappeared behind the clouds, we very plunged into almost complete darkness. It was so peaceful and tranquil and just what we needed after our few days in Kuta. This picture always transports me back to the moment in time when I watched that sun set over that beautiful little island, with not a care in the world.

To enter find the Terms and Conditions here: http://www.thomascook.com/blog/holiday-competitions-deals/explore-the-elements/#comp_rules 

The people I now nominate to enter the #ExploreTheElements are:

Miriam Dennigan at https://thenagain88.wordpress.com/

Cathal Cremer at https://cathalcremer.wordpress.com/ Ryan at http://thoughtsfromtheroad.com/

Ken Bradshaw and David Coates-Bradshaw at http://sdbrits.com/

The Irony Kid at https://theironykid.wordpress.com/ Happy blogging 🙂