Thursday, 18 April 2013

Does my bum look big in this v.2

As with many out there, Chrissie and I, with inceasing years, had both developed a tendency to add a few (or more) inches to our waists. It creeps up on you y'know.
Anyoldhow, after Christmas this year I decided to get a grip on this. Searching for a calorie counter online I found a website called My Fitness Pal. It's not rocket science, but allows you to keep a diary of your calorie intake and, importantly, also logs calories earned by exercise; hence today's post. A benefit of this is I've regained the incentive to get more exercise - so I can eat more! Since starting in January  I've got into the habit of walking around 1 - 2 hours everyday (at least), accompanied by my faithful lab. I always include uphill walking (a benefit of living down in a valley in the Peak District) and almost always carry a loaded daysac.
Has it done any good? You bet ... so far (that's from the beginning of Jan to today, the 18th April) I've lost 1 and a half stones (21 lbs). I'm so pleased with this. I feel better and, according to my love, Chrissie, look better too.
This strategy of little and often with exercise works well for me and paid off when we extended ourselves on our recent trip to the Outer Hebrides. After longer walks I had little tiredness and no aches and pains.
As for Chrissie, she's joined in and made excellent progress too, given that she's working, so exercise is not as easy. She cycles to work whenever possible and after battling with "women's problems" (I understand it's tougher for the fairer sex to lose weight) she's lost 15 lbs. Well done to her! No surprise then that she feels and looks much better too.
So, by way of smug celebration I thought I share with you mine and Tilly's walk today.
Thursday's my shopping day so, en route to the supermarket in Glossop, I usually stop off at the laybay at Chunal and we yomp off across the moor up to the trig point on Harry Hut, down to Worm Stones and back. Today, it took us around an hour but I have to drop off our van at a nearby garage later so I'll have a half hour walk back from there.
Here's Tilly at Worm Stones:

Then at Harry Hut:

And back at the Scooby (aka our Subaru Forester):

Incidentally, those who know labs will understand that they easily put weight on. Along with me, Tilly now looks leaner and fitter, given that she's a stocky working build anyway. I don't know if she feels better but you can judge if she looks happy.

It's not over 'til the fat lady sings though and I'm aiming to lose another 9 lbs which will put me well inside a healthy body mass index range. I hope to achieve this over the next 3 months, prior to our long summer walking trip to France. Wish me luck.

Happy travels all!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Van and plans pages updated

Like it says in the title ... both the van and plans pages have been updated today, while I was feeling all enthusiastic like. Have a look when you get a minute; see all the latest modifications to our lovely van and plans for the future.

You lucky people!

Who said that - "You lucky people", I mean?
I'm showing my age quoting that one.
Answers on a postcard to, Far not fast (or a comment will do). Smile x

Morocco, April 2012, pt 4

Our final destination in Morocco was to be the hill town of Chefchaouen, which was a decent afternoon's drive from Volubilis. We rode into town and searched for a hotel. Our reward was the faded glory of the Hotel Parador, set right on the edge of the medina. In the main lounge is a wonderful mural:


We ordered beers and savoured them on the splendour of the terrace:

Intent on a rest before we caught the ferry back to Europe and the long drive home through Spain, we spent two nights here and explored the backstreets of the blue and white town at leisure the following day. The tranquil stay here was a fitting end to our Moroccan journey:

And, in fine style, our Moroccan odyssey came to an end. It had been a superb trip; everything I had wanted and more. We had travelled the quiet backroads and revelled in interactions with locals; catching a glimpse of their lives as we went. All that remained between us and home was a long hard ride through Spain that would hold the delights of heavy rain and a cancelled ferry, but none of that could diminish the memories of a joyous journey.

Morocco, April 2012, pt 3

Leaving Erfoud behind us we continued west via Alnif and Tazzarine, then south east into the Draa Valley towards our next projected overnight in Zagora. meeting lots of these guys en route,

and some of these critters,

before securing a room here:

Refreshed after a good dinner, night's sleep and breakfast set our sights on M'hamid; the so-called end of the road. It was a fantastic ride down through the desert and, reaching the end of the tarmac we amused ourselves with a little, gentle piste riding,
before enjoying mint tea and conversation with these chaps:
Then it was off back to Zagora for a photo next to this sign, which will be well known to any visitors to the town:

From Zagora we crossed the Tizi-n-Tinififft (yes really) pass to Ouarzazate. It was a horrific ride, with high winds on the far side, so occasionally MBM and me were down to walking pace. We arrived in one piece however, found a place to stay for a couple of nights and, next morning caught a taxi into the centre, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the sunshine:

