Thursday, 25 August 2011

Scotland Photos

It's taken a while but here they are- photo's from our recent holiday in Scotland...

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Monday, 22 August 2011

Inspiration in a time of Boredom

The blog has been quiet for a while, as you may or may not know the last two weeks have seen me (Sarah) laid up on the sofa following an operation on my knee to smooth and shrink some broken cartilage. 

Before the op I was the fittest I have been in a long time, possibly ever, having completed the 48.1 mile ITEX walk and hiking up Ben Nevis. So suddenly not being able to walk for more than a few metres left me feeling pretty frustrated and miserable!

Instead of feeling sorry for myself (well only a little bit of the time) I decided to take inspiration from books, blogs and tv programmes to help me set goals for the future.

So here's a few tv shows and books that have inspired me over the last two weeks:

Jack Osborne, series one Adrenalin Junkie, climbing El Capitan. 
A few weeks off my feet is still going to leave me fitter than Jack at the start, ok I don't have famous trainers or unlimited money, but if he can learn to climb that, I can learn simple single pitch climbs!

James Cracknell, The toughest foot race on earth
 I thought I was in pain but watching the  Marathon Des Sables (and Jack Osbornes attempt) I realised it wasn't really pain in comparison. Would love to give the MDS a go but I can't see it happen... For a while anyway :) 

Holding On, Jo Gambi
My favourite book when I feel down, if Rob can climb the 7 summits whilst in remission from cancer it makes me realise the human body can do so much more, especially if you're doing it with the person you love!

Alastair Humphreys Thunder & Sunshine
A great book to escape with and it confirms that there are more good than bad people in the world. Makes me want to run away on my bike.

The Hill, Ed Hommer
Ed lost both his legs and two friends on Denali whilst piloting his plane, yet after losing everything including his family, he fought back and triumphed by summiting the mountain that nearly killed him.

So what has this inspired me to do?
As well as eventually following our dreams one day, I'm going to...
... Run my first marathon.
I don't know if it will be next year or 2013 but I'm thinking either the Edinburgh Marathon, nice looking profile and decent cut off time. Or the Marathon du Medoc, wine and oysters rather than water and bananas at the refreshment stops! 

I realised me and Ben have big dreams (next blog, our ever growing bucket list) but most of them  involve large amounts of fitness and endurance both physical and mental. I'm not much of a runner, but the ITEX showed me I can do more than I think and a marathon is a great test of strength needed for future adventures.

So stayed tuned here to find out my progress on getting back on my feet after the op and the latest on my quest in running 26.2 miles.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Scotland- The last few days

After our adventures in the Highlands we planned to meet Sarah’s parents at Comrie, just North of Stirling and on the edge of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. We’d found a beautiful Eco Campsite, Comrie Croft, and it was a proper campsite, no heated pool,  fancy restaurant- just a few fields, a wood and some basic showers.

The day we left Fort William was grey, rainy and low cloud which made the drive through the Glencoe pass absolutely amazing, with mountain tops missing and sunlight shining through onto small patches of mountain side. Rannoch Moor looked the wild place I imagined it would be when we walked over it almost a week before in blue skies and the water on the lochs were grey and choppy.

The bus service down to Glasgow is really good, they run every few hours and stop along the way at most of the villages on the
West Highland Way
. We had to change bus at Glasgow Bus Station and jumped on the shuttle to the airport to pick up our little hire car.

Living on the Island of Jersey is lovely, but only being able to drive a maximum of 40mph and not being able to drive for more than an hour without doing an entire tour of the island, it feels good to fly along motorways- even if it was only a 900cc car!

Comrie was a cute little village but that’s about it and our campsite was on the outskirts. Our pitch was in the top meadow, meaning stunning views over the valley below and to the lowland mountains in the distance. We pitched the tent when my parents arrived and then set to work building a campfire. So many places won’t allow open fires, it was nice for a change to be able to cook sausages and toast marshmallows.

The next day was another rainy day and still feeling the ache from our walking, decided to skip the mountain biking and head to the Oldest Distillery in Scotland, Glenturret, fro the Famous Grouse Experience. The tour was really interesting and told fantastically by our tour guide. As well as seeing the working distillery (no photography as there is a risk of explosion!) we watch a CGI tour of the ‘Famous Grouse’ fly over Scotland and then it was the tasting.

There are several tour options- all of them the same but with different amounts of tasting at the end. Being we were glad we chose the least amount (which was still 2 different Whiskeys) and I’m (Sarah) pleased to say I actually enjoyed the Glenturret whiskey- the first one of the week!

Still rainy and grey after the tour we took a drive up to the loch where the water comes from for the Whiskey  then decided to head back to the Highlands- where I think we left a little bit of our hearts- and enjoy lunch at the Bridge of Orchy and shopping at the Green Welly Stop.

