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Elise Wortley (adventurer)

On today’s Podcast, we have Elise Wortley. Elise Wortley is an explorer and is going out, recreating the adventures of past explorers. Last year, we had her on the podcast talking about her incredible trip out in the Himalayas recreating the Alexandra David Neel expedition. This time, we are heading to Iran to recreate Freya Stark’s The Valleys of the Assassins expedition.

Today on the podcast, we talk about her story and about the issues she faced while travelling in Iran.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Elise Wortley – Valley of the Assassins

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to season two of the modern adventurer podcast. I’m your host, John Horsfall. I’m an adventurer and photographer. And each week I’ll be talking with a new guest about their latest adventure from around the world for all the new listeners and subscribers who have joined. I speak to adventurers and explorers who do remarkable things in the field of exploration and endurance.

This is an immersive podcast. So this season, their story is cut to music and cinematic. As we immerse ourselves into the heart of their adventure. My next guest is an adventure who is going out recreating adventures for past female explorers. Last year, we had her on the podcast talking about her incredible trip out in the Himalayas, recreating Alexandra David Neals expedition.

But this time we are heading to Iran to recreate fair stocks, the valley of the assassin. I am delighted to introduce Liz Wortley to the podcast. [00:01:00] Thanks very much. Nice to see you again. Well, lovely to see you too. Well, it’s great to have you back on. We we spoke about a year ago about your epic stories from Scotland to the Himalayas, and then sneakily you went out to Iran to cover another incredible female adventure, which will probably jump into the story in a.

But for people who don’t know you I always like to start at the beginning. Like, who are you? What do you do? And how did you get into this sort of life of adventures? Yeah. Well, I always say a bit of an accidental adventure. Like I didn’t really set out to do this path. But yeah, I basically read a book by a female Explorer when I was 16 and the book really blew my mind because I didn’t know that there were women doing this stuff back in like the early 19 hundreds, late 1800.

I’d only ever been taught about the men or we only really learn about male explorers at school. So [00:02:00] I read this book by Alexandra David Neal, and she was this incredible woman. She was the first woman to meet Western women to meet the Dalai Lama. She traveled for 14 years through Asia. She did this really difficult journey just to sort of learn more about Buddhism and she learn to be him and meditated in a cave for two years.

So her story just completely blew my mind. I was so amazed by her. And then I always had it in the back of my mind that someday I would kind of follow in her footsteps kind of just to sort of te retell her story. Cause everyone I spoke to had never heard of her. And yeah, and then all these years later I sort of ended up doing it and I, I, my expeditions were a bit different to other people is because I actually use what the women had at the time.

And really, I just do this as another way to show how difficult their journeys were. And I would never understand like fully what they went through if I wasn’t in the old equipment. So that’s how it kind of all started. And [00:03:00] yeah, I just did my third expedition because once I’d come back from that first one, I did a lot of research and I found hundreds of women from the past that did all these incredible things that were never really celebrated at the time.

So, yeah. So I’m just kinda working my way through that list. And kind of just shouting about these women that did these really cool things. So the story of this one is Frayer stark for people who don’t know too much about her, how did you sort of come across her and this story? Yeah, so the one, my trip I just did was following in the footsteps of Frayer stark to the valleys of the assassins in Iran and actually Frayer a really interesting one because she was famous at her time compared to the other women, like her books were taken seriously, her expeditions were taken seriously.

She had a lot of like credit, you know, people, she was up there with the guys, but then actually over time kind of nowadays, she seems to have been forgotten. [00:04:00]But this book, the values of the assassins, I always loved. It was one of the first ones I actually found when I started doing all this research into these women.

And it’s just incredible. She’s really funny. I really like that. She really spends a lot of time with the people that she meets. She just kind of fully immerses herself in their world. Like she actually stayed in this area in Iran for years on and off. She had friends there and that kind of gives her more of an insight when she’s writing about the place.

I just always felt this kind of connection to her and yeah, I just always, I mean, the values of the assassins, it sounds cool rice I just always wanted to go there. And finally, after I’ve been trying to organize this all over COVID and it just wasn’t happening. So yeah, finally this year I, I went off and I, I managed to do it.

So for people who are like looking into this, because getting the sort of sponsorship last time we spoke and. Working your way up to this. What was the sort of planning that went into this one? [00:05:00] Because as you’ve sort of done more, it’s becoming more and more of a bigger feature in terms of filming photography.

Yeah. I mean, the filming adds a whole nother element to organization as does this sponsorship. So. Yeah, the project, my project’s kind of really grown over the last year. And yeah, it’s just a case of finding companies that I really love and kind of resonate with the project. And I know that they will bring something positive to the project.

