Year: 2017

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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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).

 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).


Yorkshire 3 Peaks


frankecafe Frank at the Cafe where participants cards are stamped prior to setting off on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge.

The people there were very friendly and helpful, and knew my Uncle John.

This is the Settle to Carlisle Railway Viaduct.

Everyone talks about how beautiful it is, but lots of people died making it, which kind of takes some of the beauty away as far as I am concerned.

There was a Caravan just near here, which sold Coffee and Burgers, I couldn’t recommend either.

 peny This is the view of Pen – y – Ghent from my Uncles Cottage.

Its really interesting, as because his house is on a hillside, its upside down.

The living quarters are upstairs, and the sleeping quarters are downstairs. Otherwise, there would be no view in the living room.

I first saw this walk in Adventure Travel magazine and was determined to complete it.

I woke at 6:30 (I was staying at my Uncles cottage) and woke up Dizzy Dave (who was sleeping in a tent at the camp site) and then woke up Frank (who was staying in the local b + b).

All 3 peaks must be completed in 1, 12 hour sitting (there wouldn’t be much time for sitting).

 fstpk We decided to climb them, in the traditional order.

Top of the First Peak.

Pen – y – Ghent (694m, pronounced penny ggent).

It was a synch really, we got to the top in less than 40 minutes.

Top of the 2nd peak.

Whernside (736m).

Showing signs of fatigue, the soles of my feet, felt like they were on fire !.

 lastpk Top of the 3rd peak and its done !.

Ingleborough (723m).

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as that, since it took another hour and 45 minutes to walk back to Horton on Ribblesdale.

We put our cards in to get a certificate saying we had done it

Eleven hours to complete it. Not exactly Steve Cram, but at least we were doing it, when most of our mates were back home in the Pub !.

Off to the local in Horton-on-Ribblesdale, to meet my Uncle John and Auntie Veronica and celebrate.

Multi-Activity holiday in the Pyrenees mountains of Andorra


meclouds I decided to do a week long multi activity holiday with the adventure company in the pyrenees mountains of Andorra.

For the cost, it was actually cheaper to do a trip like this overseas, than it was to do the same thing in the UK.

Me standing on Pic Maia.

I am awoken by a woman with dyed blond hair and a spectacular tan.

I am obviously in Liverpool, and only need her to speak to confirm it.

Then I realise, that she is wearing an orange uniform, and it come’s back to me, I am on a flight to Barcelona with Easyjet.

I arrive in Barcelona and have several hours to kill. I spot somewhere that looks friendly, but I draw the line when I read its name. I refuse to drink in any pub called ars.

 rochotel After a 3 hour coach drive, we arrive at our hotel in Soldeu.

I had a very comfortable room with a bath, just what I wanted.

Unfortunately, there were mechanical diggers outside. Since we were mostly out doing activities it didn’t matter.

After a superb “Sunday” roast, our guide for the week Ed, introduces himself and fills us in on some of the details of the trip.

One concerning thing, is the weather, which at the time, is appalling. No matter, we are from the UK, and quite used to rain.

 map The following day, we set out on a day trek to Pic Maia.

The superb thing, is that we are driven to the top by Landrover, and only have to walk down.

At nearly 9000 feet, the air was fresh and cool.

One thing I found surprising, was that we didn’t see any other walking parties.

You don’t see signs like this one in the Lake district.

 snowcrossing  Heading down from Pic Maia we cross a snowfield.
 Me standing on a snowfield.  mesnow
 vulture Griffin vulture.

It was flying so high, that I have had to enhance this picture.

 Further along the walk, we drop down into the forest.  fwalk
 emmabar The hotel was very friendly, and during the day, you served yourself at the bar, and just wrote down what you drank.

Here the excellent Emma (a woman of boundless enthusiasm), acts as barmaid and serves me a pint.

Disaster strikes.

Rushing around in the morning, to get ready, I slip on the bathroom floor, and injure my hand on the cast iron radiator.

This is a picture of me on a skidoo, I didn’t see much point in putting up a picture of a bathroom.

 smug1 We tour the smugglers rout in 4×4 vehicles.

Apparently, up until 5 years ago, smuggling was a perfectly legitimate profession in Andorra.

Here our guide Ed, briefs the group, before they take part in some excellent downhill mountain biking.

Unfortunately, because of my injured hand, I was unable to ride a mountain bike at that point. I was pretty disappointed, but the views and the countryside made up for it.

 mbpath  You can see from the shape of these trails why the place is so popular with mountain bikers.
We stop on a peak in the smugglers rout, for lunch.

I wander around, and find gun emplacements and dugouts like this one, used during the civil war.

I am saddened, when I realise that someone could have died on this hill, and it doesn’t even have a name.

 village As we drive back, we stop to visit Civis village.

I found the people there were very friendly.

We drive back across the border into Andorra.

At one point, we were passed by a police car, that was patrolling the border, looking for smugglers.

 beerwork In the afternoon, its out with my laptop to review the mornings photographs.

Some bikers had checked in and were watching a bike race in the main bar.

I couldn’t see the screen, but I could hear them cheering, and the commentary on Eurosport.

Imagine my surprise, when I came to fly home, that I was sat next to Julian Ryder, the actual commentator I had been listening too, during the race.

This picture didn’t turn out very well, as I turned of the flash. He was asleep, and I didn’t want to wake him.

For a TV personality, he was very friendly and genuine.

 crun1 The following day, we have a free day, to do various activities.

My hand is still causing me enormous pain, so when the group go to do Via Ferrata, I cant join them.

No matter, I didn’t come here to sit on my backside, the hotel owner tells me of an easy walking rout into the village, the Capsa a cale.

The route is known locally as the Chicken run.

Not surprisingly, it is marked throughout with this symbol.

 crun3 A beautiful sunny day, with fantastic scenery.

It was supposed to take 1.5 hours, but I enjoyed it, and took 4.

This tunnel had been “blasted” out of the rock.

I didn’t see another person, during the whole walk, and only had animals and birds for company.

In this picture, I finally got the timer on my camera to work, and was able to photograph myself.

 pcat2 In the evening, we walked up the hill, to Soldeu.

Although it wasn’t the ski-ing season, and the town was practically shut down, we found this English bar called the pussycat.

It was run by a guy called Robin, who like most of the people in Soldeu, works as a ski-instructor during the ski-ing season, and does another job out of season.

It made me wonder, how the infrastructure of the town, actually works during winter.

The following day, was a mixture of mountain biking and white water rafting.

Because of my hand, I couldn’t do either, so I decided to walk into the town of Canillo and rest my hand.

On the rout down the road, was this spectacular outdoor climbing wall.

 stilts Canillo wasn’t so much a town next to the river, as a town built on top of a river.

You can see from this construction how its cleverly raised above the water.

 I sat in the comfortable village square, spent some time on the internet and had a couple of drinks and a pizza.  town
 wwrafting1  Meanwhile the rest of the team had a go at white water rafting in a place called Sort.
 These pictures were taken by Emma, and I would like to thank her for allowing me to use them.  wwrafting2
 band  That evening, The hotels resident band, the Roc ‘ers, entertained us with charismatic live music.
On the left, the Hotel Chef, Ben. A superb cook, and quite the most modest Chef I have ever met.

On the right, our multi talented barman Pepe. Throughout the week, he couldn’t have been more helpful, and literally nothing was too much trouble for him.

