Saturday, December 31, 2011

River Cottage Cafe

We didn't want to stay at home all holiday, so planned a trip down to Devon to sample the River Cottage Cafe in Axminster and get to the beach. Alex dropped out at the last minute to stay round a friends house so it was just Vanessa, Neo and me.

A 4.5 hour journey saw us a little grumpy and starving to have a late lunch of crab meat on toast at so we didn't get any pics. Sated, we headed 5 miles to the coastal town of Lyme Regis

The Cobb harbour, low tide.

So sunny we had to squint.



Everyone was promenading around the Cobb.

We stayed the night in a 16th century coaching inn, The Hunters Lodge. I won't post a link as they have cheesy piped music on each web page which has got on my nerves. However it was free to stay and we had a superb meal and some tasty Otter Ale. We woke up very early.

Before the day had dawned we had decamped and headed back into Lyme Regis. We had the beach to ourselves.

The Cobb harbour, high tide.

Neo enjoyed the walk.

Lyme Regis is part of the Jurassic Coast, 95 miles of coastline stretching from Exmouth in Devon to Swanage in Dorset with rocks recording 185 million years of Earth's history. A walk along the beach has you literally stumbling over fossilised remains. Lots of pictures were taken, as the good fossils seem to be found in rocks too big to carry home.

Time for some more van shots.

The ticket in the window was a common feature, cost a fortune in parking!

As none of the beach cafes were open by 9.40 in Lyme Regis we headed back to River Cottage Cafe for a cooked breakfast, then home by 2.30.

Wild & Woolly

Boxing Day took the Ford and the Barefoot families into Market Harborough for the Wild & Woolly charity motorcross race. A great laugh, we came back covered from head to toe in mud from where the bikes threw the mud up. Next year I'm wearing a boiler suit!

The Wild and Woolly charity moto-x is the longest running motorcycle race in history. The event has been held on Boxing Day (26th December) in Northamptonshire on land loaned by various kind farmers or land owners since 1917.

The race consists of an hour and one lap around a gruelling grass circuit with stream crossings, mud holes and hills which get in some seriously muddy conditions deeper into the event.

Proceeds from gate collections go to local charities such as such as St John Ambulance. The event is organised by the Northampton Motorcyclists Club.

North Norfolk Coast

After considering a campervan for over a year we finally purchased a 1990 VW T3 Westfalia. This is the factory conversion campervan, freshly imported from Germany so LHD. The VW seemed the best package of big on the inside, small(ish) on the outside and the Westfalia-Werke conversion a better layout and finish than after market conversions. And it looks a little bit like The Mystery Machine.

Our first trip out was to the North Norfolk Coast, staying at Deepdale camp site We (C,V&A) arrived as it was getting dark so no pictures of dog walking on the edge of the salt marshes at night. It blew a gale in the night, but apart from being a bit noisy it was cosy in the van. The next day dawned sunny and bright, with another T3 in the field.

After a kedgeree breakfast in the Deepdale cafe we drove along the coast to Hunstanton for a beach walk, and some van pictures.

It was a bit windy!

The kite surfers were out enjoying it.

And then to Gedney for a delicious roast lunch.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Week to Go :-) and Machu and Huayna picchu await

I've been really slack in blogging this year, it's been so busy with other things. Preparations are well underway for next Friday's departure despite the flights being slightly less attractive timing than we'd been led to believe. Originally we were to have left Heathrow late afternoon but now we have to be the at 3.30 a.m. We then fly to Charles de Gaulle for a 2 hour 45 minute stop over then on to Lima (12.5 hour flight), staying in a hotel in Lima overnight then and early morning flight to Cusco = knackered before we start.

Ongoing boot trauma has resulted in Chris buying me my 4th (yes 4th!) pair of boot in order to alleviate the foot pain and blisters I've been suffering with the last few months. The new pair are lovely and (finger crossed) very comfortable. Boots have not been the only expense this year. I have been umming and arrring about buying a new coat for a while as mine does not have 'pit zips' - I cannot tell you how important it is to have adequate ventilation when you're walking in damp and rain. It makes such a difference to your comfort so a new coat has been purchased.

By far the biggest outlay, and the most exciting purchase, is my new camera. I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a bridge camera which will take better photos than my compact but not be as heavy and bulky as my SLR. After a lot of research I have bough a beautiful piece of kit - a Nikon P500 which has the most phenomenal zoom ever. I look forward to posting the photos when I return.