So I always take female guides with me from whichever country I visit because they obviously have the knowledge and I really like to have an all female team while I do these. So it just makes sense for this one to work with Intrepid travel, because they’ve been doing a lot of promotion with female guides around the world, especially in Iran.

So I just wrote to them and they were like really excited about the project, really happy to sponsor it. And then I ended up going with. One of their [00:06:00] female guides, Nadia, who was absolutely amazing. So that kind of came quite naturally. And then I think, because this is quite, this is going to this trip was no one had really been to this area since before the seventies.

No tourists. Anyway. So we decided to make a film because it’s just, you know, people don’t really know much about Iran, especially in the UK or this area of it, especially. So that’s where the north face kind of came in with that funding. Again, it’s gonna be an all female created film in the adventure space, which is quite rare.

So yeah, it just kind of worked out like that, but yeah, it adds a whole nother element of organization. Cuz obviously if it’s just you, it’s just me going. It’s a lot cheaper. It’s a lot easier. It doesn’t matter if things go wrong cuz it’s just me. But then if I have sort of team of three extra people coming.

Just crazy. So actually the organization for this one was yeah, it nearly killed me to be honest. it was a lot. Yeah. And so for people who are unfamiliar with the. [00:07:00] The sort of geography of Iran, whereabouts is this sort of valley of the assassins located. So yeah, so Iran’s absolutely huge something I learned and it’s actually got it’s bordered by so many countries.

So actually all around, you know, each different city has different food, different custom, everything. So the whole place is like an entire world on its own. But actually where we went, we flew into Tiran, which is the capital kind of north. Eastern kind of and then we only drove about three hour, three or four hours out into the desert from there.

And then that’s where the LBOs mountain range starts. So we started in a place called Rasin, which is also where Frayer stark started her journey. And then slowly as you walk up that, that you can literally see the Hills coming out of the desert and they go from really dry sort of Rocky. Beginning slopes to massive green [00:08:00] kind of lush pastures, and then up to sort of really big white kind of peaks.

So yeah, really amazing landscape and quite accessible really from Toran. But once you are in it, it’s very hard to get out unless you’re kind of walking. Yeah. It’s a, it’s a beautiful mountain range. I was there in 2018 up in a place called Disney. Mm. And as you say, some of the most spectacular mountains, you will see, and as you say, it goes on for as far as the eye can see.

So let’s jump into the story and, you know, you’ve flown out to Tiran. You’re about to sort of start this journey. What were the sort of feelings like as you sort of land in Iran? You’ve got your team ready to go. Yeah. I mean, I was saying this the other day, you know, before I went. To Iran. I go loads of, you know, people go, oh, is it right there?

Oh, I don’t think you should go in with camera [00:09:00] equipment or especially not microphones. So actually when the plane landed, I was shifting myself. because we had all these microphones, all these cameras, like wads of cash, because there’s no cash. Like you can’t use the banking systems there, so you have to take everything with you.

So yeah, it was all a bit crazy. And then obviously as a woman, you have to put the head scarf on as soon as pain. So everything I’d never been to a middle Eastern country like that. So everything was crazy. We missed an entire night’s sleep just because of the way that the planes worked. So we literally got off in Iran and it was just insane, but yeah, going through the airport, you know, I was terrified, but I couldn’t have been more welcomed.

You know, it was absolutely wonderful. They were like, oh, welcome what you know, there was absolutely no problem. So you’re sitting there thinking, why is everyone telling me, you know, that this is I’m gonna get rest of having microphone? Like they just don’t care. So, yeah, and then we kind of got everything ready for the trip and Toran.

So ended up on no sleep going around all the markets, which was obviously a huge [00:10:00] assault on the census. And yeah, just kind of started from there and got everything ready and then drove out to Caslin, which is a much smaller kind of city. So that was quite nice after that first night to get out of Toran and it’s actually very polluted Toran as well.

It’s really smoggy when we got there. When you get out into this sort of more mountainous environment, you just realize how wonderfully clean and untouched is. So yeah, they were the first couple of days. So yeah, it was quite quite chaotic, I would say. so driving out to the mountain range and starting, and there was a sort of group of four or three of you guys, four of us.

Yeah. So there was me and then the female film crew. And then we had Nadia who was our guide and translator. And then as we went through the valley, we had different guides kind of for each bit each day who knew the area as well. So that’s how the trip kind of worked. But interestingly, there aren’t any [00:11:00] maps of this area.