Back at the campsite it was more marshmallows around the campfire and an early night as we were up at the next morning for our Easyjet flight back home.
Our holiday in Scotland really has been amazing and once again, like Finland, we came away with the realisation that being outdoors and active all day everyday is what makes us truly happy. We love that feeling at the end of the day of being tired from physical exertion and fresh air, not mentally drained from being at a desk staring at a computer. We did by a lottery ticket, just in case our luck was in… but for now it’s back to the desk job…

Scotland- Ice Climbing, Harry Potter and a Big Waterfall…

A few days later than planned but here's the next installation of our adventures in Scotland!

After our walk up Ben Nevis we planned a fairly relaxing day on the Saturday with just an ice-climbing session at the Ice Factor Kinlochleven, but of course relaxation is not what we go on holiday for, so we hired a car and tried to fit as much as possible in one day as we could!

Waking up I (Sarah) was surprised at how little pain I was in from Ben Nevis the previous day. Sore knees and a little bit stiff, which I thought would make ice climbing interesting, but felt relatively good.

The Ice Factor is Europe’s largest indoor climbing facility, set in the old Alcan buildings, and the chamber is literally a giant walk in freezer! There’s some impressive indoor walls too, which I had contemplated on giving ago after the ice session… but seeing as my arms felt like they were going to fall off a walk around their shop felt like a better option.

I was really excited about this, I loved the ice climbing in Finland, even though I found it tough and putting on the crampons and ice climbing boots reminded me how much I loved it. Ben was really excited too and we couldn’t wait to get in and get going.

Andy, our instructor, ran over the basics again and let us play around on the lower part of the wall, practising moving with crampons and putting the ice axes into the wall. Then it was off up the first wall. At first I struggled, but once in a rhythm and remembering to keep the axes close together and feet wide apart I made it to the top.

Next up was Ben, he was doing well and I was in a rhythm belaying when he slipped. Thankfully I reacted quickly, sat down to take the weight and held him before he fell too far.

We had three goes each, the last one on a steeper wall which really tested those tender muscles from the walking. Our knot tying and belaying skills seem to be good after the sessions at Leeds Wall and we are almost ready to be let loose on our own!

Next up was Glencoe Visitor Centre, I visited it last year with my parents and standing on the viewing deck with the mountains towering around you is just an amazing feeling and makes you feel very small! We took the woodland walk, but unfortunately there is a lot of tree felling at the moment so parts of it were a bit boring.

After asking at Glencoe information desk about the Ben Nevis Distillery tours, we hopped back in the car and drove North, pulling up we jumped out of the car expecting tours very half an hour, as we had been told. Presuming the sign was wrong, that said the next tour was the following day, a very unfriendly man informed us it was correct- only one tour per day! There were plenty of us milling around and a mini bus pulled up for a tour just as we were leaving, so there definitely wasn’t a lack of interest.

After a bit of indecision, it was then off west to Glenfinnan to look at the Harry Potter viaduct from below. One thing we weren’t prepared for was the cost of parking, toilets and entry everywhere- so a tip is to make sure you always have change, especially 20p for the loos!

We took some great pictures at the Viaduct and across Loch Sheil- also famous in the movies as the backdrop of the viaduct. Heading back to the car we spotted a huge stag on the hillside- even from a distance his antlers were very impressive!

Then it was off back to Glen Nevis and up to waterfalls at the head of the glen. The Lower Falls actually run right under the road and we watched some crazy guys jumping off the bridge, and off the roof of a van, into the pool at the foot of the falls. The higher falls, or Steall Falls were a short drive up a single track to a car park then a walk up the gorge.

By this point there were a few dark clouds coming over the mountains and as we set off the storm alarm on my watch started to bleep. We had a rucksack with the necessities for highland walking, but not knowing how long the walk was, how strenuous and it was getting late in the day, I was quite nervous. We asked a few walkers coming our direction but got different answers, so we set a time to turn back and carried on walking.

Having seen some people come back from the falls in flip flops, suit jackets and various other ‘not suitable for walking’ clothes, we were surprised at the scrambling and slippery rocks on the route that runs high above the gorge, with the sound of water pounding below. Suddenly the gorge opens up to a wide meadow and in front is a waterfall straight out of Jurassic Park. Even from a distance the height is magnificent.

Reaching the river we found it was either a river crossing or a steal rope bridge and with my storm alarm still going off I made the decision it was time to turn back. Later we found it was extremely muddy on the other side anyway, so it’s on our list to still do next time we go back.

So that was out last hectic day in the Highlands, before heading down to Comrie, just north of Stirling. Still to come… open campfires, camping, woolly cows and proper Scottish weather!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Scotland- the last few days, coming soon!

We are now back to reality- boo... but atleast we have a WiFi connection which we didn't have for the last few days in Scotland.

So the last few days of our Scotland adventure will be on here in the next day or so once I sort out my diary notes!