The REALLY exciting news is that we have the opportunity to climb Huaynu Picchu (young peak) which is the peak you always see behind Machu Picchu in the photos. The rules have changed to enable purchase of a licence to climb before arriving in Peru - the number of climbers is very restricted due to both the conservation of the buildings and terraces on it and the precariousness of some parts of the climb. This will be a real challenge for me as you have to go through a tunnel at one point and I'm very claustrophobic. I'm sure the view from the top will be worth leaving my bed at 2 a.m. for :-).


To follow

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kilimanjaro: Days 8-Home

Day 8: 3rd September 2010

We were woken early by the now familiar "jambo, mambo vipe?" from the early morning tea boys. We all took advantage of the clear views of Kibo from camp and many photos were taken. It was wonderful to look down from camp as it appeared we were floating in the clouds.


Above the Clouds

It was an early start as there was the tipping ceremony to perform and all the porters were eager to pack and get away home to their families. Breakfast was the usual mix of porridge, bread, pink sausages and eggs with a hot drink which was rapidly eaten by all.

Once breakfast was over we all assembled outside for speeches from Dave and Whitie followed by the tipping ceremony and a speech on our behalf from Mark. It was all quite emotional, especially when the porters started singing.

Thanks from all of us.

We soon headed of on the 6 hour trek from camp to Mweke Gate where we would formally sign out and our trek would officially be over. The going was pretty tough as the entire 6 hours was over mud paths with uneven steps and was very hard on the knees.

Bee, Meera and I tried to kid ourselves that we only had half an hour to go but kept being disappointed by porters saying "only 3 hours" or "only 2 hours". We caught up with Mark about an hour from the gate. he had been in the front group with Libby, Ellen, Fraser, Dave and Bikram but had slowed his pace considerably due to knee problems. We spent an interesting hour discussing the group dynamics and the best and worst bits of the trek so far.

We were lucky enough to see loads of Columbus Monkeys in the trees as we neared the end of the path. They were really cute but we were more interested in the possibility of a cold beer at the bottom. As soon as we reached the rangers hut Mark had procured for us a Kilimanjaro beer each. I have to say that was the best tasting beer I have ever had! We were laughing at the fact that every other person that was selling something was haggled with but the beer boy made a killing. "How much for a beer?", "3 dollars", "OK - I'll take 2".

Lunch and Kilimanjaro beer

We went into the garden of the ranger station where a hot meal had been laid on for us. The food was fantastic. After purchasing our souvenir T-shirts and some of the team getting their boots cleaned, we headed off to the Hotel via a cash machine (to pay for our celebration dinner).

The hotel was even better than the first one we had stayed at. I had a room to myself again. No sooner than I had shut the door, I was in the shower and scrubbing for 45 minutes to get a weeks worth of ingrained dirt off my skin. My hair felt better after 4 washes and a condition and clean clothes made all the difference.

My room and the beautiful grounds of the hotel.

We had all arranged to meet at the bar at 6pm for a quick drink before heading off for the celebration dinner.

Arriving at the celebration dinner and me receiving my certificate.

The dinner was lovely with soup, grilled cheesy vegetables and garlic bread followed by BBQ chicken and pork, loads of veggies, chips and satay sauce. Dave and Whitie made speeches to thank everyone for taking part and we were all presented with our certificates and T-shirts. Bee, Sherrill and I were so tired we headed off to bed at 9.30 but some stayed out partying until the early hours. Libby and Ellen only arrived back at the hotel minutes before their taxi picked them up to take them to the airport.

Day 9 - Time to go Home

After a leisurely breakfast we assembled at reception as some of the group were going to the orphanage and some to a local warehouse complex where disabled people who would otherwise be outcast were employed to make souvenirs by hand. I decided on the latter and had a really interesting tour around Shah Industries. Everyone employed to produce goods made from local cow horn leather and wood was either suffering from polio, blind or albino - all of which are shunned by society. these people had built a great reputation and been able to support their families into the bargain.

After the tour we went back to the IndiaItaliano Restaurant for lunch followed by a bit of shopping then back to the hotel for a relax by the pool. The trip back to the hotel was interesting - 6 of us in a taxi made for 4. I had to sit on poor Sherrill's lap in the front with my head against the windscreen.