I mean, there’s Google maps. And I think there’s a few maps of the mountains, but in terms of like walking trails and things, it’s, it’s never been documented. We really relied on the knowledge of those people who lived there to kind of show us the way. And even then that they said no one had done this exact path since, before the revolution.

So they weren’t sure. So quite a lot of the time we were lost, but I guess that’s kind of part of it. And so when you were lost, what were the sort of problems that you faced on a sort of day to. I think more with the loss, it was just finding the local shepherds. Cuz there’s these shepherds, they have really kind of tough life.

They just live in the mountains, just moving their sheep around. And it’s the shepherds paths that we followed. So when we got a bit lost, you know, everyone kind of has phones these days and like, Hmm, this isn’t very much like Frayer. So the guides be like phoning these random shepherds, like which way, which way.

And the shepherds were also kind, so obviously everyone’s kind of heard about Iranian [00:12:00] hospitality. These shepherds kind of had nothing and they just have like a bit of bread and butter for lunch, and they’d always want us to sit with them and share the food. And luckily we had loads of our own food, so we ended up just kind of sharing and then they’d kind of tell us the way.

And it was really wonderful actually kind of working in that way and being so off grid and just having to talk to people around us to kind of find the way for the listeners. In terms of a sort of day to day, you are walking. With a donkey or are you just walking solo with the four of you? Yeah, so it was us for, and then we had a mule because Freyer’s stark actually is she writes about her mule all the time.

So we had one and it didn’t have a name. So I named it obviously Frayer oh, you and it was the most wonderful creature, so we didn’t ride it or anything. We just kind of had a few bags on it. So yeah, there was us, we, I guess us five were kind of the main team. And then along the way, [00:13:00] We had different guides who were women and men that we met along the way.

And actually by the end, some people had decided they wanted to stay. So our group was a lot bigger at the end than when it started. And then we just stayed in houses as we went along the way, different houses, which is what Fred did as well. So that was amazing. So you say that Iran is sort of, you know, well known for its hospitality.

Can you remember a moment? Along the trip where you are sort of welcomed or a sort of particular moment where it sort of shunned for you? Yeah. I mean, every single night we stayed in a different home and the women of the home would’ve made this incredible meal. So every meal, so breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all the families, they eat together.

Even if someone goes off to work, they’ll come back and have lunch or dinner with the family. And for me, that’s amazing cuz I never really, we don’t do that here. And they were really surprised and they were like, oh, you don’t have breakfast, [00:14:00] lunch and dinner together. As a family. I was like, no, sometimes I just have like a sandwich from the shop for lunch.

They were like, oh no, cause obviously they cook all this amazing, fresh food all from the valley. But every single time we stopped, we were so welcomed and everyone was interested in what we were doing. Yeah, it was just wonderful. Like that’s probably the highlight and everyone shared everything. Like I said, the shepherds that we.

Shed all their food and yeah, it was just really wonderful and houses that we walked past in the day we’d be invited in and we’d have tea and everyone would be so welcoming and so lovely. So yeah, that’s probably the most memorable thing. And the sort of terrain that you were going over, you sort of say that those mountains go from the desert to sort of Rocky to snow caps.

What was the sort of views that you were seeing on a day to day? Yeah, it is amazing how you literally see the mountains growing out of the ground. So when we were actually in the valley, it’s obviously quite low [00:15:00] down, it was quite tricky to get in. So there’s a couple of really tough days where you have to go up and over the past and down into the valley.

But when you’re actually in the valley, which is the valley of the assassins, it’s just full of rice paddies, it’s kind of for the name, it’s actually a really gentle, wonderful, slow paced, kind of. You just kind of walked through the rice paddies, following the river. And then on either side, it’s kind of soaring big mountains up both sides which is really incredible.

And then obviously the days where we were climbing in and out of the valley those views were absolutely insane. Just sort of white peaks everywhere. And then it’s kind of the Caspian seas on the other side of the valley. So when you come out the other end, The landscape’s completely different.

It’s almost like they call it jungle, but it’s more like really lush green trees, different wildlife. So it’s really lovely to come out and then down into that. So yeah, it was absolutely stunning. And like I [00:16:00] say, they, they didn’t get many tourists there, so it’s completely untouched. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that untouched in my life.

Before there was no litter. There was not really any people. There was just nothing. It was absolutely amazing. Was there a moment where it sort of nearly all fell apart? I mean, yeah. Well, I had this old Burberry coat, if you’ve heard about this Burberry coat, but Frayer stark writes about it a lot in her book.