In the center, a charming girl called Laura. She worked at the pharmacy in the village. She was one of the few people I met who wasn’t a ski instructor.

 mbpark1  The following day, my hand is a little better, and for the first time, I am able to ride a mountain bike (I have to hold the handlebars a certain way, and take lots of painkillers, but I am actually riding !).
 We cycled a circular rout through the a park near El Cortals valley.  mbpark2
 mbpark3  It was great to be out on a bike, I haven’t enjoyed riding one that much, since I was a child riding my Chopper.
 The path went past this beautiful lake.  mbpark4
 bbq1 At lunchtime, our guides cook a Barbeque at this delightful picnic spot in the El Cortals valley.

I was so tired, and it was so warm, that I found a really smooth rock, lay down on it, and went to sleep.

Me at the start of the GR11 trekking rout.

In the afternoon, we drove to the top of the El Cortals valley and and peddled down.

 icekart1  A skating rink in Canillo, featured the go karts, with special tyres, which enabled them to race on ice.
 Apparently, the Karts had a governor on them, so if you were driving recklessly, they could slow you down by remote control.  icekart2
 canyone1 While I went walking, Emma and Preston went canyoning.

I had thought it would be like gorge walking, but actually involved abseiling down waterfalls.

 It looked pretty exciting to me.  canyone2
 border On the last morning, we head out walking, in perfect sunshine to the Incles valley.

The ridge behind me, is the border between Andorra and Spain.

 In places, the rout was quite steep, and days of activities and late nights in the bar had taken their toll on me.  steep
 high  It was worth my exhaustion, as you can see from these spectacular views of the valley we had, once we got up high.
A thing that really impressed me in Andorra were the refuges.

They were similar to mountain bothy’s in Scotland, but had beds and windows and stuff like that.

 ref2 Here you can see the fireplace inside the refuge, with a bow saw for collecting wood.

There were even tables for cooking and food preparation.

 We sit by the lake and eat our well deserved packed lunch.  lake
 wfall As we descend back down the valley, I pause next to this waterfall.

I was really sad to come home, despite my hand, I still had a brilliant time.

I would like to thank the hotel staff, the locals I met like Robin and Laura and the many friends who were other adventure company participants like myself.

Hadrians wall, Yorkshire dales & Wrexham.


Well, it’s the 5th month of the year, time to get reviewing to do list’s (although you should probably do that every day 🙂

As I write this, I’m about to go on holiday trekking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

Other good news, is I’ve been on a weight loss program and I’ve his my “lost 1 stone” mark.

Bad news, is I had a stinker of a cold which has been really hard to shift.

The month began with the picture above, with me completing another of the welsh 3000 foot hills while out with the walking group.


The day before, my friend Julie came down to Chester for the day and we had a fab time exploring pubs around the city.

As we went into the Botanist, there was a small army (and it was a small army, they were team handed) of Moneypenny PA’s out for some drinks. It was fantastic catching up with everyone, the only downside is Julie isn’t terribly good at taking pictures on a phone, so this is how the photo came out.


Tomorrow, I’ll be off with those orange uniformed people from Easyjet. Nikki and I are going to Morocco for our yearly overseas walking trip.

Thing I’m most looking forward too, is an ascent of Mount Toubkal. It will be my 3rd ascent above 4000 metres. A modest achievement, but one I’m very proud off.

As I’m going away trekking, I’ve started to convert some of the older trekking pages, that you might find interesting.


It’s a holiday after all, so its 4 days trekking with 3 nights in gite’s and refuges and the remaining time in Marrakesh, relaxing and seeing some of the new sights there since I went last in 2008.


A couple of months ago, I was doing the Fairfield horseshoe and went over on my knee. I landed badly and ended up falling onto my side.

Nothing serious, although my knee hurt a lot, and as my camera was on my belt it took the full force and was destroyed.

At that moment, several people came over from other walking groups who’d stopped on the top and offered assistance. I was surprised at the array of first aid equipment and military grade bandages. I’ve since upgraded my first aid kit, but it left me thinking.

If I’d landed on my knee and broken it, what exactly would I do. I’ve always thought that someone around would know what to do, but what if everyone else is thinking that as well.

As a committee member at the Chester and District walking group, I suggested a half day first aid course.

I’d previously seen the Saint John’s Ambulance station across from the Moneypenny building where I used to work, so I contacted them.

12 places and a 3 hours session for about £240. The training was superb with the instructor Don sharing loads of practical and useful information with everyone (who all really enjoyed it). Nicest thing was, when we ran over, Don stayed for an extra hour to make sure we covered everything we wanted too

If you’re looking for first aid training, I couldn’t recommend them more highly.


With the training over, I’m still in Wrexham (a place I really like) surrounded by loads of my friends and Nikki.

So we had a few drinks around the town and went to a new Turkish restaurant called Turquoise. Daft name, but excellent food.

Later we went to a pub called the Polish Embassy. I was delighted when the barmaid appeared with several bags of chips and buttered bread.

Its a local tradition apparently, that on Saturday afternoons, there are complimentary chip butty’s for every customer !.

I hope that tradition spreads to Chester.


Well, it was my birthday once again, and I got a selection of nice cards and gifts (and loads of texts, emails, fb’s and tweets).


As usual, I opened my memories box and had a look at my photos.

Life has its ups and downs for everyone, but its in moments like these that I realise how lucky I am and I’ve got so many things to feel happy about.

I stopped doing my famous birthday pub crawls last year (they were great fun, but the organising involved was quite stressful).

Instead I had a quiet day with Nikki, and since he was around, my old friend Mike Delafield.


Storyhouse, Chester’s new Theatre, Cinema and Library was open, so we went in there. Okay, hands up. I’ve been critical and sceptical in the past few months, but honestly, its amazing.

We had a full tour if the building and it is spectacular. It’s a starting pistol fired for the re-development of the city.

They sell coffee and wine in the library and they have dozens of travel books so I was in my element.


Afterwards we went to Corks Out.

Their wine bar has been closed for 4 months, during building work, which has now finished.

It’s actually really smart, 4 times the size it used to be and now has a dedicated barman.


As I bid farewell to Mike, Nikki and I head to Upstairs at the grill for dinner.

It’s quite expensive, but considered the best steak in the city and an ideal once a year birthday treat.

On the next table were some American Aeronautical engineers. We got talking to them and one of them had the steak above, described in the menu as the size of a small tennis racket !.


I’ve recently upgraded 2 pieces of gear. The stuff I have I’ve usually owned for years and taken a lot of time to select, so I dont swap things very often.

In this case, my Adidas sports bag of 20 years (which I use for car trips and weekends away) literally fell to pieces so I upgraded with a mountain equipment base camp bag. A bit heavier, but the perfect size, completely waterproof and built for the knocks of airport baggage and high mountain trekking.

The other one was a head torch. The one I had was fine. Lately,Petzle have produced headtorches with selected brightness (if you look around and there’s a tree 3 feet away, it will dim the beam while looking at it). They can also be recharged with USB and you can choose bluetooth to configure its settings.

I like my headtorches simple so none of those features are any use to me. But, the version of the 1 I already have, was released with upto 300 lumens (much brighter than the one I have and ideal for emergency’s) so I bought that too (it also means I have a spare headtorch now.


This month saw us go away for 2 long weekends (hence the delay in updating the blog).

Our first trip was to walk Hadrian’s wall. This time we’d built in a whole day to see Newcastle and have a look around.

The picture above is inside the “new” Castle, a really interesting place. There were loads of nice pubs and bars and we had Thai for dinner.

One of my favourite things was the Baltic art gallery. It had loads of interesting things but on the 2nd floor, they had a standard build kit (polythene sheets and stuff like that) that’s issued to refugee’s. They had constructed one inside and you could see what it would be like to live in there.

