Archives for category: trekking

Introduction

Whilst I am still in Bangkok awaiting the new frame before I can get going again. I am assured it is coming soon! I thought it might be fun to do a series of blog posts following my most memorable moments from each country that I have visited thus far. If it isn’t fun I do apologize but it is still good for me to have a record of them so I will do it anyway!

February 18th 2012 – The start of something major.

The day that had been in my mind for over a year arrived, the first mention of such a date to anyone was during a shift of work. I explained the concept and that I fancied being a part of it and before I knew it I realized I had told too many people to back out.

February 18th 2012. The day I leave Greenwich Park in London to cycle around the world, I wish I had a feeling of excitement that morning. I awoke at 5 AM after two hours sleep feeling terrible and extremely lethargic. I had all my visas sorted; I had all my equipment, the only issue was the fact I did not know where my passport was for certain! I had a good idea that it was in a library photocopy where I was taking copies of it the previous day however I was about to go to a start line with nine other riders and a fair few cameras to leave London and yet I was uncertain as to whether I could even leave the country!

Packing the night before the race. Before I realized the missing passport!

 

To add to my misdemeanors, the tunnel from Isle of Dogs to Greenwich under the River Thames was undergoing maintenance so I had to try and sort a different way of crossing the river. I left my friend’s flat at 05:30 and thought I would cycle around it.

I got up to Canary Wharf and cycled around the business area although I was a bit lost. I also regretted the way I had set up the luggage on the bicycle but thought it too late to change anything now. I then came to a tunnel under the river with fast traffic and a sign saying no bicycles. Great!

I didn’t want to risk it and feared not making the start on time so went back to the original tunnel which I knew had a stairway down to the bottom before a stairway up the other side. This was far from ideal but I carried my 45 kg set up down 11 flights of stairs and back up the other side, just what you need the day you are about to set off on a prolonged endurance event. Being on the correct side of the river was my first challenge and I had overcome it, cycling around the world was going to be easy now

The start line was great, lots of people came to see us off and people were taking pictures and showing interest in each rider’s set up which was great. I was still being grumpy in the corner though desperately trying to contact the library which opened at 09:00 about the passport. I managed to get through to them eventually and they had the passport, which was something at least!

After a quick dash back over to the other side of the river I retraced my steps to Greenwich Park where I rode from the start line at around 10:00 for the destination of Dover. The weather was overcast but didn’t look to be anything to worry about in London so I set off smiling and looking forward to the challenge ahead. I decided not to take the most direct route to Dover and take a route which would keep me on smaller roads for part of the way. I had read many things about the A2 being notoriously cycle unfriendly so I thought it best to avoid this.

The set up was working fine and I was making progress albeit slower than I had hoped. With the delay of the start I thought the best thing was just to get to France that day. It didn’t matter about the total distance just get on a ferry!

I rode down as far as Canterbury feeling quite comfortable but then I started to doubt myself and the rain started. This was unwelcome as it was the moment I was on the dual carriageway that is the A2 all the way to Dover. I carried on riding and the bicycle just seemed to not be moving. I didn’t enjoy this slog at all. I thought that getting to Dover would be a simple task and I would be running on adrenaline and make it there with little problems however it turned out to be a different case.

Drenched! Hurting and tired I pulled into Dover and the desk to buy a ticket to France, the woman behind the desk explained that Simon had already been there and gave us special friends and family rates which was a welcome surprise which perked me up a little! Finally getting out of Britain! I was excited and didn’t know exactly what the plan was when I got to France but knew I would need to clear Calais before going to sleep so I was in for a late night. I eventually cycled 30 miles into France and put up the first bivvy opposite a spot I used a few years back when cycling to Berlin. Overall day 1 was stressful and tense but a good show of what was to come.

As I only spent one day in France that will have to come next, the purpose of these blogs is just to show what I feel was the most interesting day of each country I passed in order, so there will be a blog for each England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, India, Nepal, Thailand.

So, wanting to go away to some exotic land is a nice feeling. You plan the whole thing out, sort out where you are going to go and for how long and the date gets closer and closer. However with these exotic locations come exotic diseases, and if you are a man, like me. You will probably have left your health to the side and realise just in time that you need to have rounds of injections to protect you against all the nasties that we do not get here in the UK or Western world.

