Year: 2017

Mountains, nostalgia and Jack the Ripper.

Me standing in the mountains.

Loads of cool and interesting things have happened over the last month.

Among, them an amazing achievement I set my sights on in my 20’s. It’s had extra focus over the last 2 years and with the assistance of a real friend I was able to complete it (more about that later).

I’ve also met up with an old friend from Fairbridge Drake and anther from IBM.

Three characters from Ripper street standing in a dark alley.

I’ve mentioned before the advantage of being on the virgin train mailing list and why everyone should be on it, so I was delighted once again to get a return journey to London for £22.

I always try to have a theme to my adventure projects and a simple list of objectives to add focus.

The theme for the early part of the day was a tv program (which has now finished) called Ripper Street.

The entire cast of Ripper Street, standing in an old fashioned street in Ireland.

Featuring 3 amazing characters and the work of “H” division, it was set around the streets of “Whitechapel” at a time after Jack the Ripper.

It dealt with many relevant topics of the era and showed the harsh grim reality of life in that place and time.

The main plot “meet up” area’s were Leman Street station house (the old name for police station) and the local public house, The Brown Bear.

Studio set showing the front of an old pub.

But of course that part of London no longer looks that way and instead the whole thing was filmed in Ireland (the pub above is just the frontage of the Brown Bear, its only about 5 feet deep).

But the actual historical places still exist in London. I enjoy walking anyway, so worked out a 2 hour route that would allow me to soak up the atmosphere of London on the way.

A 70's building which is now a closed down police station.

After a wander along the Thames I arrived at Leman Street Police station.

It seems to be closed down now, and at the entrance, it says “If you need a police officer call -xxx”.

Outside the Brown Bear pub in Whitechapel.

More disturbing the nearby pub.

I had set my heart on posting a picture of me drinking a pint in the Brown Bear.

It appeared to have closed down, although a first floor window was open so someone obviously lives there.

Disappointed, but loads of other stuff to do, so I’m off on my way.

Outside the Anchor pub on the bank of the river Thames.

To cheer myself up, I head for the south bank and have a pint at the Anchor.

This pub has special significance as it’s featured in the original Mission Impossible film (at the end where Ethan and Luther have a pint by the Thames and Luther tries to talk Ethan into staying in the IMF).

A view across the river thames.

I head back to St Pancras station to meet up with my friend Nadiah. I’m quite excited, as although we communicate regularly, we haven’t met face to face for some time.

We originally met on the Fairbridge Drake Hambros Cruise (FD had 12 centres across the UK and each centre got to pick 2 trainee adventurers to take part in a month long trip that involved sailing, mountaineering and canoeing across France and Spain).

The world felt so small and limited to me when I was 20. Nadiah was an incredible woman who never seemed fazed by anything and capable of doing whatever she put her mind too.

Someone who showed me what the world could be and quite simply, I dont think I would have achieved half the things I have without meeting her.

After some quick refreshments at the station, we wander to the British Museum and see the Elgin Marbles and the Rosseta stone (I consider it a privilege to be able to see these things and its great to be able to share those experiences).

But there’s so much to talk about and the time flies. Before I realise it, I’m quite hungry.

We wander down to the bank of the Thames where we find a quiet spot and have a picnic.

OK, this is johnsunter.com and we always tell the truth here. It wasn’t actually a picnic, I bought some sandwiches and stuff from Phillpots.

Me sitting with my friend Nadiah.

We find an atmospheric London pub called the George. A chance to escape the hustle and bustle of London and relax.

It was great chatting to a someone who new me such a long time ago and surprising how little we’ve changed.

Reflecting on life in my 20’s and comparing all the things I said I’d do to how my life actually is :).

Nadiah heads home and I wander back to Euston, get a bottle of red wine for the journey and with a sense of nostalgia, listen to 80’s music all the way back to Chester.

A hospital scene on stage from the production "The Royal" in Liverpool.

Although obviously proud of Chester’s new Storyhouse theatre, Nikki and I still love to go out for the evening to Liverpool (if you can just block the train home out of your mind).

The Royal court theatre is somewhere we visit a lot and this time. They were showing a production called the Royal, about Liverpool Royal hospital, which is being closed down and moving to a new more modern hospital.

The play is very topical, as the real Royal hospital is closing down at the time of the production.

A crass comedy, but really connected emotionally with the audience and and incredible scene with a wrecking ball.

Oliver, Jess, Dale and I sat at a table having dinner at Mogli in Liverpool.

A few evenings later, and I’m back in Liverpool again.

I meet up with my old friend Oliver (who I worked with at IBM), his lovely wife Jess and his brother Dale.

Their wedding in Las Vegas some years ago was my first trip outside Europe. They now live in Chicago, so I try to catch up with them whenever they’re in the UK.

Instead of our usual meet up destination in Manchester, we decide on something different and I suggest Liverpool. He’s due to arrive before me, so I recommended a visit to Liverpool museum.

I could use lines and lines of text describing the museum, what’s in it and how superb it is. Instead I’ll simply say this: As a Mancunian, I’m embarrassed we dont have a museum as good as that. Go and see it if you get the chance.

After a few drinks in All Bar One, we went for a curry. I’ve always enjoyed modern fusion food, but Mogli was on another planet altogether, with small dishes served in a Tapas style and names like “Gunpowder” Chicken.

Work the next day, wished them a safe journey home and I promise I’ll get to Chicago at some point even if its only to taste authentic Pizza and have a go on your boat.

My friend Matt, walking up a hill in Snowdonia.

Years ago another girl I met through Fairbridge Drake (Jane Smith) gave me a picture of a place called Crib Goch in Snowdonia.

My mum took a liking to it, and had it framed where it hung in the living room for over a decade. When I got my first and subsiquent houses it came with me and hung in a place where I’d see it every day.

Crib Goch is one of the most challenging walk/scramble routes in Europe. A knife edge ridge, that rises 700m in the first mile. An iconic challenge for any young adventurer.

Problem is, I’m not so young any more. As Jon Lennon wrote, life is what happens while your busy making other plans. The picture stayed on the wall and CG drifted down the to do list.

Well, I was still mad keen to do it, I just needed near perfect weather and someone daft enough to come with me.

Enter “millennial” Matt from work. It would be his 3rd Crib Goch ascent this year alone !.

The view looking back from Crib Goch, high in the mountains.

We set off and in no time at all, were really up high with some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen in Snowdonia.

Me eating a sausage roll.

A very “seat of the pants” project, so in all the excitement forgot to take a packed lunch.

I did however have my emergency sausage roll. I offered half of it to Matt. He declined.

Climbing up the craggy path to Crib Goch.

Open and craggy.

Overtaken by the moment, at one point I’m climbing 20 feet up a rock face un-roped.

From the H&S courses I’ve taken recently, I realise I’m taking an unnecessary risk.

I resolve to take it easy, most accidents on this mountain occur either due to ice or people climbing “steps”, becoming complacent and then getting injured.

Looking across the ridge at Crib Goch.

And up across the tops. What an incredible experience.

Lots of people on the top. A queue was forming. I was surprised to find that many people were much  slower than me.

We head back, and the anticlimax is walking back, down the Llanberis path (perhaps the dullest mountain trek in Europe).

Connecting with my inner “yoof” I took Matt and I for a slap up, all you can eat Macdonalds.

My Trekk bike, parked in my living room.

A few random things now.

You can see I bought this really cool rug to park my bike on.

It even has a bicycle logo at the bottom in case you didn’t know what it was for.

My friend Monika holding up a trophy.

My friend Monika on the left.

A fab girl from the Czech republic who spent time in the UK looking after Children and learning English.

We met through the Chester and District walking group and are still in touch on Facebook.

She won a prize in some sort of competition (probably running or cycling, I dont know which as it wasn’t in English, but congratulations anyway Monika 🙂

A forest scene in the Snowdonia national park.

A weekend later and were back in Snowdonia.

It amazes me that you can get a private twin room, in a perfect spot In Llanberis for only £32. We had booked 2 nights and dinner reservations at the Peak restaurant.

The picture above is what it should have looked like on Saturday and Sunday when we went out walking.

Unfortunately, it didn’t look like that at all. It was the worse weather I’ve ever seen in that part of Wales.

The battlements of Cearnarfon castle.

So bad in fact, that we had to do the tourist thing and head for Caernarfon castle.

As castles go, its one of my favourites.

Caernarfon castle viewed from high on the battlements.

And from a higher vantage point looking the other way.

A display in the Welsh Fuseliers museum, showing a Parang, some medals and some hats.

After wandering around for an hour or 2, we visited the Welsh Fusiliers museum contained in the castle.

I couldn’t believe how many theatres of war the regiment had fought in – everywhere from Burma and Bosnia.

A notebook on my desk with a to-do list on it.

Speaking of military things and history.

I was sat at my desk at home the other evening, planning some things to do (with obviously a glass of wine in attendance).

An old page or writting, showing Monty's plan for D Day.

I glanced at the daily Telegraph website and read this article about Monty’s plan for D Day, which was written on one page of A4.

I’m not pretentious enough to compare them, but I was struck by the co-incidence.

Me giving a travel talk at the Globetrotters.

Nikki and I were at Chester Globetrotters again on the 16th of October.

This time, instead of compering, we gave a talk about our trip to Burma.

The Grosvenor museum lecture theatre had over 60 people there and our talk ended to rapturous applause.

I still haven’t completed the Burma pages for johnsunter.com, I hope to have it done in the next week if you interested in the content of the talk.

Inside the Albion pub, showing memorabilia from the 2nd World War.

Afterwards we went for lunch to a place I haven’t been in years.

If you’ve never visited the Albion pub in Chester, your in for a treat.

It is literally a snapshot of how a pub would have looked during the 2nd world war.

Pam and Dave with drinks, sitting on a leather settee.

Speaking of eating and drinking, I’ve started going to a pub nearby called the Cornerhouse.