We had coffee in a nice cafe. With music as its them, they actually had Jazz LP playing on an old style music centre.


Following day, and we set off.

We walked for several miles along the bank of the river and were passed frequently by joggers and cyclists.


When the Romans left, much of the wall was broken down and used as building material.

The Hadrian’s wall path is basically the route where the wall used to be. In reality there’s not that much left, but we found this bit that was worth photographing.


Its a long way, but it was a more leisurely trip as we had more time. It enabled us to visit the Roman army museum and other interesting things like that.


Willowford bridge is made from the same metal as the Angel of the North.

It was put lowered into position by helicopter and made the original site of the wall, fully walkable for the first time since the 3rd century.

<picture of new ht & bag>


Our other long weekend was a trip to the Yorkshire Dales.

We spend lots of time in North Wales, the Peak District and the Lake District, but hardly ever visit the Dale’s.

We planned 4 iconic walks for the trip, including the one above to Pen – Y – Ghent.


On the way, we stopped at the services to get some coffee.

I remembered that I saw Hugh Laurie on this bridge a few years ago when I was with Frank and Christine on a day walk to the Lakes.

I’ve always regretted not saying something too him, as I’d always enjoyed Blackadder and he was my favourite character (and what we didn’t know then was he would return to form in House).


We went up a different route to Pen Y Ghent this time.

As its near Horton in Ribblesdale, I tried to meet up with my Uncle John who lives there.

Unfortunately, Uncle John suffers “bank holiday” invasion in the same way Chester people suffer “the races” so he was out of town when we were there.


Our base for the trip was a lovely village called Kettlewell.

We had dinner in each of the 3 pubs in the town. I really liked it there, and I’ll be returning.


On the final day, we did a circuit around Wolf Crag’s. The view across the valley was incredible and we’ll be going back there before the end of the year.

Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia and my first 4000m peak.

start Whilst walking the Inca Trail, I traversed above 4200m over a mountain pass.

4000m is the magic number for mountaineers (of which I am not actually one, but I can dream) and I had never actually done a 4000m peak.

Mount Kinabalu (which lends its name to Kota Kinabalu) is the highest mountain in South East Asia, standing at 4095m.

Quit a few of the people on the trip had climbed Kinabalu previously and didn’t want to do it again.

There were just 4 of us this time, Jason, Sarah, Richard and Me.

The gate on a building near to the start of the walk gave this warning.

I wasn’t sure if it meant strange looking people will be threatened with 1st WW rifles, or perhaps that people with unauthorised firearms would be intimidated by strange dancing men !.

 route Our guide Johan showed us this board which outlined the route.

Start to finish, the peak is 8 kilometres.

That’s about 3 times my daily walk to work, much steeper though, so it was going to be a lot harder.

This board shows the world records in different classes, for speed ascents of the route.

Two and a half hours odd to the top of the mountain seemed unimaginable.

 wfall The walk to the start of the route was really relaxing and we passed this waterfall.

Annoyingly all the comfort of the walk downhill to the start had to be made good as we were now at an even lower altitude than at the start.

Once again, the Park fee’s we paid had been put to good use.

The guides were all licensed, and carried identity cards and official credentials.

There were ready prepared steps throughout most of the lower sections of the walk and occasionally handrails like this one.

 flowers What was cool, was to see the change in vegetation, as we ascended higher.

The Nepenthes rajah is an insect eating plant.

 As we walked further, the colour of the steps and stone changed to this.  steps1
 gear Just like the Inca Trail we were passed fairly regularly by porters.

The difference here was that some of the ports carried parts to maintain/build some of the buildings at the stop of point above.

When I finally reached there, I noticed that one of the buildings had a washing machine.

I could only presume that it had been delivered by helicopter as I couldn’t imagine people carrying it up !.

 Further along, the steps become less pronounced and lighter in colour.  steps2
 turtle  I saw this Tortoise that someone had made by arranging stones at the side of the path.
 Further along the path it becomes more shaded and for a while, the rocks are gray in colour.  steps3
 hillside We stop of for a breather (one of many).

It was pretty obvious that Sarah was fitter than me, but Richard (photographed behind us) had almost athletic prowess.

Equipment wise, I took the same stuff as the Inca Trail, including my long sleeved Rohan shirt, my Karrimor Sabre daysack and my Karrimor KSB Boots (a companion on just about every trek for the last 10 years).

In my ruck, I carried water, a warm jumper, my Haglof goretex jacket and my head torch.

Camera on my belt so it was always ready and my whistle and mini torch around my neck on a piece of paracord.

 As we reach the staging post at the Laban Rata Hut our guide poses in front of these amazing clouds, attired in clothes I normally wear to eat a Sunday Lunch.  guide
 hut1 But the struggle wasn’t over !.

Our accommodation, was out at the top of this rocky scramble and although it had ropes, it took some going for me to get to the top.

I didn’t realise that the trip came with a complimentary Via Ferrata (I would have quite liked to do it, but with the level of exhaustion I was feeling I had to be realistic and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it).

It was on these rocks that people get roped up and practice the Via Ferrata.

I had been told the accommodation was fairly basic but I found it to be quite superb.

We each had a bunk, a sleeping bag. I had read on the internet that you should take a sheet sleeping bag, but they were provided.

There were even sinks and a flushing toilet which is fairly uncommon luxury for a mountain hut.

In the “common room” there were mountain pictures (some of them by Doug Scott) and as much coffee and snacks as you could eat and drink.

We stopped here for breakfast on the way back. Most of it was nice, but to this day, I have no idea what the Sausage was made from.

 night1 I have always been a bit skeptical of Alpine starts.

For me, unless ice is going to melt by the sun I just don’t see the point.

We set off at 2am and we went quite a long way along the wooden steps.

The Malays were quite the most polite walkers and trekkers I had ever met.

I had to stop fairly regularly to rest and each time all the people would stop behind me.

I had to explain that it was essential they overtook me, as the whole mountain would be at a virtual standstill for most of the morning.

At one point we reached this 70 degree angle and had to climb a rope hand over hand.

Our Petzle head torches proved to be essential.

Nobody mentioned 2 kilometres of rope.

 bankrobbers The Bank Robbers.

Full on Ski masks were popular among the local walkers.

My friend Jason had hung around with me up to this point but now the battle would be fought inside, between my comfort and my will.

I have never been a big fan of seeing Sunrises/Sunsets, they always seem to disappoint, so I told him to get cracking so that he could see it.

As the Sun rose, I realised why we had set off so early.

The angle of ascent was sole destroying (I had walked quite a long way in the dark and I think would have found it much harder to complete it if I had been able to see how steep the walk was).

 rope2 It also explained why sometimes the guides stop the walk at Laban Rata if the rain is heavy.

The granite is very smooth and at a steep angle.

In rainy conditions it would have been like a skating rink.

The rope in the picture is changed each year.

It had been hard work up to this point but I never once considered quitting.

You can see the view behind, down the mountain. The view of the clouds made all the effort worth it.

 finasc But there was more to do.

The actual peak itself (named Low’s peak) is at the top of a small pinnacle.

Its small in relative terms to the height of the mountain. In actual fact it was about a thousand feet.

Standing on Low’s Peak.

The actual peak was a lot smaller than I expected and there was a queue to stand on the top.

Earlier on the trip, I had asked my friend Jason to take the T Shirt to the top, and be photographed with it if anything happened to me like I broke my leg.

As it was this wasn’t necessary. My first 4000m peak, wearing my T Shirt.

 rope3 We head back down.

