Friday, 16 June 2017

And so it starts...

So with the dramas of Heathrow behind me it really did start to feel that I literally had fight my way out of the country. 
You are probably asking so what happened? In short my bags were delivered to heathrow ahead of my arrival. The company that did, scanned my bags and found that I had a machettee in it. This then started the snowball. The armed police division wanted to meet me when I picked up my bags. Of course there wasnt a problem having a machete in mychecked  bags, but because it had been reported they had a duty to follow it up. My explaination of course confirmed that I wasnt a nutter. Photos were taken and on I went. 

Now the problems really started when I tried to
check in with Air France who I had spoken with a couple of times a month before when I declared and checked that I could take my kayak with me on the plane. At check in I found that this was still pending and the very unhelpful woman was 'on one'. I
suspect that if I didn't have the pleasure to meet her, my troubles would have not been. This particular lady also tried to esculate the situation as I declared that i had a machete in my checked bags even with the explaination that I had already spoken with the police earlier! 


So after check in was closing ( yes it clearly takes time)   I was in the situation where I had to get rid of my kayak, had to wrap my bags in plastic and well, if i were to make then KLM 8am flight super sonic skates needed to be put on - this was the last flight that would get me into Lima on the 15th (this was important as I was meeting the Ambassador at the British Embassy in the morning and press thereafter). 7am there was only one man who was local enough, with a van - Mick. I tentatively texted... and blow me down within moments he was on the hooter and on his way. All he needed was a cape...


Mick came, took my kayak and helped me to wrap my bags. All done, the bags got checked in and the man who organised the next flight, told me the gate number and that was it.... I ran. Through security I of
course got stopped - they wanted to drug check my insect repellant of all things! Last calls and gate closing   messages were happening ... and i ran... and made it. 

From that point ... all of my troubles disappeared (oh and btw the food on KLM flights is amazing!!).

I landed in Lima, went through customs with ease,
met up with the team, ate a great meal, got to the hotel, met the Ambassador and his deputy, met the  press for an interview, bought new sim cards - easy, everyone was super helpful and well the complete opposite to my experience at Heathrow (apart from the police who were great!). I have to say, I was so pleased to meet the Ambassador who along with his deptuty were so welcoming and wonderful. 

But I am here and as I prepare to leave (15min) I ambursting  with excitement. I am trying to contain myself and play it cool, but its hard!!! 

Oh and my Kayak? Yes thats still in London but luckily I have been given a new kayak that is currently sat on top of the car as we start to work our way to the source πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

Ready or not ... its happening πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ‘

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

10 days in Slovinia

So as the last bit of kayaking training undertaken comes to the end, with only just over a week left ... there is still a lot to do. 
Slovinia is an amazing place, clear waters and the scenery is just stunning - I cant wait to return to kayak and hike their hills. 



The continued interesting emails and messages (verbal and written) have come through daily! that only serve to hinder training and focus. Of course I am sure that it is coming from a good place ... but.... 

....In the learning phase, my mind has to be wide open, I have to be extremely reflective, listen intently and actively with a great big dollop of drive and determination - otherwise rapid progress cant happen. Over the last months this combination has resulted in rapid progress but also frustrations and nagging injuries such as forearm sprains, shoulder pops, paddling to the point of 'broken' arms that last only 1/2 hour on the river that no amount of shouting from the coach (or inwardly me) could make them work. There are of course the finger pulls and endless bruises and dents to the bones across the body; I just hope that they return back to their regular size and colour at the end of all of this. 

But here it is ... the last week is upon me, time to tapper (I wish), have my last glass of wine, have my last sleeps in my own cosy bed, say my farewells and take the first steps of an adventure of a lifetime (again). 

The journey timeline is unclear - intentionally. 2 weeks, 6months or maybe something in between.. Kayak, hike (although I hope not too much), run or whatever it takes to start at the source and finish at the sea. There is no time pressure, no world record, no competition, indeed there is no pressure of even completing it (ish) .... who knows, who cares ... cause thats the adventure this time and I cant wait to experience the folks, culture, environment and life along the River Amazon. 

