Tag Archive for Trevor Gibbs

Chinese New Year: Year of the Snake

Charity Challenge veteran team leader, Trevor Gibbs gives us his personal slant on the Chinese New…

A time for feasting, families and fun, the Chinese New Year is the longest and most important of China’s traditional holidays. Also known as the ‘Spring Festival’, the 15 day celebration ends on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which this year falls on the 10 February 2013. Celebrated in Chinese communities throughout the world, the new year festivities can trace their origins back to the legend of a voracious beast called the Nian, which once devoured livestock, crops and villagers across mainland China. In reality though, it is more likely that these colourful (and loud) celebrations evolved as a means of heralding the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

In Chinese communities across the world pigs, ducks, chickens and sweet delicacies are sacrificed  to a celebration of family, thanksgiving and reunion. The spirits of the ancestors, along with the living, are believed to come together as one great community on New Year’s Eve, to honour the past and the present. The Chinese probably consume more food during these New Year celebrations than at any other time of the year, with huge quantities of fish, dumplings, rice and vegetable cakes joining the feast. The abundance of food, the obligatory firecrackers and the fiery red lanterns that adorn every house are all believed to trace their origins back to the mythical legend of the ferocious Nian.

As you might expect with a people as traditional and superstitious as the Chinese, New Year brings with it many customs and taboos. Chinese houses should be cleaned before New Year’s Day, as it is believed that to clean or dust on the day itself could sweep good fortune away. All debts should be paid and nothing should be lent, and everyone is discouraged from using foul language or ‘unlucky’ words. Even crying is discouraged, as it is believed that if you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry throughout the year. This is particularly good news for unruly children, who tend to be tolerated by their long suffering parents for fear of burdening themselves with a snivelling offspring for the coming year. It is also believed that appearance and attitude during New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. Red is considered a particularly auspicious colour to wear and red envelopes, often filled with money, are given out to young and old alike.

Visually, Chinese New Year is a blaze of colour, with lanterns, flowers and decorations joining the exuberant displays of dragon dances, drums and clashing cymbals across the globe. It is also a time of hope for many Chinese, with the deafening pops of thousands of firecrackers driving away the evil spirits for another year. As the Chinese themselves say…迎春接福 (Yíngchúnjiēfú)

…“Greet the New Year and encounter happiness”

China is one of our most popular destinations and we have three fantastic challenges in which you can see the country. You can now trek, cycle and now even run and see China at its very best. Our challenges in China are:

Great Wall Discovery
Great Wall Cycle
Great Wall Run

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

For more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:

http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

<Images taken from Google>

Rio Carnival – the biggest party in the world!

Charity Challenge veteran team leader, Trevor Gibbs gives us his personal slant on the Rio Carnival

Long regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World, Rio de Janeiro plays host to one of the world’s most famous and colourful parties, attracting around half a million visitors to its city streets each year. First introduced into Brazil by the colonial Portuguese, the Rio Carnival has evolved into a unique mix of African and Amerindian cultures, with music, parades and samba schools turning the streets into a dazzling visual celebration of Brazilian culture.

This year’s celebrations take place between 8-13 February; a four day extravaganza that provides a stunning backdrop of outrageous costumes and a pulsating samba beat to one of the most spectacular artistic events on the planet. The carnival officially starts on the Saturday, going through to ‘Fat Tuesday’ and the beginning of Lent. Traditionally it is seen as a last farewell to the excesses of the body, before the abstinence of Ash Wednesday begins. For many though, it is simply the best party in the world!

Months in the planning, the carnival begins with the crowning of the Fat King (King Momo), after which the celebrations can begin in earnest. Each of Rio’s neighbourhoods provide carnival bands (more than 300 at the last count) and the local samba schools provide a continuous stream of entertainment over the four days, culminating in the Samba Parade on the final evening. A vital element of the Rio Carnival, many of the samba schools represent the poorer neighbourhoods of the city; the working class communities that live in the slums (favelas). Each school chooses a theme for the carnival and competes with its neighbours to create the best costumes and the best floats, before joining the throngs of party goers, drag queens and bands on the streets. Some of the bands have been known to attract up to 10,000 participants, closing down streets and gridlocking traffic, leaving drivers with little choice but to sit back and enjoy the moment.

