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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

390: The Lairig Ghru

Normally I write a blog then copy it to Facebook. This time, for a change, I'm doing it the other way around. I have a couple of entries on FB concerning Sunday's crossing of the Lairig Ghru but FB entries are so transient and difficult to find later. I hope one day to export and publish my blog to show my experiences over the past few years that I have been writing. A potted history of the latter years of my life. (I hope there are still many years left, but who knows!)
Here then is an extract from my FB posts:
"It's over. 12.5 hours in the mountains, the first hour of which stayed dry and the last hour was done in darkness. The real killer was scrabbling over the boulders in the middle third of the walk: they were slippery and wobbly and some had quite sharp points. No fun at all. With the almost non-stop rain the path, such as it was, had filled up with puddles. In the beginning we tried to walk around the puddles but by the end we were just sloshing through them. Today, every muscle in my body is stiff and tired. Very many thanks to those of my FB friends who sponsored us. If you had been waiting until we finished the walk then now would be a good time, the site is still open for donations. " (until 24 Oct 17)
We collected over £1,500 for our two nominated charities - Cancer Research UK and Combat Stress.
The walk was quite an achievement, especially for us at our age (it was Alisdair's 70th birthday and I am 67). We started the day with a Big Boy's Breakfast in the Moorfield House hotel in Braemar and drove from there to the Linn of Dee where we started our little walk at 08.40. Between then and 21.10, when we finished it, all we had to eat and drink was ½ a banana each and ½ a cup of tea each. The main reason for this was the rain. I was wearing my backpack under my waterproof raincoat and it never seemed the right time to stop in the rain and take it off. There was no shelter on the route, apart from a bothy which was situated less than halfway in and at that point we were keen to keep going. We came very close to deciding to spend the night on the mountain as we had bivvy bags and survival blankets etc but finishing the walk was the preferred option and that's what we did.  

What else could I finish with but "the hills are alive" 

Monday, 11 September 2017

389: the red wine is helping...

I'm drinking copious (well, not really) amounts of red wine to lubricate the tired muscles after this morning's 15km 'hike' from Salou to Tarragona. It wasn't too bad. 2.5 hours 'on the legs' as my old running club boss used to say (and probably still does). Now I just have to treble the time, for 'the big one' in a little under 2 weeks time.
Here are a few photos I took, en route this morning. The last one in particular transporting me back to the watch towers on the Inner German border in the 70s and 80s. The roads were fairly quiet as it was (yet another) local holiday. Today it is Catalyuna day or La Diada

Port Aventura theme park. Not my cup of tea.

I don't know what this once was but not much left of the poor thing now

bougainvillea on the roadside? I'm probably wrong - as usual!

the foothills in the background. perhaps one day..
industry on the way in to Tarragona.

It just seemed so out of place in the middle of an industrial estate

Tomorrow I'm going to try to get to Tarragona again, this time by bus from almost outside the front door. I have an idea in the back of my mind to take a face-on picture of this aqueduct and put circular portraits of my teaching colleagues in each of the gaps and use it on my website.

See, no begging for sponsorship this time. Many thanks to those who have donated already but I feel it's a bit like flogging a dead horse now. Unless you know otherwise.... 

To finish, the Hebrew Slaves chorus from Verdi's Nabucco - just because I like it.....Everybody is giving 100%. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

388: four countries in four days

A bit excessive, even for me, intrepid traveller that I am, but on Friday last week I was in England (and Germany and Holland), on Saturday in Holland, on Sunday in Holland (and Germany) and on Monday in Germany and Spain
Last Friday I flew for £10, courtesy of Ryanair, from Stansted to Weeze airport (formerly RAF Laarbruch) which is almost on the border between Germany and Holland. My penchant for honesty cost me dear as when the young lady at the car hire desk asked if I was going into another country I told her I was and she promptly added another 44 euros to the bill! Wiping out any saving I had made on Ryanair.
The point of all the moving around was to take part in the annual march (read walk or ramble) around Osterbeek, near Arnhem in Holland. It's called the airborne march and it is to remember or honour the British paras who took part in the battle of Arnhem in September 1944. Another great military disaster celebrated - a bit like Dunkirk really. There are thousands and thousands of people, civilian and military, individuals and groups,who take part in this walk, which is held over various distances ranging from 10km to 40km. I decided to do the 15 km. 

I have a couple of Des Buckley namesakes on Face Book and when I noticed that one of them had taken part in the walk last year, together with his wife Hilda, I thought it would be interesting if we walked it together. And so it transpired. It made the walk go much faster talking about the many things we had in common - almost as if we had been leading parallel lives. We shared a beer or two at the end. If anybody ever tells you that that Des Buckley drinks too much then let me tell you it is not me, it is the other one. I suspect, of course, that he will tell the same story!
If you time the return to Osterbeek correctly then you can turn your finishing stagger into a swagger as you get to march in behind a band and the music motivates you with a fresh lease of life. There are many bands taking part and this was the one I linked up with on Saturday.

I spent Sunday night in Dusseldorf, exploring the old town, before flying back to Spain yesterday. I think that those nice security screening people were on strike as there was only a small number of lanes open. The queues to enter security wound around the inside of the terminal and it took well over half an hour to be processed. Thank goodness I was flying within the Schengen zone, and thus no passport control, or there wouldn't have been time for the pre-flight calming G&T.
Perhaps one more long walk before "the big one" through the Cairngorms in just under 3 weeks time. There is still time to donate if you want to.......
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