Month: September 2016

Busy weekend.


More updated adventure trips on the right.

Most of the summer trips have now been completed, and I’m in between that and some international trips in October and November.

It’s at this time of year that I concentrate on what I call adventures at home… I’ve decided to write about that, and try to capture what goes on during a typical weekend.

Nikki and I dont usually see that much of each other during weekday evenings (unless were on holiday). We normally set aside the entire weekend that starts as soon as I’m off the train on Friday evening.

On this occasion, Nikki was meeting her friend Caroline, so I used the time at home to finish off some jobs.

I’m trying to finish off my house ready for my Barbecue. Lots of friends and family I don’t see often are coming, and the day promises more than a few surprises.

I seem to do little else than organising, tidying and DIY at the moment, but I know when I eventually put up the “Weltevreden” sign it will all be worth it.

One thing I did find time to do, was make a Jamie Oliver recipe, Beef & Guinness pie.

I knew I’d been overdoing it, when I sat down at 10:30, drifted off to sleep and woke again at midnight.


So, I had an extra hour in bed on Saturday and I was up at 9.

The sun was out, and I always say, on a sunny day, there’s nowhere more beautiful than Chester.

I start by spending 45 minutes relaxing in the park.


I popped by the Chester Model Shop, where Paul and the lads had been beavering away to restore my Hornby train.

Superb job complete, I picked up my train, shake hands, pay them and then on my way.

I haven’t put a picture of the train up yet, the whole “action” is going to be launched at my Barbecue in about 2 weeks.


I found a nice pub, and did 2 hours more study for our trip to Burma and Laos.

After this, I headed over to Chester Museum to attend the Chester Globetrotters meeting. There were 2 interesting talks about Bhutan and Africa.

I was compering this time and I thought the event went really well.

I’ve recently taken over the running of the mailing list for Globetrotters, so was able to demo a system called mailchimp which I think will offer significant improvements.

A few drinks in the Eagle with the Globetrotters crew (a highly knowledgable group, I love to “trawl” information about places over a pint) and then we leave  to have dinner at Moules a go go.

A pleasant meal, service was good, but I can’t help thinking their new restaurant lacks the atmosphere of the old one.

We have a couple of drinks in Urbano 32, probably my favourite place to go out in Chester.

My drinking tastes have changed over time. It was said by Tom, formerly of Corks Out that it was better to drink less wine of a higher quality.

I do that, but I’ve also stolen the concept and use it for beer.

Instead of 7 or 8 pints of Carling or Fosters, I now drink 3 or 4 pints of either Peroni, Moretti (both Italian) or Asahi from Japan. They serve pints of cold Moretti here and I have 3 frosty cold pints to finish off the day.


We’ve got plans for the afternoon, but in the morning, there’s time for a catch up and for Nikki and I to synchronise our calendars (we normally do this on a Friday evening in Nikki’s open plan kitchen but for this project, my converted loft office is the venue).

We’ve planned and booked a weekend visiting Bletchley park and the National Museum of computing in about 6 weeks. While booking, I saw that Cats was being shown at the Milton Keynes theatre on Saturday night. I was initially very keen, but the cheapest seats I could find were £50 so it will have to be the cinema instead 🙂


I was delighted to see that Sir Chris Bonington is giving a talk at Glydwr University in Wrexham.

How could I possibly miss that?


And just to show the diversity of my interests, I’ve booked to go and see Two pence to cross the Mersey and a talk by Jordan Belfort (the actual person featured in the Wolf of Wallstreet).


Sometimes I like to “package up” a trip I know I’m not going to do for a while.

That way, when I do have time I can just pick it up and organise things really quickly.

One such trip, is Hadrian’s wall in Cumbria. Opening in in 2003, it was the first time a person could walk its full length in almost 2000 years.

Last year I worked out how many days, chopped up the route and picked places to stay, worked out the train logistics (one to Newcastle, one back from Carlisle) and a company to transfer bags.

We’ve decided to go in Easter next year, so we were able to book and organise everything in less than 20 minutes, as hard work had been done in advance.

I’m going to be writing up a plan for friends from the Chester and District Walking Group to join us, I hope to have it emailed out by the end of the week.


With all the work done, and a bath full of coffee drunk, it was time to head out.

We had some wine at Corks Out (they have a very clever vending machine there, which means you can try all different kinds of wine).

We introduce ourselves to the new manager, who seems distracted (that’s the nice way of saying he wasn’t interested in talking to us 🙁

Chester’s original theatre closed several years ago. A new theatre called Storyhouse is nearing completion and will provide a world class venue (and in the nicest way, better do, for the money its costing).

What I didn’t realise was a small studio theatre has opened in the basement of the old theatre. A retelling of the 39 steps, with 4 actors who between them play 130 characters.

