Posts Tagged With: hiking

Seven Sisters, a perfect lieu day!

After a busy few weeks of travelling for work, I took Friday off as a TOIL (Time off in Lieu) day.  I was lucky, the U.K. granted us our one weekend of summer (!) in May and I made full advantage of it.

I’ve just started reading the Bill Bryson book, The Road to Little Dribbling so it was really fortuitous when my colleague suggested I should go to the Seven Sisters during my day off.  As a London resident, seeing the sea generally involves a trip to Brighton but this looked much more my sort of place.  After reading Brysons tale of his trip there, I quickly pulled out the trusty google maps and figured out that it was actually incredibly easy for me to get there – a single train from East Croydon to Eastbourne, and then a bus to the coast.  

Arriving at the Seven Sisters park via the 12A bus (also known as the Coaster — unfortunately not a roller coaster!) I decided to head first of all to the viewpoint which is famous and allows you to see all of the cliffs.  It’s quite a choice, since viewing the cliffs is the other side of a river from the place where you go to climb the cliffs – adding at least 5-7km to the day!  I’ve borrowed this map from someone else’s blog, but essentially this is the route I did, although I did both sections in reverse compared to this person.

What a beautiful view awaited me at the end of the hike to the view point. It’s really incredible to look out over these cliffs and see the coast line like this dramatic yet calm in front of you. I was quite surprised by the number of tourists here on a Friday, but the weather would definitely explain it. I managed to snap some amazing photos of seagulls up on the cliff, they were sitting there squalking away and quite happy to pose for me. 

After finishing my photos there I headed back to the start and up to the actual Seven Sisters Country Park. It was an amazing walk through some fields, including fields where sheep seemed extremely interested in me, and then a steep climb to the top of the cliff but again the view was worth it – far more tourists here but an amazing place to visit.

Below are some of my snaps from the day… A happy way to spend my lieu time.

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Quest of the Gods – Day 8, Inca Trail ·Day 3

In contrast to yesterdays “challenge”, today is known as “the beautiful day”.  Certainly the view from the campsite at the start of the day had read the memo:

Morning view

Morning view

Breakfast today was toast with butter and jam, and then a kind of quesadilla which was tasty and a welcome start to the day.  Unfortunately the day started with news that both Ruth and Simone were suffering from some sort of stomach issues – probably due to the altitude adjustments yesterday.  Both agreed to soldier on through the day, although Simone had to have her pack carried for her at various points.

Having walked down hill for 2 hours yesterday, the last thing we wanted to see in the morning was an uphill section but that is exactly what presented us – 2 hours uphill to start the day off nicely!  After 2 hours, we reached the “second pass”, which was pretty spectacular as it was bordered by two higher peaks – which we had the option to climb (and I did).

Steffi and Katie on a typical section of uphill path, being overtaken by running porters

Steffi and Katie on a typical section of uphill path, being overtaken by running porters

Stunning views... again!

Stunning views… again!

At the second pass

At the second pass

After the pass we headed down through the cloud forest to another inca remain, which the Incas kindly placed at the top of 100 steps – just incase we hadn’t had enough of going downhill to go back up hill!  This remain was really impressive, with some clever mechanisms for door locking, and it acted as a great lookout point to spot the others coming down the hillside.

Steffi and I made it to the ruin first

Steffi and I made it to the ruin first

The stairs were steep!

The stairs were steep!

Amazing view!

Amazing view!

On a ruin

On a ruin

Door locking

Door locking

Door locking

Door locking

Arty photo

Arty photo

We spent around 20 minutes at the ruin and then headed to another break point (during which time I spotted a beautiful butterfly visiting something dead):

Butterfly

Butterfly

The pathway at this point really was incredibly beautiful, passing through cloud forest and along the edge of some hills and mountains before occasionally plunging into tunnels carved right out of the rock.

Beautiful pathway

Beautiful pathway

Steffi and a tunnel

Steffi and a tunnel

Our lunch break was at the “third pass”, another peak and as it was our final lunch with the porters (who will depart before 5am tomorrow), they went all out to impress!  Lunch was served buffet style, and included stuffed tomatoes, a noodle and broccoli bake and some fried rice balls which were divine if insanely filling.  Everything was really yummy!

A spot of lunch

A spot of lunch

After the main food was over, the chef joined us and presented Al & Asfia with a honeymoon cake. Let me write that again.  The chef baked a cake on the mountain.  And decorated it. On the fricking mountain.  I have no idea how you would even go about starting to bake a cake without an oven!