My feet were sore but the sense of euphoria that comes from experiences like this put a spring in my step and spurred me on.

We got back to our hut, rested for a bit and had a brew and some breakfast.

As we carried on down the lower sections of the route it started to rain.

Rock, that the previous day had been firm under foot suddenly became slippy.

I tried my “parkour” type descent which had served me well on Machu Picchu, but after I fell a couple of times I stuck to steady plodding.

 coke As we reach the end of the walk, our guide takes my camera and I pose for a photo.

A voice behind me ask’s if I would like a Can of Coke.

It was Sarah who very kindly paid for the Coke.

I can honestly say that I would have paid £100 for that Can, right at that moment !.

Jungle Trekking along the Salt Route in the Crocker Ranges, Borneo

gate We arrive at the start of the Salt Route, a trek through the Crocker Ranges.

The gates weren’t due to open until a certain time in the morning but we found a way to squeeze between them and set off.

We had to walk up this enormous hill to get to the ranger station and register.

Permits are required for most National Parks in Borneo.

This is a good idea, as the money is used to police the park, keep them clean and pay towards the education of the children who live in the villages.

 singapore Looking out from the Balcony we could see back to the ocean.

The view was spectacular but sadly my camera couldn’t fully capture it.

The Crocker Ranges National park is twice the size of Singapore.

 We wandered up hill through the Jungle.  trail2
 downhill  And we wandered downhill through the Jungle.
An inevitable part of traversing a Jungle is crossing a rope bridge (they aren’t made of hemp anymore, so cable bridge would perhaps be a better name).

Memory’s of Indiana Jones were awakened, and I was reminded that you should only cross one at a time, no matter how secure the bridge looks.

 rbspan  This picture shows a cross section of the bridge, giving some idea of its length.
This picture shows the height.

The water bellow is pretty fast flowing in the middle.

If you fell in you could be some way own the river before you the drag of the water stopped pulling you. You would also have been molested by the various parasites that live in the river.

 rcross1 On other occasions, it was necessary to do more basic river crossings.

There are some sophisticated ways to do this, including using a pole, 3 people holding onto each other, and various stuff involving ropes, or using your rucksack as a flotation device.

In this instance, we just walked quickly through the water being careful about where we put our feet.

Dan starts to cross.

 rest  And successfully completes the crossing assisted by a carefully placed walking pole.
We stop at one of the simple shelters along the route (some of them had been built by the Rotary club). On the left of this picture is the excellent Mr Mickey.

Although friendly, formalities were always adhered to. He called me Mr John and I called him Mr Mickey.

In the background, is one of Mr Mickey’s porters, and on the right, our own indigenous guide of the West Midlands, JK.

 villagehall Our first night. We have accommodation at the village hall. It was built by the Government, and belongs to the people of the village.

It was very comfortable and set the right balance (the villagers do get trekkers parading through their village occasionally, but they see the benefit from it in rent and the availability of a meeting hall).

Along the left, are the traditional chimes that Dan and I had seen in the Sabah Museum, early that week.

As I set up my bed for the night I regretted not bringing my thermarest. Since the hut was so warm, I didn’t actually need to sleep in my sleeping bag, so used that as an improvised mattress instead.

At the back of the room, is the Kitchen.

I hadn’t realised, that all our cooking would be done by the “lads”.

It was humbling to see them carry 3 times the weight of my rucksack, and when we finally arrive at our destination, their first thought was to make us a cup of tea and begin preparing our dinner.

 waterpur One thing I hadn’t realised, was just how isolated we were.

It wasn’t possible to buy water, it had to be pumped from the river.

It was then I found out, where the Trek takes its name.

Just about everything the villagers needed was provided by the Jungle.

The only exception to this was Salt which in times gone by, had to be carried in on the backs of porters.

I had heard a lot about Leeches in the Jungle.

They never actually “got” me, but Dan agreed to pose for this picture so that you can see what one looks like.

 downhill2 The following day we hit the trail again.

We wander downhill through dense jungle.

 We wander uphill through dense jungle (in a 3 stooges pose).  three
 bamboo2  Down again (this time through fallen bamboo).
 And then back to the flat.  bamboo
 jungleplant  Some of the amazing vegetation along the route.
 I didn’t see a lot of birds perched on this tree !.  spiketree
 vegwater A pond next to the path with a sort of weeping willow tree overhanging.

It looked very serene and peaceful, but I was told that the water in the pond was so dirty, it would give you dysentery just from contact with your eye’s.

The highest point on the trail, is marked with this sort of triangular “thing”.

Never mind, it was more about the celebration than the “monument”.

We knew at this point, that the path wouldn’t go any higher.

 wardenhut As we reach our next destination by late afternoon.

We arrive at the ranger station (there were no bears there looking for picnic baskets).

I was delighted to see that the local lads had made this superb hammock using bailing twine.

They were busy making another when we arrived.

I gave the hammock a try-out, and it was very comfortable, if a little short.

 bath We all rest, and get cleaned up as best we can.

The bridge above Dan, would feature heavily, in the following mornings adventures.

I decide its time to put my hammock into action (after some minor mithering by JK, who correctly told me I would regret it, if I didn’t spend a night in my hammock, in the Jungle).

I consult with JK the self styled God of Hammocks for technical assistance.

 hammock2 JK points out that the key to the success of the project is the sitting of the hammock.

We find 2 appropriately distanced trees and then tie up (the hammock, not each other).

At this point, its essential to lie in the hammock and take the stretch out of it.

Once done you get out and re-tighten it, repeating the process until all the stretch is gone.

There will always be a little stretch left, but this adds to the comfort and overall sleeping experience.

Camouflage isn’t normally my colour but the Hammock I bought had been recommended by JK and it was certainly up to the job.

It had a very comfortable base, a sewn in mozzy net and a basha to go over the top and keep out the rain.

Various modifications were recommended like sticks tied in to stop drips and gaffa tape which insects wont walk across.

I decided since it was a first outing that I would stick with convention.

 hammock4 The view from inside my Hammock.

I didn’t need a sleeping bag at all, and just slept in my sleeping bag liner.

I didn’t realise, just how exhausted I was, and rested/slept in there for nearly 20 hours.

I woke with a start at one point but thought nothing of it.

I found out in the morning that a water buffalo had attacked the hammocks and JK had been forced to get out of “bed” and chase it away.

 Earlier in the afternoon, I caught up with the lads (over black tea) as they played cards.  cards
 rb0 In the morning, I wake early and decide to go exploring.

JK had mentioned a bridge that was quite “exciting”.

You can see on my right, that the support strut is missing.

As I head out across the bridge it lists heavily to one side.

I keep a tight hold and pose for this picture (one of my favourite’s throughout all my travels).

 rb2 What’s this !.

The children from the local village set off for school.

Unlike at home in England, where education is perceived to be free, and therefore not valued, these children are on a mission to get to school, and won’t allow anything to get in their way.

…Not even me.

As I calmly explain to the Children that we will need to pass each other carefully, they are having none of it.

They boldly charge across the bridge and I am forced to grab the cable on my right.

The cable offered little more than psychological support and for one terrifying moment I thought I was actually going to fall into the water 40 feet bellow.

 rb4 I quickly make my way back to the front of the bridge and not a moment too soon.

Another legion of Children are about to head across.

The “lead” child (a girl of about 13) smiled at me, but looked as though she wondered what the hell I was doing in the Jungle. At that moment I wondered as well !.

Up and out.

We quickly pack our stuff away and continue along the route.