 

I plan to talk through the nasty stuff and why it can all add up as well as the timings needed for the jabs and the issues one can face. Firstly from the UK perspective, if you are going away you will need to fill out a form to your GP showing where you are going, when and where you will be staying. If you say rough camping the whole way like I did you are soon in for a shock!

The lovely NHS, free healthcare for all! What a delight, it’s a shame that most of the jabs you will probably need when going away will not be covered by the NHS, shame! However typhoid and a few others are which luckily I had before this big cycle trip so don’t need to worry about. Here is what I was recommended to get;

 

Hepatitis B – Blood disease, transferred through sex or blood transfusions. Three Injections over a month.

Rabies – Nasty, bites or licks on open wounds, feral animals. Fatal. Three Injections over a month.

Japanese Encephalitis – Mosquito transmitted disease, effects your brain. Two Injections over a month.

Tick borne Encephalitis – Tick transmitted disease, effects your brain. Two Injections over a month.

 

With all of these cheery diseases being described to me, I decided to check with mother as to what she thought I should have, obviously I’m a poor student I was willing to wing it in essence but mother told me to be fully covered so I held my breathe and went to get them done. As I was living up in London and my GP was in Dorset I had to go to a travel clinic in London. I went to the London Travel Clinic on Oxford Street and told them what I needed and the cost for the first round of injections was £245. This was only for the first round which hurt me, aswell as the two injections in each arm which made me feel slightly funny getting on the tube.

 

A week later I went back to the clinic where I had the second dose of the rabies and hepatitis B jabs which cost £90. These were okay and despite the running total of £335 thus far. I was far too busy to think much of it, it was just one of those things which I needed to do to keep me safe and I had 100 other things to do.

 

The third round of doses I was going to get back in Dorset so had the prescriptions for them and had to cash them in Dorset. Not a great deal happens in Dorset unfortunately so when I turn up to a local Boots store predictably they do not have the vaccinations and have to order them in. I got the price however and that was £168 so a bit cheaper than the travel clinic up in London. Proves that if you can get them all done by your GP, it is the best way ! I believe that Boots do cheaper vaccinations than other pharmacies but don’t have any evidence to back this up but I was happy with this price. This is the third and final round of injections so I am immune to most things now hoorah. In the words of Boris from Goldeneye, ‘I am invincible!’

 

However, there is always one more thing… malaria. Seems a long way off for me, especially with the cold weather at the minute, carrying malaria tablets through the -20’s of Eastern Europe is going to feel odd but it is another thing which I have had to consider. There are three types of malaria tablet, one which gives you hallucinations and bad dreams, one which is an anti biotic so has the potential to clear you out and give you a bad stomach and the third, newest one which I have opted for which is mallarone which predictably costs the most… Not sure of the total cost yet but will let you know when I have the stuff.

 

So the running total and ten injections later I am £503 out of pocket and they say you can’t put a price on your health. I disagree!

 

 

 

Firstly, with my involvement in running this trip it has always been my aim to be able to show others that I am nothing special I am just a student wanting to have a fun trip of a lifetime and therefore I want to explain all the things that have been giving me trouble with organising the trip and one of these big issues is visas!

I had to consider when thinking of visas about validity. Most visa applications have to have entry to the country within three months of the visa being granted. This means that you have a bit of a rush to get them all as I did not want to apply for any before January as that gives me to April to get to the countries that I want to reach.

With my trip heading east, I needed to get visas for the countries I would be visiting after the EU runs out, the visas I need to get in the UK are Russia, Kazakhstan and India. Here is a quick note on my experiences of getting them!

Russia Visa
The Russian visa is pretty straightforward, to visit Russia you need to get a letter of invitation from an inviting organisation. This can usually be done through a hotel booking but because I plan on camping all the way through Russia I found travel agencies online who could give you this document and I used http://nevsky88.com/ who were cheap at £13 and professional in giving me this supporting document.

With this document you can fill in the online application form before printing the whole lot off and taking it to the visa application centre in London. Here they have a electronic ticket system where you get a ticket with a number when arriving and wait till your number is on the screen. Works well and I didn’t have to wait for more than 15 minutes. There is an express service but I just used the normal 5 working day service which cost £76.40 in total and received my Russian visa.

Kazakhstan Visa
Despite the website for the embassy of Kazakhstan saying that nationals from ‘x’ countries no longer need a letter of invitation, when I initially went to the embassy with my applications they turned me away so I had to get an invitation from http://stantours.com/index.html. The invitation cost me £51 and took about a week to come through.