I think the guides that she has at the time, really like this coat, so they end up taking it quite a bit wearing it. So I was like, I have to get my hands on. And actually a 1930s, Burberry jacket is near impossible to find like anything after fifties and sixties, it’s just not around. And after like months, I managed to find this this coat from this place in like Sheffield, it’s really lovely guy has like a collection of vintage stuff and managed to find this coat.

Obviously, no one had worn it actually out for a really, really long time. Cause it’d been in an archive. So I didn’t know if it was [00:17:00] waterproof or anything like that. So yeah, sometimes it would rain, like, as we got a bit higher up and we were between the kind of cold and the but actually held up.

All right. I think this time it was the boots that were the real challenge. They just completely fell apart. So half the time I was just walking with one boot on one boot on I’m on boot, off on these really slippery kind of mountain slopes. So yeah, the boot fell apart. If, if anything, yeah. . So I imagine you did probably like fair start.

Didn’t take spares. No, I just had those and actually they were the hot topic of conversation sort. Every night, when we arrived at place, everyone would be looking like, oh dear, oh, why, what are you doing? Wearing that? You know, everyone was so concerned and I’d have to kind of explain, oh no, I can’t accept those shoes.

Like, that’s really kind that you offer me those shoes, but I can’t accept. And then, but what I didn’t know was actually one of the guides had bought like called for some super glue. So someone came from somewhere quite far away with this super glue. And I woke up one [00:18:00] morning and they were all sort of gathered around the shoe and they glued it back together and they were so happy.

And I was like, that’s amazing. Thank you so much. And then it actually managed to hold out for the rest of the trip. Yeah. So that’s kind of what happened with the boot, but yeah, it was the talking point of the trip, the. Yeah, I bet. And so as you’ve, how long was this journey and towards the end, as you say, you’re getting towards the end of this trip, sort of moving towards the Caspian sea, what was the sort of feelings like as you’re getting towards there?

Do you know? I, the whole time I was there, I was just thinking, how did Frayer do this without a map? You actually feel quite trapped when you are in, when you’re trying to get out and over, unless, you know, the way you would never have found that path. And she obviously went there. She was mapping the area for the Royal geographical society, as well as so it’s called the valley of the assassins because there was this really old ancient sect called the [00:19:00] assassins that lived there, like a thousand ad.

But they’re known through history because they were so. Kind of ruthless and they managed to keep this stronghold for so long. I think they eventually got defeated by the Mongols, but after a really long time. So like assassins created the video game. It’s like, based on these people, like their legend has kind of lasted time.

So that’s why fre went as well to kind of find their castles. So yeah, so she was mapping the area. So I just kept thinking. Like, how would you even know you’d feel so trapped here, like coming out the other side, because the mountains are so big and the path actually, we took, it was over a, a pass, the Salam pass out the other end.

You’d have never really found that on your own. So I dunno how she did it. But yeah, as we kind of came out and over that, obviously that was really steep, really tough day, but you, you come down the other side and it’s kind. It’s not as hot it’s yeah, really kind of tropical everything’s lush and green and it just feels quite [00:20:00] calming and soothing.

So yeah, it really changed that day. But on the high passes, it was kind of quite Barron but incredible views kind of over the white peaks of that range. Yeah. Really amazing. Was the finishing line sort of towards the CASP sea in terms. Mountains to see peak to see that sort of, yeah. So we got idea.

Yeah. So we kind of went about halfway down into the jungle as a little town called huge. And there’s a picture at the end of phrase. So we did the whole of the chapter, the valley of the assassins. So that’s where she finishes and she’s got a picture of it there. So we actually wanted to try and find this spot where she’d taken a picture.

And we managed to find it, but amazingly, a lot of the other villages, they, people used to live in the mud homes. And then in the valley, they’ve realized like 50 years ago that cherry trees go grow really, really well there. So lots of people have made a bit of money [00:21:00] from the cherry trees. So they’ve upgraded their houses to sort of more modern.

Materials. So a lot of her pictures at the mud houses weren’t there, but in this place in huge, it actually looked pretty much the same as the picture. So it was really amazing to kind of come to that at the end. And then they said that, that side, because a lot of the the young people from the villages kind of go off to the.

Cities for, for work. And they leave the villages that actually a lot of them have got a lot smaller since FRA was there. So they’re almost like the villages are kind of disappearing, which was really sad. So it’s quite interesting looking at this picture and then kind of seeing what it was like now is really changed in some ways.

But yeah, so that was kind of, kind of the end of it. Yeah, and we stayed at this amazing home kind of home there with this woman called NESA, who was kind of really trying. She was doing an amazing job at creating, like home stays that use everything from nature and all around just to [00:22:00] support the families that live there.