Honeymoon cake!

Honeymoon cake!

Happy Honeymooners!

Happy Honeymooners!

This was such a sweet moment and left Al and Asfia really speechless.  The rest of us were quickly speechless too, stuffing our mouths with cake!  The icing tasted like bubblegum, which was a little strange, but it was such an amazing gesture! Even trying to refill our bodies with calories, we were only able to demolish half of the cake so gave the other half to our porters, who I am sure really appreciated it!

During the lunch break Israel advised us that the lunch toilet might be a little “unconventional”, since the site we had been allocated for lunch didn’t have a toilet block.  Instead, we were to use a tent toilet.  It was, literally, a tent with a toilet inside it.  Upon enquiry, we found out that one of our porters has the cr*p job of carrying this toilet the whole length of the inca trail… including any deposits we make!  I think we all took pity on him and left the solid problems till later!

After lunch Israel briefed us on the rest of the trail for the day, with the cheerful phrase that we had “only 3 hours downhill” to go!  The pace was good and we stopped at more ruins on the way, so the time passed pretty quickly (and thankfully, my blisters from yesterday had all but gone!)

Arty photo from a ruin

Arty photo from a ruin

Ruin

Ruin

Guinea pig rock

Guinea pig rock

There were (my notebook says) “lots and lots and lots of stairs!”… nothing was impossible, we paced ourselves well and somehow I managed to stick in the front half of the group the whole way down.  After about 2 hours of downhill, we were treated to our first bout of rain since starting the trail.  Ponchos out, we soldiered on, although some short bouts of thunder and lightning quickly had us cowering under an overhanging cliff for a while.

Collectively, we decided that we would take the “porter shortcut” to the next camp site, cutting off 30 minutes of trek but avoiding one of the most spectacular ruins on the trial.  In the rain, the ruin is all but insivible anyway, so it wasn’t a hugely challenging decision – plus I really needed the bathroom!

I arrived at the camp site first, and the porters were still setting up the tents!  They scrabbled to give me a round of applause, which whilst cute was thoroughly necessary when all I wanted was to take my poncho off and use the toilet!  After a quick trip to the bathroom, I returned to the camp site and was awarded another round of applause… I never thought someone would applaud my toilet usage!

Once the others arrived, just a few minutes behind, we cracked out the camomile tea and packs of playing cards to start up some more games of Shithead.  I lost one of them, which was the first time i’d been “Shithead” since we learned the game!

Quietly whilst playing cards, we passed around envelopes to fill with tips for the porters, Javier and Israel.  I find that part of the process pretty awkward, but of course it’s important to reward the good service.  And the service really had been amazing!

Dinner was next, with asparagus soup, mash potato, sweet potato, sauce, rice, roast potato (triple carbs today!), broccoli, mange tout, and jelly for dessert – yet another feast!

Dinner

Dinner

After dinner it was time to thank our porters.   They worked incredibly hard, and Al made a short presentation (with Israel translating) before handing over our envelope to the chef – he distributes the tips to the porters.  The porters have to leave the camp site before 5am in order to catch the only train of the day back to their base… if they miss the train, its a 6 hour hike, which i’m sure none of them wanted.  But their 5am departure time means that we had to be up at 3:30, take breakfast at 4am, and depart by 4:15, to give the porters time to pack up after we were gone!  That concept didn’t appeal too much!

Thanking the porters

Thanking the porters

So, even though the day had been beautiful and we were all full of anticipation for tomorrow, it was bedtime by 7pm.  It was much warmer at night, with an elevation of 2700m, which meant I was able to leave my hat, gloves, etc. packed away – a welcome change after last night! I charged my camera using my battery and prepared myself for a full day of photos tomorrow at the main event – Machu Picchu!

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Quest of the Gods – Day 7, Inca Trail ·Day 2

“The difficult day”.  That’s how they sold it to us!

We woke at 5am – I had slept pretty well, despite my single birthed tent.  I was dubious about how cold it might get in a single man tent versus the others, who were all sharing tents.  When it was time to wake up, the porters woke us by knocking the tents and offering us coca tea.  A nice warm tea to start the day is pretty ideal, especially when faced with the highest altitude of the trek!

Quickly after the coca tea disappeared a bowl of warm water replaced it, allowing me to shave and give myself a baby wipe shower.  I was very glad of this, since the prospect of not shaving for 4 days was bad, and the concept of not washing… worse!