Today, the famous parade takes place in the purpose-built Sambodromo stadium, the venue for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics. Designed by the famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, it is capable of holding over 90,000 people and is located at what is believed to be the birthplace of the samba, in the heart of the favelas. There are no hard and fast rules as to what to wear for the party (residents of Rio will even attend weddings and funerals in colourful shorts), but be prepared for a long night, as the celebrations go on until sunrise. And remember, if you really want to get into the party spirit, you can even join in on one of the main parades…All you need is a costume and a little rhythm. For more information, check out the official Carnival website: http://www.rio-carnival.net/

If your liking the sound of Brazil, then check out our Brazilian Trek and Kayak Challenge, an exciting challenge that combines trekking in the Serra da Bocaina National Park, part of a substantial swathe of rainforest between Rio and São Paulo, with kayaking in the tropical Bay of Paraty.

The Brazil trek and kayak is one of our most unique and varied challenge, and although we cannot guarantee that it will be plain sailing from beginning to end – the combined elements of rainforest trekking and sea kayaking make this a very tough challenge! But on the completion of your challenge in Rio, you will definately have reason to celebrate! If you want to learn more about this challenges and the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:

http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

The Lord of Miracles Festival in Peru

The largest city in Peru and the ‘Gastronomic Capital of the Americas’, the city of Lima was founded nearly 500 years ago by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. Inspired by the occasion of the Epiphany, the city was named La Ciudad de Los Reyes (The City of Kings), in honour of the three Magi who travelled across the known world to witness the miracle birth of Christ. It seems fitting therefore that some two thousand years later, this same city should play host to one of the largest and most revered religious festivals in the Americas.The festival of El Señor de los Milagros (the Lord of Miracles) is a dazzling explosion of colour, singing and dancing that sees hundreds of thousands take to the streets to venerate a miracle of equally humble origins.

Believed to be one of the largest religious gatherings anywhere on the planet, the festival celebrates the huge image of a black Christ that was painted on a church wall by an Angolan slave nearly 400 years ago. In spite of all attempts to remove the painting, including the intervention of a massive earthquake in the 18th century that destroyed much of the city around it, the picture survived. Indeed, it survived to become the most venerated image in the city and each October it is paraded through the streets on the shoulders of an esoteric brotherhood called the cargadores. No mean feat given that the silver litter carrying the painting weighs close to a ton!

During these celebrations the city is turned into a blaze of purple, as the mes morado (purple month) as it is known, takes on a party atmosphere. The air is thick with incense and the streets echo to the sounds of musicians, penitents and toreadors, as the centuries old Plaza de Acho witnesses the start of Lima’s famous bullfighting season. As for the painting itself, well that begins its journey at the 18th century Las Nazeranas Church, travelling across the city to the beautiful Baroque setting of the Church of La Merced in Barrios Altos, a journey that takes it past stalls that are piled high with sweets and delicacies. Try the city’s famous Turrón de Doña Pepa, a delicious, sweet paste made with eggs, butter, flour, aniseed and fruit syrup.

This year’s festival takes place on the 18th, 19th and 28th October.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Cuban Revolution Day – Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs reflects on the importance of this commemorative day

The Cuban Revolution probably spawned some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. For a short time, back in the early years of the 1960s, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara held centre stage whilst the world held its breathe and waited. Those days are long gone, but the images still remain and Cuba, Castro and Che continue to be a poignant reminder of a world that stood on the brink of social change and cold war paranoia.