And it was absolutely amazing. She made us this fresh bread and everything in her house was freshly made like the butter, the cheese. Yeah, it was quite an incredible place. And so finishing it off with the team, how were they sort of feeling towards the end as well? When you you’d sort of completed it?

Was there a feeling of sadness that you finished or was it a sort of bit more relief? bit of both. I think, I think these things, cuz actually I knew one of the team, but like our director I’d never met before and obviously Nadia I’d never met or any of the guys, but whenever you do this kind of thing, you do create this really special bond.

You probably know this, you kind of end. Being like best mates for the time you’re there. So it is really sad at the end. And it was a really challenging trip in terms of walking. Like we were walking and walking. No one had a map, so one of the guides would say, oh, this will take two hours. You know, like six hours later, we’d still be on this one bit [00:23:00] and I’d be like, but we need to get there.

We’re so far away. So the whole thing was quite challenging. So I think everyone was kind of relieved at the end. I was, cuz I hadn’t really slept, so I’d gone completely nuts. But yeah, it’s, it’s kind of bittersweet, I guess, at the end of these things. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s this sort of incredible story.

And how long were you in Iran before you flew back? Oh, literally like we came back the next day. oh wow. We actually went back to Toran the night after we stayed at that wonderful home stay and I was like, oh my God. Insane because it was so smoggy that like people would go into the malls to get the fresh air and just malls are really not my kind of thing.

And for the film, they also, they, they kept me in the old equipment. I didn’t get my phone back till we landed in the UK. So I was just walking around Toran, like not a happy bunny, still in my boot that was sort of flopping apart. So yeah, it was quite a [00:24:00] weird last night in Iran and I was quite glad to get on the plane.

Yeah, there’s sort of something to be said. I remember like where we used to camp up in the mountains there and they are truly spectacular. Suppose going from that sort of moment of completing the peacefulness in the mountains to the hustle and bustle of those markets is just quite the contrast.

Yeah. And especially in Toran and we had little cameras that we were using and we were, it wasn’t the most social I have to say, and everyone was looking, which is fine, cuz that’s just what happens. But I think, yeah, I just, I just wanted to hide in a hole at that point. But yeah, it was, it was such a contrast to the mountains.

It was insane. Yeah. And those home stays. They. They’re amazing. I always think because it’s sort of very hard. I imagine for people listening to sort of contemplate just how sort of homely they make, those home stays and how [00:25:00] like welcoming they are to strangers. I’m trying to think. I’m trying to think of the name.

They have this thing in Iran. Yeah. It’s called like hoof Hoel. So I, I completely butchered that one, but it’s basically, it’s basically this idea of if you’re kind to strangers, God will look kindly on it. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And, but they always, like, if you offer something, they always say, no, no, no, no.

Well you have to do it about 10 times. Yeah. Or like, can I help with washing up? No, no, no. Can I ha can I, in the end, you just, you just start and they’re like, oh, thank you. yeah. Yeah. And the amazing thing about our home stays was actually, they weren’t even home stays. They were literally just homes because.

It’s not on a tourist trail. So actually Nadia and the team had sort of organized before with the local families which ones we were gonna stay with. So we got a really sort of. Like rare experience of [00:26:00] not even being with people that were used to hosting tourists. So we’ve got a really sort of in depth view of what life is like there which is really special.

And I don’t think I’ll ever have that again in that way. So I’m so grateful for that. And that was yeah, really, really special. And just the way they all eat together. And everything is shared. I’m actually veggie, but I had, I had to be in a bit of lamb, which is, is quite overwhelming for me, but obviously they, they eat meat in a different way there.

So they’ll have like one tiny chicken for like 12 people and everyone gets a tiny bit of it. And then the rest is kind of the beans and the rice that everything’s local. And I just really love that way of sort of eating you know, meat. It’s like a really special. Thing. And obviously I can’t say no, if someone’s prepared this like special thing and it was actually really nice but yeah, it was just, I really liked that way that all the food was so fresh and they’d grown all that.

It was really cherished. [00:27:00]And I’ve definitely kind of taken that away and I’ll kind of, yeah. I dunno, it was just really amazing. I think one of the things, when we were traveling across that we picked up on was like how awful it would be to be a vegetarian coming to the country. Yeah. it was quite a challenge.

Although I, everything is bread and meat. Yeah, I had bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Actually a lot of it, I had a lot of sort of cheese and bread. That was quite good. And then I realized if I delved in myself and said myself, I could almost sort of go round the bits of meat and I was fine with that.

