Rescued by Florence and Wendy

As I picked up the keys for the car I realised with horror that I’d not thought this through…Six weeks supporting my Significant Other (S.O.) to cross the Pyrenees from West to East, and I’d never driven on that side of the road before!  I say ‘that side’, as despite my generally competent map reading skills, I struggle knowing left from right. Luckily, I remember my son’s explanation  that as long as I drive a car designed for the country, I just need the steering wheel to be in the middle of the road.  Correct side of road to drive on sorted.

Next was getting to terms with changing the gears. First gear was a pig and I stalled repeatedly. The stress levels were mounting before we even got to our first night of accommodation some 15 miles away. I never made it to 5th gear never mind 6th gear on my first few days.  

Then, I look at the road map properly for the first time.  The roads were just a succession of squiggles in different colours with arrows indicating degrees of steepness. And I’ve committed to driving around on these roads in an unfamiliar car on the other side. Madness!  

Maybe a sat nav will help….so it’s off to Decathlon on an unfettered spending spree.  Several pounds lighter – unfortunately shed from my pocket rather than my body – and I have a hybrid bike, a table, two chairs, thermos flask, small tent, picnic blanket and a Sat Nav system.  Of course I forgot to check before purchasing these things that they would fit in the car. By yanking the passenger seat and driver seat to the tightest positions all fits in just – though I still have to pick up the main luggage from the Air B&B.

Florence, my bike becomes my right hand woman. When I finally spit the dummy and decide I can no longer do the squiggly roads I take Florence to meet my S.O. along with Wendy (House) the very small tent.  Mist, rain, electrical storms, wild boar, snakes, campervans and the Tour de France. Florence sticks with me and sometimes Wendy too. Wendy means we can camp if need be without hauling the big comfy tent about. And the sat nav? Well that never made it out of the box. I realised once I had bought it that I needed a computer to connect to and download the software before it would work. My kindle was unable to help….

 I discover that cycling up steep roads –even with a load on my back is enjoyable. About 3 days from the end of this epic journey, where we have struck camp each day and moved on, with my S.O. running up and down the mountains, whilst I twist and wind my way to the next destination gripping the steering wheel with mounting tension, I have a light bulb moment:  I could have supported the trip by cycling the whole way from the start! My mind races back over the roads and reflects on how much more enjoyable the trip would have been. I had repeatedly cursed the Romans for failing to make an impact in this part of the world but actually, if you are cycling, the place is perfect. So, next time, I will try and pay more attention to detail and consider all the options before committing to such an adventure.

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From Atlantic to Med

 

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Comrie to Cape Town Virtually

Sometime I act in haste and repent at leisure – thus was born the Comrie to Cape Town virtually…IMG_0475

photo.JPGI’ve just taken possession of a ‘bike that goes nowhere’ in  an effort  to increase my stamina and protect my knees whilst getting fit enough to accompany my significant other on his challenge to run west to east across the Pyrenees.

He plans to run the 500+ miles and climb the equivalent of Everest 3 times in the process.
I plan to accompany where I can, sometimes running, sometimes walking and other times cycling parts of the route whilst also providing vehicular support. My average running stamina is about an hour or so. He can run all day, hence the challenge to increase my stamina and also to be fit for some of the Pyrenean cols.

So I’m asking for some help to keep me interested and motivated increasing my stamina – especially in the light of the dismal winter we have had.  Thus I came up with the idea of a cycle challenge. A friend had mentioned how motivated her son was cycling to London on his ‘bike that goes nowhere’ and I thought that doesn’t sound as good as Cape Town. So why not share the idea on facebook…

However, having investigated the self declared challenge I reckoned it could take several years to complete! Time for a rethink.  So the challenge now is to cycle 100 kilometres in each of 22 countries on the route chosen before the trip to the Pyrenees in late June.  I’ll be picking some of the best terrain to cover. Some of it I will really do in some shape or form in the next year and some at some future point in time…. Meanwhile, ideas for routes and pictures of places would be very welcome.  Join me on facebook to see how the challenge is progressing or email me with ideas.