With this document you have to fill in an application form which is printed and hand filled in and then write a cover letter requesting the issuance of a visa. With all of these documents and the passport photo attached to the form I went to the embassy for round two! The embassy in London is open 9-12 Mon-Fri EXCEPT Wednesday which it only is open for Kazakh nationals. I turned up at about 10:30 and there was a 10 minute queue before I got to the desk. The documents were looked through and passport number checked against my passport. After this I paid the visa fee of £35 bringing the total for my Kazakh visa with support to £86. This is the cost for a single entry 30 day tourist visa.

Indian Visa
India, like Russia have outsourced their visa applications to a private company VFS and have an online form which needs to be filled in online and then printed out. The annoying thing about the Indian application is the photos. You are required to give 2 photos with the application and they have a different size to normal passport photos you would get out of any machine you would find in your supermarket or high street. The visa application centre conveniently has a machine which will do you square photos, giving you 2 for £4.

With the application form, photos and your passport you can then apply for the visa. The cost of six month visa is £42.20. A service is also available to have your documents and visa sent out to you by courier which is the service I will use, this costs £7.40. With the photo fee, visa fee, and courier fee the total for the Indian visa is £53.60.

Rushing around getting visas can be stressful but it’s just important to read the forms carefully and do what they say to the point. An example of this would be the Russian visa said glue the photo to the form. I stapled it and was delayed at the desk as the person on the other side removed the staple and glued the picture.

The total spent on all of these visas therefore comes to £229. I’m sure it will all be worth it when I’m on the road!

Next blog will be the Primus OmniLite Ti review that I said I would do. I am very fortunate to have one of these as they are not on general sale yet so will give you a glimpse of what it’s like!

I awoke early and couldn’t get back to sleep so decided to anxiously rise. The day was quite clear and I guess it was nice that we wouldn’t be walking in the rain. I had the standard bread and egg breakfast and before long we were packing our bags and off, all the information boards along the route which give a guide time of how long it will take to get to different places we had beaten thus far and the board telling us to get to base camp would be 4 hours, we hoped to beat and relax in time for elevenses. I was quite apprehensive as to whether I would get altitude sickness at all, as on a trek, two weeks previous in the Helambu region after rising from 2400m to 3600m I didn’t have the best of nights sleep!

Start of the 'big day'

The pace was quite slow to begin with but I wasn’t going to up the tempo as I was unsure whether going quicker would increase my chances of getting ill. The climb wasn’t very steep which I found surprising seen as we had 1000 metres to climb. We crossed a lot of very precarious bridges and the path slowly started to turn away from the valley that we seemed to of been following for days. Before long a couple of houses came into view and I checked my watch and we had nearly been walking for 2 hours and I realised that we had come across the Machhapuchre base camp which is a bit of a non existant as the mountain is considered sacred and has never been climbed so having a base camp is a bit of a tourist con! Nevertheless it was a nice place to have a break and eat a mars bar! I took a video at this point and playing it back am surprised at the heavy breathing.

 

At this point we overtook a French group who had been annoying us for days and carried on walking. They weren’t too bad, we just were at a couple of lodges with them and there over joyfullness and ability to fill a teahouse was quite great due to the fact there were about 12 of them. After about half an hour the view was magnificent and it was possible to see all the lodges at Annapurna Base Camp in the distance and they looked deceivingly close. Everyone in the group was walking fine and there were no signs of altitude sickness and we carried on the slug up to the lodges and went past a rock where it said that it would be one more hour before we reached the base camp, the path really wasn’t steep and just took a while and was a gradual uphill.

The fake basecamp.. Machhapuchre. 'Fish Tail'

Eventually the path seemed to even out and I looked at my watch and we were at 4000 metres so were pretty much there. We crossed a river or two and the area was a little snow covered. We came to a sign which pretty much said welcome to Annapurna Base Camp and we carried on up a few steps and arrived at the lodge we would be staying at for the night. I took a few photos and video at the sign.