That was fine. But yeah, it was, it was part of it, I think so yeah, they eat a lot of meat. And how did people take, because I always found when I spoke of Iran and the sort of hospitality and the sort of amazing place that it is, I always find that when you speak to people or tell people, they are [00:28:00] completely bemused by what you’re saying, they can’t comprehend it.

And they they’re almost like you’re lying. Like. Yeah. I mean, people here, especially, they only hear one side of it, don’t they? What the news wants to tell us, I suppose. And yeah, you can’t ignore that kind of thing, but that’s just one tiny, tiny part of a country. I’m working in travel for so long.

I know as well, you know that that’s, that’s not the real life for most people there. And actually, you know, you do need to, in a way, support tourism in these countries because they have such negative press. And there’s a lot of other countries that we kind of travel to as Brits that do horrendous things as well.

But yet we never hear about it. I won’t name any of the countries, but one is like the world’s most popular honeymoon destination. But people just hear them, these things, and then that’s it. They never wanna go. But I guess Iran is really, really badly represented in our press for good [00:29:00] reason, but also it’s just one side of it.

So yeah, before I went, people were quite confused as to why I would go there because they just assume everyone’s gonna get arrested and you’ll never come back. Which is not, not how it is at all. But yeah, it’s, it’s a big, you know, I could go on forever about this kind of thing and also supporting after COVID, you know, people are still so messed up in the tourism industry.

Like you need to go to these places and support those people who, you know, run the home, stays and do the driving and do the guiding. Yeah, it’s just another way to look at it, I suppose. But yeah, before I went, it was, yeah, people were quite bemused by my choices. what happened on radio four when you, they heard your story.

Yeah. So I said what I was doing on radio four and they didn’t ask, they just asked me what the trip was. So I just said what the trip was. And then I got loads of emails and messages artists going, how dare you go on radio four and not even talk about the safety aspects and [00:30:00] ignore the, you know, what the government’s doing to all these tourists who are there.

And I just, oh God, it’s like, this is not helpful. this is not helpful for anyone like I’ve done my. I know that it’ll be fine. But yeah, you can’t ignore these things, but also there is a whole nother side to. But yes, so I had all things like that to deal with before I went, which is why, as soon as the plane landed in Iran, I was freaking out

And then, yeah, I couldn’t have been more welcomed. Everyone was so happy to see us. So yeah. I remember explaining to an American woman about this and saying just what an amazing place it was. And she was like, Nope, no, it’s one of the most dangerous places you can go in the. And I, and anyway, this conversation sort of went on with me, trying to explain no I’ve actually been, and there are I’ve actually been there.

So I might know. And then it sort of got to the point of like, and then someone next to her just goes, have you ever been to a branch? She’s like, no, No, I wouldn’t go and that’s the, I actually felt, I [00:31:00] just felt so safe there the entire time. My only wobble was at the airport when we arrived, but only cuz what people had been saying.

I mean maybe if I was a political journalist, I might not have felt the same, but you are not. You’re just someone, you know, and there you are always welcome there. You know, I felt so safe and welcomed the entire time. It is a really, really amazing, fascinating place full of contrasts. I’d say your ups and downs.

Yeah. Yeah. It is funny with that because as you say, like when I arrived, it was very much the same. It was always based on external influences, giving me that fear rather than the actual place itself. Yeah. That’s what happened to me. Definitely. But people, you know, if you watch the news here, you, you, you would think that it’s not necessarily people’s fault.

Yeah. It’s it is interesting when you go and do something yourself and you’re like, I think I put on my Instagram, I actually took [00:32:00] down all the articles I’d ever written and lots of my press, because you have to submit your social media when you apply for your visas. So I was really freaked out and then yesterday I was putting it all back up, just thinking, God, this was so unnecessary and what a waste of time, nobody cares.

You know? So it’s about, yeah, well what an absolutely incredible story. And I suppose Last time we spoke, the idea was to do five and you are probably moving on hopefully this year or next onto the next incredible female adventurer of the past. Yeah. I mean, I’ve got so many, I want to do I, one of the big ones I’d like to do as a pirate queen from Ireland and get a, a group of women to row with me in an old gully boat from west island to Greenwich, which.

It’s definitely possible, but it’s gonna take a lot of organization that she was this really formidable clan leader in Ireland who is kind of from the 15 hundreds. So mainly I [00:33:00] just wanna dress as a 1500 pirate, but she was called grace O’Malley and then there’s also a woman called Z and Neil Hurston.

Who’s more known now as an author, but she actually did a lot of traveling through the Caribbean. In sort of the early 19 hundreds kind of searching for the secrets of voodoo and she just writes about it so beautifully and amazingly, so I’d love to do that. But yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s lots going on loads that I could possibly do.

