THE STORY BEGINS: THE ORIGINS OF WHITE TIGER EXPEDITIONS
Throwback to the mid-90’s and my story begins. I grew up in the Fens of England which is quite literally a world away from the mountains and wildernesses I now crave to have in my life. If you haven’t been, it is not a very interesting place to grow up; a land of big skies and flat, flat land. The highest features are molehills.
Each school summer holiday we spent weeks exploring different parts of the UK – driving hours to Scotland, the Lake District or to Wales. My very first experience of climbing a mountain was at the age of six – Mt. Snowdon along the Pyg track. As I was dragged up into the clouds, I remember standing on the summit cairn after we eventually got there, huddled in a corner to protect ourselves from the cold and eating soggy sandwiches with numb fingers. I vividly remember seeing the smug folk arriving on the train in their nice warm carriages, bewildered as to why we now had to walk all the way back to the car which was miles away.
After Snowdon, I soon became fascinated with Indiana Jones whose recent movies captivated me and took me on an imaginary journey to places I didn’t know existed. From that point onwards, I decided that if I was ever asked the question - ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ - the only and honest answer was to say ‘Indiana Jones’.
Jones had become my hero, raiding temples for lost treasure and saving people from deep dungeons – what’s not to like? Whilst it took a while for me to realise that being Indiana Jones was not going to be a feasible profession to follow, the idea had lit a small flame which started to fuel my imagination about world travel.
THE RAINFOREST EXPERIENCE:
In my early teens, I started collecting maps, reading books and watching films about famous explorers who conquered the world’s highest mountains and walked the darkest corners of the globe.
I found it frustrating, I was desperate to be like them and to become an explorer myself. But, how was anyone like me ever going to be able to do that? How would I ever raise the money or know where to go? How do you even start a journey like that? The books were closed, the maps folded away and left to other people to carry out such exploits.
A few years later whilst in my late teens, I was offered the opportunity of travelling to the Costa Rican jungle on a 4-week expedition over the school summer holidays. This was too good a deal to say no to, whilst I was anxious about the prospect – and it being the first time I was ever going to be away from my family – with their support and encouragement I packed off to the other side of the planet.
In Costa Rica, I spent most of the trip trekking through the rainforest covered in mosquito repellent, sweat and sun cream. Carrying our own water, surviving on powdered soup and bananas. I was well outside my comfort zone and I remember clearly daydreaming about eating a nice roast dinner and drinking ice cold coca-cola.
Surviving the experience in the jungle was a huge turning point for me, retrospectively I loved every minute and I suddenly had the freedom to do almost what I wanted with the responsibility of looking after myself. I came back from Costa Rica, renewed with confidence and an insatiable curiosity – to see and do more for myself.
TRAVELLING AND CHALLENGES: CHANGING MY MINDSET:
With the confidence of Costa Rica behind me, a craving to travel more, and cheap around the world air tickets, I set out on a journey to see and experience the world.
Inspired by an earlier Michael Palin documentary I’d seen on the Himalaya, I stumbled into Nepal and the country blew me away. Wandering around the narrow streets of Kathmandu with coloured prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Everybody seemed to reek of adventure. Travellers decked in trekking gear drank beer on side street cafes and if I looked carefully, you could spot the real mountaineers with their dark tans and frostbitten cheeks, arriving back into town after epic experiences in the mountains. It gave me goosebumps imagining where they had been.
As part of my experience in Nepal, I’d arranged to trek into the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. Setting out into the foothills and seeing mountains bigger than you could possibly imagine had me buzzing. At the crack of dawn each day I’d rise early to see the first shards of light drift over the mountain tops, while the jingle and jangle of donkey bells in nearby fields played out as a tantric soundtrack.
One day on the trek I sat along the shore of a river, watching as locals washed their clothes in the mountain water. The smell of the burning juniper from a nearby monastery, the ice-cold wisps of wind that blew up from the valleys below and the towering mountains that surrounded me made me feel alive in this most remarkable place on earth. Somehow, I was following in the footsteps of my childhood heroes and connecting with an environment I’d never thought imaginable.
STARTING MY OWN BUSINESS – THE BEGINNINGS OF WHITE TIGER
On my return to Blighty, I started working in the travel industry developing and designing trips to far-flung corners of the globe. Despite the extravagance of some of these destinations, all of the trips had a similar formula. People seemed pigeonholed to prescribed itineraries and it felt hard to offer people a genuine and life-changing experience.
That combined with my now burning passion for adventure got me thinking. I’d realised that despite being an average person, I'd managed to travel to extraordinary places, climb Himalayan peaks and run ultra marathons. I began achieving things I never thought possible.
We are living in the greatest age, where any of us can be modern explorers if we choose too. Think of the plethora of information that is available to us at the click of a button, cheap flights connect us to everywhere, exceptional outdoor kits and safety measures have come on leaps and bounds since our forefathers. It is now possible for us to go out there and experience extraordinary adventures for ourselves.
And so, the idea for White Tiger Expeditions was born.
I have now spent many months exploring all corners of Nepal, understanding how the country works, what makes it tick, discovering the best place for a Dhal Bhat, finding the very best local people to work with, the local café that serves delicious apple pie at 13,000ft, the teahouse with the best view of mountains bigger than you can imagine. Each and every element important as the next.
White Tiger Expeditions is born to facilitate fully private journeys and expeditions in the Himalaya – be it a journey, a climb or a run. The aim is simple – providing the most fulfilling experiences in the Himalaya, working only with the very best ground teams, using top quality provisions, preparing robust safety programmes, helping you to prepare and giving back to the country once you have experienced its wonders.
Realise you are capable of anything you put your mind to. See a mountain range for the first time, tread a new path, climb a mountain or go beyond your limit. Believe in your possible.
Begin your own journey.