Category Archives: hiking

A different kind of beauty

After completing the West Highland Way and ‘doing’ Ben Nevis on my rest day in Fort William, I walked the Great Glen Way to Inverness. A lovely walk of 6 days, easier than the West Highland Way and far fewer walkers on the trail (to my surprise). A pretty walk along the lochs, including Loch Ness of course and with its fair share of ‘Scottish mist’. 

Though lacking the grandeur of the first walk, it had a couple of high route days and the isolation I love when hiking.

Highlights?

Loch Ness in the moonlight

Following the Caledonian Canal and watching the boats manoeuvre through the series of locks.

The high routes to Invermoriston and Drannadochit.

Coming upon the Abriachan Eco-campsite and cafe in the middle of the wonderful Abriachan Forest. A haven.

The people, always.

The lowlights?

The );$@&/midges!

The shock of the tour bus crowds in Fort Augustus after 11 days of walking in relative isolation/peace.

What next? Japan has been calling for a few years and the Scottish National Trail appeals now I’ve had a taste. First, there is writing to be finished.


Romance and grandeur – walking the West Highland Way

Since I lack words adequate to the task, here are some photos from my wonderful experience walking this path solo two weeks ago.

The highlights? 

Rannoch Moor

Rock scrambling on the low route along Loch Lomond

Kinlocheven to Fort William on the last day, bitter wind and rain and marvellous isolation on the high plateau

The friendliness of all

The lowlight?

Scottish midges  – horrible little bloodsuckers! 

Three long years since last we talked

Yes, back at the British Library contemplating life with Isaac Newton after three years of the good, the bad and the downright awful. Illness and operations, death of close friends, love, family, friendships lost and gained, writing successful and failed and soles worn through by bushwalking. It has been three years of turmoil in which the good outweighs the bad and best of all, I’m here to tell the tale. Three years older and possibly, just possibly, at long last a little wiser. Probably not.

Last time Isaac and I contemplated life together, I was on my way to do the Coast to Coast walk across England [with two broken bones in my foot though I didn’t know that at the time]. This time it is Scotland, the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way taking me from Glasgow to Inverness. And maybe somewhere beyond that, we shall see.

For now, the path beckons. This one is from the Larapinta Trail in central Australia a few weeks ago – trust me, there is a track in this beautiful solitude. There is always a path if we but look.

2017-05-23 11.14.54

 

Outback Australia, one step at a time

2017-05-26 09.49.20The trail never ends, last week was 8 days walking around Uluru, through Kata Tjuta and along sections of the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia. Sleeping in tents or in a swag under starlit skies impossible to comprehend or describe. Campfires at night with wonderful food, drink and company.

2017-05-23 18.33.08

2017-05-18 10.41.27 HDR
and beauty wherever one looks – rock or water, harsh or gentle in nature.
2017-05-21 13.37.33Sunsets and sunrises
2017-05-25 07.09.40and the iconic, sacred rock
2017-05-17 18.01.46in ever changing colours, especially the red we all know and love.
2017-05-18 07.25.13and looking down from the summit of Mount Sonder, a 3 hour night time ascent with head lamps.
2017-05-25 07.18.35
A wonderful time of reflection in desert silence, no phones, no distractions.
and an ever-growing appreciation of the 40,000 year old civilization which inhabited and managed this land.
Where next? Scotland in July, for ‘something completely different’, but where next
in Australia? That path is unknown.

A surprising response from an editor

Six weeks ago I sent my novel ms to 3 publishers. I had low expectations of success given the small number of novels published annually in Australia and the tidal wave of unsolicited manuscript submissions washing up weekly on editors’ desks. Nor did I expect any feedback since publishers’ websites sternly enjoin ‘no feedback will be given’ and ‘silence equals rejection’. Let’s add the fact that I had no idea if my writing was good, bad or ho hum who cares?

Imagine my surprise to receive feedback from one editor . Alas, not feedback saying this is the most brilliant piece we have ever seen and we’re publishing it unchanged in a print run of 1,000,000, film rights already being auctioned. Quite the opposite. As a work of fiction it requires more work and they are not interested. So far, so depressing. I keep reading.

They love the ‘compelling sense of place’ and the ‘very strong travel narrative’ – you may recall my story is set on the Camino in Spain and France – and suggest I focus on that in the short term, perhaps placing articles in travel magazines, perhaps as a stand alone travel book. Well, knock me down with the proverbial feather. I love quality travel narrative ranging from the classics of the 19th and early 20th century to contemporary travellers/commentators/writers and am no snob who believes fiction is inherently superior to travel narratives.

Anyway, it is early days and only 3 publishers, however, it does give me food for thought [sorry for the unimaginative cliché] as this blog began life as a story of hiking and writing and maybe that will be my path again after a detour into the land of fiction. Not that I am giving up on fiction, perhaps this story needs a breather though. It is my first effort, I have learned a lot and cliché alert number two, you have to know when to hold and when to fold.

I have experienced three dramatic turns in my life in the last year and this could be number four.

Watch this space…

 

An island stroll

Tomorrow I fly to Adelaide to commence a 6 day hike on Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third largest island, situated off the South Australian Coast and fronting the Great Southern Ocean.

It is a gentle walk, the longest day is only 18 kilometres and not at all like the long walks I have done and have planned.

But…

Staying in a lighthouse – yes

44_Cape_du_Couedic_Lighthouse_Kangaroo_Island_reg

Staying in lighthouse cottages – yes

Mingling with penguins, sea-lions, goannas, kangaroos, echidnas etc – yes

sea lions

Seeing rare Australian native birds – yes

Spectacular cliff top walks and scenery – yes

cape borda

Wandering in the sunshine – yes.

The stars at night, crystal clear far from city pollution, peering into infinity – yes.

‘What’s not to like’, as we say down under [and possibly elsewhere].

In the meantime I continue to ponder doing the Via Francigena in 2016, a hike of 950 kilometres from Saint Bernard’s Pass to Rome. I have learned that the Pope has declared 2016 a jubilee year for the Catholic Church.

I have zero interest in religion, however, I am informed that the jubilee year declaration will lead to an influx of people/pilgrims to Italy [and higher prices] and the last thing I want is to be surrounded by hordes of people!

I know that the Camino Frances becomes even more crowded in jubilee years.

What do readers know of the possible impact of a jubilee year on the Via Francigena?

If I decide that the Via Francigena is ‘off’ for 2016, there are other enticing possibilities – the 88 temples pilgrimage in Japan, Jakobsweg in Switzerland/France and the temptation of hiking  in Scotland, about which I have heard so much.

I could do the first half of the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Saint Bernard’s Pass, but that one is less appealing. Mind you, it would certainly be solitary!

Either way I shall continue to learn Italian, a beautiful language and a fun class even if I do not walk there next year.

First world problems, I know.