The picture above is my 2 friends Dave and Pam, after they’d been to see the film: A man called Ove.

I’ve always said, my 2 favourite films of all time are Gattaca and The Counterfeiters. I’ve now added A man called Ove to that list and the Chester film society are showing it on April 10th next year.

The Cornerhouse did a wine tasting the other evening and Nikki and I attended. The wine was nice but they did an amazing platter with different kinds of cheese and meat which was even better.

Overall, a smart new venue and like the films, Cornerhouse has been added to Brewhouse and The Coach house as my 3 favourite pubs in the city (and they all contain the word house in them 🙂

Some brand new Merrell trainers in a box just opened.

If you’ve met me in the last 10 years on any kind of adventure, I’ll probably have been wearing a pair of Merrell cross trainers.

For hills, there’s no substitute for proper walking boots (I prefer Saloman Quest 4D).

For every other environment Merrell Moab Ventilator, are in my opinion the best outdoor footwear you can get, from pub to canal towpath to forest and desert.

Recently, Merrell have launched Moab 2. The jury is still out on the new addition, but the brilliant news is that the “normal” ones have fallen in price.

I had 2 pairs delivered from Amazon for £100 (almost half price).

If your on the lookout for cross trainers, now is the time to buy.

A Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie, straight out of the oven.

Just for nostalgia, I recently bought a Fray Bentos pie.

For lazy cooking, they can’t be beaten.

Inside an art gallery showing a display of Pop art.

Wandering around Chester recently, I visited the Pop art exhibition in the old library.

If you haven’t been I highly recommend it.

A re-creation of wartime trenches.

In advance of my trip to Namibia, I’m reading The burning shore by Wilbur Smith.

A book I originally read almost 30 years ago and I imagined myself in the Kalahari desert.

But then I realised at the time that it was somewhere I would never see – well I’ll be standing there in 3 weeks time, so the lesson is never give up on your dreams.

The book begins on the Western front during the first world war.

I recently went to visit Cheshire military museum. They have all sorts of interesting things there, but this recreation of the trenches, brought some of the scenes I’d read about in the book to life.

A man sitting on a chair with 2 children. Looking thoughtfull as they ask him "Daddy, what did YOU do in the great war"

Another interesting thing was some propaganda pictures they had on display.

Article titled "what Germany said in 1914" describing what Great Britain will be like after they lose the war.

I should mention that I wanted to remain in the European Union and I’m proud to say I voted to to stay (In the words of Mal Reynolds from Firefly: I may have been on the losing side, but I’m still not convinced it was the wrong side).

Anyway, on the subject of our European neighbours, I saw this critique of Britain from 1914 !.

A parody showing how to draw pictures of Owl's.

Finally, I thought I’d finish with something a bit funny.

I had a book a few years ago, that showed how to draw animals (and which after a dozen attempts proved to me, that I’d never be any good at drawing).

My friend Andrew Ganley (a psychologist I met while working at Prestwich hospital and who I’ve always called “Ganders”) posted this on facebook.

Thanks once again for taking the time to read this. Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

 

Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Me standing in front of a Hovercraft

I’d wanted to visit Portsmouth Historic dockyard and see many of the museums and ships there.

The Isle of Wight lies just across the water from Portsmouth and has Europe’s only regularly running Hovercraft service (and I’d never been on a Hovercraft).

Finally, HMS Elizabeth had docked in Portsmouth and there was a chance to see it up close.

Well, one of those would be enough reason to go, but with all that going on, I arranged a 4 day trip and off we went.

An old country churchyard in Droxford

While visiting that part of the world, it seemed crazy not to do some walking in the South Downs (a National Park I’d not visited before).

We stayed at a nice pub called The Roebuck in a place called Droxford. We arrived in the evening, had a nice pie and mash and a few drinks before retiring to bed.

In the morning, we set of on an 8 mile circular walk, beginning at the church above, where a wedding was taking place.

Nikki standing in a field

The route we chose was from walking world, a website I can’t recommend more highly.

With their route’s, most of the works is done for you, with a simple map and a series of pictures and descriptions showing the route in an ABC format. All we had to do was walk.

If we were looking for high mountains, we’d be unlucky, but the endless rolling fields were spectacular.

We’d found England’s green and pleasant land.

A signpost on the South Downs way

At one point we join a section of the South Downs way.

A long open road with fields on each side

And follow a long windy road back into town.

The walking world notes had mentioned a really nice pub that had recently opened and on such a beautiful day it seemed daft not to visit.

When we got there unfortunately, it had closed down.

An old railway station at Droxford thats been converted into a private residence

What we did find, was the original train station, which is now a private residence.

It has significance from the first world war as Churchill and many of Britain’s allies, met here in secret to plan D Day.

Back at the car, the wedding had just finished and we cheered the happy couple on their new life together.

The waterfront in Portsmouth

Driving to Portsmouth, our home for the next 3 nights, we walk along the water front and I’m amazed to find there’s a sort of seaside thing going on with bumper cars and slot machines.

Further along is the old port, where we can look out to sea. The Royal Navy is based here, and throughout its history ships have sailed from here on various missions.

Portsmouth has a historic dockyard, a modern military port and a thriving commercial port, so there’s plenty going on.

After a bit more exploring we head to our planned dinner destination.

Tables laid out for dinner at Abarbistro restaurant

The Abarbistro restaurant was superb.

It also incorporated a wine merchant so we had a wide selection to go with our meal.

Some excited people boarding a Hovercraft

In the morning, were up bright and early and head to the Hovercraft Port (its £22 per person for a return journey).

You select the specific time you want to go, but if you want to go or come back at an alternative time and there’s space available then they will let you switch.

Poeple inside the cabin of the Hovercraft

Having never been on a Hovercraft before, I really enjoyed it (and the people around me seemed to as well).

As it was early in the day, the Sea had receded quite far and the Hovercraft glided from the ocean to the sand and cruised up to the hoverport in Ryde.

Nikki sitting at a picnick table with a map open

We had a day in the Isle of Wight and exploring by bicycle seemed like the thing to do.

We rented 2 bikes from Tackt Isle adventures (who were extremely professional and very friendly) based 6 miles from Ryde, in a lovely spot called the Duver.

They also taught sailing, rented out sea canoes and offered all sorts of other adventure importunities.

I was a bit disappointed as on this occasion we only had time to do mountain biking, but I’ll go back for a week next time 🙂

Setting off, we stop for some coffee near the beach, spread out our map and choose our cycle route.

Mountain bike riding across the beach

We cycle around the coast for most of the day, occasionally heading inland and seeing various sights along the way.

As we’d chosen mountain bikes, we were  able to do an occasional beach ride which was really exciting.

Walking next to the sea

Late in the day, with our cycling complete we head back to Ryde.

Since its such nice weather we’ll walk back.

A path running through the forest

We occasionally leave the coast and head inland following trails through forests like this one.

Nikki and I resting on the beach

And obviously having an occasional rest on the beach to relax.

Back in Ryde we have a dinner reservation at Olivo. Its then I realise how far up the hill it is.

Olivo was a superb restaurant, and just like everything else I saw in the Isle of Wight, I’ll be going back to visit it again.

We get the 10pm Hovercraft home. This time the sea is right up to the harbour and the hovercraft glides straight onto it.

Nikki at the harbour standing in front of an old ship

Our 3rd day, and this time were visiting the Historic dockyard to see some of the museums and ships on display.

This ship, HMS Warrior was the most advanced warship of her kind when she was built in Victorian times, complete with an Iron clad hull and a a steam engine to compliment her sails.

Inside the gun bay of an old warship with tables set for lunch

Inside the gun deck, 18 men to a gun which would fire a cannonball weighing 5 stone.

They also slept and ate here in teams, but during combat could fire one cannonball every 55 seconds, 3 times faster than the French or the Dutch.

Our guide was a friendly type and even asked if there were any French or Dutch people there so he could “ribg” them !.

Interestingly, its guns were never fired in anger.

The inside of the captains cabin on an old warship. Spacious and oppulent

In contrast to smaller ships like HMS Victory which I’d see later, this thing was opulent.

This is the captains cabin, which has a desk, dining table and sleeping quarters.

The gun crew slept in hammocks above their guns.

Some tactical military canoes

We visited a warehouse where young people are taught how to make boats in the traditional style from wood.

While there, we had some excellent coffee in a place called the Midships Cookhouse.

As I left I saw these military canoes typical of the kind used in Cockleshell heroes.

A grey and black metal warship from the 1st world war

The M33 was used in the first world war and an example of “modern” ships made of steal.

She had a galley, where bacon and things like that were cooked.

Inside a first world war warship

She was called the “lucky ship” and we found out why.

Inside was a video about the ill feted Gallipoli campaign.

The M33 was constructed in 7 weeks with a thin bow, so it could sail in close and bombard the coast.

During the whole time, the ship didn’t sustain a single hit (not even a bullet).

Amazing when you think that the Turkish army who were “dug in” (by military standards, the safe bet in an exchange like this) lost 83,000 men. A tragedy which I hope will never be repeated.

Some memorabilia from the Falklands conflict including the front page of the Sun newspaper "It's War!"

Inside the Royal Navy museum, there was far too many interesting things to write about here.

Instead I’ve just picked one section, which talked about the Falklands conflict (I remember being 13 and watching updates on it each evening when I got home from school. I’ll be going there on a cruise next year).

Newly painted HMS Victory

HMS Victory, probably the most famous ship in the historic dockyard.

If your expecting it to be painted gold or yellow, they’ve actually re-painted it in the colours that Admiral Nelson would recognise.

Bellow decks on HMS Victory where Admiral Nelson died

There’s an entire museum about Admiral Nelson and his life.

Suffice to say, when he sailed the fleet to Trafalgar, Britain’s national heritage was at stake.

When the flag message “England expects…” was sent out, he knew if he failed to beat the combined French and Spanish Navies, Britain would become a French colony.

