Category Archives: Adventures

The start of another Himalayan adventure…..

Today is the 1st March, St George’s Day, and yet we are many thousands of miles from England. We landed in Kathmandu, Nepal some ten weeks and three days after departing in December on the 27th February. The time at home has been busy – locuming to earn extra funds, sitting an exam and preparing for a job interview for August, visiting family and friends over the festive season and making numerous round trips between Scotland and North Yorkshire to plan our wedding in June. So as we met up at Manchester Airport and ditched our heavy duffels at check in, we barely spoke as finally we were able to switch off and relax.

I was waiting for the excitement to hit as the plane departed but even at Doha it was just a feeling of necessity as we queued through transfers and then had nearly 8 hours to while away in the airport. We found a quiet spot to catch some shut eye and then it was time to eat (again) and have a coffee ready for the next leg. The excitement levels definitely raised as we boarded the flight to Kathmandu – we’d had our seats changed to 4J and 4K – it didn’t twig until Reuben was directed to the left and somehow we were in business!!! A no frills upgrade alongside 28 others but having declined the option to upgrade for ¬£160 each, we had the amazing seats and space to completely chill out for the next four hours!!!

Reuben relaxing in Doha airport en route for Kathmandu

Reuben relaxing in Doha airport en route for Kathmandu

As we left the aircraft and stepped onto Nepalese turf, the smells and surroundings seemed instantly familiar. A few “namastes” later and already it felt like home again. I can’t really explain it but if I said this was my seventh visit to this beautiful country, you would maybe understand the addiction and love of the people and their home. After an unusually long wait for baggage and the usual chaos, we left arrivals to a sea of people waiting to either pick up weary travellers or try and snap some unsuspecting tourists for the usual overpriced taxi fare into Thamel. To our relief (as I couldn’t face bartering with a taxi driver), Reuben spotted a sign reading ‘Dr Katie & Reuben, HRA’ and came running back excitedly to say we had our lift. And so with excitement, we met familiar faces from our time here in the autumn and were taken to the hotel where finally we could sleep…..

Our first day passed in a bit of a blur……we had breakfast and then slept – a lot. I don’t think either of us realised how tired we were up until that point but after weeks of cramming everything in and months of living out of our duffels, we just switched off. We had to – both full of a cold and weary from nearly 30 hours of travelling, there was no point in rushing out to revisit places we’d already seen. Besides, the next three months are going to be hard work with early starts and 24 hour on calls. A lie in was allowed! Later on we went out and explored the streets of Thamel, taking photos of the daily humdrum as it was played out before us….it never quite fails to amaze me how people make a living out here. We ate at one of our favourite spots – OR2K, which does amazing vegetarian cuisine and is always packed. In fact, Thamel is bustling at the moment with travellers – it’s not quite trekking season yet but lots of young wannabe hippies and boisterous groups packing the bars late at night – it’s quite a different place than when we let just a few months ago.

Wondering the streets of Thamel at night

Wandering the streets of Thamel at night

Today we met with Chhewang briefly – he was our manager at the IPPG Machermo rescue post last season. As expected, it was only brief, but so lovely to see him again and catch up on the last ten weeks. He was waiting to meet the new team for this season and unbeknown to us, we were about to meet ours just an hour later. Lazing in our room again, we heard a knock and found three of our fellow HRA doctors seeing if we were up and ready for a meeting at 1130! Whoops! We’d had 24 hours to recover from jet lag and yet still hadn’t quite managed to look as fresh despite at least one of the team arriving to the hotel at midnight last night!! I think the rumour quickly spread that we’d been asleep……!!!

Half an hour later, we arrived at the offices of the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA). The excitement continued to grow as we chatted and got to know each other whilst sipping milk tea and filling in paperwork. It has been nearly 4 years since applying to volunteer with the HRA so to finally be here and on the back of a Fall season at Machermo, was pretty special. We had a tour of the building too and found that we are getting new beds and pillows for the season (with mattresses – practically glamping!) and then got more excited as we looked at all the kit being readied for Everest ER later this season. It is going to be another epic adventure!!!

Now however, it’s time for more coffee in Himalayan Java, avoiding the thunder and rain, whilst preparing for our Nepali lessons later today.

Namaste.

 

Secret Weekend…….of Adventures

“Shorts, flip flops and a down jacket….??!!”….I read out loud. All week, the list of items needed for the mystery weekend had started to materialise. Reuben could see my little cogs turning as I tried to guess the location for our secret weekend and the activities he had planned. It was a source of much amusement……much to my mock frustration and boundless excitement….

By Friday morning I was still pretty clueless…..so I figured I would pack anyway and imagine I was spending the weekend on a desert island. The penny dropped when I noticed both mountain bikes were in the garden…..

Just after 3.30pm, we rolled down the street for our first bikepacking adventure. I was grinning from ear to ear as we cycled along the roads with people looking onwards in amusement. I felt alive – not knowing where we would be sleeping nor how we would be getting there……you can imagine the excitement flowing through me.

We arrived at the train station in time to board a train destined for Manchester Airport. Cogs still turning, I figured Scotland was out of the running and I was pretty sure my passport was still in the top drawer at home…. So options….. The Lakes looked like a good contender…..quick change at Manchester Piccadilly perhaps…. But then Reuben started to look worried….the train was stuck……we had another two trains to catch……

In true British Rail fashion, we arrived at Darlington 30 minutes late which had a knock-on effect for the rest of the evening. We wouldn’t be heading for the Lakes alongside hundreds of other tourists……but I was starting to feel a little bewildered as we arrived in Middlesborough! Still, my sense of adventure was alight and a decision was made to pedal rather than wait for the next train some 3 hours later.

