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Getting to know Ciera Clayton pt2: The Ultimate Adventure, and a cat called George.

Here in part 2 of our interview with Ciera Clayton, we discover what the 'ultimate adventure' would look like if it was left in her hands to put together. Unleashing the imagination of a person who clearly has a flair with creativity was perhaps not fully appreciated, but, it's a box we've opened and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Oh, and if you didn't catch Part 1, Ciera is the author behind the brilliant children's book, I Want to Climb like the Animals Do! (go and check it out!).


First question on the list: Where are you taking us Ciera?

I am very lucky to have travelled quite a bit over the years, but when I look at the world map it feels like I have not even made a dent. But there is one place that I think might encompass everything I have loved in other countries I have been to and would been my ultimate dream adventure.

We are going to travel to Madagascar. Without any real tourism infrastructure, it seems

to provide a true escape complete with all of the things in life I have come to love; animals, climbing, diving and sheer transcendence. This has been somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time.

In Madagascar there is a mountain range that runs from North to South called Tsaranoro Valley. It has amazing granite peaks and I have seen it referred to as Magascars Yosemite. It also has amazing coral reefs and dive sites- with areas preserved for coral protection and conservation research, with significant international research going on in the area.

On top of this it has rainforests with lush vegetation and some of the worlds most amazing species - 90% of the animal and plant species in Madagascar are endemic, meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world, including the lemurs, which are obviously a favourite of mine!

What a great shout; okay so that's the 'where' taken care of, but who will be joining us? Remember they can be dead or alive, meaningful or outrageous...

Well this trip is going to have a lot packed into it, so I need a variety of people:

I am going to need someone who knows what they are looking at so obviously David Attenborough and his crew are coming along! They would be able to teach me all about the plants and the animals, where to find them and his crew can document the adventures- a trip like this, isn’t just for seeing, it’s for learning and observing.

Then I am going to want someone who is full of beans and motivation, someone with that get up and go attitude that thrives on adventure, someone like Squash Falconer; record-breaking adventurer, speaker and presenter. Squash was actually the first British woman to climb and paraglide from the summit of Mont Blanc having ridden there from the UK on her motorbike- What part of that description of her doesn’t sound epic? I would love to hear her stories and learn from her. She could have plan the trip and think of adventurous ways for us to travel from place to place.

As were obviously going climbing too then it would be amazing to have some world class climbers with us on the trip. One woman in particular that I think is strong, fierce, compassionate, positive and inspiring, that would encourage me and help me in my climbing journey and I think would enjoy the trip for all it has to offer, not just the climbing parts - Anna Davey. And if I could chose another climber it would have to be Alex Honnold because the man is such a legend and his mannerisms really remind me of my husband.

I think he would be amazing to have around because of his can do attitude and sheer belief in himself and other peoples abilities. I think that duo would make me feel pretty invincible! To learn any sort of climbing tips and techniques of them would be pretty epic.

Next on the list is Scott my husband, because if I went to Madagascar without him there would be ructions. Not just that, but he’s obviously my life partner, my belayer, my diving buddy, the navigator, the sensible one, the one that looks after me, he builds me up me my confidence is low and brings me down to earth when my ego gets too big! It would not be an adventure without him.

And finally my dad, Wilson. He would be blown away by Madagascar. My dad travelled a lot when he was younger and has always been super supportive of all my endeavours. He has just turned 69 and is retired, but he was a trainer mountain leader when he was younger (before I was born) and also used to dive. He loves nature, I am not sure how this knees would hold up mind you but we would make it work. I would love to share this adventure with him, I think it would be really special.

...Can I bring my cat? George would be in his element for a lot of this trip, but also be terrified at the same time. George is an indoor cat but he comes with us for trips in our van and he loves it- we actually took him bouldering at Fairhead this year! But a trip like this might be too much for him to handle.

That's a solid crew, and yes we will allow George the cat! So we have the Where and the Who, I guess now we need to cover the How; plane, train, snow-dogs, SUP? Totally up to you *winces in anticipation*

Well if I had the luxury of time … I would like to try to get there with the most limited carbon foot print as possible, sailing would be pretty cool- and when there is no wind the oars come out. My dad actually used to take my sister and I on sailing lessons as a kid maybe, around 10 years old? Looking back on it we loved it, but I don't think we made that very clear at the time. We also used to canoe with him a lot and make our own rafts and ride them across the lakes to the islands in the middle.

I think I would go by sea to Morocco and then we would cycle down Africa to Mozambique and then kayak across to Madagascar. I have always wanted to do an adventurist type of cycling trip, I don’t know why I have this desire, I love cycling but I also don’t cycle as often as I would like! I would surly have my fill of cycling after this trip however. I think this is maybe the part of the trip Squash would like the best and would definitely be the right person to help organise and plan it.