He was shot by a French sniper and taken bellow decks. As he lay dying he was told that the battle was over and Britain had been victorious. This is the spot where he died..

It’s interesting to think how the quality of British food might have improved if he’d failed. I guess we’ll never know.

Futuristic "flying saucer" building housing the Mary Rose exibition.

The Mary Rose museum is quite new and from the outside has the sort of UFO appearance.

Some of the old timbers from the 500 year old Mary Rose

Henry the 8th founded the Royal navy in <year>. He watched the Mary Rose capsize and sink in Portsmouth harbour.

Many will remember (and there’s a video of it, for those that don’t) when it was re-floated floated in 1982. While watching it on tv, I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting a “proper” boat and it was just a pile of old wood.

What looked at the time to be the flat bottom of the deck, was actually 1 side of the boat. The other side had rotted away.

For years the museum was just some old wood with water being pored over it constantly.

The new one, has the remaining side mounted upright on one side and various artefacts from the boat mounted on the other.

In this way its possible to walk through the middle on 3 different levels and imagine what it would have been like to stand inside the belly of this ship.

A brick oven and some old cooking equipment

Various research had been done of the years and they had even re-constructed the brick oven that would have fed all of those onboard the ship.

The old timbers, and the glass viewing area

Inside the main room at ground level.

It really is a spectacular exhibit and if you’ve seen it before in its previous form (as Nikki had) I’d urge you to go back, its well worth it.

The Spinnaker tower at night. A viewing platform that overlooks the harbour

We wander back to the harbour for dinner (its a fab atmosphere there with lots of nice bars and restaurants).

As we head back to our hotel, I get a look at the Spinnaker, where were booked to visit the next day at 9:30am.

The modern aircraft carrier HMS Elizabeth at dock

And from the top of the Spinnaker, an amazing view of HMS Elizabeth, Britain’s newest aircraft carrier.

View accross portsmouth harbour taken from the Spinnaker

Looking out across the Solent, a final picture to remember Portsmouth.

An incredible trip – like Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said “I’ll be back”.

Trip to Cardiff and the Dr Who Experience

Me standing next to the "war Dr" Tardis

For a while I’d wanted to visit Cardiff and especially visit the Dr Who experience.

I got an email 6 weeks ago explaining the Dr Who experience was closing for good.

With that piece of information, I got organised and booked my tickets.

hs

After a 3 and a half hour train journey, I arrived in Cardiff. I hadn’t realised, that Cardiff Bay is actually about 30 minutes walk from the centre of Cardiff.

In no time at all, I was standing in front of the iconic Cardiff Bay heritage centre. I’d see more of it later.

BBC Studios in Cardiff where Dr Who is made

As I wandered towards “The Experience”, I passed this expanse of water.

In the background is BBC Roath Lock, where Dr Who is made. Half of the building you can see is taken up by the “new” Tardis interior.

entrance

As I arrive, I’m surprised at just how big this place is.

Its the size of several large warehouses.

inter

The Experience is split into 2 parts. An interactive session and then a museum of artefacts from the series.

We were asked not to take pictures of the interactive part, so that new people could enjoy it.

What I can say, is that it ended in the entrance to the museum, with a re-creation of scrapyard at 76 Totters lane where the very first episode “an unearthly child” started in 1963.

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And inside the museum.

This was incredible. I’d expected to see a lot of things considering the time and energy put into it, but this was much more than that, it must have taken years of planning to put all of this together.

It featured 4 different Tardis interiors including a massive re-creation of 9th Dr’s Tardis which was destroyed at the end of his tenure.

It was put back together by the museum. Interestingly, in a later series when they wanted to bring back David Tenant and his Tardis, they had to film at the Dr Who experience with the re-created one.

music

The Dr Who theme is considered by many to be the first piece of electronic music.

They had all the original instruments from the sound department where it was created by Ron Grainer. They also had some of the tools used to create noises like the Tardis.

green

A green screen arrangement allowed people to be photographed with Daleks and stuff like that.

It looked like fun, but there was a large queue and I was keen to get on.

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And there was so much to see.

The costumes of the Paternoster gang.

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The Dr’s outfits.

I couldn’t photograph everything, so I got this shot of Christopher Ecllestons leather jacket and jumper (the first Mancunian Dr, a matter of personal pride).

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And old favourites, like 3 generations of Daleks.

The information next to each artefact was really good as it could be read by laymen who knew nothing of the series, whilst having interesting insights for people who know the series well.

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And a 4th generation of Daleks in nice colours.

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A picture of the Brigadier from UNIT.

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Some of monsters costumes from the original series.

The Ice warrior’s, The Sontaran’s, K1 robot and the Zygon’s.

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And some more contemporary monsters and a better manufactured Zygon suit.

clara

On the left, the gown of the Gallifrayan time-lords (who I’ve always found quite dull if I’m honest)

Next to it a picture of Clara Oswald, the Dr’s previous assistant and above the Raven that’s significant in her story line.

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Although everyone raves about the Daleks, the Cybermen are my favourite’s.

On the left, the “newly designed” ones that remained the same for the 80’s.

In the middle, Cybershades made from stray dogs and cats and on the right, Human 2.0 from the new series.

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Even newer developments, on the left the latest modern version, and on the right one made of wood.

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In season 10 of Dr Who, the Dr is stationed at a University to act as a lecturer.

While there he meets his new assistant, Bill Potts (her costume is on the left of the picture).

In the background is a re-creation of the Dr’s study.

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And the latest version of the Cybermen, is actually the original.

The Mondasian Cybermen were made with bits of tin and latex rubber, but they were really scary.

In the final episodes of season 10 they are brought back to life, in a heartbreaking finale.

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With my visit to the museum over, I had 40 minutes before the filming locations walking tour started, so I went to get a drink at this nice pub.

I’d find out later that like just about everything in the local area, it had been used as a filming location.

postprod

The tour begins.

At the back of the museum, we see this view across Cardiff Bay.

Our guide explained that much of the work in Dr Who, is done post production.

In the first episode of season 10 – Pilot, the Dr takes Bill to Sydney harbour.

They were actually standing here, and the background altered to make Cardiff Bay look like Sydney harbour.

rbride

There were 20 of us on the tour of all ages.

The girl on the left had a t shirt with the names of all the people who’d  played the Dr.

In the background is the staircase from runaway bride.

There were about 60 locations we saw in total, I’ve just put up photo’s from the ones I thought were interesting.

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The Welsh Assembly building has been used multiple times.

Our guide explained that Cardiff council were always incredibly helpful and supportive with filming of the show.

He said it was a shame the same couldn’t be said of the Welsh weather 🙂

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Back inside the heritage centre, these wooden balcony’s look familiar.

Turns out this was the hospital used in the episode New Earth.

connor

Our guide Connor was very friendly and well informed (which was significant considering the 20 people on the tour were borderline fanatics themselves).

One minor disappointment was the talk was normally given in pairs. He would speak, and his assistant would show a section of film from Dr Who or Torchwood to compliment the place we were seeing.

As the attraction is closing in 3 weeks, they are so short of staff that they are no longer able to do it.

stairs

These stairs were where the Master (played by John Simm) been elected as Prime Minister with his famous line “What this country needs is a Dr”.

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Outside, the Torchwood Hub had a sort of seaside event going on.

But you could still see the water tower, which local estate agents call the Torchwood tower.

vault

There were a few “wow” moments on the tour.

We were taken to a hotel called the Coal exchange.

Inside the guide asked if anyone recognised it. We didn’t…

Turns out, this is the vault where Missy is locked up in the early parts of season 10.

Once we’d been told that we instantly recognised it.

diner

And best of all, the American Diner.

With post production help, its the place where the Dr says goodbye to Clara in the finale of season 9.

It was incredible to think that this could be re-rendered to look like its in the Utah desert, but that’s exactly what had happened.

sliveen

Upstairs, the fine restaurant where Blon Slitheen asks the Dr not to report her and spare her life.

Realising that she has killed someone and taken their body. He replies “your begging for your life through a dead woman’s lips”.

ianto

In Torchwood season 3, a key character called Ianto dies.

This area is where (in the series) Ianto opened the door when pizza’s were delivered.

After his “death”, fans put up messages and pictures and setup Ianto’s memorial.

The council took it down, the fans put it back up, rinse and repeat.

Council message Ianto Jones not being real

In the end, the council gave up, but insisted a sign be put up to explain that Ianto isn’t actually a real person and the actor who plays him is alive and well.

The tour ended here. It felt quite sad, as the Dr Who experience would end 3 weeks later. I say my farewells to Connor and the other Dr Who fans.

cbay

But, it’s a beautiful day and I’m in Cardiff bay.

I wander around, get a few drinks and a bite to eat and celebrate.

Hill walking, old friends, old phones and dealing with disappointment.

Frank and Na come to visit me in Chester

Frank and Na standing outside Chester Cathedral.

After last months meet up with Julie and Nick in Manchester, my oldest friend Frank and his lovely wife Na came to visit me in Chester.

I took them to the remembrance garden. It features a flower display which renders as the medal of the Cheshire regiment.  Every time Frank’s been before it was winter and there was nothing to see. On this day, all the flowers were out and he finally got to see it.

Inside Chester Cahedral showing the massive open spaces.

Speaking of things to see, I’d worked out an interesting itinerary of things to do including the newly re-opened castle, Chester’s amazing Storyhouse theatre/library/cinema and a visit to the official Liverpool football club merchandise shop, as Na had a number of requests from friends back in Thailand.

The main event, was the Ark exhibition in Chester Cathedral. As you can see above, the Cathedral is spectacular in its own right, but with the addition of some spectacular exhibits, it came to life.

Wallboard showing list of attractions at Ark exhibition.

Featuring 90 works of art, by 50 world renowned sculptures, the exhibition is free (although obviously, we bought the optional map and made a donation).