 

After putting all my bag and the stuff that needed drying on the line I relaxed and was surprised that I didn’t feel ill an had a cup of tea to celebrate. The view from the base camp were quite good and it was nice because in pretty much every direction you could see mountains and there was a lot of history at the place. We arrived there at 12 and it took us 4 hours which was surprising but we felt we did it well and at the lodge there were a few other English people so it was nice to chat to them throughout  the day. One guy in particular was a professional photographer and had been living in Nepal for 5 years making me a little jealous of what sounded like a perfect job. He had spent 2 months at Everest Base Camp taking photos of a summit expedition and also explained that it was nearly a full moon so the sky would be lit up at about 4 in the morning and all the mountains would glow if we got up. And me with my love of getting up at 4AM thought this was a good think to do.

Made it! Victory shot at Annapurna Base Camp sign!

I  set an alarm for 3:45 to check out the sky and the rest of the day was spent talking and eating. I watched the Nepali guides and porters playing a nice card game and getting quite into the gambling and took a little video.

 

We went to bed quite early because of the 3:45 AM rise and on the way to bed I saw the photographer who was sceptical as the cloud was not lifting. Who knows whether I would see the beautiful sky or not!

Today I got up at half five as it was the time that I needed to go to the toilet and there was no point in lying in after this and I went to the restaurant where I was the only person up, it gave me a chance to charge my PowerGorilla up though.

At about 06:20 the porters started to awake and gather around the restaurant area. The perks of getting up early are that you get a cup of tea early! It was interesting watching it get light and everyone hoping that the weather would clear so that there were some views for the day. I had met a couple in a shop in Pokhara who had told me that the weather had not been great when they did the ABC trek for which they had just got back from and therefore they didn’t get the chance to see half the views that they wanted to see and as we started the previous day the weather was very much overcast and a big cloud of fog so it would take something to change the outlook and Bimal, our guide and my friend reckons that rain would lift the fog and we hoped that a little rain the night before would be enough to get some clear views.

Morning fog.

We had arranged breakfast for 07:00 so when some plates started to come out and the food wasn’t mine I started to get a little hungry… eventually my plate came out and it looked quite good and substantial. I had bread with fried eggs and a mix of potato, onion and tomato on the side. May I add that the bread in Nepal is nothing like Western bread and is kind of like a pitta bread but a lot more delicious. What more could a man want in the morning?  The other two had porridge which looked quite small and I was very happy to be eating my large plate.

After finishing breakfast I put my remaining items into my rucksack before loading up and hitting the road, I think the agenda for the way was pretty much ascending the 1300 metres so when we crossed a few bridges and started to climb it came as no real surprise. The path was mainly with steps and wasn’t difficult it was just laborious and long. The way I thought of it was a never ending escalator on the underground. Yes I am one of them annoying people who always seem like they are in a rush in London and walk up the escalators as they go so slow I would rather do it than wait about for it to reach the top.

A caravan of mules went past us and then we went past them. Its staggering the amount of weight the mules are carrying and finding it easy to carry. They are dressed quite fanciful like everything seems to be in Nepal and were quite a distraction from the walking as the noise made when close to them is quite tremendous due to the amount of items dangling from them. It is quite annoying when you are stuck behind mules because you cannot walk at your own pace which is important. We carried on upwards and the path levelled out at points to deceive you before it carried on upwards some more. We eventually arrived at the point for lunch which was at 2468 metres where I had chicken noodles which were pretty good and the sun made an appearance behind the wall of fog for about ten minutes which was warming.

With all the upwards walking I remember some funny conversations we had during lunch. The lunch conversation went a little bit about us wanting to climb Everest for the sole reason of not being able to take an upward step in any direction on the whole planet. Although a tremendous feeling this would be I sadly don’t think I have the capital or the time to do such a project in the near future. After lunch we were told that we had about an hour and a half to climb and I knew that we were going to 2800 metres so we still had a 200 metre ascent to go but it seemed to be okay and despite being stuck behind mules again for some of the journey it was very easy going and we managed it in under an hour, progress was definitely quick with this group.

Crappy fog stopping nice views!

Upon arrival at Gorepani it was clear to see that it was a much bigger settlement than the previous ones we had stayed at as it had a couple of book shops and a place with internet. The lodge we were staying at was quite nice and had a restaurant with a fire which was nice to sit around and keep warm. I liked the position I had on the trekking, I was not a customer to Bimal and was seen as a friend and therefore I was treated differently and he was happy for me to sit in on conversations with his friends and some of the lodge owners. I liked this a lot and liked the fact that he didn’t treat me as if I was a tourist who wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning so didn’t pressure me to go to bed early and would let me stay up and drink with him and the other porters at the lodges who seem to have a great time.