By 5:45 we assembled for breakfast – another feast prepared by the chef!  Quinoa porridge (which tasted of cinnamon), followed by a pancake with caramel, and more tea!  Honestly, i’ve eaten worse in 5* hotels!  We were also given snack packs, and plenty of fresh water – today would be challenging!  The snack pack was an orange and a granola bar, but we had been warned to pack some snacks for day 2 ourselves so I added a couple of cliff bars which I had brought from Sweden.

Before setting off, I took one more look at the view from the campsite – incredible!  The scenery in this place is really stunning.

What a view to wake up to

What a view to wake up to

Once we set out, the first 400m elevation climb was reasonably gentle with some occasional steps – a nice introduction to the day.  After that, the steps started, and boy did they start… as I wrote in my notes “it started with steps, then hardcore steps!”

Overall we climbed upto an elevation of 4215m above sea level, but we did take two “official” breaks plus plenty of smaller rest stops.  The trek itself was made more bearable by a game of “Who am i?” played by the group I was walking with, which consisted of Mark, Katie, Ruth, Simone and Javier.  We seemed to have quite a good pace going, and at times I was even able to lead the pack – an amazing feeling from my relative unfitness 18 months ago.  Playing a game whilst walking was a great tactic (thanks to Mark who suggested it) – it kept our minds focussed on silly things and forgetting the challenge ahead of us.

At the second official break-point, we gathered with everyone and we could see in the distance, the peak we would be climbing.  It was hard to stay motivated there, but the top looked so close… just 20 minutes of stairs to go!

The pass - from the second break point

The pass – from the second break point

The concept of the final climb was too much for Steffi

The concept of the final climb was too much for Steffi

We took an extra long break at the second break point to really give ourselves a boost before those 20 minutes of stairs – and they were definitely a challenge!  As we got nearer and nearer the top, people were taking more and more frequent breaks – and we saw someone being encouraged on with “only 25 steps to go”.  Picking up on this queue, Ruth and I started counting down, backwards, from 25…. the counting got ridiculous and kept our spirits high even to the end, even if we did reach -10 before we actually got to the top!

Ruth and I, at the top

Ruth and I, at the top

Top, selfie

Top, selfie

Steffi made it too

Steffi made it too

She slept EVERYWHERE on this trip!

She slept EVERYWHERE on this trip!

Stunning views from the top

Stunning views from the top

The feeling of reaching that height was incredible.  I can say i’ve only had that feeling once before – the moment when I finished the Gothenburg half marathon.  Really, it was the same incredible feeling.  Huge emotional elation.

We had reached the top before 11am, which was an incredible feat – the scheduled time for us to get there was around 12:30, which means our pace was significantly faster than expected.  Hard to believe, considering the challenge of getting up there, but we all felt great knowing that we had done it!

We rested again at the top for around 30 minutes before snapping piles of photos and inevitably beginning the decent.

I’m going to stop here and mention something which my friend Simon had told me before the trail.  He did it a few years ago, and his main piece of advice to me was – “Day two was physically the hardest thing i’ve ever done in my life”.

You see, after climbing stairs up from 6am till 11am, we now were faced with 2 hours continuous down stairs.  It’s supposed to be the worst part of the whole trail.  So with some trepidation, we set off.

The stairs were honestly really hard going.  I started off fast, following Steffi (who does a lot of practice hikes in the Austrian mountains) but slightly twisted an ankle early on and ended up slowing up considerably.  By the end of two hours downhill, my two big toes hard turned into what felt like two huge blisters, and almost every step was painful.

We finally arrived at the camp site at around 13:00 – the plan today was to get all of the hike done before lunch, so that we could relax all afternoon and let our bodies recover.  As soon as we arrived at the camp site (with another round of applause from the porters), the porters seemed quite shocked.  Israel explained that our planned arrival time was 14:30, so they were quite unprepared for our arrival so early!  In the downtime, Steffi, Ruth and I headed down the hill slightly to a nearby stream where we gave our feet a relaxing soak!  The water was ice cold, so we could only manage a few seconds of exposure at a time, but each time we soaked them it felt amazing!  I also grabbed some blister plasters from my first aid kit… a welcome addition!

Feet soaking

Feet soaking

Ruth and Steffi soaking their feet

Ruth and Steffi soaking their feet

After a bit of scrabbling around in the kitchen tent, lunch was served at 13:30 – complete with Condor shaped napkins!