Damien Hurst sculpture showing an animal in a tank of formalyehyde.

Most interesting to me was “False Gods” by Damien Hurst.

Frank had always wanted to see this and was quite delighted (I remember commenting, that I never thought I’d get to see it, but definitely not in Chester Cathedral !).

Frank and Na are back home safe in Thailand now, and I look forward to catching up with them the next time one of us is in the others country.

Peak district walking: Bleaklow

Brian standing on some rocks.

The following day, we head off to the Peak District, to go hill walking with the Chester and District Walking Group.

Bleaklow is an iconic hill in the peaks. I was looking forward to returning as the last time we were here, the weather was appalling.

Nikki standing on a path on a hillside.

An early start, we drove there with a full car of keen participants and parked at the Mill (which once made textiles and is now filled with web developers).

Some of the path was muddy, but there were clear trails throughout the day.

Group of walkers stopping on a hillside for a rest.

After a morning of trekking and friendly conversation we stop on the hill side for lunch.

wreckage

One of our group, Brian is an excellent navigator.

He had worked out where an American plane had crashed nearby and he had worked out a route to the site.

Amazingly, after all these years, some wreckage still remained.

Steel plaque fastened to a rock.

A plaque to the crew of the Superfortress, nicknamed Overexposed.

Large aeroplane engine parts.

Some of the larger engine parts from the plane.

We wander back down the hill, have a pint in the Bulls Head, Glossop. We like to contribute to the local economy (and we like pints as well).

Another fab day out with the walking group then its the usual routine, drive home, bath and dinner at Artichoke.

New First aid and safety equipment

The classic Nokia 3310 redesigned.

I’ve been upgrading some of my equipment recently (you may remember a new hard torch and duffel bag).

I’ve actually bought a new first aid kit by Ortlieb. When I say first aid kit, its actually just a bag, as I’m going to fill it with my standard travel first aid kit supplies anyway,

The Ortlieb bag is a lot more hard wearing than the Life venture one I have at the moment and is fully waterproof.

While researching first aid kits I was delighted to discover the Nokia 3310 has been relaunched.

Time was, when you saw a police officer or a fireman, they always had a Nokia.

With a weeks worth of charge available and amazing signal strength, this is the ideal emergency phone.

A new experience at Urbano 32.

Menu and drink list for the Urbano 32 Gin tasting evening.

Urbano 32 in Chester is somewhere I go frequently, and I’m a regular attendee of their wine testing hosted by their supplier Rodney Densem wines.

It normally involves 5 wines and 4 food courses (food and wine are matched to make for an amazing experience).

Table filled with contemporary food and drink.

One this occasion, they had the same format, but decided to opt for a Gin tasting evening.

I like to try different things.

I enjoyed myself, but the joys of Gin are lost on me, as it felt like eating a 4 course meal, with lemonade in between every course 🙂

Crib Goch – a date with destiny.

Climber walking the Crib Goch ridge.

Crib Goch near Snowdon, is one of the most spectacular ridge walks in Europe.

A girl called Jane Smith gave me a framed picture of it 30 years ago, it’s hung on my wall ever since and for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve never gotten around to doing it.

Probably because, this isn’t easy, requires perfect weather and planning (and a suspension of a persons fear of heights!).

I’ve been talking to a few friends at work and we’ve got a date set to go and do it.

A mixture of health trepidation and immense enthusiasm. I’ll post updates when its completed.

The other side of my day at work.

Merseyrail train at Chester railway station.

I was asked the other day what I do at work, when I’m not working. So, for no particular reason, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Amazingly, it takes 2 trains to travel the 7 miles from Chester to Ellesmere Port where I work.

Instead, I get on this train with my bike, get off 9 minutes later at Capenhurst then ride for 20 minutes to my office at EP.

I usually do the same in reverse on the way home, but if the weather is nice, I join the canal and peddle the 10 miles along the towpath, where I get to see fishermen, people walking dogs and other people smoking Marijuana.

A bench in Overpool cemetery.

At lunchtime, if its raining, I find a quiet corner in the warehouse and read.

If not, I go out for a walk.

A circuit I do, takes me through some quiet industrial places, some forested areas and on the way back, I get to sit on this bench in the graveyard where I usually eat my lunch and drink mineral water.

As I’m walking, I usually listen to the Smiths or the Happy Mondays.

A plate with Fish and Chips and a pint of San Miguel.

Occasionally, I don’t cycle to work and just do the 2 train combination.

Because of the way the train times fall, I usually have 28 minutes to wait, so I pop to a pub across the road.

It’s full of balloons (the human kind) but I find a quiet corner and relax with my tablet or notebook before getting the train.

Sometimes, I treat myself to dinner in the pub and the tasty Fish and chips above cost only £3.99

One of the most advanced laboratories in the country help me out with a personal problem.

Scales with a gas canister on it.

Speaking of work, some of my friends in the lab have been helping me with a conundrum.

How do I know, how much is left in the gas canister for my camping stove ?

The answer, weigh a full one and then weigh the one you’ve been using.

Obviously for the full scientific solution we’ll need an empty one as well.

For the time being its a great little solution, so thanks for that Alison.

The Beggars Opera and humble pie on the menu.

Upper aisle looking down at the stage.

I’ve been to Chester Storyhouse several times to watch films, get coffee and study in the library.

I recently got my first chance to watch something in the theatre.

A reworking of the Beggars opera with the musicians on the stage joining in, some incredible vocal work by the actors and instead of the tragic ending, the audience are invited to choose an ending just like Wayne’s World.

Great day out in the Ogwen Valley.

Hill walker at a shop buying coffee.

Following day, were back in the Ogwen valley, Snowdonia, in further pursuit of the Welsh 3000’s.

One of my favourite people: Tracy, who seems like a typical mum with grown up daughters who likes to bake cakes.

Which gives little clue to the amazing adventure life she’s lived.  She was stationed all over the world with the British army and spent 2 years in northern Ireland.

These are the kind of people you meet when you go hill walking 🙂

We got coffee before setting off, but when we got back, the kiosk was closed so we missed out on the sausage rolls I’d been dreaming about all day.

Some mountains and a lake.

The mountains and lakes around here are stunning to look at.

Some people sitting on a mountain side.

We stop for a breather.

Dave E in the front of the picture and Andy in the back.

The woman in blue standing up, is a Russian lawyer who lives in London. She’d travelled up for the weekend but got lost.

We invited her to join us and we spent the day on the hill together (she had come on the trip straight from work, so was carrying her work laptop and other unnecessary stuff for the whole day).

A valley with a lake in the middle and mountains all around it.

Our goal’s for the day Foel Grach and Foel-fras (2 more Welsh 3000’s to tick off the list). Our task finished and a day of interesting conversation complete, we head for home.

Disappointing start to my sailing career.

Some small yachts sailing in a row.

But not everything goes to plan.

For ages, I’ve wanted to have a go at sailing. I’ve been on bigger boats in the past, but the idea of having a relaxing afternoon sailing up and down in your own little boat seems pretty attractive to me.

A training centre that was highly recommended was the Wirral Sailing Centre at West Kirby, where they have a large marine lake.

I’d signed up and had been looking forward to it for weeks (they only run 4 courses a year).

Showing how to tie a round turn and 2 half hitches.

I was so enthusiastic that Nikki’s sister Lyn got me a book and DVD from the Royal Yachting association and I’d been learning theory and practising knots for weeks before.

An then, the night before I wake up and start being sick (I’m still unsure why) and with that, my sailing hopes for this year are dashed (the next and only other course this year is on the same day that Nikki and I are due to give a talk at the Chester Globetrotters).

After calling the centre and telling them I couldn’t attend I was overtaken by despondency. Why do I set my sights high. It only means when something goes wrong, I’m miserable.

Why don’t I do what many of the masses do, watch x factor, tidy the garage , sit in the garden and just goe through the motions of life. I doubt they feel much dissatisfaction.

But then it hits me, I couldn’t live that way, even if I wanted to. I’ve booked to do it next year and I should have a tidy compliment of sailing attire to wear when I do it.

Enemy’s become friends

A domestic pigeon sitting on a nest.

For a long time, Pigeons caused me all kinds of problems in my garden (back yard).

They had a nest on my Sky dish and since its a 3 story house, I couldn’t move them and they would poo in the garden which required frequently cleaning up.

Over time, the dish was removed and the problem went away.

The other day, I noticed that the pigeons had built a nest on the ground, next to my storage cupboard (oh the cliche of motivational speaking) and were using my garden chair as a sort of porch.

Having read up on it, I know that both parents will take turns to incubate their 2 eggs. It will take 17 days and then another 30 for the young chicks to learn to fly, find food and annoy me.

In the meantime, since I was responsible for them being homeless, I’ve let them stay and I put a little bowl of water and some bread out for them each night.

But once the chicks are grown, as Americans say, “your outta here!”.

Counting down the days to the Dr Who experience in Cardiff.

Building at Cardiff bay.

Well, one more weekend at home, and then I’m off to Cardiff to see the Dr Who experience.

I’ve even signed up for the walking tour. I’m only sorry there isnt more time, as I’ve found out there are other Dr Who filming locations that are a bus ride away and I won’t have enough time.

I’m sure I’ll go back, Cardiff looks like a fab place. I’ve even found a nice bar featured in Torchwood where I can get a drink before I head for home.

Don’t forget that Nikki and I are giving a talk on Burma on Saturday the 16th of of September at Chester Museum.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Adventure update

sharp

Loads going on this month (hence the lateness of this posting).

Main event is that we’ve booked India for Christmas. Amongst the many amazing things we’ll be doing on this trip, a chance to visit the actual fort featured in Sharpe’s Challenge.

indiamap

Initially, we’ll be doing a tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

We’ll visit Delhi’s old town, see the Taj Mahal and possibly see Tigers on one of the national park visits.

goa

Once this is finished we’ll be travelling to Goa to celebrate New Year (not sure what specific thing we’ll be doing on this trip, but I’m thinking Sea canoeing and some snorkelling as well a daily overdose on curry).

lw

As we’re coming to the end of July, it’s given me chance to reflect on the first 6 months of this year.