We arrived at Gorepani by 2 so had time to go around the place and try and search out the cheapest rum in town. You will find on the trekking that the price for these sorts of products varies greatly and is generally 250 rs plus, if you can get a bottle for 250 rs snap it up because that is good going. In the village I was staying I could get the same stuff for 90 rs and a bottle of coke for 110 rs thus making a perfect combination of 180ml of rum and coke for 200 rs or about £1.80.

I think on this occasion I paid 280 rs which wasn’t a bad deal so I was happy. I also had a little check on the internet, obviously being away for three months I was going to take the opportunity when it arose and it didn’t too often so I was happy to get online and get my fix when I could. I would of done all the normal stuff like facebook, email etc but I had heard stories about student fees and the like being raised in England so thought that it would be more interesting to see this and low and behold after going on the BBC News website I saw the whole story and thought it was quite different and thought the whole country had gone mad since I had been away.

Upon arriving back at the lodge I thought I would do some washing as I had adopted the local way of washing clothes and a tap was presenting itself perfectly for the opportunity I took full advantage. I stripped off totally and got into some clean clothes and took my dirty stuff over to the tap where a master class in clothes washing took place to anyone from the West who has never seen the art of washing clothes over a rock with a bar of soap. I think some of the locals were quite impressed with my washing and I was happy with my effort retiring back into the kitchen afterwards with my wet garments to hang by the fire so they would be dry by the end of the night.

Buddhist prayer flags in the fog..

Finally settling down, I was told that we would have to be up by 5 the next morning if the weather was clear as Gorepani sits just below Poon Hill which is a lovely place but that’s for tomorrow’s story. For dinner I ate tomato, cheese and onion spaghetti and it was tasty and the portion was adequate, after dinner I stayed up for about an hour so that I could talk to the porters a little and also to wait for my clothes to dry. After this I decided it was time to hit bed in the full knowledge that I would be up at 5 the following morning if the weather was good.

So, I was stuck in Besisahar with no way of getting back to the village where I was staying the night and the night was getting darker and colder with all the waiting trying to hail some kind of vehicle to give us a lift back. I started to look around and saw a few hotels, surely it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had to stay the night although it would be a bummer and I wouldn’t be able to get my pig meat.

Besisahar view.


A bunch of Nepali people in uniforms were walking the streets with big sticks. I was a bit concerned with their presence. Although these guys are the Nepali police, they wear uniforms which look military and I didn’t know whether our form of attempted hitch hike would be frowned upon or not and crikes their big sticks looked mighty big. One of the group broke away from the rest and came over and started to talk to Jagan whilst looking at me. I imagine the conversation was a bit of ‘who the hell is this dude? Why you with him?’ Jagan turned to me with a smile on his face and explained.

Turned out the policeman was his friend from childhood and he hadn’t seen him in a while and there was nothing to worry about. He still had a few hours left on his shift but told us to walk around with him for a bit. We joined the police and their mighty big sticks and patrolled the neighbourhood for a bit until it really was getting late, and I was a little concerned that no one would be awake when we get back, people generally go to bed early in Nepal, past 9:30 PM is seen as late. When we finished our circle the policeman sprang into action, getting a whistle out.

Shiva the Destroyer


Strolling into the middle of the road it looked like he would be performing spot checks on all the vehicles going through. He stopped a small tractor but let it go through shortly after and then a minute later a big lorry was rolling through. The authority of the policeman forced the lorry to stop and a conversation ensued with the driver. He gave us a look and then a smile and the passenger door opened. Turns out the policeman was pulling everyone over to see who was going our way and getting us a lift back to the village. Score! A free lift and a ride in the 1960’s style hippy trucks which seem to be all over Nepal. We sat on cushions and in addition to us there were three boys as passengers in the vehicle. I am not sure whether they were hitching or worked with the man. However they proved useful when trying to pass something on the Nepali road system. Cliffs are generally at the side which you want to pass and the vehicles get very close to the edge it can be a bit frightening.

