September book review

Book number 16

Book read: Cycling the World Part 2: Into the Sunrise, Sydney to Mori by Chris Pountney

Another amazing adventure! I read Chris’s first book, part 1, Paris to Sydney in February and this has been one of my favourite books, if not my actual favourite book since I began this challenge in January. While I enjoyed ‘part 2’ immensely it didn’t quite have the same style of writing as the first and I found myself skim reading over small sections of it. Maybe I’ve just been reading too many cycle touring books this year?

 

 

 

Segway experience

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Chris and I recently did a segway experience, a thoughtful joint Christmas gift from my lovely step-daughters Annabelle and Charlotte!

We spent an hour doing some initial training and then riding around a track while balancing on the segways. The concept was easy:

  • Lean forward = go
  • Lean backward = reverse
  • Lean left = go left
  • Lean right = go right

And it didn’t take long before we were both whizzing around on the segways 🙂

 

 

July book review(s)

Book number 12

Book read: Moods of Future Joys: Around the World by bike Part 1 by Alastair Humphreys

Another book about cycling around the world… and I loved it! Another incredible adventure which was well written and so interesting to read. Alastair was only 24 when he decided to leave his home and family in England and cycle through Europe and the Middle East and all the way down the length of Africa to Cape Town. Brilliant!

These are a couple of quotes which really demonstrate Alastair’s ability not only to write beautifully but to fully capture his humble sense of engagement and absorption from his surroundings:

Alastair supports ‘Hope and Homes for Children‘ an organisation set up by a British couple who find homes for children who have been abandoned or orphaned. When Alastair met some of these children in Sudan he said “as I shook their small hands and looked into their shy eyes it was with a feeling of ‘you are amazing’… A beginning with no schooling, home or parents is out of my comprehension and I drew so much strength and resolve from them.”

A few pages later… “Despite their poverty, the Sudanese people I met were happy. They had dignity and self-respect and were content with what little they had. And they had an abundance of friends, family and faith. They were the kindest, most cheerful, hospitable and welcoming people that I had ever met. I pedalled through the village towards Ethiopia with a smile on my face.

Paragraphs such as these are so inspiring and heart warming that I can’t wait to read about the next leg of Alastair’s journey which stretches the full length of the Americas. I love the sense of adventure mixed with dose of motivation each time I read a section.

Following this first book Alastair became an adventurer who writes about his travels, gives lectures and pioneered the concept of microadventures. Alastair’s idea of microadventures are about fitting in a little inexpensive adventure at the weekend to escape your life perhaps by camping under the stars or wild swimming in rivers.

My version of a microadventure has been many mini trips to Europe where, when I’ve been short of time and money, I’ve still travelled and seen the highlights of Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Berlin and several more cities in a day or short weekend. In fact, I see and appreciate my life as being packed with microadventures… a beautiful 5 mile walk which ends in a country pub during a warm sunny evening after work; a weekend of camping with lovely friends; an afternoon bike ride across bumpy tracks and fields to see my parents… or end in another pub… a trip to the coast or Peak District to do a long walk…

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Wild camping in the Brecon Beacons last weekend

 

 

Book number 13

Book read: What Happened That Night by Sheila O’Flanagan

In preparation for my relaxing Cuba beach holiday I purchased a good old paperback which I felt would be far easier to read than reading books from the Kindle app on my iPad! You can leave a book lying around on the sun bed, it doesn’t matter if you get your smeary sun cream fingers on it and the odd splash of pina colada doesn’t hurt…

I managed to read this book within the week I was in Cuba and while I found it quite good and I enjoyed reading it, I could take it or leave it… it wasn’t one of those books that keep you gripped from start to finish…

I did enjoy some of the themes and values which came out strongly from the book… the warmth of the traditional Irish family, the complications of relationships and the idea that following your true feelings is best!

However I’m starting to realise that ‘chick lit’ isn’t really my thing… I’m really keen to read the next instalment from Alastair Humphreys where he cycles from Patagonia at the tip of South America, right up to Alaska in the very north of the Americas land mass. Tales from real life adventures are much more exciting!