Cuba’s Celebration of the National Rebellion is one of the most important dates on the revolutionary calendar. It commemorates the day in 1953 when Fidel Castro led a small group of rebels against the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack itself was an unmitigated failure and led to the arrest and imprisonment of Fidel and a number of his revolutionary compatriots. For many Cubans though, the date marked the beginning of Cuba’s long road towards revolution and reform. Indeed, such was the importance of the date that the army that eventually overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista was known as the 26 July Movement (M-26-7) and today this auspicious day is celebrated throughout the country with three days of festivities and rallies.

A showcase for Cuban national pride, it is a dazzling mix of patriotic fervour and carnival, with the country’s towns and cities being adorned with political banners and official graffiti. It is not unusual for crowds of 100,000 or more to hit the streets of Havana, the flag waving, dancing and live music adding to the carnival atmosphere. Meanwhile, at the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the names of the martyrs of the revolution are read out to an accompanying fusillade of gunfire and singing. There are few countries in the world that can combine politics and partying with such relish, but the Cubans have a style and a passion all of their own. Here, revolution and rumba go hand in hand.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/


Cuba Carnival – Trevor Gibbs writes about the biggest fiesta going down in Cuba

The ‘Pearl of the Antilles’, Cuba pulsates to the rhythms of its Latin and African origins. The land of the rumba and the salsa, this Caribbean jewel has been partying for centuries; since black slaves began holding dances to commemorate the festivals of Corpus Christi and Epiphany. Indeed, Carnival can justifiably be considered one of the island’s oldest traditions.

Until the late 1990s, Carnival was always held earlier in the year to coincide with its religious roots, a time when the Spanish overlords allowed their slaves a few days off to reproduce the songs and dances of their African homeland. For the past few years though the festival has moved to the summer months, when the streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba explode in a riot of colour and comparsas (performing groups). The largest and most traditional of the carnival celebrations take place in Santiago, whilst in Havana there is music, dancing, outrageous costumes and fireworks, with parades running the length of the Malécon, Havana’s broad waterfront.

As well as the faroleros dancers and the hypnotic blend of traditional and contemporary music, the parades also include allegorical floats and the imposing presence of the Muñecones, huge satirical caricatures of well-known politicians and other famous people. Many of the groups that take part in the festival are drawn from the neighbourhoods of the Cuban capital and much community pride goes into their performances. Each year one day is also set aside specifically for children, with clowns and magicians joining the thronging masses.

For anyone who has never experienced Carnival before, it is a dazzling kaleidoscope of Cuban rhythm, dance and colour and every year spectators are invited to join in with the fun. For those looking to immerse themselves fully into Cuban culture, this visual treat is also a great time to experience a rich range of Cuban cuisine, with roasted pig (puerco asado), tamales and chicharritas on offer…all washed down with some cold Cuban beer or some of the island’s famous rum.

Dates for this year’s Carnival are from the 21-29 July in Santiago de Cuba and from the 3-10 August in Havana.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Morocco’s Timitar Festival, a favourite of Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs

For more than 4,000 years, the Berbers ruled across the vast landscapes of North Africa. Long before the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century, their culture held sway across great swathes of the continent, stretching from the Atlantic coast to the banks of the Niger River. For centuries these ‘Lords of the Atlas’ spread their culture and customs across lands that extended from beyond the deserts of Western Egypt, to the shores of the Mediterranean. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the great Berber dynasties of the Almoravids and the Almohads even extended their power and control into large parts of Spain as well.

With the waning of Berber power and prestige however, these tribal customs fell into decline and Berber culture took a backwards step. Amongst the Arab elite this once proud race came to be considered inferior and their traditions, language and customs retreated into the safety of the imposing peaks of the High Atlas. In recent years though, this rich mix of cultural heritage has enjoyed an astonishing and colourful resurgence, due in no small part to the annual Timitar Festival.

