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Backpacks and blisters - the walking thread

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    Treibeis, you got it completely. Welcome aboard...


      Fantastic day hike in the Slovak Mala Fatra today, up to Mincol, which comes quite far down on the list of highest peaks in the range, but still just about exceeds Ben Nevis. There's a cannon just below the summit, a remnant of the days when the Slovak partisans fought the Nazis in these hills. The communists later had it turned round to face west.

      I did go with a friend, but we didn't see one other walker, alpine skier or whatever, on the way up, at the summit, or on the way down. It was a beautiful day, with cloud down in the valley, but clear blue skies above.

      There's a ski-centre nearby (but still far enough away), so we could just about make out figures on the slopes. Crucially, we couldn't hear them, or indeed any sound other than the wind in the trees, the odd woodpecker, and deer (I trust they were deer and not bears) running through undergrowth.

      I've had a few winter hikes this season, but this was the first to offer a view of anything other than grey cloud at the top.


        Apropos of nothing much here's an account of some travels I did back in 1984. There is walking involved, a fair bit, but also driving so it doesn't exactly fit in this thread but if I can be indulged...? The account is based on diary records with some after-years editing, but not much. There are some borrowings from Arabic and a couple of transliterations which I can explain if required.

        19 March:
        Nyala: We’ve now met a few more people, including an Egyptian, his European wife and 2 children, not to mention a big black dog. They’ve been travelling in Sudan and have arrived here from Juba, Yambio and Tambura in a Land Rover. Both speak excellent English.

        We went out to have dinner with them. Only the dog was left behind. We feasted on sausages, cheese, lots of salad, kibda, chicken, followed by fruit juice and coffee. They were very interesting. He’s doing a PhD on Sudan. We spoke of Islam, learning languages, the position of women here, education, everything really.

        20 March: Wondered around the souq, buying addis, basal, dates, for our expedition. The Egyptian-Swiss couple has offered us a lift to near the jebel, and we’ve accepted with pleasure.

        We left in the afternoon, going by Land Rover on the hard road to Zalingei, built god knows why. For a while the scenery was boring but after a while pimples began to appear on the horizon. We found a road to Nyertete and from there to the rest house. We didn’t stay there but decided to camp. Ramsis killed two scorpions which made us all a bit nervous. But we felt great, ate addis which we cooked on a fire, and even had a few slugs of whisky which the family had bought for LS25 in the south.

        21 March: One of the most memorable days of my life. After morning tea, we headed off to Kulu. It was a stony road, criss-crossed by dry streams, rising all the time. I thought that the car would never make it, but we did. However, just as Ramsis was stopping, a puncture resulted. We repaired the inner tube and had a struggle replacing it. Then we began to pump it up. Little air seemed to be getting through; we tested the pump, valve, finally the inner tube again. Another puncture!

        We used another inner tube and this one inflated fine. Then…on no! One of the wheel nuts was missing, taken, we were pretty sure, by a local madman, who seemed to be a collector of empty matchboxes, rags, dirt, all of which he carried in an old useless jerry can. (Later, he appeared with a pudding bowl on his head.) Anyway, he’d been hanging around the Land Rover and Ann-Marie was sure she’d seen him take something.
        We searched him! We dipped our fingers in his pockets, searched under his pudding bowl hat, but there was no wheel nut to be found. We had to use one from the spare wheel.

        Two other amusing incidents to relate: Milo, big and black, made as if to attack the crowds of children present. Result: general fear, panic, and then laughter. Two men grabbed Milo’s dinner and ate it – straight from his bowl.

        Now to Kiling, and what a terrible road. Some people wouldn’t even have walked up it. Twisting, rock-strewn, steep. Side to side we swayed.

        Eventually we reached Kiling and received a friendly welcome. We were shown to an empty house and allowed to build a fire. The village itself is beautiful, stone and mud and grass huts, even two classrooms. Local fruit is abundant.

        Most people speak only the Fur language, although there is a teacher who speaks Arabic, and who’s teaching the children to speak likewise.