It had everything I love about theatre. Genuine charisma and improvisation. No special effects: a box, 3 chairs and a plastic wheel becomes a car with 4 passengers.

Some of the off the wall humour was hilarious including a scene with a street light and picture frames as improvised windows.

Only showing for another week, if you get the chance, definitely go and see it.


In a jovial and reflective mood, we head back to Corks Out and have 3 different glasses of wine.

We’re getting hungry now. A restaurant we’ve eaten at many times at Cheshire Oaks has opened a venue in Chester near the Abode hotel.

The Miller & Carter steak house has only been open a week and were determined to try out.

The staff are quite young and very enthusiastic. The food and wine excellent, the end of a fab day.

Nikki and I walk back to my house. She picks up her bike, we kiss goodbye and she pedals off into the night.

Once home, she texts me to say she’s ok. I set my alarm, drift off to sleep and another fab weekend is over.

Trekking, Cycling, White water rafting in the Pyrenees.

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 comes 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. briefing
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. sign
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. snowmobile
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. biketalk
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. dugout
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. smug2
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. julian
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. crun2
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. crun4
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. cwall
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. bar
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 Barbecue 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. mebike
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.
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. ref1
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

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.

Survival course in the Sahara desert.

clothing I took part in a 9 day desert survival course with Survival School in Morocco.The right clothing was essential.Here I wear a full length shirt and trousers by Rohan, and a broad brimmed floppy hat.

I also have my favourite sunglasses with leather sides, to keep out dust and sand. On my feet I wear British Army combat boots.

We slept out all but one night during the course.The first of the 2 sleeping systems I used, was a lifeventure free standing mosquito net. It didn’t need to be treated and worked perfectly.Inside I have my thermarest (I consider this to be the single best piece of outdoor gear I have ever purchased.) and my down sleeping bag, which in the desert, was unzipped and used as a 2nd mattress. mozzynet
bivi Whilst in mountains/forest etc, I used the same system, but substituted the mozzy net for a goretex bivvi bagI put an “orange” plastic bag underneath to protect my sleeping equipment. I normally carry one for emergency’s, sitting on to eat sandwiches etc, and they only cost £2.50One of my friends on the course Joe, showed me how to put my socks over the top of my boots, so that insects couldn’t get in.
Travelling in Land rovers, we arrive at our first camp, in the black desert.Our Berber drivers and guide make straight for a large tree. What use is that one tree in this enormous desert I wonder ?This proved to be the first of many lessons I would learn about survival/living in the desert. blackdesert
tree Between about 10:30am and 4:30pm, it is too hot to do anything. We woke most days at 6am, did our training until 10:30 and rested until the early evening, when we began our studies again.The tree was an invaluable resource, and as the shade moved throughout the day, the entire team moved with it!
Our instructor Kev, taught the first session on basic survival strategy.The 2nd session was about desert shelter construction.The first shelter we built was basically a large hole in the sand, with a basha covering the top, held in place with sand. sandshelter3
rockshelter2 A better version off the shelter, was built above ground using rocks.The rocks are built into a u-shape with the sand inside removed to reveal the cooler sand underneath.
A 2nd smaller wall was built above this and another basha added.This double covering, created an air pocket which reduced the inside temperature of the shelter substantially. rockshelter3
basha1 An improvised double layer shelter built near some rocks in the black desert by Mark and his wife Sylvie.If you look closely, in the top left hand corner of the picture, you can see a modern day Berber Nomad (hence the mountain bike) who had come over to see what we were doing.
Terry sits inside a classic double layer basha rig,set up at the front of a Land rover, with the vehicle providing a ready made backrest.The basha is supported by 2 sand ladders. basha2
burbercamp As we headed into the sand dunes, we came upon a Berber nomad camp.They live very simply in the desert, I was later to find just how hard their lives must be, when I spent 5 days in the dunes.
Our guide Mohamed was a chef and restaurateur, who cooked us restaurant quality food, in the middle of the desert each night.This proved invaluable towards moral, since although the course was well organized, and the participants a great bunch, you cant beat a good meal.Here, Lamb is spit roasted by the fire. dinner
bread1 A few of us, wanted to see how bread is cooked traditionally by the Berber Nomads.Our guides went to a nomad village, and negotiated for someone to come and demonstrate.A local Berber woman arrived and took charge of the fire.
We were all fascinated by her bread making, and although a proud woman, she seemed delighted at all the attention she received.The doe is prepared, then placed on a smooth bed of sand, coated with a slight layer of sand, then covered over with embers.The end product, perfect crispy bread, cooked on an open fire. bread2
vehicle1 Kev gives a talk on vehicle recovery, using one of the 3 Land rovers we had at our disposal.The course did not cover off road driving, as this would require an entire course, devoted solely to that subjectWe were taught several different ways of getting vehicles out of trouble, including the simple yet amazingly effective “trick” of letting the tyres down slightly.
Here we use sand ladders to retrieve our trusted “landy”.The session continued with a talk on selection of vehicle, and what equipment should be carried, avoidance of overloading the roof rack etc. vehicle2
insects Some of the strange creatures we encountered.This is a scorpion which we found.We also saw a beetle, which Mark (who worked at London Zoo) identified as having the strongest jaw bone in the animal kingdom.
Whilst doing night navigation, John Mallet discovered this Sand Viper.We were all perfectly fine, as we were wearing boots.I couldn’t go too near it with the camera though, so I have had to enhance this picture a little. sandviper
nav1 JK leads the session on navigation using compass.We used several different types of compass on the exercise, which covered fundamentals, but also emphasised practical use in the desert.This was complimented by the previous evenings talk on finding latitude and longitude using simple tools, and navigation from the stars.
After this, we did a sat nav exercise.On my wrist I am wearing my Garmin Sat Nav which I have owned for some time. Like many things, I had never actually used it before, but JK taught me all sorts of tricks with it.One off my favourite things was using it when travelling in vehicles. Its possible for example to use the GPS to calculate time/distance from destination and use it on trains and buses. nav2
nav3 The next day, we had a navigation exercise, where we were tested on our navigation and got to practice travelling across the tops of sand dunes (its useless walking up and down them, as its wastes energy).
One of the session was on firelighting.Here a bucket is filled with a mixture of sand and fuel, with the sand acting as a wick.Its a simple controlled way of lighting a fire in the desert. firebucket
bulb1 Here, Kev takes a bulb he has, and breaks the glass around it.
Next one of our drivers, removes the cover and replaces the bulbs. bulb2
bulb3 With the light activated, Kevs “broken” bulb lights some cotton wool from the first aid kit.
It’s often Anecdotally stated that you can make fire from coca cola and chocolate.The basic idea, is that the bottom of the coke can, can be polished with the chocolate, and then used as a kind of Lens, to focus sunlight onto some tinder. cokecan
firedrill Kev and JK demonstrate firefighting with a firedrill.I have tried fire drill before and always found it very difficult.I imagined using one in somewhere like Africa, would be much easier. It wasn’t.
As a fun evening project, we had plans for a solar cooker, printed from the Internet, and various blue peter type resources to build one.I promoted myself to project manager, but by the time I had organized meetings, drawn a gant chart and arranged finance for the project, the lads had actually built it. solarcooker1
solarcooker2 The finished solar cooker.The basic idea, is that several triangular pieces of cardboard, have tinfoil glued to them, and are then fastened together. To form a find of satellite dish.A metal container with food (in our case, rice) is placed in the centre, and the whole thing is moved around to face the sun.