Soundtrack along the way … I have a pretty diverse taste in music and I would probably listen to anything from metal to classical to reggaton and R&B. I would open it up to the crew to all pick some tracks but from me it’s probably going to end up being a mix tape of the likes of Alanis Morrissette, Incubus & Beyoncé!

I mean, okay what did I expect?! (and top tunes to end on - we've even dedicated Chalkie Talkie Radio to you this week!). So what exactly, after our sail, cycle, and kayak trip, will we be up to?

I don’t want the trip to just be about what I get out of it, so I would like to try and give something back. I would like to help with conservation efforts and documenting the different species we see along the way so we can feed this information back to the research teams that work on the island. Its actually pretty sad but a 1/3 of the forests on the island have now been converted to scrub land and indigenous vegetation is cut and burned for subsistence charcoal production. I would like to do what I can in some small way to help with these issues.

I would love to trek through the rainforest where we will see some of Madagascar’s 25,000 species of wild animals. David Attenborough’s crew will help navigate us through as we watch the Aye-Aye tapping for insects, observe the lemurs hopping through the tree tops. Listen for the fossa at night while it climbs up and down the tree trunks with its long claws scratching the bark. We will witness the chameleons dramatically change their colours and hear the croaking of the frogs and the hiss of the snakes and we walk through the forest floor. We will study the wildlife; fauna and the animals, sit in nature, breathe it in, draw it, photograph it, be absorbed in it and be amazed at the wondrous creatures we have the privilege of seeing. We will also be disgustingly sweaty from the humidity, itchy from all the stings and bites from the mosquitos and insects, hungry and tired from the efforts of the trek… I’m not disillusioned that this is not a difficult place to live as a human, even temporarily.

The waters surrounding Madagascar are home to one of the world’s longest, continuous coral reefs. So while we are here we will do some diving and snorkelling trips. Madagascar It has an incredibly diverse marine life including marine turtles, over 50 species of shark, over 30 types of whales and dolphins and over 1000 different types of fish and 300 species of hard coral. Just typing this is making my heart ache because I actually want to go here so much!! For anyone in the crew who cant swim or are not comfortable with snorkelling or diving they can take the kayak out and observe from atop the water. Again we could help with any conservation efforts going on in the area.

We will trek/hike until we reach the mountains where we are going to go climbing, bouldering and hiking. This is where Alex and Anna will be in their element, helping encourage the rest of the crew who are maybe less experienced in climbing. Muscles aching, fingers tender, chalk doing nothing because were probably so hot it’s just turning to paste on our hands,

Anna and Alex probably well used to the heat living in Australia and America, the 3 Northern Irish people not so much! We will all be elated when we reach the top of our chosen projects, all different levels of climbers, all working together and enjoying life. Telling stories by the fire at night, this is the time that’s just for us, to sit back and reflect on what we have done, seen, achieved. And time for me to sit back and write my next book.

Ciera, I have to admit I did not expect so much detail but wow what a picture you've painted (you should write books or something I don't know?). We better get David Attenborough on the Berroccas that morning, and finally, with projects complete, camp fire fading out, what are the sleeping arrangements; 5* Hotel? (I'm guessing no...)

I’m not one for 5 star hotels, I am more, bivy bags on the ground, looking straight up and the stars or the forest canopy type of girl. I love nature, although I do imagine Madagascar is full of deadly creatures too, so I might opt for a small hut or of some kind when we are in the rainforest and a mosquito net!

That Ciera. Was one hell of an adventure. Just promise you'll send us a postcard yeah? So, dream adventures have been off the cards this past year; what are your plans for 2021?

Adventuring plans for 2021, well doesn’t look like we will really be able to go far this year either due to COVID, the initial idea for 2020 was to do the Mongolian Rally! But I don’t think that will be happening for a while. We had a climbing trip planned to Spain (Alicante region) in May 2021 but were not sure if the flights will go ahead at this stage or how we would even feel about going. My husband and I have resolved ourselves to travelling around Ireland in our van with George (cat) when the lockdowns are lifted. We want to do a lot of smaller climbing trips, visiting different climbing centres and outdoor areas where we can go bouldering, sport climbing and hiking within our own country in 2021.

George the Cat getting in on the action once again - he needs some merch! Sounds very similar to a lot of people's plans this year and if you're ever around our neck of the woods let us know and we can point you in all the right directions (and to our local climbing gym!). Ciera, thank you so much, on behalf of our readers and ourselves, for sharing in such vivid detail your Ultimate Adventure. So, until Madagascar I guess...

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