        In the evening, after being left alone by the villagers, we cooked a magnificent meal of goat, lentils and onions, followed by mangoes, biscuits, tea and whisky. Fun with the children, cigarettes, water, talking. I slept on a birish. It was a very windy night, but in my sleeping bag I wasn’t cold and how fantastic the stars were!

        What a day! Fantastique!

        22 March: We began walking, accompanied by many children who dwindled to three guides who were to be with us all the way: Bakir, Suleiman, Adam. The scenery was breathtaking: fruit terraces, green and red rocks, oranges aplenty. I was tired but able. We had many stops.

        As we got higher the scenery became less lovely, more stark. We stopped by a stream and made tea. It was welcome, as we’d climbed a long way. Milo, the dog, was having the time of his one-year-old life. A blue, shiny sky.

        We stopped in poor but beautiful village and the 9 of us shared a meal of macaroni, meat, tomato paste. From the village there was a view of mountain peaks. I slept well, though others were cold. Mon sleeping bag: c’est magnifique!

        23 March: An easier day. What had begun as a two-day trip was obviously going to be longer. The guides didn’t understand that we wanted to see the crater and we seemed to be going nowhere. Ma’leesh! But in other ways they were good guides, pointing out distant villages, telling us about the crops growing in each place, etc. This was such rich countryside.

        We stopped at midday at Luki, where we bought meat. This was something in itself. A cow is killed and divided into 20 portions, bones and all. This is a serious and long process. It would be a breach of manners to take a smaller portion before the division was complete.

        While we were waiting, we sat drinking tea, cracking monkey nuts, surrounded by a pile of potatoes and other food. French, English and Arabic were our lingua franca!

        Before we stopped we had seen baboons and a wild dog, about which we’d been worried in case it attacked Milo (it didn’t). He looked a hungry, lean animal.

        We spent the night in a village close to Luki. I ate like a pig (for LS10 we had bought about 10 kilos of beef). We slept in a racoobi – warm as usual.

        The Fur language is strange-sounding. The greetings in particular have a sing-song quality to them. It’s often spoken more than Arabic here.

        Oh, and at night, the stars were beautiful!

        24 March: A day in which we ended up at Kibberly and which was very frustrating. We were told by our guides that it would be possible to reach the crater lakes and Kiling in one day, but by 12.00 we knew this was impossible. We had problems: lack of food and water. Karim had a swollen arm and a headache, the guides had no blankets under which to sleep out. I wanted to make the two-hour descent to the lakes but I kept quiet. The guides went to find water and two hours later they returned.

        From here we had a six-hour walk up three ridges: tough and tiring. Kibberly, where we bought rice, dried tomatoes, tea, sugar and dates, was a relief.

        The crater itself was less steep than I’d expected. It was marked by dry water channels, cracked by the sun.
        In the evening I had a nasty headache and was rather subdued. We slept in an empty hut which was half-filled with wood, so we were close together – good for warmth!

        Ramsis had to carry the ill Karim for a while. Anne-Marie looked knackered too.

        25 March: Wake up late and missed the dawn. Saw a bit more of Kibberly, which is a fairly big place, on a plateau.
        From here we walked largely downhill, not tiring but needing lots of concentration to avoid slips. We came across a small, fresh stream fed by a waterfall. Here we sat and washed. Then Anne-Marie offered us a lift back to Khartoum in the Land Rover. We accepted enthusiastically.

        On the way down we stopped at a small farm and bought 8 dozen oranges, and while we waited were “fuddled” with lemon juice, more oranges, nabaah (small pellet-shaped fruit, slightly reminiscent of honey, very sticky, hard to spit out the stones), guava and grapefruit.

        We arrived back in Kiling after four days absence. To me it seemed much longer. I helped fetch water from a lovely pool while Ramsis bought, killed and cooked a chicken. We also purchased some eggs, one of which was fertilized. The seller assured us that it was a cock’s egg.
        Last edited by Sporting; 24-03-2019, 18:10.



          26 March: We left Kiling in the morning. Maybe there’d be a chance to see some hot springs and a waterfall near Nyertete. But we were too long in driving, and everyone was tired. I think only Maurice was interested in another walk, and he didn’t insist.