And so we headed out 14 miles into the countryside and to our first adventures in the North York Moors……

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening….. It was warm and sunny, brilliant blue skies and barely a cloud in sight…. Having navigated out of the town, we were soon moving at speed along country roads with marvellous views out to Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s monument. As with any microadventure of this kind, we were able to shape the evening as it unfolded and so a decision was made to source some fish and chips in Great Ayton, boyhood home of Captain Cook.

Once on the bikes again, we moved further away from civilisation, heading down bridleways and past farms and cottages until the path rose steeply and rockily onto the moors, and the sunset threw a magical glow over the countryside. By now, that feeling of adventure and excitement was going into overdrive. Years of growing up reading novels by Enid Blyton….timeless stories of the Famous Five and the Adventure series….and here I was living my own little adventure. It was magic.

This was unlike any other weekend where we might have walked or biked…..or even hit the trails at a steady pace, running across the hilltops. There was no van, no security from the elements and no certainty as to where we might find food and water. It was simplistic in its form and I could not imagine a more perfect way to spend a weekend with someone who means the world to me….

IMG_4517

As it turned dark, we reached the top of the incline and started to think about setting up camp for the night. Plans might have changed, but thoughts now turned to the perfect location for the evening….not what could have been had we spent the night drinking and laughing in The Lion Inn. With the distant glow of lights from Middlesborough shining in the distance, we made out the shapes in the heather and guided by the moonlight, found a grouse buttress to shelter by. The tent was up in no time and the bikes sheltered in the hide……it was time to turn in for the evening. But not before my own little surprise…….I’d pedalled the distance with two cheeky cans of Gordon’s Gin and Tonic…….cheers, Reuben!

IMG_4546

IMG_4570

It was a windy night but the tent held strong……we woke to the sounds of grouse calling across the moor, oblivious to the slumber we had been enjoying for several hours. The blue skies were magnificent as we emerged from the tent….although they soon folded to the overcast shadows and clouds that settled in for the duration of the day. A quick breakfast of coffee and bacon (expertly fired on my pocket rocket and miniature frying pan) was followed by a speedy pack up as it threatened to pour down with rain. We were passed by three walkers as the bikes were readied for the day ahead and once we had loaded up our steeds, we were ready to hit the trails….

IMG_4581

20130819-181233.jpg

I had only visited the North York Moors once before however as we started pedalling, I knew instantly that it was somewhere I could connect with……a place of mystery and wild enchantment – waiting to be explored. We cycled along old railway tracks, roads and sections of singletrack, balancing the heavy bikes between the heather verges as we crossed the moors.

IMG_4618

IMG_4632

The laughter and sense of freedom as we journeyed into the wilderness was blissful – for me, it was perfection. Even when I did fall off the bike as my concentration lapsed on a section of singletrack……

IMG_4630

The day passed by with a renewed outlook……we were so close to home and yet it felt like we could have been a million miles away from our everyday routines. It was a perfect time to reflect and to soul-search as we pedalled along the trails, making our way from place to place through the valleys of Farndale, Fryupdale, Rosedale and Glazedale…..

IMG_4633

The rains started to pour as we arrived into Glazedale and so we made for a railway bridge and sheltered with a cup of hot soup and various snacks that had been crammed into our bags. It had been a long day and thoughts now turned to hot food and setting up camp for the night. We cycled back uphill and re-traced our route, headed for the Board Inn at Lealholm. By now it was 4pm – a time to sit and reflect on the days adventures whilst enjoying some hearty food. Only there was no room at the Inn! And so after a swift half of Black Sheep ale, we set off once again into the pouring rain and made for an evening at The Jolly Sailor…..

It was a decision well made as we crossed the moors yet again and hit more singletrack with the views of the surrounding countryside sweeping by in a purple haze. After detouring off the track and almost disappearing in the green ferns, we made our way past Scaling Dam and set up the tent in a field about 7 miles from Reuben’s family home. Some might think how crazy, but for me it couldn’t have been more perfect.

IMG_4647 IMG_4651

The evening was spent gorging on the most delicious food – both of us hitting a heady slumber as we pulled away from The Jolly Sailor, yet again in a downpour. This time, headtorches revealed the way ahead as we made our way through the moorland – frogs hopping out of the way as we slid along the muddy tracks. Back on the road, we sped at pace through large puddles, soaking ourselves to the skin, as we raced for our tent and shelter for the evening.

IMG_4661 IMG_4671

It was a beautiful Sunday morning……bright blue skies, the sun bearing down and birds singing. ¬†Despite my roll mat self-defalting overnight (had Reuben forgotten to inflate it one wonders….?), we woke after 9am and had a leisurely start to the day – packing and heading for a coffee nearer Boulby, sitting high on some scaffolding to drink our brews and take in the magnificent surroundings.

Back at Boulby, we spent a few hours with Reuben’s family, recalling the weekends adventures and enjoying Sunday lunch round the table. It was so comforting and such a nice way to finish the weekend and yet the journey was still not over. I didn’t want the weekend to end – I wanted to lose myself in the moment – to savour it and think ahead to many more adventures to come. So as we pulled away on our bikes, we headed along the coast to Saltburn and the train home. A brilliant last leg, smiles on our faces and the sea breeze bristling through our helmets as we pedalled along taking in the coastline and pondering the future.

IMG_4686 IMG_4689

A brilliant weekend and a brilliant first microadventure – I can’t wait until the next installment!