Held in June or July each year, the festival has grown to become one of Africa’s premier music festivals, attracting performers and audiences from across the world to the bustling coastal resort of Agadir. Staged in three open-air venues, the festival is a dazzling fusion of traditional Berber music, modern jazz, hip hop and world renowned performers. Featuring over 40 different artists and attracting close to half a million spectators, the four day festival has become a showcase for Amazigh (Berber) culture in the heart of their traditional homeland.

Considered one of the largest music festivals in the country, this year is the festival’s ninth incarnation and it is expected to provide its audiences with more than 40 free concerts, performed by upwards of 400 artists from as far afield as Iraq, Colombia, Korea and the United States. What defines Timitar from other similar festivals though is its focus on Amazigh culture. Since its inception, it has strived to provide a stage for an event that has its roots firmly entrenched in Souss Massa Drâa tradition, whilst its outlook is most definitely looking towards the future. Add to that an opportunity to escape the oppressive summer heat of the Moroccan interior and a chance to enjoy some of the finest seafood on the Atlantic seaboard, and you have an event that provides a feast for body and soul.

This year’s Timitar Festival takes place from the 27th-30th June.

charity Challenge currently run 3 challenges based in Morcocco, The Sahara Desert Trek, Atlas Mountain Bike challenge and the High Atlas Summit Trek. If you want to learn more about our these challenges and much more, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Inti Raymi; The Festival of the Sun, blog written by Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs

Guardians of the largest empire ever to sweep across the Americas, the origins of the Inca are shrouded in myth and magic. Believed to have been created by the Sun God, the Inca race rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca to create an empire that, at its peak, stretched from the banks of the Rio Maule in central Chile to encompass most of present-day Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, northern Chile and north-west Argentina; a dominion of some 980,000 square kilometres.

The sun therefore, as you might imagine, played a huge part in Incan culture. It was the giver of life and the sun god, Inti, ranked second only to the great spirit, Viracocha, the God of Civilisation himself. No surprise then that, in ancient times, Inti Raymi was one of the most important festivals in the Incan calendar. It was held at the winter solstice, when the sun was at its farthest point from the earth and the thought of famine and the swift return of the sun’s life-giving rays were uppermost in the minds of the people. It was a time of sacrifice, feasting and pagan ritual.

With the Spanish conquest though the ritual was banned by the Catholic Church and the last royal Inti Raymi was held in 1535. For the next 400 years the celebrations went underground, until they were revived again in 1944, since when, it has been held every year since. Celebrated on the 24 June, today the festival has grown to become the second largest in South America, taking on the role of a pageant with hundreds of actors playing the main characters and the streets of Cusco filled with street fairs, dancing and music.

Beginning in Qoricancha, on the site of the former sun temple, the pageant winds its way along flower strewn avenues, passing into the Plaza de Armas and up towards the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán, where the elaborately dressed nobles and high priests perform the ancient rituals and sacrifices in front of crowds of thousands of onlookers. The sacrificial lamas of old have been replaced with something a little less gruesome, as have the reading of the auguries from their bloody entrails, but the visual spectacular still evokes something of the majesty of the ceremony of old and, as the pageant retraces its steps back into the city, the new year begins with the Inca bestowing the sun’s blessing on the citizens of Cusco, after which, the celebrations can begin in earnest!

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Veteran Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs writes about the thrill of Morocco’s Fez Sacred Music festival

Morocco is one of North Africa’s most popular destinations and Fez is probably one of its most fascinating cities. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest of Morocco’s imperial strongholds, Fez bears the distinction of being the country’s cultural and spiritual capital. This is a city whose rich history is liberally sprinkled with tales of murder and intrigue and whose bustling souks have echoed to the sounds of trade for centuries. What better place then to hold one of the world’s most widely acclaimed musical festivals.