 

 

 

 

Pre-cruise weight

With massive amounts of exercise combined with eating as best as I can I’ve managed to maintain a weight of 8 st 3 lb for a few weeks. I weigh myself at the gym each week after breakfast and with my clothes on and these do seem heavy duty and pretty reliable scales.

In 4 days time I’ll be travelling to Seattle where I’ll stay for 3 nights before beginning a 9 day cruise to Alaska with Norwegian Cruise Lines. With a permanent abundance of delicious food and alcohol tempting you at every turn, cruises are notorious for causing passengers to gain weight!

The Telegraph suggests the average cruise passenger puts on 1 lb for each day of the cruise! In theory I could come back home and weigh nearly 9 stone again!

My previous 14 night South American cruise almost certainly contributed to the weight I gained during my 2016 global adventure… the weight I couldn’t shake off during 2017…

Anyway, things are different now and on this occasion while I want to enjoy the trip I don’t want to undo the good work of the last 6 months and come back with excess baggage about my person!

Thankfully I don’t have a bad lower back issue this time so I’m planning on a daily gym session, maybe a run around the ships running track each day and have pre-booked 4 x trekking excursions. I’m also planning on taking the stairs up and down the 14 decks rather than the lifts and will try hard not to eat or drink excessively.

I’ll weigh myself immediately upon my return and report back in a couple of weeks time, hopefully with positive weight news…

 

 

 

May book review(s)

Book number 7

Book read: Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson

This is the first book by a famous travel writer that I’ve read this year. This book documents Bryson’s trip from the very top of Europe starting in Hammerfest in Norway as he travels across the continent and right through to Istanbul where the east of Europe meets Asia.

This was Bryson’s first travel book which was written in 1991 and I must say that I did read the original paperback version when it was published then, so over 25 years ago.

It felt weird reading this book again as it is nothing like I remembered it! This shows how time can distort the way you remember things… I have since been to many of the places he visited which is great as I can now relate to them. Maybe this is another reason I remembered the book so differently?

This isn’t the best book of my 50@50 challenge year by any means… Bryson does complain a great deal and does paint himself as a stereotypical moany tourist… I found the book funny in places but after a while the jokes become a bit tedious…

 

Book number 8

Book read: Lone Rider by Elspeth Beard

Elspeth was the first female to circumnavigate the world by motorbike and documents this fantastic journey in the form of her book. She is incredibly inspiring as she shares every detail including accounts of her being treated badly, being ill and having to deal with nightmare bureaucratic border crossings.

She did this between 1982 and 1984 so long before the days of smart phones and sat navs… and while in her early 20’s…

I was in the middle of reading of her immense courage and the hardships she overcame on her own while on my recent solo trip to Montenegro. This really put my trip into perspective… the short flight, comfy hotel, things to do, people being super friendly so not even a little toe dipped out of my comfort zone… Elspeth inspired me to do something more adventurous another time…

Elspeth noticed that people in developing countries seemed far happier as she reflected on her journey towards the end of the book:

“It was clear to me how easy it is to take things for granted and forget to be grateful for the basics in life: family, food and shelter.”

This is something I also noticed while travelling around the world in 2016… travelling in developing countries is a humbling experience…

 

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Always up for more adventures…

 

 

April book review

Book number 6

Book read: The Long and Whining Road by Simeon Courtie

An interesting and realistic account of a family of 5 who travelled around the world in an old VW camper van. The author (the dad, Simeon) gives you a good insight of what would be involved if you ever wanted to take on such a trip, setting out a number of issues for example with border controls and with shipping their van between continents.

This book did take me a while to get into so progress was slow at the beginning. However the book got better and better as the family continued to drive through Europe and into Turkey, Syria and Jordan and onto India, Australia and the US.

Incredibly Simeon drove his family through Syria although thankfully for them this was shortly before the tragic events of Syria took hold. Even so, he described the tensions the family felt in a country on the brink of civil war.