 

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Munro Magic and other mountains Proposed Dates

Click this link for information about planned visits to Munros and other mountains

The first trip on Friday 12th Feb 2016 is up Ben Chonzie (pronounced Ben Y Hone…). This starts from Comrie.  A relatively ‘easy’ munro, this mountain has fabulous views on a clear day to Loch Turret below the summit.  You also see across to the Ben Lawers range and the Balqhidder hills and even Ben Nevis if we’ve a sharp February day. We’re likely  to encounter wild hares that are camouflaged white in winter. Email me if interested

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The view heading up Ben Y Hone on a cold day in December

There can be snow about so if there is too much we will do an alternative lower top. This will likely be Morbheinn – a Graham ( so over 2000ft)and its neighbour Ben Halton.

 

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Back on track

Morocco seems a long time ago now with the short days upon us and a dusting of snow on the hills. What I forgot to mention when I posted about Morocco, was that right at the end of the trek when we had done all the hard work, I fell down a hole. As a result, I had a small but deep gash to my leg that has taken a couple of months to heal.  It has taken some time to get back on track.  For someone who enjoys moving around it was pretty hard to deal with the restrictions imposed by the injury and I found myself restricting my movement further as I lost confidence in my ability to get myself out of danger quickly.  Normally, I reckon I can run away from a situation if required so am happy to walk pretty well anywhere – night or day. Not so when I was moving slowly.

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A dusting of snow on hills around Comrie

The other reason I am confident to go most places is I have generally a good mental map for most places and know how to read a map so reckon if I get lost I’ll also be able to work out where I am.  So the whole episode has been a reminder of how much I value and appreciate both my fitness and skills. Take a minute to think what keeps you on track: what do you appreciate and value about yourself?

Meantime if you want to get fitter or feel more confident about reading a map then check out my website  or sign up for a newsletter to be kept up to date.

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Walking High

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Snow on M’Goun massif

Four mules and five Berbers supporting  six women – a force to be reckoned with!  Thus we took on Jebel  M’Goun  in Morocco, one of the country’s highest but most challenging peaks. Early snow meant quite a covering which added to the beauty as well as the technicality of the ascent.

We started our trip by gradually acclimatising, ascending further each day and camping higher up each night over 4 days so that we were able to adjust to the final altitude of 4071 metres more easily.

Crest of M'Goun

Crest of M’Goun

The best approach to walking at altitude is to walk slowly. Not something that comes naturally for me anyway, but it really pays off to pace yourself where the oxygen levels are scarce, rather than fighting your body by moving too fast.  More time to admire the stunning views.

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High level lunch

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The summit of M’Goun

Walking along the crest of M’Goun is delightful with panoramic views far and wide.

We were blessed with a beautiful day and little wind and were able to enjoy a high altitude picnic before descending down the steep northern face to a new camp at the end of the day.

Trekking with Berbers and their mules is a humbling experience.  The team of Berbers supporting us moved effortlessly in the terrain and never complained about anything. Our gear was carried for us so we arrived to tents erected, mint tea awaiting us and a delicious evening meal following once we were ready.  In addition we had the most incredible lunches cooked for us whilst we languished in the heat of the day. We even had freshly baked bread from ovens made in the ground and rocks around us and to our surprise on our final night -fresh pizza. Surreal when you are miles from anywhere.

For anyone with a streak of adventure in them, Morocco is a fantastic country full of amazing sights and fabulous warm and kind people – and despite media representations – it feels safe.

A huge thanks to Mohammed and Angela at Morocco Trek and Tour along with Lhoucine our guide and Omar chief chef for a fantastic trip which included time in the Berber valley of Ait Bougemez as well as Marrakesh.

Bookings opening soon for next year. Keep an eye on ayecan for more information

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Being bold : a challenge for you

Being bold : a challenge for you.

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