It has been exhausting, but I can honestly say with walking, culture trips, weekends away and overseas trips its been the most productive year of my life (and there’s still 5 more months of it to go).

I’ve also been making strides in my career, but more about that later.

wanderer

I’ve been upgrading some of my gear too, including my head torch and stuff like that (I prep and review my gear every year).

For a long time, I’ve had my eye on a Tilley hat. Problem is, I could never find the exact one that suited me.

In the Rohan shop in Betsy Coed recently, I saw this hat, the Tilley Wanderer.

Well, I’ve bought it, and I couldn’t be happier. Waterproof, floats in water, heard wearing and a raft of other features.

It’s main advantage to me are: a, I really like it and b, It looks really smart.

Next on the list are some quality sunglasses.

IMG_2109

My brother rents a cottage in Anglesey each year and usually invites us over for the weekend.

We spent the evening catching up in the cottage and the following morning we headed out to see a bit of the countryside.

We wandered around Newborough forest. The weather was fantastic and the view on the beach was stunning.

That evening we had dinner in town at the splendid Dyalns and in the morning we headed out to do Carned Dafydd and Carned Llewelyn.

As we were setting off, we were speaking to the owner of the cottage. By coincidence, his parents loved those mountains and his first and middle names were Dafydd and Llewelyn in their honour 🙂

IMG_2114

On that subject, my project to climb all of the Welsh 3000’s before the end of the year continues on a pace.

Next weekend I’m going to summit Glyder fach and Glyder fawr and I’ve arranged a date for Crib Goch, a ridge I’ve wanted to walk for 30 years.

Bellow I’ve listed all of them in case anyone’s interested in having a go themselves.

  • Snowdon
  • Crib Goch
  • Glyder Fawr
  • Tryfan
  • Garned Ugain
  • Foel-fras
  • Pen yr Ole wen
  • Glyder Fach
  • Y Garn
  • Yr Elen
  • Carned Dafydd
  • Foel Grach
  • Elidir Fawr
  • Carned Gwenllian

bed

Last year Nikki and I didn’t end up doing a camping trip, so this year, we’ve caught up by doing two.

Beddgelert is a place we love visiting so we set of right after work on a Friday and headed straight over.

IMG_2118

It was a bit late to eat out when we arrived so we sat out in the amazingly comfortable tent and had a sort of indoor picnic with some nice wine.

One thing I love about Nikki’s tent, is that although its big inside, completely waterproof and has chairs and all the luxury’s I’ve always scoffed at, it also takes only 20 minutes to put it up.

IMG_2130

Next day we head out to walk Moel Hebog.

A fantastic walk in challenging weather. On the way back we got to walk through this charming forest.

In the evening we had dinner in restaurant in the town which was also called Hebog.

gtclub

Attended another meeting of the Chester Globetrotters on the 15th of July.

Two interesting talks, one about a multi visit trip to Africa tracking the route of the old explorers to the Nile and another about Mongolia.

Nikki and I are giving a talk about our trip to Burma on the 16th of September, so if your near Chester museum in town around 1pm, come along and hear us speak !.

scatman-john

Looking around the internet the other Saturday afternoon I was reading about Scatman John.

Back when I lived in Manchester, I used to love listening to his Scat Jazz. But what I didn’t know…

John Paul Larkin had a pronounced stutter, which lead to an emotionally traumatic childhood.

He learned to play the piano and listened to singers like Ella Fitzgerald singing Scat Jazz.

Realising  that his speech impediment actualy enhanced this kind of music, he launched a musical career that would see him sell millions of songs all over the world and win multiple awards for his work.

Not bad for a person who “cant speak properly” and what in inspiration.

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Realising that I’m probably going to be working in for the next 20 years, I’ve decided to re-train and transition to a new field over the next 4 years.

Takes me back to when I first decided to work in IT, when I was 21. My friends Mac and Caz tought me to use MS DOS, showed me how laser printers worked, how to operate spreadsheets, word-processors (there were seven on the market then not just one) and the pre-eminent database of the time, dBase.

It was incredibly frustrating at times, but after a while, some of the mud thrown at the wall would stick and from those humble beginnings I’ve had a fantastic career spanning multiple decides.

Of special inspiration to me, was Peter Norton, who wrote the Norton Utilities. So much so, I still have his picture on the wall next to my desk at home.

ps

How times have changed. I’ve set myself up with a plural-sight account, so I can run training session at home during the evening (and even watch them on my tablet at lunchtime in the office).

Best of all, if something really doesn’t make sense, it can be googled on the internet or you can email one of their experts for clarification.

Its tough going, but I climbed the mountain of learning and 30 years later I’m doing it all over again.

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Speaking of things that happened 30 yeas ago, I recently visited Manchester and had a meet up with 2 of my oldest friends and favourite people, Julie and Nick.

We had a couple of drinks around Newton Heath and then spent a few hours in the city centre.

The picture above was taken in the Wellington. One of the best afternoons I’ve had in ages.

bt

I briefly took leave of my friends, as there was a massive Lego “get together” going on.

Its changed its name, but what I remember as GMEX had literally hundreds of Lego enthusiasts with loads of clever things that they’d built.

ms

Off special interest to me, was the Lego Mindstorm section.

I have a Mindstorm robot I bought some years ago, but looking at the newest ones they have now, I think I have a Christmas present for myself lined up.

train

If you aren’t on it already I strongly urge you to get on the virgin train mailing list.

Several times a year, they have a sale and Nikki and I managed to get return tickets to London for £11 each.

The deal was so good that we booked to go on 2 separate Saturdays. At the moment, were working through our “London – not done” list.

A tour of the internals of tower bridge and watching a play at the re-creation of the Globe Theatre are on the agenda as well as a visit to Camden market and an exhibition on “Mod” culture.

Above is a picture from our last trip to London, when due to an anomaly, Nikki and I had an entire carriage to ourselves.

I’ve also booked tickets to Cardiff to see the Bay and the Dr Who exhibition which ends this year (but more about that next time).

sailing

I spend a lot of time cycling now, and it my number 2 hobby, after hill walking (and adventure travel).

I decided recently that I want to build from that have a go at sailing as a possible 3rd hobby.

Not thinking big ships, ocean and sale to Morocco, I’m thinking more lake in West Kirby, some sandwiches and a quiet afternoon sale to relax.

I’m booked on a 2 day beginners course in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime I’ve got a book and a dvd from the Royal Yachting Association to prepare.

Nikki’s sister Lyn has been assisting me with questions by email. Lyn is a qualified ocean Yachtmaster and I wonder if questions like “what shoe’s should I wear” aren’t just the smallest part undeserving of her skills. But I’m great-full anyway.

sc

Like many people in Chester, Nikki and I were delighted when the Storyhouse was finally completed.

Its the starting pistol for a regeneration of the City.

We’ve booked to go to all 4 of their performances and were going to see the Beggars opera this coming Saturday.

But lots of cottage industry’s have sprouted up while we were without a theatre/cinema, like Tip Top productions, and Chez Jules, where you can have a meal then watch a classic film.

We want to keep those things alive, so I’ve booked to see a film called Momento in a couple of weeks.

I’ve never actually seen a performance at the Liverpool playhouse, so I’m really looking forward to the Suitcase, set in apartheid, its performed by a visiting South African theatre company.

lw2

Our 2nd camping trip of the summer, was to Keswick.

We normally stay in Ambleside when we visit the lakes, but since we were camping, Keswick has, in my opinion the best campsite in the country, with its location right in the town and next to the lake.

Arriving on Friday night, we got the tent up the headed out to the Keswickien chippy, voted one of the 10 best chip shops in the country.

In the morning, we walked up Grizedale pike and the weather couldn’t have been better.

sunburn

Too good you might say, as you can see, I didn’t take my Tilly hat, so the sun got the better off me.

I had a few drinks before dinner at the Inn at Keswick, which for many years was called the Keswick lodge, a place of many happy memories.

I remember standing in this exact spot during my stag do in 2000 with some of my favourite people.

Mexican for dinner, off to bed, then tent down and a shorter walk on the way home.

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On the weekends when we aren’t doing our own projects we go out walking with the Chester and District Walking Group.

Brian organised a trip Llanfairfechan and we wandered up to the quarry and cliffs overlooking the town bellow and the ocean.

copter

As a youngster my brother and I used to play a fab game called Gunship.

You got to pilot an AH64 Apache helicopter gunship in a number of theatres including the Vietnam war and a theoretical 3rd world war.

So, it was amazing to see a real Apache gunship flying over the ocean bellow us.

One of life’s special moments.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and once again, the search for adventure continues…

Trekking in the Atlas mountains

I’d been to Morocco twice before which is unusual, as I normally want to see new places and don’t go back.

However, this place is an enchanting adventure paradise, and for some reason I’d never been trekking in the Atlas mountains.

We found a well recommended trekking company Aztat Treks, booked some flights, “base” accomodation in Marrakesh and off we went.

road

Our flight arrived late at night, so we had a transfer booked to our Marrakesh accommodation.

A quick meal, shower and then off to bed…

In the morning, I had images of things being a bit of a faf and organisation being a problem, but I shouldn’t have worried.

Just as we were finishing off our breakfast, we were told that our driver was waiting to take us to Agersioual where we would begin our trek.

The journey took about 90 minutes and I was amazed at the new roads and new cars (which even had seatbelts and air conditioning that didn’t consist entirely of an open window).

Morocco had clearly upped its game since the last time I was here in 2008.

map

We arrive and meet Mohammed Aztat, the owner of the company. He shows us on the map where we’ll be going.

We’re introduced to our personal guide Mohammed and our cook/muleteer (mule driver) Ibrahim.