Held in June each year, the Fez Sacred Music Festival is a coming together of some of the world’s most accomplished artists; a place where you can hear Moroccan Sufi chants, Pakistani qawwali and Egyptian madhi poems, set against the backdrop of one of the most complete medieval cities left in the Arab world. Bringing together a rich diversity of musical talent, the festival perfectly encapsulates the long traditions of art, knowledge and spirituality that have been the mainstay of this city for generations. This is the 18th year that the city has held the festival and its theme is ‘Re-enchanting the World’ and pays special tribute to the great Persian poet, Omar Khayyam.

During the eight days of celebration, Fez takes on a carnival atmosphere, offering up free concerts in the expansive setting of the city’s Boujloud Square, as well as ‘Sufi Nights’ in the more spiritual surroundings of the Dar Tazi Gardens, in the centre of the ancient medina. In addition there are also a number of exhibitions to be found throughout the city, highlighting the unique fusion of art and knowledge that has distinguished Fez as one of the Muslim world’s most spiritual settings since the beginning of its golden period during the latter years of the 11th century.

In conjunction with its musical performances, the festival also runs a number of educational and artistic programmes, for adults and children alike.

This year’s festival runs from the 9th-16th June.

charity Challenge currently run 3 challenges based in Morcocco, The Sahara Desert Trek, Atlas Mountain Bike challenge and the High Atlas Summit Trek. If you want to learn more about our these challenges and much more, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.
And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:

http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Essex to India Rajasthan Bike Ride Part 1 – In the City of Djinns

Throughout Denise Van Outen and Lydia Rose Bright’s epic cycle challenge across Rajasthan – “Essex2India” – arranged in conjunction with Hello Magazine and Charity Challenge, our veteran tour leader, Trevor Gibbs, was on hand to make sure that everything went off without a hitch. Below is the first instalment of his reminisces of the fascinating, and eventful, journey that they undertook…

“My name is Trevor and over the past few years I have had the privilege of working on a number of Charity Challenge trips throughout the world. My latest adventure saw me riding across Rajasthan with Denise van Outen and Lydia Bright, as they attempted to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. The following is a brief glimpse into the incredible journey that they undertook…

The adventure began amongst the chaos of Delhi and, in particular, its old Muslim quarter. Built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century, the labyrinthine streets of Old Delhi still exude a little of the magic and mystery of a city that is all but lost now amongst the bustling thoroughfares of India’s thriving capital. Once surrounded by high walls and dominated by the imposing majesty of the Red Fort, this is home to the magnificent Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque and a spectacular piece of Mughal design capable of holding some 25,000 worshippers. This was where our journey began in earnest, as we headed out to explore the rambling back streets by rickshaw.

The city was beginning to take on a party atmosphere, with tomorrow heralding the start of the Holi festivities and, as we negotiated our way through the meandering streets, making our way past ruminating cows, spice stalls and tea houses, we could sense that celebration and mischief were in the air. The first water bomb came out of nowhere and hit Lydia. The second covered Denise in purple dye. Then suddenly, from all around us, water and dye hit us from every side. Our gentle amble through the back streets had turned into an ambush!

Now rickshaws are not renowned for their speed, or their manoeuvrability. Neither do they offer particularly good protection against a concerted assault from water bombs and buckets. As water and paint rained down on us we made a frantic, but ultimately futile dash for safety. By the time we finally escaped the alleyways of Old Delhi we were a bedraggled and bemused mess, with Denise and Lydia bearing the brunt of the afternoon’s onslaught. Conversely (and bizarrely) our team photographer, Gareth, had managed to run the entire gauntlet unscathed. Whilst the rest of us looked as if we had just swum through blancmange, he still sported a pristine T-shirt and a sparkling camera. The Lord Vishnu obvious had his favourite!“

To find out more about Trevor, and read more blogs of his adventure, please visit his website at www.agamaconsultants.co.uk. Also, if you loved these vibrant pictures of the team exploring India, you can visit  (the before mentioned Lord Vishnu favoured photographer behind these great images) at www.garethgatrell.com.

To learn more about all our Rajasthan tiger Challenge challenge and many more, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.