Tag Archives: walking

Hiking the Lech River trail – mountains, rivers, cowbells, trout and strudel

Seven days walking from the Lech River source, a spring above Lech and just below Lake Formarinsee at 1870 metres through the Austrian Laps and across the German border to Fussen.

Racing thunderstorms.

One day ahead of snow showers.

Two hot days and finishing just before a deluge.

The beauty of the alps, the rivers and lakes.

The silence of the forests (though I do miss the noise of Australian birds).

The solitude.

The hours of rocks and tree roots up and down, up and down.

The tiny villages and the friendly people.

Did I mention the local trout and strudel? And the beer? I’m no food porn fan so you’ll just have to believe me.

Some photos that cannot do justice.

Oh and I nearly forgot the views of King Ludwig’s fantastic Neuschwanstein Castle across Lake Alpsee.

Formarinsee day one

The River begins and so do I.

Local cowbell ringers

Lech as thunderstorms grumble

The path to Varth

Light above the village church as I leave for Holzgau

Now truly a River

And next the frankly scary Holzgau suspension bridge, 210 metres long and 100 metres above the valley. An early morning Adrenalin fix.

one of many signs of avalanches and massive rockfalls.

A perfect snack spot after a long climb and another hour of ascending to go, high in the forest and nobody in sight.

Tight security at the Austria- Germany border

The stunning colours of Alpsee and across the lake to Neuchwanstein.

Yours truly gazing back to where I’d walked.

Yours truly again at Lechfall, the official end of the trail. The River continues and flows into the Danube.

Happy to have reached the end after a long and hard final day. Sorry it’s over.

Where to next?

Walking the Cotswold Way

Sometimes the path was spacious

And sometimes it was not.

But always it was beautiful and joyfully quiet, perhaps six days of 30 Celsius kept other walkers away so that most of the time it was me alone in the fields except for cows and sheep and in the forest me and deer, foxes(heard but unseen), birds and unknown small animals foraging in the undergrowth.

8

Equally beautiful were the little villages,colours changing from the honey brown hues of the north to the lighter more austere colours heading south as I walked from Chipping Campden to Bath.

Not forgetting the Millenium Folly and my destination of Bath Abbey and the plaque celebrating the Cotswold Way.

And of course one sign post for the path.

So, seven wonderful days of solitude and contemplation, plus miles under the boots in July summer days. Oh and let’s not forget much thinking about the final draft revisions of my novel. Walking and thinking go together like – well, you can add your own pairing!

Recommended to one and all.

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! 

Like falling out of a window

Yes, it’s been seven months since I blogged. Shame on me, though I do have excuses. It is one year since I had a melanoma removed. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is like falling out of a window [a thousand other metaphors or similes come to mind] and ‘so far so good’ as I haven’t yet hit the ground. My quarterly check three days ago showed NED = no evidence of disease and no need to come back for four months.

You want more excuses? In July I had two related operations, nothing to do with cancer, ‘just bad luck’ consequences of the original melanoma operation. Successful, albeit with a long period of enforced inactivity.

Still not happy? Okay. This week I completed the first draft of ‘Stopping Time’, my novel about the challenges confronting modern universities; that is, the pressure to do more with less and to be more commercial, competitive and ‘relevant’ while maintaining core values of academic freedom. One hundred thousand words of pure gold. Maybe.

No more excuses.

Now it is decision time. Time to cross the river, not the Styx fortunately. The photo is one of many river crossings when I was hiking in the Flinders Ranges in September perfectly timed to coincide with a ‘once in 50 years’ weather event. Three ops and you gotta keep going through flood, storm, whatever.

Anyway, I digress. My decision, my metaphorical river to cross, is this. Which of my two manuscripts do I revise first? ‘Death on the Camino’, the one with potential but needs more work [according to an editor] and which is my first love? Or ‘Stopping Life’, the one which my mentor likes and which is probably more commercial and topical? The heart versus common sense.

Time for a walk in the rain and a spot of pondering…

2016-09-25-11-04-45

Writing from trauma

I am taking a break from my novel set on the Camino. The ms was never intended to be autobiographical though it drew on my experiences and encounters walking across France on the Via Podiensis and across Spain on the Camino and drew on a personal interest in dying with dignity and assisted suicide. Not to mention experiences of madness and death and all the other stuff of everyday life.

It was not until I received editorial feedback praising some parts of the ms and criticising others, that I realised how intensely personal and introspective the novel had become. It seems astonishing now that I never realised how entrapped I was in old wounds/traumas and their working out in fiction.

So I am putting the ms aside for a year to gain distance and perspective, maybe to undertake workshops on writing about the past. The novel, I repeat, is not ‘my story’ per se and is not a memoir except in a psychological and existential way I was too blind to see until I was poked in the eye from editors. While I let it lie for a year, I am contemplating attending ‘memoir writing’ workshops to learn skills of perspective and especially of extracting the universal from the personal.

In case you think you’re now safe from my scribbling, not at all.

I have begun writing a novel about universities and commercialisation, a topic dear to my heart for 10 years. See my next blog post for further information.

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.