Our first day will be an acclimatisation trek in the Ouirgane National Park.

setoff

Our main bags are loaded onto the Mule along with all the cooking equipment, water and food well need for the next 4 days.

The Mule and driver take off up the hill and leave us behind. We get chatting to our Mohammed and he tells us a bit about himself and the area’s were going to be visiting.

day1

Our first look at this beautiful land.

The terrain here is quite gentle (as you’d expect on an acclimatisation day) and the whole area is coated with copper green soil and juniper trees.

The temperature is hot, but not unbearable (although a hat and sunglasses are essential).

lunch2

As it reaches lunchtime, our guide leads us to a spot with several tree’s for shade.

We’re delighted to find our cook has set everything up, and we have a glass of mint tea, then were presented with a delicious Tajine (its restaurant quality food, the only problem is there’s enough food for 6 people).

Mint tea is the traditional drink of the Berber mountain tribe. As a joke its nicknamed Berber whisky (the joke is, that they are Muslims and don’t drink any kind of alcohol).

Our guide explains that were going to take it easy today. As there’s no hurry, we sit on our rug, under the tree and relax for the next 90 minutes.

mule

Our hardy mule is unloaded and left to wander in the valley and stock up on grass.

We asked later if the mule had a name, but they said it wasn’t normal to give them names, although their company has very strict rules on their treatment.

downhill

Its about 4:30pm.

We reach the top of the pass and bellow, the Berber village of Tizian where we’ll be staying for the night.

You’ll notice from this picture, Mohammed always keeps his head covered.

It’s easy to get massively sunburned here, and not even notice it (until it starts to hurt).

ref1

We wander up through the village and arrive at the refuge  where we’ll be staying.

bhouse

Once inside, the seating area is of traditional Berber style.

There are several bedrooms in the gite, with light mattresses on the floor. As there are only a few people staying, Nikki and I get a room to ourselves.

The toilet and shower are functional although they could benefit from a qualified plumber (or perhaps just someone with a modern set of tools).

mint_tea

With the days walking complete we rest on the terrace and have some more mint tea (I wouldn’t have minded a pint of lager, but there would be none for the next 5 days).

mosque

From the terrace, we could see the construction of the new Mosque, which the local villagers are very proud off.

Unfortunately, the scaffolding outside made of old wood, wouldn’t pass a health and safety inspection in the UK.

expanse

Next day, were up early, breakfasted, cleaned up and off we go.

We’ll be trekking up the Azzeden Valley.

The area opens up into a wide expanse of lush walnut groves.

rocky_trail

After about 3 hours, we change direction and trek horizontally across the mountains on these rocky trails.

On the way we found a small “shop” where an enterprising teenager is selling bottles of Coca Cola for about 40p.

bike

Further up the trail, we meet another mule and driver coming towards us. I’ve realised that mules are the main means of transport in the mountains.

Normally used to carry gear and food (and occasionally, a weary trekker home, when they’ve bitten off more than they can chew and can’t walk any further!).

When I saw a bicycle being carried, it seemed to me to be a bit like cheating.

If you want to ride it down, you should be prepared to ride it up 🙂

waterfall

We stop to photograph one of the Ighouliden waterfalls.

ref2

Our home for the night, the Lippeney hut.

A bit nicer than our previous refuge, and had a basement sitting area that was very cool in the hot afternoon.

bunks

Something I’d not seen before, a sort of  “double” bunk bed.

Once again, we had our own room, which was pretty fab.

high_pass

Our 3rd day is much harder as we’ll ascend 1400 metres.

We climb up really steep scree and leave the Azzaden valley behind us.

high_trek

Were heading towards the Aguelzim mountain pass at 3,560 metres so we can reach the next valley and the Toubkal refuge.

picnic_lunch

Reaching the top of the pass, we have lunch with spectacular views (and mint tea, boiled-up on a small fire).

Snow on the tops, and our first view of the Toubkal massives.

snow_crossing

Things start to get exciting as we cross various snow fields.

It’s for this reason we’ve had a picnic today.

Mules cannot safely cross this kind of terrain, so our mule and driver have had to trek back to Imlil, and then up the Imlil pass to join us at the Toubkal refuge.

ref3

Our first sight of the mountain Niltner hut at the base of Toubkal.

inside_dark

Inside its a functional mountain hut (which I personally don’t like).

Sharing a room with about 10 other people !. We briefly discussed getting our own room, but decided since we’d be getting up at 4am, the £80 wasn’t really worth it.

Dinner that evening prepared by our cook. I had great expectations. I’d only climbed 1, 4000m peak in my life (Kinabalu in Borneo) and this would be my 2nd.

If only I’d known 🙁

nikki_dark

Everyone in the hut was getting up at different times, so we awoke at 2am and never got back to sleep. An appealing nights sleep over.

No matter, we get out, put on our head torches and the 3 of us set off for Toubkal (4,167m).

uphill_snow

In winter, the trek requires crampons and ice axes. At this time of year, its “easy” snow, which just mean the annoyance of moving slowly.

900 metres of ascent, It will normally take 5 hours to get up to Toubkal, and back down to the refuge.

first_light

The first sun of the day, hits the mountain rocks above and its a beautiful sight.

fg

Were making slow but steady progress, but its clear that were exhausted from the previous few days and its actually going to take us 8 hours to get up and back to the refuge.

As we stop for a rest, I realise people have sprayed political graffiti on these rocks. Is nothing sacred ?

crunch_time

And then, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

Nikki points out, that once back at the refuge, we have to make our way back to Imlil. We’ll be exhausted by the time we get back to the refuge, and lucky if we make it back to our hotel before 12 midnight.

Part of me refuses to give in. But its clear, that here and now, it’s just not going to happen. I realise I’m in denial and Nikki is right.

At this point, were going back anyway, so if we carry on up hill for another hour and don’t reach the top, its just wasted effort.

lt

At this point, I’m transported back several years to an Alpine preparation course I did at Plas Y Brenin with Louise Thomas, one of the best mountaineers in the world.

The other chap in this picture mentioned that he’d almost got to the top of Kilimanjaro, but had to turn back and had always regretted it.

With years of experience she’d said simply “Never regret going back. If its not the time, then its just not the time”.

With a heavy heart, I head back down hill.

wander_back

Back to the refuge and a cup of awful coffee served by the indifferent staff.

Then we head back down the hill to Imlil.

Its only now I realise how much the previous few days have taken out of me. I’m shattered and deeply relieved that I’m heading for a shower and comfortable bed.

chairs

Another teenage “entrepreneur” has setup a small cafe, so we stop for coca cola.

They must have got a special deal on brightly coloured chairs.

lastleg

At ground level, its a few more miles, with Imlil in sight.

If my feet could speak, they’d be swearing at me right at this moment.

rooftop

And we arrive at our hotel, Dar Adrar.

A shower and then some food on the terrace.

The adventure part of the trip is over and now we can relax.

bedroom

We’re reunited with out main bags and relax in our wood panelled room while connecting my laptop to the hotel wifi.

For the first time in several days, I can shut the door, and nobody will disturb me.

A relatively early night, the days earlier disappointments forgotten.

kasbah

We have a 2nd night booked in Imlil so we’ve got the whole of the next day to explore.

Nikki has been to Imlil before spent time in a place called the Kasbah.

Its rated by National Geographic as one of the best places to stay in the world.

We sat out and had Coca cola and coffee at farcically inflated prices but it was very comfortable and relaxing.

asda

As we wandered further around the village, we found this shop which was closed.

It had a cheeky sign on the front, that said “cheaper than Asda” 🙂

imlil

We relaxed at a coffee house in the main village for several hours.

We went through quite a lot of coffee, before heading back uphill for dinner.

ashop2

The following morning, and its time to head back to Marakesh.

Another mile takes our bags down the hill to our transport.

We actually get to see Mohammed’s famous shop. It has lots of 2nd hand kettles and waterproofs for sale. I love places like that.

heading_home

And then its 90 minutes in an air conditioned car, back to Marrakesh.

Our adventures over and I’m looking forward to a few beers, some nice food and a lie in.

Perfect Bank holiday, walking, cycling and Marakech.

mf

Recently, myself and a group of friends from my company formed a team and have been taking part in the Virgin global challenge.

The idea is to get people to be more active, by measuring the number of paces taken, and putting them onto a map showing how far you’ve walked.

There’s also a leader board, to show which teams are doing best.

Our team, Legit (made up of people from the Legal department and IT) are doing quite well, but we were determined to do even better.

Last Saturday, we decided to head out and do a “trek” around Moel Famau in North Wales.

Our visiting colleague from China, Jerry (pictured in the middle) came along as well.

A fab day out.

leanto

Later that day, I attended a barbecue at Nikki’s house.

Whilst everyone discussed the coming general election and ate fine foodstuffs, I decided to grasp the opportunity.

At my house, I have a back patio (which if were being honest, is actually a back yard).  Nikki has a “proper” garden.

I was able to use the garden to test some bushcraft equipment I bought recently and built this lean-to.

Its now June and were half way through the year. Time to take stock and really double down on any big targets for the year in my Mindmap.

To help me focus, I’ve been using a technique taught to me while working at IBM.

The idea is you make a hit list of key things you need to do. Next to each one, you list a next action. A task that will progress the goal.

Its a simple thing, but it means I always know the next thing that needs doing.

Sailing lesson -> speak to school and choose course

Garden -> tidy next sunny evening

Xmas trip -> speak to Nikki, plan for India

tubthumping

As well as my will, I have a document describing how I would like my funeral conducted (it can feel like a depressing subject, but by doing it, it will take pressure off loved ones who would otherwise have to organise the event from scratch).

I’ve chosen 2 songs that I would like to be played.

The first is Pure by the Lightning Seeds. Let me say, that I am in no way pure, but the song really connects with me, and reminds me of happy times in my youth.