          We stopped in Gildo, where there was an interesting market. I had papaya here for the first time in my life.

          The day caused a fair bit of commotion. I felt a bit under the weather, so I stayed in the vehicle with Milo. Crowds kept staring in through the car windows and I felt like a bird in a cage.

          As for Milo, many of the locals didn’t know what kind of an animal he is, as he’s so big and black. They’re also amazed when he answers our calls – Sudanese dogs are simply not trained in this way.

          At Nyertete we collected water. I ate more oranges. We decided not to go to the hot springs and began driving towards El Fasher. The road was longer than we had thought and by the time we reached Zalingei it was nearly dark. So we stopped, ate, and slept, me inside the Land Rover, warm but cramped. We couldn’t have continued driving here on these roads. Everyone was tired.

          27 March: Zalingei to Kukubiya. The Michelin map isn’t very clear. Without quite knowing how we found ourselves in Tawila where an interesting market was. I was in the mood for one today, and we had a general wander. Things seen: galvanized rods made into spears, pins bent in order to be used as rivets, fruit; “Stone’s Liniment”, a cure for rheumatism, mosquito bites, aches, lumbago…There was a big Nigerian influence here, perfumes in particular. We had a fantastic new drink – made from dura, sugar, milk and water. Gorgeous!

          In Kubkubiya, much fun. While we ate the two boys began playing, pretending to fight. A large crowd formed, watching with interest. Then Milo joined in, admittedly encouraged by us, chasing people away, slightly scaring but amusing the onlookers at the same time. Everyone was enjoying themselves,

          Then the local policeman calls us aside and tells us that his town isn’t used to such spectacles and that we are wrong to encourage them. We tell him that as soon as we arrived, we ourselves were spectacles. He had no real answer at all and then tells us to enjoy our stay here, find the rest house, and so all finishes well.

          Despite two or three directions, we failed to find the Straha, so gave up, parked the car, and soon slept. At first some stray dogs bothered Milo, but soon all was silent. Milo was cold, though, and in an attempt to get warmer, collapsed the camp bed in which Maurice was sleeping. Maurice kindly slept on, affording the dog a little comfort.

          28 March: The next few entries are a bit muddled. I only made notes at the time and am writing them a week in retrospect.

          We went today from Kubkubiya to El Fasher. It was a very bad road, lots of volcanic rock strewn everywhere. The boys weren’t well behaved.

          Ramsis had to deliver a letter to a local politician in Fasher. On arrival we found his house and were fuddled there.
          Accommodation was found for us – at Fasher Airport. Some Sudanese were asked to vacate their room and we moved into two rooms with real beds! We all went out to eat, then, on our return, Maurice and me were fuddled by Sudanese chess players and araqi drinkers. We drank a little but were very tired and slept.

          29 March: While la famille Armanios got petrol for the car (with difficulty) Maurice and me had a day on our own. This was good. At first sight Fasher seemed to be a paltry town with a very small souq. But as we walked we discovered more and more markets, spread out and hidden. A leather market, a tambac market (with an abundance of snuff, very pungent, drying in the sun). We sampled more ajeela. I had myself weighed and according to the young boy’s scales I only weigh 10 stone (about 63 kilos). I didn’t believe this. We met two travelling Germans. Maurice had a shave, which was fascinating to watch – an old craftsman using old instruments and taking his time (only 50 piastres). Also, we saw a camel being force-fed.

          In the afternoon we both felt a bit nauseous and returned to the airport. We dozed and then ate a lovely meal before returning again. The Swiss family hadn’t returned by 10 o’clock by which time had conquered us.

          30 March: Worry In the morning as the family still not back. Maurice was more concerned than I was, though he denied it afterwards. Eventually, they showed up – they’d been bed-fuddled the night before.

          We went to one of the small markets where I bought a scarf/blanket for LS22. Then, a last fuddle at the politician’s house before beginning the desert trip (across the “arba’iin”). Finding the way was hard: some mountains blocked our way. Eventually we found ourselves on a really rocky road before stopping in the evening to eat goat (it was windy and every mouthful was sandy). Maurice dug himself a hole in the sand for night shelter.