So yeah, lots organized. Well, it’s an absolutely incredible story. Like the last episode that we had I always ask five questions at the end. Same questions to each guest each week. So the first one is what does it mean to have purpose? Yeah, that’s a tough one because I, I feel like I constantly search for purpose.

I’m never sort of happy, you know, I was never happy with a job in an office and never really felt like, what am I doing? What am I doing? But I actually feel like this [00:34:00] project has given me a bit of purpose now. But yeah, it’s hard. It’s a weird question because actually, if you don’t have purpose and you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, which is what I had for a really long time, it’s really stressful.

So when you do finally have it, it’s quite an overwhelming thing. So for me, it’s been a very confusing thing trying to find purpose in life. But yeah, I think maybe I found it now and it is quite a relief, I suppose. I dunno if that’s a very good answer, but you know, and you’re like, what is my purpose?

Like, what am I doing? What is the point in this and actually this trip to Iran, I really delved into why I’m doing this project, what it is I’m getting out of it, which I, I realize is almost like this sort of therapy for me. I, I didn’t actually mention this, but yeah, I had really bad panic attacks, like all through my twenties to the point where it really affected my life.

Like I’m still on medication for it now. [00:35:00] And I actually find that this project is like therapy for me. And then maybe now this is my purpose because it’s helping me, but hopefully I can help others as well by kind of sharing that story. So yeah, I think it’s really important to have purpose, but also not to stress out.

Like I used to, if you don’t think you’ve found it yet, because that was, you know, it might take a while. I don’t know if that was a good answer or not, but there you go. No, it was like because as you say, you spoke last time about that. And I was sort of going to ask whether your anxiety has alleviated drastically by fulfilling this sort of adventure, whether adventure is almost curing the anxiety.

Yeah. People always ask me that and I’m not sure. I, I think it’s like a combination of lots of things. It’s kind of getting a bit more confident, generally feeling better because [00:36:00] the problem I had was that it was completely out my control. So I would start getting really shaky, really dizzy, like physical symptoms that I just couldn’t control.

And I think it’s actually, oh, cause I’ve had it for like 10 years now. Sort of going on, like medication has really helped me get back to kind of where I was, but, and without that, I wouldn’t have been able to really do these trips, but also these trips and putting myself in these situations at first, I didn’t think it was doing anything cuz I’d come back and I’d be really sort of overwhelmed and constantly shaking constantly in sort of panic.

But over the years, cuz I’ve kind of been doing this for about three and a half years now. It’s definitely, I can see, I’ve got more confident. I can see that I actually love going and doing these things now as before it would terrify me. So I think it’s kind of combination of everything. But yeah, and now when I, I do think these have made me kind of grow as a person.

So yeah, I think it has, I think the [00:37:00] adventure has helped, so yeah. So that’s why it’s kind of like a therapy, I suppose. Putting myself through these things. Just to see what I can do, I suppose. Yeah. I always think these sort of adventures give one self, you know, confidence in so many other aspects of life.

And it was quite interesting. I was just intrigued to sort of see whether doing these adventures, pushing yourself into these incredibly uncomfortable situations. Busted shoes, running, walking over the Iranian mountains would have maybe alleviated it slightly. Yeah. And I think it has definitely, but it’s taken time.

Like I thought after the first trip it would happen immediately. I thought if I can do this. I’ll be cured. I’ll never be nervous or shy or have a panic attack ever again. Obviously that’s not how it works. But definitely over time, it really has. And yeah, so I think it’s, that’s yeah, that’s kind of the purpose there.

And it’s also kind of shouting about these [00:38:00] women and. Kind of saying to other people, you know, if they could do that then, and I can do it now in the old clothes, like the way I am. Like, you can have any little adventure that you want, you know, it doesn’t have, I always say you don’t have to like walk through the layers with a chair on your back to have an adventure.

It’s just, I’m just kind of showing that, you know, you can do these things, so yeah. So hopefully other people will get something out of it as well. Yeah, absolutely. And what about your favorite quote? Has that changed since last. Oh, what was it last time? Was it Alexandra David ne I think it could well have been, I vowed to show what the will woman can do.

I think that was it. I I’ve got another one actually that Alexandra I’ve actually got it on my wall. And it’s who knows the flower best? Is it the one who reads about it in a book or who finds it wild on the mountain side? And I really love that one because it reminds me a bit of Iran as well.