This book definitely inspired me even more to take on something similar… maybe not driving around the world in one go but I would certainly love to drive around the UK, Europe, Australia and the US in camper vans!

 

 

50 future adventures

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Milford Sound, New Zealand

Oh yes… I am going to have fun with this one!

Dream time as I plan 50 adventures for the next 50 years in the manner of a travel bucket list…

  1. Climb Kilimanjaro… pencilled in for 2019…
  2. Scotland Hebridean island hopping
  3. Explore Madagascar
  4. Trek Jordan (completed May 2019)
  5. Annapurna trek similar… did a 2 week remote Himalayan trek in Northern Nepal instead in Oct 2019
  6. Travel overland from Cartagena (Colombia) to Quito (Ecuador)… really keen to explore much more of Colombia, and we didn’t get to Ecuador during our 2016 travelsUPDATE: we visited northern Colombia in Jan 2019 although didn’t go to Ecuador on this trip… 
  7. Galapagos Islands
  8. Australia Great Ocean road trip + a week of trekking in Tasmania
  9. Fiji and the Cook Islands; keen to visit more South Pacific islands after an amazing time in French Polynesia
  10. Grand Europe road trip or two, or three… Northern Europe (Scandinavia); Southern Europe (France, Spain and Portugal); Central Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Austria)…
  11. Spend 6-8 weeks walking the entire length of the South West coast path
  12. Walk a section of the Italian coastline (COMPLETED in Jul 2019 when I walked the Amalfi Coast)
  13. Kerala yoga retreat
  14. Canada Rocky Mountains hiking and road trippin’
  15. US National Parks: 3 month road trip
  16. Explore more of Africa: Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda…
  17. Northern India: maybe an overland trip from Kathmandu (Nepal) to Delhi?
  18. Sandals Bahamas: after getting married in Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica, Chris and I have planned this little indulgence for our 10th wedding anniversary
  19. Chillin’ in St Kitts or and Tobago… or and Grenada (tick)…
  20. South Africa and Namibia: travelling up from Cape Town to Windhoek?
  21. Greek island hopping: 3 – 4 weeks of getting ferries between the islands
  22. A grand tour of China
  23. Norwegian Fjords cruise
  24. Andorra activity holiday
  25. Hiking in the Dolomites, Italy
  26. Myanmar
  27. Taiwan and South Korea
  28. 3 weeks exploring more of Japan
  29. Cruisin’ from Boston to Quebec
  30. Exploring the ‘Stans: Kazakhstan; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan
  31. Exploring Mexico in detail!
  32. Hike the Samaria Gorge in Crete
  33. Spend more time in Central America; Nicaragua’s Corn Islands and a bit more time in Costa Rica; and maybe another visit to Guatemala
  34. A month or two in Hawaii, one of our favourite places in the World!
  35. Explore Armenia and Georgia
  36. Zanzibar, the Spice Island!
  37. Trek the West Highland Way in Scotland
  38. More backpacking Europe by train
  39. Caribbean cruise
  40. Trekking in Patagonia
  41. Cruising the South Pacific… something for when we’re older…
  42. Grand Scotland road trip
  43. Norway: Lofoten Islands
  44. Summer trip to Iceland to drive the Icelandic ring road
  45. Exploring the Balkans: Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro…
  46. Trans Siberian Railway: Moscow to Beijing
  47. More chillin’ and beach-life in Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand
  48. Walk the Camino de Santiago
  49. More weekend breaks in the UK and Europe!
  50. More islands: Azores, Cape Verde, Corsica, Capri (tick)

I’m generally going to focus on the more active trips (such as the treks) first and leave the more leisurely ones (the cruises) for later!

There are so many exciting places in the World although I don’t think some of these trips will be possible until Chris and I retire… it would be fantastic to have another career break but at the moment this doesn’t seem very likely due to a) getting agreement again from work and b) lack of money! I wonder how many 60 somethings walk the entire South West Coast Path in one go? But never say never… I’ll try and experience as many of these as possible 🙂

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