View from the restaurant

A little bit tired!

We all got changed and went a lay by the pool in the sun. I had a quick swim to cool down - bliss. the rest of the group arrived back from the orphanage with tales of how little the children had, only 2 books between 50 girls and the boys had none. they had very little to play with and their accommodation was really ramshackle. Such a shame.

Before we knew it, it was time to head to the airport. They have a funny scheme there where everyone queues outside the airport to have their luggage X-rayed before going inside the airport to check in. We had 4 hours before our flight so Bee, Sherrill, Steve, Mark and myself pooled our remaining money and paid to go into the business class lounge where you could eat and drink all you liked until boarding. The food wasn't great but there was plenty to keep us going.

Our first flight was flying to Dar es Salaam first with an hour to refuel and change crew, then onto Amsterdam. The plane was nearly full so we didn't have the luxury of multiple seats to have a kip. Most of us managed some sleep on the way back so we all felt a little more rested when we reached Amsterdam. Sadly, as soon as we landed my stomach began to hurt and I spent the whole time we were there rushing to the loo.

It was such a relief to land at Heathrow but very sad to say goodbye to everyone - we all got on so well. I couldn't wait to see Chris and the children. Chris had come to meet me while the children stayed at home to do their chores.

How lovely to get home!

Kilimanjaro: Days 6-7

Day 6 - 1st September 2010

From Barranco Camp via Karanga Camp to Barafu camp would take us from 4000m to 4600m above sea level. Today we have an early start as we need to climb the Barranco Wall, walk for 3.5 hours over 'gentle undulations' (Dave's much overused phrase usually meaning steep and slippery ascents and descents which tire you out and kill the legs). We were all up and ready to leave at 6.30. We're all a bit worried as we know this is going to be a super tough day with 8+ hours of walking, a few hours sleep and up at 11 p.m. for the summit attempt.

A long way up.

The Barranco wall was everything I had hoped for - the best fun I have had in ages. The going was steep in places and there were large rock steps but, in the main, it was fairly straightforward scrambling. Some of the team are not so happy as it's an awfully long way down. Bee has named me 'pocket rocket' for the speed I ascended - partly because I was having fun but also feeling a lot better due to Doc's drugs.

What fun!

Even on this part of the route the porters are over taking us with their heavy loads - some of them running up the rocks. We have been amazed over the last few days what diverse footwear the porters wear. We've seen everything from crocs to oversize walking boots, from loafers to old trainers. There are paid so little, and it is so poor here, that they mainly wear cast-offs from trekkers and holidaymakers.

A well desrved rest!

It took a good two hours to reach the top. Once we'd all arrived we lined up along the ledge facing the way we came. Dave asked us to have a minutes silence and think about what had bought us here and about our loved ones that were supporting us - quite an emotional moment for all.

A moment of contemplation.

Dave gave out crystallized ginger to settle stomachs then we were off again to cover those 'gentle undulations'. The weather wasn't great and the mist cover very low and the going slippery in places. Myself and Meera were feeling much better but Jo had stated to feel worse and was really struggling with exhaustion and a bad stomach. It took us 3.5 hours to reach Karanga Camp and we were only able to stop for 30 minutes lunch break. Karanga Camp was very busy and quite smelly due to the proximity of the long drops.

En-route and arrival at Karanga Camp

The afternoon trek to Barafu Camp was 3.5 hours of relentless slog on a nasty shale surface. The landscape at this point is very barren with little vegetation at all and the overcast weather didn't do much to lift the spirits. By the time we reached camp a bad headache was looming and I was ready to sit down for a hot drink.

The long path across and upto Barafu Camp and a warning that Acute Mountain Sickness is likely here.

We had 2 hours before dinner to sort out our bedding, get our clothes ready for the summit attempt, fill our water containers and get our day packs sorted. It doesn't sound like a massive job but the altitude made even sorting your kit bag take 3 times as long and made you feel like you'd run a marathon without even moving.

Inhospitable Camp

Jo finally made it into camp at 5.30 just as the rest of us were going into dinner. She was exhausted and just wanted to lie down. Dave and Whitie briefed us on the night ahead as we tried to force down some food. We would be going to bed straight after dinner, waking at 11 p.m. to have some porridge and a hot drink and leave the camp at 12 midnight to begin the long and arduous trek to the summit.