The other, is Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. Put simply, its a drinking song with a chorus that says “I got knocked down, but I get up again”.

kosi1

I’m busy working on a new section of the blog devoted to my recent trekking trip to the atlas mountains.

In the meantime I thought I’d pop up a picture from Marrakesh once we’d finished the mountain section.

We found a really nice place called Kosibar.

kosi2

In the evening, we had a view out across the square with children playing and people just sitting out chatting.

meboat

Nikki and I went away for a few days over bank holiday.

We do this quite a lot, as we never like to waste any kind of break from work. On this occasion, I thought it ranked as an almost perfect Bank holiday weekend, so as inspiration to to others, I’ll go over it and what we did.

trail2

We decided to head to the peak district which is ideal as its only 90 mins drive.

We arrive at the Jug and Glass coaching Inn for 7:30pm and the weekend has already begun.

T bone steak for me and a bottle of Rioja. A few more drinks, then its off for an early night, ready for the walking the next day.

snakesign

Hayfield is one of our favourite places in the Peak District and we’d chosen a route that would take us up across the moors to Kinder downfall and back again.

trail1

I still get annoyed with myself when I think that for so many years, I worked in Manchester city centre. When I finished work on Friday, I could have jumped on a train and 40 minutes later I would have been in the 2nd most visited national park in the world.

But I didn’t, and just like the saying goes, 20 years from now, you’ll be more concerned by the things you didn’t do, than the things you did.

The weather was fantastic throughout the whole day.

kinder

A sign on a bridge reminds us this is the site of the famous mass tresspass which led to the foundation of the national trust.

kinderdownfall

We break for lunch.

I always drink sparkling mineral water. I call it Champagne for hill walkers.

res

We continue along past Ladybower reservoir.

Its about the 5th time we’ve been up here this year and one of the best spots in the whole peak district.

jandg

With the fantastic days walking over, we head back to the Jug and Glass.

I always like to have a drink in the bar, before heading upstairs to get cleaned up.

hotelroom

We hang around in our room reading, then head back downstairs for more amazing food and wine.

mons

Next day, we head for Buxton.

The Monsal trail, is a route I’ve done several times. Its 8 miles from just outside Buxton and goes all the way to Bakewell.

Its a superb walk, as the tunnels of the old railway line were closed and you had to go over or around each time you came to one, which made for a pretty amazing walking route.

The tunnels have now re-opened and last year I walked it that way. I have to say, it was a bit dull, although the tunnels are really long.

bike1

So this time, we rented some bicycles.

Only £13 for the day. It actually took no time at all, to get to our destination for lunch.

bakup

Bakewell was rammed as you’d expect on Bank Holiday.

We wandered around and got some coffee.

knifekit

My friend Jason, who I met in Borneo runs a bushcraft shop in Bakewell, so while I was there, I decided to pay a visit.

He was away at the Bushcraft show, but one of his assistants showed me around, and I bought this pretty smart Knife, where you can fit the handle and carve it, and make the sheath yourself.

bike2

After a look around a few other outdoor shops, we set off back.

I cut quite a dash in my Mountain Equipment Frontier jacket that Nikki gave me for my birthday.

monsalhead

On our way back, we take an alternative route and see the view from Monsal head.

lunch

The chaps at the bike rental place were really good and advised us of some quieter places on the trail back where we might want to get lunch.

Still sporting my Morocco suntan, I settle down for a pint.

carpark

We hand back the bikes, then walk back to the car along this path with stunning views.

balloon

Back at our hotel, we have a drink in the garden outside.

I see this Virgin balloon, and it reminds me of my time in Australia.

bm2

The last day, the weather takes a turn.

We think on our feet and decide to visit the Boat museum at Ellesmere port (somewhere we’ve both wanted to visit for ages).

A short car journey later and we arrive.

bcafe

We have lunch in their new restaurant and plan our trip.

bm1

The museum covers everything from how boats were repaired to the lives of the people who lived on them.

I think most people in the UK are familiar with the railways and how they kept the country running before road vehicles.

I hadnt realised that the generation before trains, belonged to boats and British life would have been practically impossible without them.

boattrip

An actual boat journey onto the canal is included and we were shown run down buildings and pictures showing them in their prime.

oldboats

The saddest part for me, was some of the older boats.

To restore a boat, requires taking it out of the water and installing it on special supports (which are expensive).

Some of the really old boats, are left in the water, as their isn’t presently enough money to repair them.

There was so much to see, we were there for 7 hours, before heading home, getting changed and ending the bank holiday with a meal in Urbano 32.

Preparing for Mont Blanc. Winter mountaineering in Scotland.

mehills

In Preparation for my first mountaineering trip to the Alps, I did a 2 day, introduction to mountaineering course with Alpine Guides (www.alpine-guides.com)

After my experiences, I decided that I would visit Scotland in winter, every year.

I arrived on a Friday evening, after a 9 hour train journey at Fort William in Scotland.

The fine details had been taken care of, even to the point of having a bath in my room, rather than a shower !.

I laid out my stuff to get organized, then went down to the bar, to meet the organizers and course members and plan the weekend, over a pint.

gear
 setoff

Our guide explained the many options available too us, but although everyone in England thinks Scotland is carpeted in snow 6 months of the year, this isn’t always the case.

He recommended Anoch Mor, as it had a cable car, and we could get straight to the “action”.

Our guide Matt (a qualified Alpine guide), Bill (a bloke very similar to myself, who does a rewarding “ordinary” job, but in his spare time, seeks out adventure,) and me, in my Buffalo top which I was keen to test.

As we got of the cable car, there was a Cafe/Bar called the snow goose.

The cable car stops around 4:30 each day, and it is reckoned that 30% of the people on the hill, don’t make it, and end up walking back down.

From the cable car, its possible to see the 2004,mountain biking world championship track.

Although its would take 2 hours to walk up, it only takes a world class rider an average of 5 minutes to descend using the track !

 gooseview
 steephill

The Skiers chair lift was closed, so it took nearly 2 hours to climb the staircase-like hill to the top.

Although the Buffalo shirt kept me warm, when walking up hill, I just couldn’t keep cool enough.

We were taught various things about winter mountaineering, such as weather and navigation.

We practiced doing ice axe arrests (stopping yourself slipping down a hill, using an ice axe).

We found a snow hole someone had dug.

It was amazing how warm it was inside.

 snowhole
 easygully

The view down easy gully. I was lowered down on a rope, and climbed out, using my crampons and ice axes.

I loved being out in the snow. I learned so much on the course.

Before, if I was on a hill walk, and there was snow, I would have avoided it, now, I would get my gear and head straight for it.

As well as the many skills we learned, we also got to do a mountaineering route.

Here me, Matt and Bill are photographed on the peak of Anoch Mor. It was a fantastic feeling getting to the top.

I am wearing my hat, which I lost. Bill was really genuine and commented that it really was an awfully hat.

Hearing this, from someone like him, convinced me to give it straight to the charity shop.

 anochmor
 whiteout

On the way back from the peak, we experienced a white out. It was exciting, and slightly scary.

I took a picture with my camera, and this is all that came out !

 webclimb
 leg

The course ran on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday, I had arranged a private days guiding with a guide called Mark.

I spent a whole day being taught specialist mountaineering skills, and the finer practical points of the art, such as where and how to carry an ice axe etc.I practiced walking across mixed terrain for more than 3 hours to get completely comfortable moving on snow, ice and rock.

I didn’t get a moment to take any pictures, so this is the view from the web.

After each days mountaineering, we had a drink at the “goose” whilst waiting for the cable car.

I like Tea and Coffee normally, but the taste of either, after a day on the hill, is too good to be described.

Bill and Matt walking off the hill, viewed from inside the bar.

I would like to thank Twid, for an amazing course, and my 2 guides Matt and Mark.

Also, a quick thank you to the staff of the Alexander hotel who were kind and friendly to me whilst there.

 gooselads

Hadrians Wall path.

fence The Hadrian’s wall walk, was opened to the public in 2003. It was the first time since the 3rd century, that it was possible to walk the full length of Hadrian’s wall.

Frank and I returned to complete the walk (84 miles) using b+b accommodation, and a delivery service to move bags, and enable a fast and light strategy (a previous attempt at camping, had already failed).

Here we are photographed at Segedendum fort, the start of the walk.

The first 12 miles of the walk are coated with tarmac, which means trainers are recommended. Also, since it passes through housing estates, the scenery isn’t up to much either (that’s why we walked east to west, as finishing the walk, walking through a shipyard, wasn’t really what we had in mind).

The walk then passes right through the center of Newcastle, and passes under all 5 bridges across the river tyne.

nc
 me  The walk was quite hard going, with an average of 22 miles being walked each day (we had decided to complete the walk in 4 days).
As stated earlier, Hadrian’s Wall is new, and accommodation is limited along the way (most of the places we stayed were big hotels, and very expensive.

Another thing unique about the walk, is that its only supposed to be walked in summer, to preserve the wall.

Sometimes part of the wall will be worn out, and wooden devices like this, are used to stop people walking across specific parts of the turf.

 block
 frank The wall was built almost completely by Roman soldiers. A ditch was built into the design, to make it hard for advancing soldiers to attack (they would end up charging up hill, against a 15 foot wall.

Here, Frank stands in a surviving part of the ditch.

 The Bridge at Chollerford, taken from the George hotel where we stayed.  arch
 penine  The place where the Pennine Way, crosses Hadrian’s Wall.
Section of the wall, with the Oak Tree, featured in Robin Hood prince of thieves.

Robin (Kevin Costner) dances around on the wall at one point, before getting into a fight with some soldiers. Its presently forbidden to walk on the wall, although we saw plenty of parents allowing their children to do it.

Not sure what Robin Hood was thinking, but a journey from Dover to Nottingham, wouldn’t normally involve crossing a wall near the England/Scotland border !.

 tree
 bridge Bridge at Poltross Burn. It was this 84 foot bridge, that marked the completion of Hadrian’s Wall walk, replacing the broken wooden bridge that went before it.

