Explore The World With Travel Blogger Heather Cowper
Here at Blacks we love the great outdoors and relish the chance to meet others who share the same passion.
Recently we caught up with Heather Cowper, a dedicated travel blogger who invites you to experience the culture, taste the food and explore the sights and sounds of the many vibrant places she visits on her adventures.
We asked Heather about her blogging influences, her favourite places to visit and to share her tips on how you can start your own outdoor adventure.
Q: What inspired you to start your 'Heather On Her Travels' Blog?
A: It all started in 2007 when I took a three week journey with two girlfriends through Ecuador, ending with a week in a dug-out canoe on one of the Amazon tributaries. We were following the route taken by Isabel Godin, an 18th century lady who made this journey to try and join her husband who she hadn't seen for 20 years.
All her party perished but she survived so it was amazing to follow in her footsteps, camping on the sandbanks in the river and visiting rainforest communities. While we were there I uploaded photos to Flickr so that my family could follow the journey and when I got back I decided to take it a step further by writing a blog to share my travel stories.
Q: What is the 'Heather On Her Travels' blog all about?
A: It’s a personal perspective on my travels where I try and take the reader along with me on the journey to experience the places I visit. I love to feature the unique and fascinating things about each place I visit; the music, the street art, the locals I meet and the new dishes I taste. I feature interesting corners of towns and cities but also I enjoy hiking and walking to enjoy the beauty of the countryside and natural landscapes.
On my travels I’ve enjoyed city walks, cycling through vineyards, coastal paths and stunning mountain scenery. I try to capture it all in stories, colourful photography and video on the blog as well as on my social media channels.
Q: Where are some of your favourite places to travel to and explore in the UK?
A: I’m based in Bristol so I often try to escape for the weekend to places that are within a couple of hours drive. Devon and Cornwall are favourites as I love walking the beaches and cliff paths in all seasons to blow away the city cobwebs with sea air.
Dorset is also a favourite country with the cliffs and fossils of the stunning Jurassic coast and the Thomas Hardy connections. Last spring I really enjoyed a walk along the Pembrokeshire coastal path to the lovely small town (although technically a city) of St David’s and we spent a day on Skomer Island to see the Puffins that were nesting there. Another place I love in South Wales is the Gower peninsula, which has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world where my son loves to surf.
Q: What does everyday life outdoors mean to you?
A: As I have an office job I try to incorporate walking into everyday life as a way of getting some exercise and fresh air. Every day I walk 30-40 minutes at a brisk pace to and from work in all weathers and at weekends I might go for a walk with my husband in the woodlands and parks around Bristol. If we are on holiday I enjoy walking and cycling in cities so that you really get the feel of the place and see things at a more local level. I try and take one or two hiking holidays a year, or to incorporate some walking element into other trips.
Q: Tell us about your experience of walking the Tour de Mont Blanc.
A: I started the walk with a friend in 2010 when we decided to walk just part of the trail starting from Chamonix. We had three days walking, staying in the high mountain huts and by the end we were hooked and agreed to go back the next year. We’ve walked a portion of the trail each year, starting where we left off and finally finished after four years in September 2015. The circular route normally takes around twelve days to complete but I think it could be quite challenging to complete in one go, so I’m glad that we broke it up into different stages.
Every year we were fortunate to have wonderful weather and although the steep climbs were quite exhausting, the views from the high peaks and passes and the alpine scenery were amazing. I loved that feeling of being high above the valleys, feeling you could practically reach out and touch the mountain peaks. It’s certainly one of those iconic walks that I’d recommend to any keen hiker who is looking for a bit of a challenge.
Q: What are your favourite European walks?
A: After completing the Tour de Mont Blanc I felt ready for something a little gentler last year, so in September I spent a few days in Mallorca with a friend, walking the Dry Stone Trail up the western coast of the island. The trail took us within sight of the sea from the artistic village of Deia to the seaside resort of Soller and then up into the Tramuntana mountains, ending on the northern coast. It opened my eyes to the walking possibilities of an island that most people visit for a week on the beach, but there’s so much more on offer.
I was also in South Tyrol last year in the northern corner of Italy where I climbed my first Via Ferrata, an experience that was scary but exhilarating for a non-climber. The scenery of the Dolomites was stunning and I’m hoping to go back to do some walking on the high mountain routes staying in the mountain refuges.
Q: Do you have any equipment recommendations or favourite brands that you like to wear?
A: For me the key things to invest in as a weekend or holiday walker would be a good waterproof jacket and comfortable pair of boots. With the jacket I generally look for brands that combine style and quality with a breathable fabric like GORE-TEX, a hood that packs away and plenty of pockets to keep all the bits and pieces in when you are walking. The North Face is a favourite brand of mine and I have two of their jackets.
Boots are another key item and you may also want to consider the hybrid styles of trail shoes that are sturdy but a bit more lightweight if you are walking in a hot climate or on the flat. My boots are Berghaus but I’d recommend trying on as many different brands and styles as you can, to find whatever is most comfortable to suit your feet and even then to wear them as much as possible before you take them on a major walking trip.
Q: What tips would you give to anyone looking to start a travel or hiking adventure?
A: If you haven’t done much walking abroad I’d start by having a walking weekend away closer to home to see how you enjoy it. If your holiday and planning time is limited then use a company that organises self-guided walking holidays such as Macs Adventure to make the organisation easy for you. The cost is often not much more that putting it together yourself and it takes the stress out of planning a route or deciding where to stop.
If you are looking for walking guides for inspiration on where to go and the routes you could walk I’d recommend the Cicerone range of walking guides which I have used on many of my walking trips.