During the journey we talked and laughed with the people in the truck. Had fun looking at the statue of Shiva the Destroyer, the vehicles in Nepal also seem to have a statue of a God in them and it isn’t uncommon for incense to be burning freely within the car. After what seemed like forever we turned up back into the village and everyone was stood outside waiting for our return which was very warming. I handed over the pig meat to Jagan’s sister in law and waited for the dinner to be served. Finally some pig! It wasn’t bacon and it wasn’t gammon but it was nice, and a change which was welcome. After dinner, we talked long into the night and it was funny to see that an 8 year old girl was playing translator and an intermediate level in communication between me and others within the household. All in all a fun trip out!

Similar to the truck I hitched with.


So yeah, all ended well, which was nice. I think my next Nepali blog will be a totally unedited version of what is written in the diary, this could prove quite interesting as reading back on some parts, it could be quite fun. I have a very interesting day about a visit to the temple and also an interesting day regarding Diwali celebrations which saw me out partying till 4AM unheard of.. All good things to come!

During the past couple of days, I have been thinking long and hard about the Global Bicycle Race which I am aiming to take part in next year. I am trying to decide whether the decision to do the event for the sake of it is right for me. I have always wanted to cycle around the world, but doing it at such speed, will some of the magic be lost?

I have weighed up the arguments and believe the option to do the race is a positive one and because it has a central organisation it will be more motivation to get on with it. I have no doubts in my ability to be able to ride a bicycle and hopefully with my training which has already started I should be in quite good shape to be able to give everything for the race. Some of the naturally beautiful things which will be seen along the way may have to be rushed by, however I am only young and will make a note to revisit the parts of the world which I like the most in the future.

I have read countless stories about round the world travel and believe the attraction which draws me in, is the different cultures and scenarios which are certain to be experienced from around the world. The route I plan to take is probably going to be opposite to most of the other people in the race which will be nice as I will be on the otherside of the world for most of the race as I aiim to head West and won’t get caught up on seeing where others are.

At the end of the day, the world record for fastest circumnavigation would be a nice thing to have, but is it the be all and end all, surely the achievement of cycling around the world is pretty impressive however this doesn’t mean I’m not going to try my utmost to make a suitable time.

Ok so we left things with the team split in two and two of us being stuck at a campsite whilst the other two had gone to seek medical assistance. We had a message to aim to go to Corte which is the capital of Corsica in reality. After a pretty good night’s sleep we set off bright and early and packed everything up so we were ready to hit the road on the fun fun bus down to the nearest place with a railway station so that we could make our way to Corte.

The bus was interesting to say the least. I think 2010 was going to be the year of the bad bus journeys, I thought a bus from London to Edinburgh was bad enough but the roads in this place were more than gentle curves and when the bus tried to take a corner it went totally onto the other side of the road leading me and everyone else on the bus to thinking that we were going to die any minute, however I guess you just have to trust the people who drive you in these situations and we eventually made it down okay and were on our way to Corte on a old fashioned train which was a gentle journey and quite a change and scenery which was rising with the altitude that the train was.

Baguette looks so natural!


Arriving in Corte, we were greeted by smiles by the other two, apparently everything was a bit rushed the day before and they had real difficulty finding a place to sleep for the night and had to shell out a stupid amount of money for some antibiotics for the bad toe even though they were carrying the European Health Insurance Card, looks like it is useless in this situation but excellent if you have a dodgy tooth on the way to Berlin, still haven’t heard anything from that. Free dentistry got to love it!

We looked about the place in Corte and kind of got our bearings a bit, we found a nice campsite where we would sleep for the night and wandered around the place looking for essentials, this inevitably led us to a supermarket where I looked for the right type of gas which they did not have but they had cheese and a baguette which I thought I would pick up and would taste rather good. I even found out my bag had a specific baguette holster, made me feel like I fitted in amongst the French which is difficult to do.

Vizavonna station and view from camp!


At the time, I was quite angry with the whole affair and thought we should have carried on walking or made a better non rushed planned and was pretty quiet in Corte keeping myself to myself but looking back on it, it was probably the right decision to come to the town and eventually we found a place where we could buy the right type of gas although the price was quite ridiculous. With all our supplies and seeing the Germans beat the Argentines 4-0 on a television in the centre we made a plan to get the train out of the place the next day and rejoin the GR20 at Vizzavonna which was a quaint little railway town in the middle of nowhere.

Happy with my own company after washing clothes/self in river.