From Ouarzazate we pointed the front wheels at Marrakech but first, on the way, we stopped off at Ait-Benhaddou:
Chatting with an English couple here revealed that the back road to the top of the infamous Tizi-n-Tichka, previously a piste, had recently been surfaced. So off we went on a delightful sojourn through the backcountry. On the way we saw cave dwellings,
and found another satisfying cafe:
It's my second trip on the Tichka and I didn't enjoy it either time. The bends, IMHO, are endless and tiring on a bike, but eventually we arrived in the heat of Marrakech. For the first time on our trip we found hotels with no vacancies but eventually, aided by the database in my trusty Garmin satnav, we were ensconced in a very comfortable out of town place, from where we took a taxi into the centre and the delights of the Place Jemaa el-Fna:
I ate the spicy sausage and chips with relish (that's to say it tasted good rather than a reference to the condiment; of which there was none) but Bernie found it hard going with a particular afterburn he enjoyed for couple of days following the feast.
After the dubious wonders of Marrakech (I'd give it a miss next time; far too touristy) we hit the road north, stopping for tea in a small town whose name escapes me. I amused Bernie by leading him around the pedestrians partaking of a busy market, threading a way through in my determination to find the inevitable cafe - which I did:
Suitably fed and watered we continued north and found ourselves crossing a wide, upland plain which just begged for an overnight camp - so we did:
This was to be our final camp of the trip but it was a very pleasant break. Bernie, armed with my trusty Nature Pure water filter, found the necessary liquid with which to quench our thirsts and rehydrate our camping meals:

The meagre puddle looked disgusting but it's testament to the efficiency of the filter that his efforts were rewarded with water of the crystal-clear, eminently palatable variety.
Moving on next morning we paused on the outskirts of Khenifra for a mid morning snack. The fresh pancakes produced by the lady owner were just out of this world, particularly when accompanied by orange juice and a milky coffee.
Then it was back to the ride across country to find a hotel in Meknes which enabled us to visit Volubilis the next morning.
The remains at Volubilis represent the most important Roman site in North Africa and really are quite remarkable if, like me, you've never seen anything on this scale before.

The mosaics are quite stunning, so I apologise for the poor quality of this pic, which fails to do them justice.
Our visit to Volubilis will be forever etched in my memory for the argument I had, in French, with the ticket attendant, who tried to fleece me out of a considerable amount of change. He was adamant I'd not given him a 100 dirham note, but I stood my ground, refusing to leave without satisfaction, as busloads of tourists formed an ever-lengthening queue behind me. My Yorkshire stubbornness (is that a word?) paid off though. He coughed up, but only after I'd called him a "voleur", (thief).

The Outer Hebrides, Easter 2013

With over two years van ownership under our belts it was high time we explored more of the splendours of Scotland so, leaving the last snow of winter (or should that read spring?) behind in the Peaks we set sail for the north.

We stopped off in Glasgow for dinner, bed and breakfast with Pete and Fiona and Dougal, their chocolate lab. Dixie was her usual cantankerous self with a strange dog but Tilly delighted in Dougal's flirtatious advances. Thanks for your hospitality P,F & D x.

Then, a quick dash over Rannoch Moor, down the magnificence of Glencoe and up to the Isle of Skye and Uig, for the ferry to Tarbert.

Leaving the ferry we drove down a single track road to Huisinis.

Having settled in for the night I kept saying to Chrissie, "Just look where we are. LOOK where we are for goodness sake!" This was the view from our lounge window:

In fact, this was a recurring theme of the trip. The weather was fantastic; cold but dry with plenty of heart-warming sunshine. The following pics show a few highlights and, I trust, will speak to you better than my clumsy writings:


I hope you like those pictures. We spent two weeks enjoying some wonderful walking and I found myself spending a surprising amount of time (for me) just gazing out of the van windows at the views. The fact that I read very little and did none of the writing I'd planned to is evidence of the exquisite time we had. Blissful relaxation. Go, if you like peace and tranquility. Stay well away if you want nightlife, shops and lots of tourist attractions.

Let's have another go then

It's a Tuesday afternoon and I'm feeling a bit flat having, only yesterday, returned from a fabulous two-week trip to Harris and Lewis (sounds like a pair of TV cops) in the Outer Hebrides, with Chrissie and the hounds.
I haven't writ anything on here for several yonks now and felt guilty when Pete from Glasgow asked if I'd be posting our recent travels on the blog.
So, praps I'll try again.
Of late, I've been doing some travel writing, which I've been lucky enough to have published in the motorhome press (primarily Practical Motorhome, but also MMM) so that's become a bit of a focus; 'specially since I get paid!
But, this medium satisfies a need for a more free form of writing, unconstrained by the confines of grammar, spelling and political-correctness.
Having updated my mobile phone for one which has easier access to t'internet, 'appen I'll use that too.
Be great to hear any comments from readers out there in the ether.
And as an appetite wetter, here's a photo of a wild camp on the beautiful Isle of Lewis.
Oh, and for those of you still waiting for the rest of my Morocco 2012 trip, it'll be with you soon; sorry for the delay.
Happy travels!