Like you never actually know something truly. Until you do it and you see it for yourself. And that’s what I really got with this trip. I kept [00:39:00] thinking of that quite because like we were talking about, you know, people who have never been, they don’t know. So they can’t really comment. So yeah, I feel like I know it now properly.

What about your favorite travel book and why. Oh, well, I’ve got lots now. So obviously the first book I read my journey to LA the valley of the assassins. But yeah, but you know what? There is one that is totally unrelated. Have you ever heard of Gerald Darrell? No. He’s, he’s got a book called my family and other animals.

And actually this was the book when I was really young, that kind of got me into nature and the outdoors. So that’s kind of on the side, cause obviously I’ve got loads of travel books by all these women that they wrote back in the day. But yeah, my family and other animals is a really amazing book by Gerald Darrell.

He’s the zoologist. I think he’s got a zoo in Jersey still. But he’s died, but I think the zoo’s still going. Oh, amazing. Really funny. And [00:40:00]why are these adventures important to you? Oh yeah. Well, I think we’ve sort of covered that. Haven’t we yeah. Yeah. I think it’s just, it’s giving me a purpose and it’s helping me understand my life and yeah, I think.

Showing, like I said, showing that these women could do that back then, you know, and all they had is a photograph and they didn’t have any phones or internet to know where they were going. Now that’s pretty brave. And if I can do it today in that old stuff then anyone can kind of do anything I suppose.

So I think that’s the whole message of, of the, of the project, I suppose. Yeah. And in your lifetime, where’s the most memorable place you’ve been and why? Oh, well, , I think this last trip’s probably the most memorable for a lot of reasons. Although I was kind of so tired the whole time. I don’t really know if I knew what was going on fully any of the days.

But I actually, I went to India when I was [00:41:00] 16, so it was quite young going from Colchester to India. And I just remember being like completely, completely blown away by this world that I’d walked into. So that actually got me into travel. And that’s why I sort of ended up working well, I did a fine art degree, so I couldn’t get a job obviously after that.

So then I started working in travel, but it was because of that first trip to India, I was just, you know, like there’s a whole nother world out there. Like it was such a different culture and amazing place. So I think it was that trip. That was probably my most memorable. Yeah, it’s funny. Like when I sort of look back those mountains in Iran would probably go down as we had a day where we hiked up for seven hours from Disney all the way to the top.

Couldn’t quite get to the top because avalanches were fully left right. And center from the top. And then we went down and it took like [00:42:00] two minutes to get down after seven hours or eight hours hiking. And I just remember thinking. And like terrible conditions. It was a thunderstorm, but the whole sort of journey and the whole experience of climbing those mountains will always go down as probably one of the most amazing days of my life.

Yeah. That sounds incredible. I mean, those mountains are just, I’ve never seen mountains. Like it almost didn’t look like Switzerland, but just like rolling green Hills and then these like, Crazy peaks. It, it was just so picturesque. It was I’ve. I just didn’t expect it to look like that, but yeah, that sounds amazing.

Yeah. Skiing and run and what is next and how can people follow you in the future? So I’m actually in a few weeks, actually, I’m going to Scotland to recreate a journey by Jane Clark and she set up the women’s Scottish climbing. [00:43:00] And there’re these amazing photos of her in like long skirts and hats and these little high heel shoes from 1908 where they’re climbing.

And they basically set the club up cuz they weren’t allowed in the men’s one. So I’m actually going in a few weeks to kind of recreate a couple of their sort of climbs hopefully with some women from the club. So that’s coming up and. Yeah, got I’ve got lots of ideas in my head for later on in the year, so let’s see.

But yeah, you can follow me Instagram at women with altitude. Yeah. And that’s kind of where I post everything. So mainly on there, and I’ve got a website which is women with attitude.com. Amazing. And this film valley of the assassin. Yes. When will that be out? Yeah. Yeah, so that film we’re hoping for the end of August.

So then we’re gonna maybe put it into film festivals and things like that. Try and sell it to a platform or something, but yeah, if you follow [00:44:00] my accounts, then you’ll see when the film’s out. But yeah, that’s super exciting. Can’t wait for that to come out. Well, that sounds absolutely amazing.

I’m sure people listening will follow through and check it out. Amazing. Yeah. Thank you so much. Well, thank you so much for coming on again and yeah, we’ll have to have your on for your next adventure where next always a pleasure. thank you. Amazing. Thank you so much. Yeah, you too, John. Thanks so much.

Thank for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show and don’t forget to subscribe and review the podcast. If you’re listening on apple, a massive thank you to those who reviewed. And I hope to see you next week for another fascinating tele adventure, but till then have a great day wherever you are in the world and happy adventures.

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