Upon arriving, we found that the campsite was the other side of the railway track and as we are typically British, crossing the track felt wrong and it appeared that the mosquitoes were out in force in this area which wasn’t the best news so the deet was out and the sun was a welcome break from the constant bites. A river was also close by and was a source of drinking water and some much needed clothes washing. I felt at home here and spent a few days here whilst the others were back tracking a bit and trying to go back on the route a bit. Being alone in these surroundings was great, I felt so chilled out it was awesome and decided it was the first time in ages I had no real worries and thought that I could stay there for a long time. I even made friends with the guys who owned the place and they didn’t charge me for the site and offered me some Corsican smelly sausage for the useless gas, I didn’t want to carry it so it was a done deal. Happy days!

My trusty steed, we've been through so much together.


The rest of the trip was made up in my mind for me, and my meeting two cool German guys helped to make the decision quicker. I wanted to see more of this island and the life on it, dare I say that my university course made me more interested in the locals than wanting to complete the trek, so I told the others that I would be leaving them and heading for the coast with the Germans to have a few days chill out and would meet them at the end point of the trek in a few days time with no clue of how to get there or where I was really going, although I took a risk and knew it would probably be possible in some way or another.

I had a brilliant time, went swimming in the med for the first time ever, saw a few jelly fish which put me off swimming in it too much and saw some of the football matches for the world cup which was always a bonus. I think the decision was definately right for me and I knew the other guys would have a great time completing the trek and they did. Overall, the trip didn’t go exactly as to planned for any of us, although I think we all learnt a lot from it and I think if I could do it again I would not have it any other way. Apart from maybe the Netherlands winning the world cup, the hype surrounding Spain is ridiculous. We flew back to the UK where we all resumed normal life and I went straight from the airport at 4PM to Oxford Street to buy a new outfit which wasn’t trekking clothes at 6PM for a hot date starting at 7PM, the things you do… and back to normal life the next day.

Turned out Corsica is a hot island..


Everyone should be glad to hear that I have managed to sort my Nepal diaries out a little bit and therefore this will be the next thing to take up a few pages in my blog. The diaries are quite extensive and I have received a DVD which was made during my trip, hopefully this gets sent to me at my university address before long and then I can share with everyone what it was truly like out there. Pure bliss. Lots of interesting things in Nepal to come. Embarassing stories and darn right weird and wonderful things.

After the break from the Corsica blogs, I bet everyone is gagging for more information from the lovely sun filled island. Last time, the blog shedded light on the fact that the preparation probably wasn’t all that great with us picking up the wrong gas and contemplating what dehydrated food would taste like cold and also shacked up in a tent waiting for storms to pass. Luckily today is a different story.. or is it?

After the first night at this camp reflecting on how dumb I was not to notice the difference in gas, as much as I would love to blame the group for this mistake, I was sent into the French supermarket and picked up the gas without a second thought so I guess the blame would rest with me. The morning was a normal morning, we were up quite early and were trying to do a killer day so that sounded like fun and it is interesting when trekking seeing everybody has an item of choice, if weight and space in a rucksack is one of the major things which people seem to complain about on the road then this personal item doesn’t apply to the rules and most people are just happy to have them. A common choice I find on trekking routes is people carrying real coffee, the extreme coffee fans take a coffee grinder and real beans showing a total disregard for weight. Luckily members of my group of friends were not this addicted and decided on filter coffee, so had a massive bag of coffee and a ton of filter papers to make that sweet morning brew. I wish my essential extravagant item was exciting..

I said cheese, not this horrible foot!


Cheese, the lovely yellow stuff, this is my item of choice. I don’t even eat a lot of cheese, I guess when you are away and exerting a lot of calories it has all the qualities that you want in food and thus I had a massive block of emmental for this trip and even if it wasn’t the right climate and was going to sweat like mad who cares, it was my cheese and I was going to eat it whether it was soaking wet and gooey or straight from a fridge.

Morning formalities were pretty standard and then we were on the road, like most treks the path went onwards and upwards which was fun, apart from the trekking term seemed to be a bit inappropiate to say the least, the path kind of disappeared and a hopping game across boulders soon turned to a kind of pulling yourself up and getting a leg over boulders which then turned into genuinely scrambling over boulders until we reached a great plateau where the views were magnificent. What a great moment. Everyone decided to chill out and take a break and enjoy the peace and views from the moment. I could have stayed in that moment for longer than I did however something was about to change.