Lunch table

Lunch table

Condor napkins

Condor napkins

For lunch, we ate Semolina soup, a tortilla filled with courgette, rich and guacamole, roast potatoes, and a lemon pie for pudding. I also drank camomile tea afterwards, since we would plan to relax all afternoon.

I headed to the tent for a brief 20 minute nap, followed by chilling out in the dining tent and a few games of Shithead.  We kept adding rules to the game, which made it more interesting, and drinking copious amounts of teas.  Midway through the afternoon, Javier suggested we play a game he had been taught called Mafia.  The game was hilarious, and maybe not for the actual gameplay but rather for Javiers descriptions of horrible murders happening on the Inca Trail as part of the game dialogue.  A lot of blank faces around the group as he described how my walking sticks had exploded and killed me.  After an awkward 45 minutes of trying to play the game, we all secretly vowed never to play again.

Time passed quickly as we were all relaxed and in good spirits, and before long it was dinner time – angel hair soup, followed by rice and potatoes with some sort of pesto.  We were all practically falling asleep around the dinner table after a day of huge exertion, and there was a collective sigh when dinner finished and it was time for bed.  Israel warned us that the altitude would make tonight a very cold night so we wrapped up warm and headed to bed, satisfied that the worst was definitely over!

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An amazing evening hike!

imageYesterday evening a group of us went for an evening hike after work.  It was a really great evening, and we explored a hiking trail called Vättlefjäll.  The trail is an 11.7km route, and we did it in just under 3 hours.  The pace wasn’t very high but it was the ideal opportunity for me to try out my new hiking gear!  I’m glad I had packed my day pack with all of the things I have bought, since I used the water bladder, hiking poles and head torch – by the time we finished it was pitch black outside!

As you can see from the runkeeper log, it’s a course that circles a lot of the lakes in the area.  The lakes are ideal for canoeing and we saw a few people setting up tents along the route who had canoed around – must make a note to do that one day!

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The Hiking Pants dilemma

When I went shopping the other day, I discovered a problem which I hadn’t anticipated.

Hiking PantsI’m too short for hiking pants.  Or at least, I’m too short to buy the hiking pants on offer in Sweden.

I’m 5’7″ (172cm) tall, which isn’t unusually short, but certainly is below average for a male in Sweden.  However, my body is a bit disproportionate and my inseam is only 28″ (70cm).  That causes problems with hiking trousers much more than any other clothing, because hiking trousers have a knee patch.  On the models of hiking pants I tried on, the knee patch falls exactly where my knee ends.

Unfortunately for me, Swedish people tend to be proportionally taller than Brits, so the shops here don’t stock “Short” versions of the hiking pants.  That leaves me with an odd shaped body and very definitely a problem in buying the correct gear for the trip.

Fortunately I have a trip to London planned in September, so I will try to pick up my hiking pants whilst i’m there.  If anyone has any top tips for where to buy appropriately sized trousers, i’d love to hear it!

 

Update:  After a second shopping spree, I managed to locate some shorter style hiking pants in the Sale (“Rea”, in Swedish) section.  They’re not particularly high quality but they will do for training hikes and days when I’m not on the Inca Trail!

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Training walks around Delsjön

Delsjön from homeI’m very lucky to be living close to an amazing set of nature locations, which makes training both inspiring and fun.  Recently I discovered a lake called Delsjön (actually it’s two lakes – Stora Delsjön and Lilla Delsjön) which has a 10km hike route around the perimeter.  The hike itself is great for training – a few steep bits but plenty of flat bits too.  But what’s really wonderful is just how beautiful it is there.  Really stunning. It’s a popular place for families to go as there is a beach and you can swim in the lake (it’s crystal clear), but the hiking track itself is generally really quiet.  The lake is around 5km from my apartment, and a lap is 10km around it, so it’s a nice gentle 20km training walk.  I often see people running around there, which impresses me – I don’t think i’d want to run up some of the hills there, although i’m yet to try.

Last time I went there (yesterday) it started tipping down with rain but luckily I was testing out my day pack for Peru so I had my wet weather gear packed.  It meant I got a chance to test out the durability of the wet weather gear too – my Poncho technique leaves some room for improvement, as my shirt and trousers were soaked by the time i’d walked 10km in the pouring rain.  I guess that’s to be expected though.

Here are a few pictures I took during my recent walks – when it wasn’t raining!

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