You can see from this picture, that some of it was very thick mud, which took some real work to traverse through.

 pfields  Further along and things dry out a little as we wander across the paddy field of another nearby village.
There was some debate to the correct name of these creatures.

I thought they were wild boars. It was pointed out that since they lived on a farm they weren’t any more wild than me.

Domestic Boars, Farm Boars, Field Boars, none of them seemed to sound quite right.

On the bottom right of the picture, you can see a superb example of primitive technology put to work.

With a few chops of the Parang, this piece of bamboo becomes a perfect trough for the Boars (type unknown).

 biglog A section of the trail was flooded due to rain.

Mr Mickey, had worked out an exit route for us.

We wandered downhill for a while, through a demolished forest, and we pass under this enormous felled log.

The first time I’ve seen a road for 3 days, we head up this track, to get to our extraction point (does that sound too military ?).

It was really hard work and Dan and I had to focus really hard, to get to the top.

Luckily JK and Richard were there to motivate us. By taking of up the hill as fast as they could, and not even glancing backwards, Dan and I knew we were all in the thick of it together :(.

 rain We reach our camp, and are once again (thankfully) put up in the local village hall.

At that moment, the heavens opened.

You can see from this picture why its called the rain forest.

Another game of cards is pursued and some “cans” are procured by a colleague of Mr Mickey.

We also got a few cans of coke as well. We had plenty of water, but there was nothing as refreshing as the taste of Coca Cola.

 streetcred In the morning, we all pack up to return home.

Mr Mickey, Ridley and the others reverted to “street” dress, and they can be seen here in Rip Curl and other designer labels.

For the final morning the lads decide to take it easy and not cook breakfast.

Instead they take us to a cafe frequented by locals as a treat (which they very kindly paid for).

I didn’t feel much like eating so I just drank some water.

It was interesting to see the kind of place that a typical KK resident would take breakfast in.

 frogeel Also interesting were some of the more exotic foodstuffs on display.

The tank to the left is full of live Eels and the one to the right live frogs.

What a brilliant trip.

Id like to thank Dan, Richard and JK for their company and putting up with me during this adventure.

I have to say that some adventures, are pretty uncomfortable when your doing them, and that the real joy comes from reliving the experience. This was one of them.

I would also like to thank Mr Mickey, Ripley and the others (who’s names I heard but couldn’t pronounce, let alone spell) for making it such a superb trip.


Alpine mountaineering course in the Swiss Alps.

meglacier On the first day of the course, we went to a glacier to practice moving around with crampons and ice axes, and stuff like that.

I was delighted to find, that all my equipment worked perfectly.

 Everyone puts on their equipment. gearedup
 philinst  Phil instructs in the use of ice axes, and moving accross uneven ground.
 The group practice ice climbing on a conveniently sized ice wall.  iceclimb
 indcr  That evening, the lads I was sharing an apartment with, decided to practice crevasse rescue (a key technique in Alpine mountaineering) in the living room !.
The following day, we set off, for a 2 day excursion to the Dix Alpine hut. This is a picture of the hut in the distance, as we walked up from Arolla.

Although I was much fitter than before, everyone else had been getting fitter as well, and I quickly found myself at the back.

The walking poles I bought were really useful, and I reminded myself of the Brian Tracey quote “by the yard its hard, but by the inch its a synch”.

 dixhut The Dix hut from outside.

It was a beautiful hut, and all the more beautiful for being so isolated.

A few of the locals had brought 3 generations of their family up for dinner, and the evening out.

They even had Swiss army knives with the hut name and logo on them (I bought one for Sarah).

The cost of drinks in the hut, was a little expensive, but I had a few beers and wine, and the evening was quite fun.

The first night, couldn’t sleep due to the altitude, but by the 2nd night, I was fine.

 twid  It’s very hard to get an Alpine guide to pose seriously for a picture.
 In the hut during the evening, the mountain rescue helicopter landed outside and many of the Children (and me) all went outside to watch it take off.  copter
 outsidehut In the morning, we got up to do various activities. The view from the hut was impressive.

In the bottom left of the picture is a PYB instructor called Martin, who had been to the top of Everest.

This mountain was the first thing you could see, when you walked out of the front door, of the hut.

I could hardly believe the angle of this mountain, the sides formed almost a perfect triangle.

 alpscenes A glacier up towards the Pign D Arrola.

A few of the lads actually got to climb this, but although I was much fitter than previous trips, the blisters on my feet limited me a bit.

 Instead, I walked back from the hut with Phil a qualified Alpine guide (it is illegal to guide or lead in France or Switzerland without this qualification).  phil
 metop Phil showed me this mountain, and with his help I got to the top. At 3015 metres it is the highest I have ever climbed.

I ended up going home, the following day, but I had a brilliant time.

I would like to thank Twid and Martin, and especially Phil from PYB for an amazing trip and for all their help and assistance.

2 Youth Hostels, Soup & Magnificent 7.


Just after Nikki returned from Ski-ing, we headed for Liverpool to see Jimmy Carr live at the Liverpool Philharmonic.

It was a bit of a faf, as we had to get a replacement bus.

I was really looking forward to it, but he wasnt that good (it wasnt helped by the fact that many of the audiance appeared to have spent the afternoon in the pub).

We left in the interval and had a couple of drinks in Liverpool before returning home.


The following weekend, Nikki and I headed to a Youth Hostel called Ravenstore. I quite like Youth Hostels as they are usualy informal, pretty cheap and located in the best parts of the countryside.

We love the Peak District and it was a chance to catch up with an old friend called Cheryle, who moved down to Birmingham and who we dont see as often as we’d like.

Driving straight from work, we had dinner in a country pub on the way, then met up with everyone in the hostel and had a few drinks.

We met a group (3 generations of a family with some freinds). They were planning their own walk the next day. When we asked where they were going, they were a bit vague.

No matter, we respected their privacy and wished them a good day on the hill the next day.


We met Cheryl through the walking group and loads of other members of the group had come along.

So it was logical, that we’d spend the days out walking (and the evenings drinking good bear and wine and eating pie and mash).

We wander along a section of the Monsal trail.


I’ve walked the Monsal trail previously with my friend Frank and a few times since (they’ve actually opened up the tunnels now, so you can do the original route the railway line would have taken rather than the twisty around one which I personally prefer).


The view from the to of a one time railway bridge.


Brian has chosen a “hybrid” route, and we quickly find ourselves on a section of the Limestone way.


We come to a hill overlooking this Quarry.

There is actually right of way, and we follow a path which goes right through it.

By now it was late afternoon, so we stopped by the Quarry and had lunch.


As we continue along, I see this old air raid shelter. I tried exploring inside it, but it wasn’t very big.


The trail carried on for a few more hours.

We came to a pub.

We’d normally have a drink to finish the walk, then go back to the hostel to get cleaned up before heading out for dinner.

The pub was very busy, so we opted for a early dinner with a couple of pints.

Once back at the hostel, we got cleaned up and it was a chance to catch up with old friends.

I was delighted to find that YHA establishments now stock Moretti beer.


In the morning, we have breakfast.

Chatting with the 3 generation group we’d previously spoken too, it turned out they had gone on a walk led by the “son” who had no map and used a phone.

Suffice to say they’d got lost and spent a lot of time walking along the road. They were using the trip as “prep” for a charity walking along the great wall of China.

We invited them to join us on our walk.

The 2nd day is normally a shorter walk, designed to finish around 2pm. Brian had designed an amazing walk to take in all of the countryside in the vicinity around the hostel.



Another mingle of the Limestone way and the Monsal trail with some steep hills and spectacular views.