Ok, so the plane has landed at Stanstead airport so its
time to let my hair down and have a bit of fun and who knows - hopefully some live music too. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Flights are booked.... and the mood has changed...

Thats right, flights are booked, kit is arriving, the last final training is set and well the mood has changed.

For months (ok, since I started to put my plan into action in Feb), I have had folks, friends and strangers telling me not to do it, its stupid, its too dangerous.. its too risky and I will die. Significant time has been put in to processing and boxing those comments and sorting the comments into the  (I hope not) spectater 'I told you so' group that I hope will be drowned out by the supportive cheers of 'keep going' in those moments of 'digging deep'. 

But its now booked and over the last week things have turned and hugs are plentiful, reflections of good times and the good lucks and keep safe are starting to come in. This signals the closeness.... 

There is still a lot to be done as there always is in the last weeks of planning and preparation. This last week, I have completed a whitewater safety course that just adds and develops the thinking, highlights some holes (ie i will be spending time in the park perfecting my throwing - cause it must be a couple of decades since i last threw something).

But its near.... very near..... 


Sunday, 7 May 2017

Hot Cyprus training and reunited

What a week - a great week - hiking in the Cyprus hills and mountains with a dear hiker buddy from the PCT. Within minutes of seeing each other - the 2 years passed (almost to the day)disappeared into only yesterday...

The week was full of chatter of memories, shared memories,updates, wine and giggles. Same old same old.....nice, easy, comfortable.....

A week in Scotland......

Since I was knee high to a grasshopper our second (or was it first) home was in Scotland, just around the corner from Glencoe. Over the years, returning 3 or sometimes 4 times a year, I must have hiked most if not all of the munrows along and around Glencoe. Days have been lost wandering the hills, bivvi in hand and recharging from the very busy and hectic working life. Eyes would be looking up and out across the wide and stunning wonders of the Scottish landscae with the ever changing weather that has moods swings like no other. 
This last week was different.... eyes down and sitting on the lowest point on the landscape .... the rivers and creeks. 
Roads travelled to the next mountain ranges were exchanged for looking down for the 'get in point' for the river. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Head down and focused.....

Wow, it's been a few weeks since I updated my blog .... but for good reason. My life has been fully immersed in the white water kayaking and other worlds beyond...

Life just hasn't stopped - if I am not on the river or pool, I have been organising the upcoming trip - whether it's equipment, food, logistics or courses. So much has happened in a relatively short space in time. However, together it is getting closer to the goal... and that is more than off the scale exciting.

To think when I stepped off the plane in January - my focus was to kayak from source to sea - unsupported and unassisted - solo without any support or help along the way. Funny really.

Since January I have spoken to many of the folks who have travelled the same or similar route and so with this and other research, I gained enough understanding to know that a unsupported and unassisted journey would only be possible if I was happy to kayak big rapids alone and turn down food and gifts from communities along the river. This is something that would have changed the journey dramatically ... and certainly not for the better.

Although I am expecting the full journey to take 6months - I am not on a strict timeline - unlike Antarctica that had restrictions on time, seasons, temperatures and flights - for this journey - similar to setting out on the PCT - I want to be guided by the path and experience rather than competition, season or time.

With this in mind, I have decided to start at the source of  the River Mananon - the headwater  river with the most water, least amount of pollution and dams, most spectacular scenery and kayakable decent. For the whitewater section, I will have a guide (dying on the rapids is not a good look) before I continue the 3000miles alone along the full length of the River Amazon to the sea.  I really can't wait to get on the start line... knowing that there is over 4000miles between myself and the finish.

As I write, the plan is coming to life, slowly and surely - ok so it's not slowly .... it's at a rapid pace just like my kayaking. Although there are of course troughs, barriers and repeats ... forwards it is. It's happening.