In 2 hours, it cooked the rice perfectly.

Next was a session on water procurement.Pat and I purify some water, with the new filter, which I had bought for the trip. waterpurify
solarstill1 JK prepares a solar still.A container is placed at the bottom, with a length of plastic pipe fed through the sandIf you don’t do it this way you have to dismantle the still every time you want to drink the water.
Next its covered over with a polythene sheet, and a stone is placed on the plastic, so the condensation, drips into the container.We made one with urine, dirty water and foliage, and one with just sand. solarstill2
solarstill3 The solar still with the foliage etc, produced this (a third of a litre).The water was brown and stank (but we were in a desert, and it was still water !).The solar still with just sand, produced nothing.
A plastic bag, placed around some foliage.Produced 3 times as much water as the successful solar still, and required no-where near the effort to create. waterbag
signalling1 We did a session on signalling.It became obvious, almost immediately, that a signalling mirror, is the weapon of choice in the daytime, and 3 fires were the best option at night.Here I practice with different sorts of mirrors, including cd’s.
This Land rover is a quarter of a mile away, and can hardly be seen (hence the red circle around itIts for this reason, that the advice to stay with the vehicle is normally given. A person standing next to the land rover, can hardly be seen.This was one of the best trips, that I have ever done, I would like to thank everyone at Survival school and all the people that took part. vehicle

Walking the TMB across France, Italy and Switzerland.