By 2pm, we’d finished. One of my lasting memories of the trip, was our guests thanking Brian and saying how much they’d enjoyed the walk (and they genuinely looked enthralled).

That’s pretty much how I feel whenever I go walking, and I’m delighted they’ve chosen to join the walking family.


A bit of random stuff now.

With my new “super-kitchen” I’ve started cooking again.

One of the things I love to make is soup.

I think after hillwalking, soup is my favourite way to relax.


On another weekend, we head off to summit Moel Siabod.

Unfortunately, there’s driving rain.

I own waterproofs and if your a walker, you cant be fickle about the weather .

That being said, I refuse to walk for hours in driving rain, so I politely stepped back from the walk (I’d hope the weather would improve on the way there).

Normally, I’d have sat in the car until the 3 other walkers returned, but luckily I was able to relax in the famous Moel Siabod cafe.

I had some lunch and coffee, and later a bottle of wine.

In the 4 hours I was there, I was able to read numerous copies of trail and other outdoor magazines and put plans together for 20 trips over the next 3 years.

So not a complete wast of time. My walking “companions” didn’t get to the top, as with altitude, the rain turned to snow.


Another interesting talk at the Chester Globetrotters the other week.

One I found fascinating, was about Swaziland (the worlds only remaining full Monarchy).

It also featured a Brilliant talk by Kevin (one of the organisers) about a trip around the middle east.

He’d given the talk previously, but I’d missed it, so I was made up to finally see it.


I’ve recently taken over the management of the Globetrotters mailing list.

If you aren’t on it, and want to be, please get in touch and I’ll sort it out (thanks so much to Reggie for recommending mail-chimp which we use to run it).


On the subject of things on at Chester Museum, the Chester Film Society have started to put performances on there.

Additionally, I got a call the other morning from my friend Dave at the walking group. Turns out that evening (also at the Grosvenor Museum) there was a travel talk, put on by the Society of 13.

The Soc13 as I call them (it makes them sound like some sort of black ops outfit, which they clearly aren’t) put on talks and events.

That evening, they were hosting John Pilkington in partnership with the Royal Geographical society. It was the first time I’d been to one of their events. It was very well organised and I even ran into Nikki’s parents who were also there.

The talk, Russia and Europe: what next was absolutely fascinating. He had stood on the hillside from the charge of the light brigade, taken photo’s in Chernobyl and drank Tea in a bombed building.

It’s showing throughout the year at different places, if you get the chance go and see it.


My cycling to work is proceeding well.

I now cycle 3 miles to work from Capenhurst.

On the way back, I now cycle all the way home. At 13 miles per day, I’m coming up on my 300th mile.


My bike locked up at my office in Ellesmere Port.

It still amazes me, that some people just lean their bike against the rack.

I think differently. I grew up in Newton Heath after all. If something isnt locked and you leave it, it might as well be gone already.


When I was 7, mum was taking David and I to school. During the drive there, she said there would be a suprise for us when we get home.

We did everything we could to get mum to tell us, but she was tight lipped.

When she picked us up from school, she made us wait until we got home, and then, there it was. Our black and white tv had gone and in its place was an amazing colour tv.

I cant describe the elation as we flicked through the channels and all the programs I normaly watch seemed to jump into life in colour.

We washed our hands and faces and then had tea (dinner if your from the South) and then we sat together and watched my first colour film, The Magnificent Seven.

Chez Jules in Chester have an event on upstairs in their restaurant, where you have dinner and watch a classic film

So there, all those years later, Nikki and I went to see Mag7 once again. What a fantastic experience, which I’d definitely recommend.


Our 2nd weekend away in March was to Snowdonia.

Picked up at 5pm from work and we set off.

Since the clocks had gone back, it was nice to be driving in daylight.


We returned to my favourite place in Snowdonia, Llanberis, once again staying at the Youth Hostel there.

We cooked some dinner, opened a bottle of wine and settled in for the evening.


In the morning, we head into the town to meet our friends from the Chester and District Walking Group.

Our meeting point was the legendary Pete’s Eat’s where they sell food in large portions and pint mugs of tea.


Our goal for the day, was a circuit over and back around a mountain called Moel Elio, which we’d nicknamed the Elephants back (more about that later).

We’d walked it previously, which is always the preferred way to lead a walk.

You can see the hill was quite steep.


After a couple of hours walking, were at the top, and you can see all the way to the top.

It was quite windy, so we found a spot behind a wall and had lunch.


Dropping back and circling around, you can see Moel Elio from the side and why we call it the Elephants back.

Back into town for a drink and a chat with our friends. From here, they all head home and Nikki and I return to the Youth Hostel.


A sit down and a bottle of Moretti beer, then off for a shower and get cleaned up.


We had a dinner booking at the Peak Restaurant.

I really like it there, as they sell “normal” food like beef and ale pie, but in a fine dining style (and Nikki really likes the wine there).

Some chocolate cake to wash it down, a few more drinks and then off to bed (it had been a long day, but we had more adventures planned for the following day).


Up early and we drive out of Llanberis, towards Snowdon.

Parking near the Vaynol arms pub, we set off with Nikki taking the lead.


Elidir Fawr was our goal.

But this wasn’t a hill walk in the normal sense.

It’s one of the Snowdon 3000’s and its a brutal 1:2 gradient over heath (there’s no path to speak off, and frequently involves scrambling).


After an agonising walk, we get to the top.

Therese a sort of “birds” nest of rocks which is appreciated as its very windy.

The spot is said to feature the best overall view of Snowdon.


Looking towards Snowdonia.

We met up with a fell runner who had jogged over from Llanberis (it had only taken him an hour).


The view in the other direction was incredible.


As we head back down the hill, we pass the reservoir that feeds Snowdonia’s famous power station “hidden” inside a mountain.


At the bottom we have a drink the Vaynol Arms before heading home.


Traffic is terrible on way home, so we stop in Llandudno and have fish and chips.

While there, I see the Grand hotel on the sea front, a place a used to see frequently on caravan holidays in my youth.

Just like the Snake Pass Inn, I’ve always promised myself that I’d go back there and so I’ve added it to my mind-map for this year (along with completing all the Snowdon 3000’s).

Adventures in London.


I’m pretty switched on about stuff, and I’m on a lot of mailing lists for deals on travel, hotels, theatre and stuff like that.

One of my key information tools on my adventure journey is that I work in an office with some Millennials.

They literally know everything that’s going on. My friend Matt mentioned that Virgin were doing a seat sale and why didn’t I have a look and see if there was anything that suited me.

As usual, it was cheap going there one day, and expensive coming back the next. But, I found I could travel from Chester to London at 7:30am and come home again 6:10pm for £20 return trip.

I booked it 10 mins later and Nikki and I began planning our fast track trip to London.


We prepared our own breakfast and made our way to the train (Chester station is only 5 minutes from my house).

Just to the left of this picture, you can see a lone head. Its Nikki, this was our Jeremy Corbyn moment…

We had an entire carriage to ourselves, and I took this shot as I was returning after getting coffee’s


We used the 3 star system that has served me well in trip all over the world and made a list of place to see.

I knew all too well that things can end up taking longer than you intend and this can have a knock on effect for the next and subsequent places you want to visit.

So, strict discipline to the clock throughout the day.



Other important thing was getting around. I much prefer to wander on foot while exploring, but to see everything we’d need to travel almost exclusively on the London Underground.

We emerge from the Tower of London tube-station.


It was a lot cheaper to book things online and print your own tickets.

It also meant you could just walk straight in, without queuing which was ace.