Beautiful scenery of the place.


Ring Ring…. Ring Ring… Ring Ring… what the.. how the.. why the.. a phone up here? Okay so we were all carrying phones, you know how parents worry it is only pleasant to be able to contact those closest to you to let them know that you are not dead and kind of still enjoying things. I think in all my texts I ever send I pretty much always say the same thing; ‘Hey guys, hows things going lovely here, a bit hot all good.’ if that isn’t convincing I don’t know what is, apart from the lack of knowledge about the only being down to one stove with not enough fuel to last the week and the soggy clothes and tents we were carrying about. Spirits were high and one of the group had a phone call from her mother.

Sarah had a slight issue with one of her toes which was causing her discomfort, luckily for her she is a medicine student so could do a self diagnosis and assess whether it was serious or not. She came to the conclusion that although it looked pretty bad and hurt a lot, she would be ok until we were able to get to somewhere where she could pick up some anti biotics. Oh.. how mothers can change even the most knowledgable minds.. Cutting a long story short, ‘get to a doctor right away, you need to get it seen to, I don’t want your leg falling off.’ I guess that was settled then, we would be trying to get to a doctor.

More scenery, it was a lovely place!


The route kind of levelled out a bit which is always a nice surprise, however around every corner there seemed to be a cruel obstacle blocking the way which either needed ducking under or climbing over, easy when your at full fitness and feeling nimble, not great when you have a full pack on and are starting to feel quite tired. According to the book we were following we had reached one of the high points for the day and the camp was much further below us, infact if you looked down and squinted hard enough you could just about make it out. The path down looked mighty steep but hey we all had to do it and it probably wouldn’t take too long so we all got on with it hoping we could reach the bottom and sort things out.

I love downhill, it tends to kill a tired leg but I don’t know what it is, it seems to suit my personal style of walking perfectly, I simply bounce down the ledges and before we knew it we were rocking up into the camp which was an old kind of ski lodge called Haut Ascot which was a pretty cool place. The camp was connected with a road for this reason and therefore there was a bail out plan to get to a doctor if the decision was that this was needed. Relaxing at the camp was nice, the day wasn’t too difficult and everyone was in high spirits seeing the tallest mountain on the island in the background and deciding what decision to make from here. Relaxing is always nice but I had a strange feeling that a storm would be coming in, it also seemed that our gas problem was a bit of a non problem. A lot of the huts and lodges along the way were equipped with gas and the people didn’t mind/know if you used it half of the time making our gas shortages pretty non existant.

Hang on a minute.. I swear there were four of us.. what the.. how the.. where the.. turns out Sarah and another member of the group had been trying to get a lift from the ski station to a town so they could see a doctor, sounds good to me.. I just wish I was informed of what was going on, a simple text message telling us to meet them the next day and get the bus down from the ski station was what remained for us other two to enjoy. After putting the tent up and enjoying the formalities of choosing what dehydrated meal to eat we started to relax and I had a beer at the lodge. Beautiful! Dehydrated food is quite amusing, no matter what you choose, there always tends to be one rubbish choice which everyone tries to avoid, even if you had chosen all of the food there is still the one choice which everyone wishes they didn’t have, however today there were more important things to worry about!

Descending to camp!


For one we had to abandon the trekking for the meanwhile and try and regroup before deciding whether to continue or not. Could this be the end of the trip? Or was it a minor set back? Who knows more importan.. CRASH.. There goes the storm again.. Bundling all the things in the semi waterproof tent and hoping for the best I look up and literally 20 metres from where I am standing a bolt of lightning crashes against a tree branch and brings half a tree down. Nature is pretty impressive in situations like this and also slightly scary.. We decided to take refuge in the building that was available for those ultra light hikers who like to sleep in hard beds indoors. Seems everyone else had the same idea and I felt sorry for some French people who had to tolerate my excuse for an attempt at their language. The World Cup was in full swing so it was interesting hearing everyone who had news on the event and seemed to be a pretty good international language.

Going to bed that night, two things were in my mind.. Would we be able to get the bus the next day and would we be able to continue? With the trip appearingly in tatters and the trekking ground to a halt would the four of us be off on the beaten path again or would this be it.. Next time you will learn about the delights of Corte, the true capital of Corsica and Vizzavonna, a little railway town with a great place in my heart. I bet you cannot wait!