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My Travelling Life

'Survivor SA' finalist Nicole Capper's passion for big peaks & small gems

The former Mrs SA had a scary experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but it sparked a deep love for the mountains. She tells us more

29 September 2019 - 00:00 By Elizabeth Sleith
Nicole Capper's trip to Khathmandu was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, of her life.
Nicole Capper's trip to Khathmandu was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, of her life.
Image: Via Instagram

I travel often. In fact, my life is on the road, or in the air. I am between cities and countries for both work and pleasure. I have worked very hard to design my life in such a way that travel is a big part of my schedule.

My first holiday as a child was to the Drakensberg. My parents took me camping and hiking. I will never forget the road trip and the adventure in the mountains. It taught me that travel is not about five-star luxury, although that's an incredible aspect of it, but travel can be the simplest things like staring out over a waterfall, swimming in icy pools and lying outside at night looking at the stars.

My first trip abroad was immediately after I qualified as a pharmacist. I took a year off to be a hospitality manager for a racing team in the US.

It was an incredible year - I learnt and saw so much. I got to meet a diverse group of people from all over the world who were travelling around the states for sports, so although I went to one country I experienced many cultures at the same time.

My favourite city would have to be Rome - there is just something about the Italian culture. I have Italian in my blood and their food speaks to me in a special way. There is pizza, coffee, wine, chocolate and the streets of Rome have some of the most beautiful little hidden corridors in the world. I could explore it for days.

Nicole's favourite city in the world is Rome.
Nicole's favourite city in the world is Rome.
Image: 123RF/iakov

I don't enjoy pre-planning an entire trip by googling local places to visit. Rather stop, slow down and be friendly.

Take those moments every day to connect with the hotel concierge or the man selling newspapers or the waitress - let them tell you some little hidden gems for you to go and find. Sometimes you get lost and find something even better.

One of the oddest things I saw when I was travelling was when I reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro last year on Women's Day.

After the summit we decided to celebrate with a traditional local beer and I saw a beer with the word Kilimanjaro on the label. I was immediately sucked in as a tourist and excited out of my mind to get my selfie with their famous local brew.

Nicole climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Women's Day in 2018.
Nicole climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Women's Day in 2018.
Image: Supplied

When we finished up our drinks they took the bottles back and we decided to have a look around the local gift shop. Right at the back of the shop I stumbled upon a woman who was removing labels off of a well-known American brew and reapplying Kilimanjaro labels to the bottles.

The woman couldn't understand why I was laughing as hard as I was. It was definitely one of the oddest things that I have seen.

My most remote and difficult destination was Everest base camp. That journey begins with a light aircraft flight to the world's most dangerous runway, Lukle. I was dropped in the mountains and began my three-week hike with a few friends and no luggage.

My trip became instantaneously more difficult when we learnt on arrival that the airline had lost my luggage. With a few borrowed items from friends and no access to supplies, I began one of the toughest journeys of my life.

Although I made it to Everest base camp, and managed to summit a local peak in the process, two nights sleeping on a glacier at base camp at -20°C was just too much for my body and I got sick. I was helicopter evacuated to Khathmandu, where I was treated for pulmonary and cerebral edema.

This experience was still one of the best of my life despite the challenge because it taught me that I am capable of so much more than I think and it also gave me a passion for the mountains. I learnt to respect nature and it was all extremely humbling and inspiring.


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