Alps trip, quick notes

Alps 2017. An interesting 3 weeks, 2 of which were “interesting” in the Chinese Curse meaning of the word.. Photos to be added at another point.

Personal goals and observations from my time away.

  • Climbed Col d’Izoard on the road bike, from Briancon. 2 days after the Col opened for the summer. Highlight of my trip. About 3hr to climb to the top. Many stops, but achieved the goal.
  • Longest distance I’ve personally driven in any 24hr to date: 1144km from leaving Alberto’s campsite 08.30 Sunday to Cote de Nacre shopping centre in Caen on the Monday morning.
  • Longest distance driven solo in one journey, 13hr 764km from ferry to Jugy, and 1112 in 24hr from the ferry to the Briancon campsite including the overnight in the Aire.
  • Hiking up towards the Le Col de Freissinières, above Dormillouse in the Bayaisse valley, was an epic place to be. Hiked from the carpark at 1440m to 2070m. Ended up in complete solitude in the higher valley, no real signs of humanity around. Fabulous.
  • The personal decompression and getting away from it all was so necessary, it wasn’t funny. It was really needed!
  • The new tent worked out to be fantastic, a lovely place to live in relative comfort, thankful for the large porch and the NeoAir Dream mattress. Was still nice to get a bed and a shower on the ferry, but I’ll happily live under those conditions again.
  • The Q7 is surprisingly fuel efficient for what it is. 10.2l/100 from the ferry to the French campsite, including a very spirited drive up through the Romanche Gorges. Maybe about 5.5 tanks of fuel total for the European trip, at the local speed limits for most of it anyway.

As for my review of the ULKC-relevant part of the trip, I’ll complete that at another stage, as it will definitely be a far from glowing review, as it was mostly ill-organised and proven dangerous to the beginners..

Next year, the plans for this time of the year will likely be a little different. I’ll be expecting there to be differing conditions put on the club on how to run a foreign trip after this year’s stupidities in the planning and execution. I know what the ideal would be and I don’t know if the relevant people will want to listen to that.

Overall, I’m glad I went on the 3 weeks away. Definitely some interesting lessons learned from the trip.

Alps part 1

ULKC had the annual summer trip this year, and I was a part of it as a safety boater. The trip was scheduled from May 20th through June 8th or so. The first week involved training and skills improvement in Val Sesia, Italy (the steep creeking mecca of southern Europe. Week two was the Soča river valley in Slovenia with the lesser-experienced members of our club. Week three was a return to Val Sesia for the application of the training and expertise gained on the Soča to the rivers in the Sesia valley.

Week one was epic enough, with my first runs on the lower Sermenza (up to the gorge), a return to the Egua, a wonderful evening at the Sorba Slides and a fairly high-volume run on the raft-run. It’s a pity though that I didn’t get an opportunity to get the Home Run in. I planned on building up my confidence after a few years out of paddling at this level, and it was really good to push the personal boundaries again. Alberto’s campsite in Campertogno has been upgraded with a decent toiletblock, and much improved facilities for campers. The site was crowded and busy but we got a space where we could all pitch up and cook under tarp

Week two was in the Soča region, picking up the rest of our less-experienced paddlers in Bergamo (miles from Milan) and the 4th vehicle in the ULKC trip fleet. The Black Panther was a 9-seater auto 135bhp automatic Vito and my responsibility for the rest of the trip. Getting closer to the Slovenian border the theme for the Slovenian portion of the trip was set by our driving into the darkest stormcloud I’ve seen in years with decent proper fork lightning and rain hard enough to obliterate road markings. The campsite in Camp Lazar was beautiful and very well appointed. We were directed to the field near the entrance with a large wooden farm building and a pair of portaloos – all perfect for what we needed. Apart from the rain. It was just like home, except with colder greener water! Great paddling poor morale with a lot of cold damp people. and the beginnings of the sickness. We elected to cut short our stay and we left Slovenia late on the Friday night instead of travelling all day Sunday – gaining an extra day’s paddling as a result.

The return to Italy meant sunshine, warmer weather, and slightly lower levels. I got the Landwasser waterfall ticked off my list, but I took an interesting swim in the channel above the top drop on the Egua. There were a few lovely runs on the raft run at varying levels – it’s really a good run for the intermediate paddler, and it can be worked fairly hard by the advanced paddler to gain a little more sharpness before moving on to the steeper stuff.

This trip has been one of the best trips I’ve been on with the Kayak club, and it’s been fantastic to meet a few new people, to get to know others a lot better, and to move my personal paddling up a notch from the rustiness that I had over the past few years!

Photos from the trip are here – look at the Alps 2013 sets.

Youtube vid here:

Skyfall – on location in Istanbul? I’ve been there..

Watching the Top Gear 50 years of Bond cars, it’s shown that there is a decent part of the start of the film set in Istanbul. There are decent shots in, around and on (!) the Grand Bazaar. Reminds me of my own holiday and visits through the Bazaar a few years back in Istanbul. Good times…

I think I’ll have to go watch the film in the morning.

Cool – caught me a slow worm when in France.

I was in France recently, (as a future post will detail), but I caught my first lizard in Brittany. The foot-long silver thin snake-like creature (known as a slow worm) was skating along the tarmac outside the home of Claire’s mother. It was travelling slowly, so I was able to pick it up quite easily. I didn’t have a camera to hand though. The creature wasn’t struggling but was patiently waiting for me to put it down. Warm, nad not unpleasant to hold. Nearly a pity that we do not have these at home..

Observations on Sweden

The Swedish in Sweden in October are generally a very pleasant people. Terribly law-abiding, no graffiti, no litter, few elderly wandering the streets, no vagrant homeless, some fantastically pretty ladies who were very wrapped up for the miserable sleety non-snowy weather…


Hmmm. Turkey, it’s a strange place. In Istanbul at the moment, and believe it or not it’s raining! I’ve had interesting interactions with locals from the best of human nature to the most scrounging little-minded people that you can imagine. One friend here had a mislaid phone returned with a smile – that was lovely to see. On the other hand I was walking along the street last night as a shoeshiner ran past, dropping his brush from his tray. I stopped him and returned his brush, he then proceeded to clean my sandals then tried to charge me 30 lira for the pleasure… Not impressed with that!
Weather has been good until this morning as it is now warm rain – what a novelty!

Holiday planning?

Upcoming fun and holidays – depending on the availability of holidays at work.

Verdon gorge for a weekend and a day or 2.

Wales for a bit of MTB with Mullins and gang.

Then there’s Istanbul with Sarah.


I was on a short break in Edinburgh recently, taking advantage of the fact that Sarah was over there for a conference in Heriot-Watt. I stayed in the King James Thistle hotel on Leigh St.  Great architecture in the town, great summer atmosphere, and strange locals – especially the oilrig electrician that liked to eat anything..

Gran Canaria – Anniversary!

To celebrate our being together for the past 5 (yes – FIVE) wonderful years, myself and Sarah are temporarily heading to a warmer clime for a few days soon. Puerto Rico, the Gloria Palace Amadores **** and hopefully a little bit of sunshine.

Rest and relaxation, a few Mojitos by the pool, a trip to the centre of the island, a visit to Las Palmas, Carrefour, Maspalomas dunes, are all on the plan.

I’m really looking forwards to this!