2 months down the line, I have spent many an hour on the M4 (and other motorways), flown to France (another chapter in the journey), experienced many London Kayaking clubs and pools, kayaked the Thames,
Kayaked many Rivers in Wales, 

(Testing out a touring kayak)

kayaked the Ardeche,

and even slept in my hammock (a first).
 (Look in the background - it's there) 

Beyond this I have had the complete pleasure of meeting folks who are so supportive and enthusiastic about this trip (more about these folks later) and trialling kit and food. The kit is substantial and although I have now confirmed my touring kayak (less adaptations) and torch; the inflatable kayak for 200km of the headwaters section, main kayak for the main white water section, food and equipment is still in the trial period. What I know, similar to Antarctica, there won't be local kayaking stores hidden in the Amazon jungle.... so it has to be right, the best and will last the journey albeit filming devices, solar panels, kayaks, knives, dry bags, portage devices, clothing, medical equipment, paddle floats, food, footwear, lighters, filters and even underwear..... etc etc etc...... 

Cause 4000miles is a lonnnnnnnnng way πŸ˜€ ish....

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Moving forward....

And breathe..... 
Since arriving back from Antarctica I have taken myself out from the post-trail energy zapping low to the high thrill of being out there learning to kayak. 

Hikers, trail runners and outdoor folks will be able to relate to this. Is it because or caused when the realisation and experience of pure freedom hits the wall of 'normalisation' and trivia, or hormones? Who knows...

The last month has flown by... the intense but focused kayak training is in full swing and I am pleased that after 2 weeks of being on or near river water .... I am in a place where I seek and can work on grade three waters. So much has happened.... 

Of course there is still much to learn, practise and continue to refine and automise ... but thanks to Dan at .... much ground has been covered (more about this to come) and I cant forget Ollie at Monmouth Activities Centre (more on this too).

However, unlike previous trips, the feel, focus and considerations are different.... very different.. and miles away from the 'next chapter' thoughts as I stepped off the plane at Heathrow on 13th Jan 2017. Of course by the time I walked through the exit to the Heathrow carpark .... the 'hmmmm not done a jungle' thought had turned to stone. Amazing what happens within 1/2 hour... or was it a split second after walking through the doors...
Today, my thoughts turn to a serious survival mode... what if I lose my kayak in the rapids and I have to hike it through the jungle with only my wet suit and buoyancy aid? What if I come across the hostel interactions written about in books, speeches or the like? How will a lone female be perceived? What will I do if ..... one thing is for sure - the piraΓ±as, crocs and snakes are probably the least of my worries - interestingly.  The list is endless but as time progresses, I am able to cross items off one by one. 

Interestingly again the folks around me respond in different ways at different times (¥¥¥¥) so suddenly 'rocks' become my anchor.... the rocks that dont twist and turn, mold or morph, judge ....who are straight up and reliable.... steady. These rocks will happily and clearly state 'I dont know' , will openly state their feelings but equally, after the statement, put them aside knowing that there is serious work to be done. Ultimately we can either emotionally mince around or actively develop skills that will ensure my safety.... 

What is clear- it will happen.

I dont have time for bravado, to try to convince folks, get folks on board so that they feel ok or 'get it', fit into their programmes or even convince them of the seriousness (and not) of this trip....nor even my intentions..... in short I dont have time to waste .... i just have time to focus, develop and refine skills that will provide me with calm to think, get  myself out of trouble when things go wrong and therefore get safely down the river. Yes, its cut throat.... but ultimately if I eye ball a shot gun barrel after losing my kayak because 'i was spending time passifying folks' ....or listening to the I 'shouldnt be kayaking on grade three after 2 weeks' and 'you need to learn about how to put on a sling of a 303 just because...' I am not sure how much 'regret' I will have if..... 

So that lot is in the back of my mind..along with training and resource planning for the trip.  Guess that leaves little time for anything else! 

Exciting times....