I was surprised that I managed to sleep for 4 hours - and I really needed it. Thankfully my headache had receded to a dull ache. we all dosed up on painkillers, ate as much as we could manage (not much in most cases), had a hot drink and set off in a line Pole, Pole (slowly, slowly) on our way. Sadly Jo decided not to attempt the summit so we left camp without her.

Day 7 - 2nd September 2010 - Summit Day

As we walked the half hour out of camp it began to get more and more difficult to breathe. We knew we had to climb from 4600 to approx. 5900 and that, if anything, breathing would become harder.

The first section once out of camp was 30 minutes over large rocks and then onto the relentless shale switchback which we had been briefed would take us approximately 5 hours to climb. When we approached this section and looked up the mountain, all you could see for as far as you could see were head torches in a zigzag up the mountain. 1.5 hours into this section we stopped for a brief break. It needed to be brief because you rapidly start to freeze in the -9 wind once you stop walking,. We were encouraged to try and eat (unsuccessfully) and drink before starting again. I cannot describe how painful and tired my legs felt at this point.

My Hero Benny.....................................Some of the team arriving at the summit

Not long after this stop, I tripped and fell. Benny (my summit porter and all round Hero) took my pack and pulled me up. Holding one of my hand, he urged me on. the porters kept bursting into song and the sound of their singing lifted every ones spirits. After 3 hours, I just sat on a rock and cried - I was exhausted and my head hurt. I wanted a wee but there was no way I was going to in this cold. I suddenly had a vision of Alex, hands on hips, saying "stop that jibba, jabba woman". It made me laugh and tell myself to get off my bum and get on with it.

...These are the conditions we walked in for 6 hrs ......................... The crater

I took back my poles form Benny and started walking 50 steps, stop, take 10 deep breaths and a drink, walk 50 steps, stop on and on and on. We had not been prepared for how terrible the last 250m to Stella Point were - the surface was so bad you'd take one step and slide back half a step. Benny blatantly lied saying "only 10 minutes to Stella" over and over for at least an hour. Just as we were about to reach he told me to turn round and the sun was coming up. Awesome.

I reached Stella Point and sat out of the wind while I changed my frozen camera battery and while I sat there one of the guides came and gave me a hot, sweet cup of tea. These guys are unbelievable.

Stopped for a rest!

Within 15 minutes most of the team had arrived. I then found out that poor Lynn had collapsed with hypothermia 2 hours in and been rushed back to camp, John had had breathing difficulties and gone back to camp and Sherrill had decided after 3 hours that she did not have the energy to go on. Such a shame.

Doc and Dave were hurrying us on for the hour ish walk from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak, the true summit. Now the sun was up and I could see the glaciers and ice fields, it didn't seem nearly as hard.

Wow - Can't believe I made it

Reaching the summit was the most amazing feeling in my life. Just the sense of awe at the scenery and the sense of achievement at getting there filled me with emotion.

Glaciers between 150 and 200m high

We were allowed to stay only for about 15 minutes as the combination of -15 winds and 50% less oxygen to breathe could prove dangerous. I wish I could have stayed longer. Fraser was asked for a philosophical quote now that we had arrived - his quote was "get me off this f***** mountain", he was so exhausted. Bikram had been bragging that he would do a moonie on top and, despite the cold winds, he did. Much to our amusement and the bemusement of other groups.

Way above the couds..................................................Ice fields

The route from Stella Point to Uhuru Summit

After having our pictures taken and taking pictures of the view, Benny started shepherding me off the mountain. That walk/run down has got to be the most punishing bit. The porters hold on to you and 'scree surf' you down the first 400m which basically means you ski on your heels. Not easy when you are absolutely exhausted. It took ages to reach the camp and, although you could see it, it never seemed to get any closer. I was the first to the summit but half the group reached camp before me, I just couldn't walk any faster.

We arrived back at camp at 10.45 and had 2 hours until lunch in which to fit in a sleep and to pack all our gear ready for trekking to Millennium Camp where we would spend the night. It was hardly worth sleeping so I packed my gear and propped myself up on a rock to read.

After a quick lunch we set off for the long and slow walk to Millennium Camp. It was really hard on the knees and legs and took us 3 hours instead of the 2 we had been told. Most of barely attempted tea before getting off to bed around 6 p.m.