          The desert around here isn’t as I’d imagined. There are more trees, even grass.

          31 March: Cold in the morning. We drank tea, left at 6.40, travelling at 21/22 km per hour. Twisty, bumpy roads, yellow grass. In the morning we received hospitality at a very small settlement, were given tea, coffee and a water/bread/sugar concoction. We were told there’d been no rain here for three years.

          We drove for a long time in the afternoon. I sat in the front and had a good chat with Anne-Marie, who was driving. She used to be a social worker, and now is a saleswoman in a market. The kids were great; Maurice’s stomach wasn’t good.

          Anne-Marie drove too close to a tree and smashed a wing mirror.

          In the evening the children wanted a sand hole like Maurice’s. They didn’t get it, but I can understand their desire. As usual we built a fire. We may have finished the whisky – I don’t remember. We ate something. A long way to go yet.

          1 April: April fool’s Day; in French, Poisson d’avril. Up later, less cold. Suddenly, a man riding a camel appeared, muttered something not in Arabic, and disappeared again.

          The road as a whole was good. We saw a pair of gazelles – very fast. Also plenty of cattle and one tebeldi tree. We crossed into Kordofan. Now we were really speeding – at 60 km per hour.

          Hamraat ash Sheikh – we stopped, sipped tea and collected water. The people were very helpful. After this, the road was straight and the trees suddenly scarcer. I saw a mirage of shimmering water.

          At midday we stopped. Ramsis made unleavened bread. After this, we found ourselves in traditional desert – absolutely nothing but sand. We passed through a place called Soda and stopped in the open. Magnificent. The stars were stretched from horizon to horizon. The moon was small and appeared later.

          2 April: We started off still motoring through traditional desert before a flat tyre let us down. We made tea and repaired it (it took a long time). While Maurice was under the car the jack (in French, crique) slipped and so did the car, hurting Maurice a bit on the head and shoulder.. It was the shock which was the worst thing, though. We drove off again. The sand became deeper and we got stuck. We couldn’t move forwards or backwards in any gear. Then a lorry came. This towed us backwards; the manoeuvre was successful. However, in the process, the same tyre got flattened. Another repair job.

          After we’d mended the tyre for the second time, we couldn’t get the engine started for some time. There’s a leak in one of the fuel injectors which could be the reason.

          To add to our troubles we kept getting lost. Despite this, we motored 200 kms or so. At night we ate very tough goat, cooked on a fire for which I collected most of the wood (a burst of energy!). We had stopped just before Gabra in an area filled with thorny trees (which are chewed by camels). Ramsis had his skin punctured by a sharp thorn – a clean but painful hole on the sole of his foot.

          I’m very dirty (skin and clothes) and would love a wash or a shower.

          3 April: Yesterday 2, today 3 flat tyres. But I didn’t feel very impatient. This is Sudan – no point in getting frustrated. However, I can understand Ramsis’s annoyance. His car is currently his livelihood. Bad tyres, breaking roof racks, leaking petrol tanks. There’s an awful responsibility driving a car here.

          In the evening Ramsis decided he’d go to Khartoum, fetch a tyre he’s got there, bring it back. He and Karim, aided by Maurice, set off to find a lorry. But even though in the darkness we could see their lights, we couldn’t see an actual lorry. Around where we were stuck, there were a huge number of tracks.

          So one problem would be how Ramsis would find us again – as lorries have the habit of taking different routes, their speedometers are often broke and in any case we had no reference points to fix the position of the Land Rover.

          We agreed that in the morning we’d mend the tyre, limp to the next town, and Ramsis could go to Khartoum while we waited.
          Last edited by Sporting; 24-03-2019, 18:03.



            4 April: We mended it and started off barraha, barraha…After a lorry-free period – nothing but sand – we came across something quite wonderful: The Biggest Racooba in the World. What a building, with rooms; so carefully built, absolutely beautiful. The people there were very nice and gave us some water.