It was built by the same company that made the famous Angel of the North Sculpture in the North East.

 A view of several sections of the wall. You can see about 6 continuous miles of the wall, from one point near Steel Rig.  wall
 road  The road out to Bowness on Solway, was an incredible length, and ran in an almost completely straight line.
 The walk completed, we got the bus back to Carlisle (the only one that day, and it left 6 minutes after we arrived, which was exciting) and then the train home.  bs

Peruvian Inca Trail

 

start While working through my bluelist, I kept hearing mention of the Inca Trail.

I like to walk anyway, and had never been to South America, so I took the rare step of modifying the bluelist, and adding the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu to it.

I flew via Amsterdam to Lima, and then From Lima to Cusco.

Unfortunately, 6 people had cancelled due to the earthquake, so only 5 of us remained (including Danny Quinn, the stalwart of, Off the Wall in Chester).

We set off from Kilometre 86.

 We walk down from the drop off point, cross the railway lines, and then head across this shaky bridge that crosses the Urubamba river.  bridge
 startwalk The first part of the trail, wasn’t very steep, and we set of at a cracking pace.

I thought that Dan was walking a bit too fast, so I called him back for a photo op.

Sadly, the weather wasn’t exactly Malaga.

We are passed by the Hiram Bingham train.

Its a first class train, which travels from Cusco to Machu Picchu, serving cocktails and five course meals.

It answered one question I had. Where are the Japanese (I hadn’t seen any the whole morning on the trail).

Turns out, they mainly travel on this train, then stay at the mundane hotel, at Machu Picchu itself.

The tourist train cost $50, the Hiram Bingham, cost $500.

 hgtrain
 ruin2 We stop for lunch across from Llaqtapata.

Manco Inca Yupanqui, destroyed this, along with a number of settlements along the Inca trail during his retreat from Cusco in 1536.

He did this to discourage Spanish pursuit. In part due to these efforts, the Spanish never discovered the Inca trail or any of its settlements.

Carlos (our guide) stops to re-supply on water (and we re-supply on Toblerone, Kitkat and other necessities).

The shop is optimistically named “Shopping Centre” which I think overstates it a bit. They offered to take Mastercard, which will probably save the odd traveller from hardship.

Also, after lunch, Carlos switched from his trainers, to walking boots, and we knew the terrain would get a little rougher.

 shoerepair
 dog The guidebook had said to be wary of dogs when walking into a village.

It said that the locals, will typically throw stones at dogs that bound towards you and try to bite you.

It went on to say, that if you couldn’t bring yourself to do that, you should bend over, as though picking up a stone.

In reality, all the dogs I saw, were like this one. Grade 4, without a care in the world.

This appalling picture, probably shouldn’t have been put up, but its the closest I have ever got, to actually stalking and photographing a deer.

It was in the woods, on the left hand side of the path.

 deer
 uphill We walked up hill some more, walked down into a valley, and then walked out of it again.

Finally about half an hour up these steep steps, and we were at our campsite

We arrive at our campsite.

There was only us, and one other group staying here, so it was quite nice for the first evening.

It also had a turf floor, which was quite comfortable.

Dan and I realised that we had been given “Personal” tents. We decided to share one, and let the girls have one each.

Here Ashima, unpacks her gear, and works out how to set up all the camping gear she purchased (which has secured the pensions of several salesmen at Blacks outdoor leisure), while Dan’s expression is timeless.

The tents weren’t in a particularly straight line.

 camp1
 waterfall It was still early days in the trip, and we wandered around the camp, just before dinner.

We found this stream with some pretty cool “rapids” which we tried to photograph in artistic ways.

This little girl lived near the camp site, and kept coming over to explore.

She was really friendly (her older sister sold Bottles of coke and stuff like that).

On the morning we set off, she had a go at climbing Ash’s walking poles.

 saleswoman
 porters We have our “meet your family” ceremony. Our Porters, Cook, Lead Porter and Guide take it in turns to introduce themselves, then we do the same.

The guy with the hat bending down, is the lead porter. At one point, he teased the small guy in front of him, by using the bag scales to way him (he wasn’t very big, but carried the same weight as everyone else).

We all had to say whether we were married, how many children we had etc. Ash was able to speak directly in Spanish (the rest of us had to be translated by the guide) and there was a knowing silence, when Ashima told them that she was single.

I told them that I was married for the 2nd time. They were all staunch Roman Catholics, it can take years to save for a wedding in Peru, and they seemed shocked and disgusted that someone would get divorced.

Once I explained that I came from Manchester (the home of United) they were happy again.

 Some of the bridges we crossed were very “Bushcraft” in design (well they would be, they were made by real village dwellers, not computer analysts who pay to go into the woods and learn how to light fires !).  footbridge
 checkpoint The route along the trail, was very well organised and policed.

I had actually wondered, whether all the stuff about trekking permits really mattered.

We had to pass by a checkpoint and show our passports. Our guide had to show his permit, and the Porters bags had to be weighed.

A porter isn’t allowed to carry more than 20kg. This means each of us, can only give them 7kg each to carry. It was quite a problem managing for 5 days with just 7kg of gear, and most of us, put extra stuff in our day packs to compensate.

There aren’t many pictures of the 2nd day, as it was physically very demanding (that’s a very euphemistic way of describing it).

I was pleased though, that we got it done on the 2nd day.

The highest point in the trail, is dead woman’s pass, at 4200m.

Most of you will know, that 4000m is a magic number for mountaineers, and here I am photographed reaching that height under my own steam for the first time.

 4000m
 dwpass After a gruelling couple of hours, I reach the top of the pass.

The rest of the group, were already there, and had time to compose themselves.

You can see from my expression what was going through my mind.

For the previous 45 minutes, I had felt very sick, and I know once I got to the top, I had to get down again pretty quickly.

This beautiful path led down through the valley, and into the campsite.

Although I was last to the top, I was first to the bottom.

 downhill
 camp2 I didn’t like this campsite very much as it only had 2 toilets between the whole camp, and felt like we were camped in someone’s living room.

The ground was very hard to sleep on, wouldn’t have been a problem normally, but the previous day was very hard, and I needed my sleep.

The other thing I couldn’t stand, was camp etiquette. At every campsite I have visited around the world, there is an understanding that you keep the noise down after a certain time. Two woman visiting the toilet at 3am, thought it perfectly okay to walk past our tent and conduct a conversation.

Having not slept for more than 45 minutes continuously, I was feeling pretty miserable the next morning.

It was raining as we set of walking uphill (much less steep than the previous day).

We stop to visit Runcuracay ruins. I correctly guessed that this was of strategic military importance, due to its location in the valley.

 fort
 path After lunch on the 3rd day, I finally found what I had been looking for on the Inca Trail.

There were beautiful stone paths, high up in the mountains, which led through rainforest.

 Carlos showed us much of the local plant life.  flowers
 rfwalk It was explained that the Inca Trail had been secret and sacred.

It was designed as a Pilgrimage for high born people to walk, and worship along the way.

One novel thing I found, was, if only high born people could walk the trail, who would carry the bags.

The answer ?. Llama’s.

 There were points on the trail, where the Inca’s had tunnelled through rock, and carved steps into the stone floor.  tunnel
 merainforrest After much upheaval, a quiet moment of contemplation for me.

This is what I had always imagined the Inca Trail to be like.

As arrived at our camp, we had a go at photographing a nearby Glacier.

The Inca Trail is surrounded by mountain, some of them are nearly 6000m high.

 glacier
 weather2 This campsite was much quieter, and it was like our own village.

I really wish we had been able to have a campfire , unfortunately, these are banned, and I went to bed at 7:30pm (it was very cold at that altitude).

To show how changeable the weather was, take a look at this picture.

Ten minutes later, the camp (photographed from the same position) looked like this.

Twenty minutes after that, it looked like the first picture again.

 weather1
 metunnel  We set of trekking down hill, with the intention of visiting Winawyna for lunch.
 Puyupatamarca, a ruin, very close to our camp site.  ruin
 steps As we descended into the tree canopy, it became quite dark.

We reach Winaywayna, easily the best facilities of any campsite on the trail, it has a bar and showers.

Half our porters had stayed with us until this point, to provide a farewell lunch. The rest had travelled to Aguas Calientes to deposit our bags at the hotel where we would be spending that night.

 We catch a glimpse of the the Urubamba river, which marked the start of the Trek.  river
 dan After some confusion, and the checkpoint being closed, we set off on the last leg of the trip.

It was uphill, and my legs were still stiff from the ordeal at dead woman pass, but it was with a sense of expectation and achievement that we forged on.

We reach Intipunku, the Sun gate, which overlooks Machu Picchu.

By this point, I wasn’t fit to be photographed, so I took a picture of Ash instead (Danny was busy setting up Camera’s and stuff like that).

 intipunku
 mpview The photo that people always associate with Machu Picchu, is the one taken from the Sungate.

Unfortunately, it was very cloudy that day, and this was the best picture I could get.

 With heightened spirits, we walk down to Machu Picchu to complete the trek.  walkdown
 finish Soaking wet, with more than 151 insect bites, toothache, AMS and boils I finally complete the trek, and stand in the ancient city of Machu Picchu.

I said at the time, that I wish I had done the tour, and got the train instead, but on reflection now, I am glad I did it.

We had the whole of the next day free to visit Machu Picchu, and our hotel was waiting. After a few minutes to soak up the atmosphere, we board a bus for Aguas Calientes and visit our hotel.

I spent the afternoon visiting local monasteries, and finding my “center” after such an enlightening experience.

Get real !, this is a John Sunter adventure. I hooked up with Dan, in a nearby Boozer and we had some Ale !.

Thanks to Jennifer @ the Adventure Company, Our guide Carlos, and our Porters and Cook (who all had unpronounceable names).

 pub