topofhill1 My friend Frank and I decided to go to the Alps and walk the Tour de Mont Blanc.The walk is a total of 230 miles and ascends and descends a total of 30,000 feet over 3 countries.
Unfortunately, due to poor planning by me, we ended up arriving in Geneva, after the last bus had left.I helpful woman at the booking desk got us a room in the Ibis (just near the Airport, and walkable to Geneva).We used to opportunity for a quick kit check, and then headed into Geneva for a few Beers. kitcheck
csbar We got the bus the next day to Chamonix, then walked to our camp site.The camp site was very well run (as most European ones are) but the guy in charge was nasty most of the time, and I didn’t know (and after a while care) why.This is the campsite restaurant/bar, which we visited a couple of times.
Frank and I wandered around the mountaineering Mecca, Chamonix and have lunch. lunch1
meredglass The Mere de Glass, an enormous glacier in Chamonix. Its name literally means sea of ice.Its possible to get a train from the valley, up to here. Its spectacular to look at, but I feel is spoiled by a silly ice museum with Piano’s and Chairs made of ice.I just don’t think a site of breathtaking natural beauty needs this, its a distraction.
Just to show how things change/don’t change.This is a picture of the bar balcony, overlooking the Mere de Glass, when I first visited the alps aged 23. then
now This is a picture of the bar balcony, overlooking the Mere de Glass, when I visited it on the Tour de Mont Blanc, aged 35.
Gaillands: a famous rock climbing crag on the edge of Chamonix town, by woods and lakes. chamclimb
tram We set off on the TMB, from Chamonix.We got the train and tram, to the Col de Voza and set off (we decided that the walk from Chamonix to the Col de Voza would make an interesting day walk and picnic, when we got back).
After a few hours on the trial, we come to a wire bridge, and I get a picture of Frank crossing it. bridgefrance
onthehill1 After an awful night in one of the huts (Frank was snoring, but had earplugs in, so he couldn’t hear it, but the 50 other people we were lay next to could !).Enough about that, we got up early, the sun was shining, and we began walking into Italy.
As we crossed the “border” (there was only a sign, no guards, or diplomats, or anything like that)We descended down the side of a hill, and you could hear a glacier breaking up, across the valley. One of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. italy1
onthehill2 Me pausing on the trail in Italy.
The new Rifugio Elena.The view from the balcony was beautiful, and we sat out all afternoon, drinking beer. We decided to get an on-suite room as “communal living”, wasn’t really us.The previous refuge here was destroyed by avalanche, and the new one is half-buried in the hillside. hutview
italy2 Off all the places we passed on our travels, I thought that Italy was the most inspiring.Around my neck I am wearing a perry whistle and a mini torch on some “Para” cord.In Raiders of the lost Ark, you see Indiana Jones, put a hat, a gun, and a bull whip into his suitcase and you know the adventure has begun.

When I put on my whistle and torch, I feel the same!

 We cross into Switzerland, and pause for a photograph, a drink and a sit down. frank
bridgeswiss  Crossing a bridge in Switzerland. The water was a lot cleaner than the stuff in Chamonix.
We arrive in Champex exhausted.Because we decided to do the TMB in 7 days, we were walking 2 suggested legs each day, rather than 1, and most of the time arrived after 7pm, when all of the cheap accommodation was goneIt turned out to be a blessing this time, as there were only rooms available in the most expensive hotel, and it was like a picture postcard. champexlake
balcbeer Frank sits on the Balcony, and has a Beer, while I have a shower.We sat out on the balcony all evening (it overlooked the town and the lake).
 Having completed the walk, we have a celebration drinking session, back in Chamonix. frank3

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. mehut
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. alpscene
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.

A weekend of catching up.


I’ve converted some pages recently, relating to mountains and jungle trips that I did a while ago, have a read and post something on the site if you think their interesting :).

Otherwise, not much to report this time.

After 2 consecutive weekends away and most of summer spent in search of adventure, I had a weekend at home catching up on maintenance, putting up pictures and stuff like that.

Above is a cabinet I assembled on Sunday.

It worked out quite well, as Nikki is away with friend in Lisbon, so I was at a lose end anyway.


I’ve got loads of things done in advance of my re-launch Barbecue in a couple of weeks.

With my new kitchen, I was able to make some Jamie Oliver recipes including these Beef & Guinness pies

Winter mountaineering skills training 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 ( 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 !

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 practised 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.

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.

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 !
We did various other mountain skill on the 2nd day, and even got a go at ice climbing.Here, we climb a route called the web. I was really cold when we did it, and even commented that I wouldn’t do anything like this again.A climber nearby said, everyone says that. When you get home, you will change your mind. He was right. I am going to do it again. 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 practised 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.


Trekking the 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.

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 “centre” 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

Mount Kinabalu – my first ascent above 4000m.

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 un-imaginable. board
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. handle
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. night2
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). rope1
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. clowds
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. down
coke As we reach the end of the walk, our guide takes my camera and I pose for a photo.A voice behind me asks 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. longroad
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. rbpic
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. rbheight
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.

And successfully completes the crossing assisted by a carefully placed walking pole. rcross2
rest 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.
We arrive at our first stop, a rather splendid village and pose for this Photo. villagesign
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, ar 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. cooking
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. leech
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. highpoint
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 tryout, and it was very comfortable, if a little short. bthammock
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. hammock1
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 gafa 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). rb1
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 wont 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. mud
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 :(. roadout
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. night
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.