            We decided to move onwards, trusting our rotten tyre, driving on our nerves at 20 km per hour, stopping from time to time to allow the rubber to cool down.

            At last, after five days of driving, we hit Omdurman – Souq Libya, in fact – full of idiots poking their noses into the car, full of contraband goods, a colourful but drastic sight after five days in the desert.

            We drove into Khartoum and after a brief meeting with a Swiss Red Cross man who didn’t welcome the Armanios home, but merely kept them at the gate while telling them they shouldn’t have gone, we went to another Red Cross house where we were greeted by a Swiss girl, Patricia, whom I’d met before at Christmas in Suakin.

            There was her, a nice Italian woman and her son, and others. We were given lots of carcaday and (later) a meal: Edam cheese, salad, spaghetti. The events of the day had left me with a headache which came and went. Coming across a modern house like this was strange: fridge, freezer, electric typewriter. fans, plates and knives and forks – too much, really. Anyway, it was excellent to be able to shower (half a ton of desert deposited in the bath tub!) and feel clean once again. Slept in a real bed.

            5 April: Said our goodbyes. Me and Maurice left. I found a hotel – Bahr el Ghazal - and then Maurice saw a couple of Egyptian teachers from his school who told him that they’d been paid. So he booked himself a flight to London via Frankfurt.

            6 April: Saw the Armanios again) I went to their hotel and talked with Ramsis for half an hour before crashing out in my hotel (which I had difficulty in finding as earlier in the day I had visited an Ethiopian tedge house with some other teachers, meeting at the same time a PLO fighter).


              Last edited by Sporting; 24-03-2019, 18:00.


                Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.


                  Very interesting stuff.I often wonder if these places are safer to visit now than 30 years ago.


                    In the case of Darfur no:

                    The War in Darfur, also nicknamed the Land Cruiser War, is a major armed conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan that began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups began fighting the government of Sudan, which they accused of oppressing Darfur's non-Arabpopulation. The government responded to attacks by carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur's non-Arabs. This resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the indictment of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

                    One side of the conflict is mainly composed of the Sudanese military, police and the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group whose members are mostly recruited among Arabized indigenous Africans and a small number of Bedouin of the northern Rizeigat; the majority of other Arab groups in Darfur remained uninvolved. The other side is made up of rebel groups, notably the SLM/A and the JEM, recruited primarily from the non-Arab Muslim Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups. The African Union and the United Nations also have a joint peacekeeping mission in the region, named UNAMID. Although the Sudanese government publicly denies that it supported the Janjaweed, evidence supports claims that it provided financial assistance and weapons and coordinated joint attacks, many against civilians. Estimates of the number of human casualties range up to several hundred thousand dead, from either combat or starvation and disease. Mass displacements and coercive migrations forced millions into refugee camps or across the border, creating a humanitarian crisis. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell described the situation as a genocide or acts of genocide


                      Just wanted to record how much I enjoyed those accounts, Sporting.

                      The longest walk I did in 1984 was more than 20 km through the Forêt de Blois trying to reach a railway station so that I could get to London in time for a Tottenham match in the UEFA Cup. I lost my way and ended up taking advantage of a villager's vehicle that served as ambulance, hearse and taxi, depending on his passengers' particualar need.


                        Finally managed to do the second stint of the John Muir Way on Monday (see post #106ff). That's only just less than six months from the first leg! (I got sneered at on here for not completing the West Highland Way in one go, so go easy on me!) Only 18 miles this time (from Carbeth, just north of Bearsden to Croy, on the Glasgow-Edinburgh main line). Yeah, Paul S, it's a lot more urban - you feel like you're never more than a couple of hundred yards from civilisation (well, if you can call Harestanes civilisation....). Actually, the bit from Blanefield/Strathblane to Lennoxtown via the (long defunct) Blane valley railway line is pretty nice, although always near-ish a road. The following section through Kirkintilloch is along the Forth & Clyde canal - pleasant enough but fairly busy. Then there's a nice climb up to the Roman fort on the Antonine Wall.
                        Unfortunately, whereas I used to reckon 20 miles was easily do-able in a day, I'm going to have to re-think the remaining sections.... I was struggling for the last few miles - combination of left heel and right knee, so trying to limp on both legs towards the end. And I could hardly get out of bed the next day. I was trying to split the whole 136 miles up into 7 sections, so averaging just under 20 miles per walk, but I'm now reckoning the remaining just-under-100 miles will have to be done in 6 or maybe even 7 sections rather than 5...