Once inside, we see a talk by one of the Beefeater’s.

A beefeater must have served in her Majesty’s forces for 22 years before applying to work at the Tower. It must be pretty cool, as they get to live there as well.

With limited time, head off on our own.


The Crown Jewels are obviously a must see sight, and known for their enormous queue’s.

We’d factored this into our plans and put it first on our list.

No photographs can be taken inside, but I thought they were quite splendid, regardless on your thoughts about the Monarchy.


Unsure of the protocol when speaking to the Guards, I asked if it would be ok to photograph him. He remained completely motionless.

I said “I’m going to presume its ok” then took the shot and said “Thank you”.

I can only imagine the 10’s of thousands of pictures he appears in, in photo albums all around the world.


Another section of Tower, is the fusiliers museum, a regiment who are based here (there were video’s of men training for the 2nd world war in the grounds).

Inside, it had 2 Victoria Crosses, and this Napoleonic Eagle, captured in the Peninsula war (which I heard was the inspiration for similar events in the book/tv series Sharp).

There was some stuff about a steel boot and how it had helped to stop desent in the regiment.

I couldn’t imagine what they meant, until a read it. Basicaly a shirker had an injury to his leg, which he claimed would not heal.

They made a steal boot that was locked and would completely enclose the leg. And sure enough a week later, it had healed (and he got 50 lashes).


The white tower is an incredibly beautiful building.

It has has stood in the grounds of the Tower of London for 900 years.

Inside it had loads of old suits of armour and swords, which frankly I found a bit dull.


It’s said that if the Ravens ever leave the tower, it will crumble and fall.

There are always 6 Ravens, and they have a spare just in case.

I had read that their wings are clipped so they cant fly away. I was surprised to find that they were in cages anyway, I presume this was to protect the general public as they can be quite viscous.


We got up onto the battlements and walked all the way around.

There was an interesting sign about the Duke of Wellington.

I hadn’t realised, that for a period of time, Wellington had actually been Prime Minister.

On one occasion in the house, during a debate, he took issue at something his debating opponent had said, and challenged him to a duel !.


But this is tourism after all.

As we wander along I offer to buy Nikki a gift and crown her as my Queen.

She comments that she would like to “crown” me, but in an entirely different way.

She eventually declines my kind offer and says she wants to be sick !.


Tower bridge, frequently confused with London Bridge is somewhere very special.

Its an iconic symbol of my country and so you might be surprised to hear that I’ve never walked across it.


We could see enormous queues for the Tower bridge tour (originally built by the Victorians it was steam powered until 1987).

Everything is running to schedule, so when we reach the opposite bank, we take some time to wander along the bank of the Thames.


Its getting on for 1pm, so we stop for dinner at a traditional London pub called the Mudlark.

Nikki has fish and chips and I have Pie and mash.

Washed down with a few drinks, we are suitably re-energised and continue on our way.


I took this picture back across the river (it reminded me of the sort of think you see in Lucky Man).

It features famous London buildings like the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin.

I can only imagine how much extra it costs to make a building that isn’t the normal square shape.


Only 10 days earlier a terrorist atrocity had resulted in 5 deaths, including a Police officer.

We were passing by on our way to see another popular attraction.

A sobering moment, but democracy and freedom come at a cost.


The classic statue of Winston Churchill gives a hint of where were going next.


Outside, people are queuing for upto 2 hours, to get inside and see the Cabinet rooms.

If they’d just taken 5 minutes to book online, they could have walked straight in as we did.


The cabinet war rooms, has many rooms setup roughly as they would have been during the 2nd world war, when the war effort was co-ordinated from here.

In many ways similar to Bletchley park. This room, was Churchill’s telephone room, which gave him a secure, direct line to Roosevelt, the American president.


The venue also has a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill.

To be honest, I’m quite well read on Churchill, so I’d seen/read most of it before and there wasn’t anything in the museum that really jumped out at me.

Instead, this replica of 10 Downing streets door, which features some comments he made on becoming prime minister.


The thing I really came to see.

OK, a minor moan. Just like Bletchley park and similar venues, they have rooms with some old wallpaper, and old desk and some other stuff, and say its a re-creation of Alan Turings desk, re-creation of Churchill’s bedroom etc.

But its not really is it ?

However, at the end of the 2nd world war, the door to the Map Room was locked and it remained exactly as it was until it was re-opened decades later.

It was here, that war was fought. Completely authentic and you could feel history as you looked at it.


It didn’t take long for me to see everything I wanted to at the Cabinet rooms, and we were once again above ground.

As I said earlier, freedom and democracy aren’t free.

After wandering through St James Park, I made a point of visiting the National Police Memorial, to pay my respects to PC Palmer who had been killed in the recent attack.

This isn’t a political site, and I wont get into the one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter thing.

What I will say, is that a man got up that morning, kissed his wife, hugged his son and then went out to work, not knowing he’d never return.


It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen much, but its getting towards the end of the day.

As we walk towards Trafalgar square, you can see the sky. The weather was amazing, all day.


Our final trip is the National Gallery.

Some of the most amazing paintings in the world hang here, and its free to visit.

But its also quite modern and contemporary, apparently there’s a picture of the Smith’s in here somewhere.

Knowing we had limited time, I looked on their website, and they said if you only have an hour, these are the 30 must see pictures.

Nikki and I managed to see 20 + of them.


And then, the best bit.

The Fighting Temeraire as featured in the James Bond film Skyfall where Bond and the new ‘Q’ meet for the first time.

Well, a fab day complete, we head back to Euston station (I wasn’t looking forward to it, they have an awful pub and Macdonalds and not much else…).


But I was wrong. The pub has closed down and a load of new places have opened.

We get a beer and a glass of wine at Gino’s Italian. Quiet and relaxing, the perfect end to an amazing day.

A bottle of wine on the train home and then dinner at Artichoke in Chester.

Can’t wait for the next £10 deal, I’ll keep “monitoring” the millennials, stay tuned.

Snow, new initiatives and foxes.


It’s ironic to be frustrated by the difficult decision of where to go for the years “big trip”.

After much deliberation, its Namibia.

The cost of visiting Namibia is extremely expensive (and that’s comparing it to places like Cuba and Myanmar (Burma) which weren’t 50p either!).

However it has some incredible sites like the one above, of entire ships left in the desert of the skeleton coast.

It also features extensively in Wilbur Smith’s novel the Burning Shore. Sadly, I wont get to meet any real San bushmen but it isn’t a bushcraft course after all (Nikki wouldn’t be going if it was) and we get to meet  other indigenous tribes.


As some of you know, we go away for the whole of Christmas and New Year every alternative year (and why not, when else can you get 9 or 10 consecutive days off for an investment of 3 days holiday).

This time, we’ve decided to visit Sicily. It’s our usual format, where we visit 4 destinations for 2 nights each (although what those are has yet to be researched on the big computer on a wet Sunday mentioned later 🙂


Valentines came around again, and the usual juxtaposition of the flowers being delivered to me and then me bringing them home and giving them to Nikki.

As usual, I cooked, although this year I moved away from Jamie Oliver Sea-bass, and instead made a fusion mix of Chinese starters and a Thai main (green curry).

It was different in other ways too. Since the tragic departure of Tom from Corks Out, we’ve sort of fallen out of love with the place. So for the first time, the wine was sourced (as an experiment) from Waitrose. It was really nice, and I plan to attend a wine tasting there soon.


Chester has also benefited from the opening of a new wine bar in town. Veeno has been a fixture of Liverpool for a while and they have opened a place in Chester right near the town hall, in what used to be a pasty shop.

We really like it there.


But back to valentines.

This year, in addition to valentines day celebrations, we’d decided to go away for a weekend together.

Some years ago, My brother David, Mac, Cazzie and Lee all drove out on a Saturday afternoon to Snake pass (Mac was the only one of us who could drive at the time and we got there in a Ford Escort he’d borrowed from his mum).

We stopped on the pass at a hotel and bar called the Snake Pass Inn.

The weather was amazing and the ramblers bar was full. People were sitting in the car park drinking and talking and the atmosphere was excellent.

In the main hotel, families with men in shirt and tie, were settling down to Sunday lunch.

For no reason I can remember, we went down through the forest next to the river and played football. A day I’ll never forget.

So with so many happy memories for me, it seemed an ideal venue for our weekend away.


Well times have changed a bit. The place is a bit run down, doesn’t have such well to do clientèle and has been up for sale for 4 years.

Worse, the previous management had walked out 4 days before we arrived.

I was a bit concerned at first but then thought better of it. Its a traditional coaching house in the middle of nowhere and we were happy to be there just relaxing.

A stand in manager was on site with various volunteers and some Dunkirk spirit.

We had something nice to eat and some reasonable wine.


During the daytime, the plan was obviously to do some walking (there are a dozen excelent routes right outside the front door).

At this time of year, as a walker you plan for everything, but this view through the window at breakfast was still a shock.


No matter, we got ready and set off.

A good route would take us up the valley and back down to one of our favourite places in the Peak District, Hayfield.

If we timed it right, we could get there, have fish and chips from the chippy and trot back.

Better still, if time was on our side we could do a quick side route on the way back to Kinder Downfall (a famous waterfall in the area).


The temperature was freezing.

Because of the snow, it was very difficult times to work out where the path went so sometimes we were just smashing through bogs, which left our feet very wet.


Logistics weren’t on our side, and it didn’t look like we’d make Hayfield and back before dark (and from the picture above, you can see this wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be at nightfall).

However, the view of the countryside was fantastic and we were in high spirits, so we headed for Kinder Downfall.

Weather conditions worsened (ice had frozen onto my hat and waterproof jacket).

We decided to turn back, and do it again in the summer.

Overall, a fab day out and this time, Steak for dinner.


After a fun evening in the bar with a roaring fire, we headed for bed exhausted.

Our room was a bit cold, so I “shored up” our quilt with a combination of down and fleece jackets.


In the morning another fab breakfast (one great thing about hill walking, if your out for the day, you can eat a full English without any feelings of guilt as you’ll burn of all of that and more).

A shorter route today, as we’ll be heading home in the afternoon.

We head down through the forest this time. This was the place on a sunny day all those years ago, that I actually played football without complaining I was so happy.


There’s still snow everywhere and wandering further we come to this bridge and cross the river.


We wander along the valley in the other direction. I remember my brother saying years ago, that the place looked like Canada.


We’d already checked out of the hotel, but we popped back in to change our wet clothes and had coffee before setting off.

I saw this amazing board, which had pictures of the pass frequently blocked by snow. In this picture, there were 15 feet snow drifts which had been cleared with multiple snow ploughs.

That was after people in the pub had been stranded for several days, drank the bar dry and at one point had to burn furniture to keep warm.


It’s time to head home and once again, the pass is blocked due to snow and we have to drive the long way back.

I also notice that they now have a new sign 🙂

Thing is, this place might not be what it once was, but the only difference now, is that less people seem to go there.

You can change that if you want.


The only reason I have money and time to do the adventures I do, is because I’m pretty organised.

This Merino wool jumper from Rohan is perfect in just about every way a jumper can be.

With one exception. It just looks awful on me.

So last week I put it on ebay and sold it.

Interestingly, I now have some money to spend on adventures and dont have this guilt thing of not wearing it hanging over me.


On the subject of organisation and ideas. My idea factory.

Goals for the year are always listed (and reviewed) in brief in my mind map.

Activities are organised in my week/weekend planner (email me if your thinking of doing something similar or have a similar system, I’d love to discuss it).

The essential 3rd process is the brainstorming, where the ideas actually come from. I call this my idea factory, and I thought I’d explain how I do it in case its useful to someone.

Venue: A proper pub. An empty house is too quiet for my thought process and a well run pub won’t have noisy idiots or anything like that.

Equipment: Relevant magazines and books and my notebook and pen (I normally use my space pen, but on this occasion had this one from advanced bionics).

I can use my phone to check dates in my calendar but no other purpose. Remember that this is just the capture process, and research that comes from it will be done on a wet Sunday on a powerful computer with 2 enormous monitors). Oh, and finaly a pint of Moretti, Asahi, Peroni or Budvar.

From here, I’ll normally get about 20 ideas, which may vary from 2 weeks in Cuba to cooking a particular meal.

Typically, of the 20, 2 will be infeasible, 4 will be put on the mindmap for the following year.

The remaining 14 will be fully researched and then completed (with enthusiasm)  as quickly as possibly.


One idea I had recently was losing a significant amount of weight for 2 ambitious walking trips I’m intending to do later this year (Hadrians wall, 20 miles + per day and Mount Toubkal in Morocco a 4000m peak.

There’s loads of information out there about losing weight, but in its essence it creating a calorific deficit (or taking more calories out, than you put in).

So, first thing, is recording and measuring. My friend Julie recommended a website/app combination called Nutracheck. Using it, I work out a plan of how many calories I can eat per day, and ideally how many calories I should burn in exercise. Plan is to lose 10% of my bodyweight by the 8th of May (or the weight of 1.5 old style Dell 15 inch monitors for those that remember them).


The next thing is exercise.

I absolutely love walking, but it just doesn’t burn calories fast enough around work in the winter.

I’m really into cycling at the moment, so instead of getting 2 trains to work, I get on the first one with my bike and then cycle to the office (3.2 miles) and do the reverse at the end of the day.


So far, everything is going to plan and I’ve lost 8 pounds.

People have asked me how I’m making it work so well, and the honest answer is something I read by Tony Robbins. The key is to make things real to you (ie find something personal that you connect with).

When I see a chocolate bar and feel like eating it, will the idea that I’ll feel better in myself or increase my concentration by eating more vegetables motivate me to stop ?

Off course not. What will actually focus and motivate me ?.

  1. When I cycle home, I get home 45min earlier than I would if I got 2 trains. That’s almost 4 hours a week, and I can do a lot with that time.
  2. I have a box in my wardrobe with some of my favourite clothes I can no longer wear. When I hit goal weight I’ll be able to wear any of them I like.


Just to prove that adventure is everywhere, as part of my weight loss plan, I try to go for a walk at lunchtime 3 days out of 5.

The other day I spotted this fox near some railways lines.


If you look on the top right of the screen, you may see a countdown timer and a few people have asked me what its for.

Well, if you have a normal job in the UK, there will be 141 days in the typical year when you can go out in pursuit of adventure if you want to.

I dont think I’ve ever done all 141 but I constantly strive to do as many as I can. I also list all my planned adventures on a whiteboard next to my bathroom at home (its the first room I walk into each day).

The countdown is too my next adventure and updated each time its completed.

This weekend I’m going to see Alan Carr, walking up Moel Siabod, cycling 16 miles, going wine tasting and eating at a Brazilian steak house.

The following weekend were off walking in the Peak District staying at Ravenstore Youth Hostel (my first visit).

Its organised by my old friend Cheryl from CDWG who now lives in Birmingham and did something similar on a trip to Ironbridge a few years ago.

Near and far the search for adventure continues…