                          I can't be the only one who has brief moments of confusion between the John Muir Way and the John Muir Trail, right? Even though they are quite dissimilar.


                            Why do you hate freedom?


                              Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
                              I can't be the only one who has brief moments of confusion between the John Muir Way and the John Muir Trail, right? Even though they are quite dissimilar.
                              Indeed they pay homage to the same person, but they are quite different! Somewhat confusingly, a short section of the John Muir Way is shared by the Thomas Muir Trail, aka 'the Father of Scottish Democracy'....


                                I'm off to take part in the TGO Challenge tomorrow. If you don't know what it is it. In a nutshell you have to walk from the west coast of Scotland to the east coast via your own route at the same time as 350 other people. This year I'm walking from Strathcarron (on the Kyle of Lochalsch railway) to Lunan Bay, just south of Montrose. My route is:

                                Strathcarron - Beauly - Drumnadrochit - boat over Loch Ness - Ault na Goire. Then through the Mondahalith in a U-shape to get to Carrbridge and then Nethy Bridge and across to Timintoul. After that my aim is to tick off the two spurs of the Speyside Way which I walked two years ago, so from Tomintoul it's down to Ballindalloch, Aberlour, Dufftown, then down to Ballater. Mount Keen will be ascended and then down to Tarfside, Brechin and into Lunan Bay which is a few miles south of Montrose.

                                A total of 240 miles in 15 days doing about 17 miles a day. I may post some photo's if I remember.
                                Last edited by Paul S; 08-05-2019, 12:08.


                                  Good luck, matey. Should be a lot of glorious scenery for you to enjoy. I hope that the weather is kind to you.


                                    Great stuff Paul, sounds enviably evocative. Best of luck.


                                      Yeah all the best Paul. At least it's cooled down a bit from a couple of weeks ago - it would have been far too hot! I'm assuming you're not going to be passing through Glasgow on your way up/back but let me know if you deserve at least another couple of beers!


                                        Originally posted by jdsx View Post
                                        Yeah all the best Paul. At least it's cooled down a bit from a couple of weeks ago - it would have been far too hot! I'm assuming you're not going to be passing through Glasgow on your way up/back but let me know if you deserve at least another couple of beers!
                                        Unfortunately not jdsx as Loganair are starting a brand new route from Aberdeen to Essex which is almost tailor made for me!


                                          Just read Sporting's Sudanese odyssey. That's quite something. A great read, thank you.


                                            That's great Paul; I hope you get some memorable wild camps!


                                              Originally posted by hobbes View Post
                                              Just read Sporting's Sudanese odyssey. That's quite something. A great read, thank you.

                                              The Scottish coast to coast sounds great,


                                                I enjoyed reading Sporting's diary as well, so thanks for sharing it with us.

                                                I have finished packing and my rucksack comes in at 15.4kgs including food for three days, clothes and trekking poles. However, my food weighs 300g for each packet and Ordnance Survey maps weigh 300g each and I have nine of them so I will be posting them back as and when. The big weight is my one man Blacks tent which refuses to go wrong but weighs a whopping 1.8kgs. New ones for 600g come in for about £200 so when my Blacks tent finally gives up the ghost - and I think that day may not be far away - I will be able to invest in a superlight one.


                                                  I have arrived in Beauly after three days walking from Strathcarron. The going has be tough and wild and I have picked up a few blisters but otherwise I am OK. I had a bit of a shock as to just how much Orrin reservoir has dried up but I enjoyed some lovely river walks along the banks just before it.

                                                  Heading for Drumnadrochit tomorrow and then on a boat across Loch Ness for a two day wander around the Monadhliath Mountains.



                                                    Good on you. Any photos, (scenery rather than blisters preferably)?