On moving to live here to Wales we decided to try and make the house as inexpensive and as environmentally friendly to run as we reasonably could. Not because we are ideologically driven but because it seems to make sense and we would like the house to be as comfortable as possible.
With the government scheme to pay a feed in tariff for home generated electricity it also seemed to make sense purely from a financial point of view if we had a bit of spare cash sitting in a low interest account. We originally looked at this in November 2010 and the installation costs for a 4kw domestic installation was then around £15,500. Since then the price of PV panels has dropped considerably. Unfortunately the government subsequently took a rather hasty decision to suddenly cut the tariff paid to householders. So we had ‘missed the boat’. However, this knee jerk reaction hit the industry hard and panel prices subsequently continued to fall in price.
So when we reviewed things at the end of January 2012 the installation costs had nearly halved; meaning that the return on investment would almost be the same. Furthermore the government’s decision is subject to ongoing legal challenge that could still possibly reverse the tariff decision. With this in mind we decided to go ahead with the installation on the south facing garage roof. There is a calculator for working out income and savings here.
Unfortunately the industry has become a bit of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme with plenty of ‘dubious’ solar panel installation companies springing up. At times it seems like the ‘Wild West’ out there! In some cases these firms are fitting installations in a pretty unsatisfactory manner; simply by drilling through slates or tiles and fitting rubber sealing grommets. Sometimes these are not even fixed into structural timbers but screwed into the battens. Even if they are watertight when fitted I can’t see how the wind loading will not put a flexing load on the slates and tiles causing some to break over time; nor can I see how the grommets will not perish over a period of time. I certainly wouldn’t want this type of installation on our garage roof let alone our house. How many of these ‘here today – make a quick buck’ operators will be around in 5 years or ten years time when these failures start to appear?
So having got a few quotes we decided to use a very local contractor Jones Electrical (who have been working in the area for over 50 years) reasoning that they were not likely to disappear next week and their reputation would be important to them. So last week their roofing subcontractor arrived and started on the roof whilst the electricians installed the wiring and inverter (which converts the D/C current from the panels into A/C for the mains).
The roofer proved to be excellent taking great care to properly fix the roof hooks to the structural timbers and to flash them all correctly with lead. The brittle Spanish slates meant he couldn’t work as fast as he had hoped but there was no way that he was compromising on the job. So full marks to the roofer and his son for their conscientious approach to the job. Jim Jones who started the electrical business 54 years ago personally turned up to check on progress and ensure that all was going smoothly. It is really refreshing to find small local businesses going the extra mile rather than just jumping on the bandwagon.
So today it was finished and the electricians came to correct an earthing problem on our existing system and to turn on the system and we are now generating our own electricity (or rather will be in when the sun shines as it was too dull by the time it was all finished). I’ll try and remember to update the blog in a years time when we know how much we are actually producing. All I have to do now is work through the paperwork to sell our electricity to our electricity supplier!
With the recent blast of cold weather we took the opportunity to get out to try to get a few winter shots.
As this meant being out and about looking for wintry locations (as above) we ended up back at the Elan Valley and decided to go Gigrin Farm the Red Kite feeding centre near Rhayader, Powys. Gigrin is well known to many wildlife photographers and at feeding time you will see dozens, if not hundreds of Red Kites at close quarters.
Feeding takes place at 2.00 p.m. in winter and 3.00 p.m. in summer; so get there at least 10 minutes before. There is a selection of wooden viewing hides and some taller specialist photography hides. They are all roughly the same distance from where the birds are fed and the photography hides are probably only necessary for those with very large lenses (particularly if they want to point them skywards) and tripods. For first timers here like us it’s probably just as good to use one of the ‘normal’ (and less expensive) hides. Particularly as the Kite behaviour at feeding time is frantic and it takes a while to observe and learn how the birds are behaving. When the initial action stops after 45 minute stick around because the younger birds who have waited their turn (there is a ‘pecking order’) will come in to feed. By now there is also less of a frenzy to the feeding and picking out shots becomes a tad easier (not easy!).
Unfortunately, despite a bright start to the day, the cloud built up so that by 2.00 p.m. the light was fairly grim making focusing difficult and exposing even harder. As I don’t have a very long lens I used a 300mm f4.0 on Liz’s Canon 40D (to take advantage of the crop sensor). This enabled me to quite usefully fill the frame. It was also necessary to use AI Servo mode to assist with focusing and whilst difficult the 40D did better than I expected in the poor light. However, exposing for the birds correctly against the dull bland sky meant an almost perfect white background and resulted in images that have a very ‘graphic’ quality; as if they are straight out of a bird illustration book. Whilst the shot above, for example, was not what I was hoping to achieve I think they have an interesting quality and would look good as greeting cards etc.
So we’ll definitely go back when we think the light is better one day.
We’re both pretty laid back and don’t get usually get excited enough about things to get off our backside and blog about things political. Why do you think we retired to Wales? – partly so that we can live amongst decent, hard working, straightforward folk and don’t have to listen to the endless clap trap spouted by London-centric politicians and the media.
However, the recent excitement in the media about bankers bonuses and executive pay deserve some straight talking so I’m going to give it both barrels (rant alert).
It really is time that someone stopped this greed and selfishness. The huge salaries and bonuses, we are told, are essential if we are to prevent this tiny percentage of selfish, money grabbing arseholes from moving overseas. Without their expertise how would Britain cope?
Well I’ve got news; the grave yards are full of people who thought they were indispensable. If these bankers (rhyming slang) who, in the main, don’t actually do anything productive other than skim money off hard working folk (usually in the third world ) lower down the food chain disappeared tomorrow there would be dozens of others who could easily do the same job with a few weeks training.
And if these twats are so fecking clever how come the fecked it all up in the first place and expect everyone else to pay for it?
It really is time to re-prioritise our whole set of values as a society. If someone is worth a million quid a year (they aren’t) because they are so indispensable then it must follow that the doctor who can cure them when they are sick must be worth even more (not to mention the nurse who nurses them or the teacher who taught them to add up).
Personally I’d argue that no one (other than a self employed person working entirely for them self) should be allowed to earn more than 20 times the lowest salary in any organisation. And if they don’t like it and they want to take their overrated talents elsewhere – well tell them to feck off with a cheery two fingered salute.
John had a hankering for ‘real marmalade’ so as Seville oranges are in season we decided to have an attempt at making it. The first task, not having made it before, was to track down a straightforward simple recipe and the second to adapt it for the slow cooker to cut out on the ‘faffing about’.
So as the weather forecast wasn’t great today – we made marmalade and damn fine it is to as you can see in the photo below!
Here is our marmalade recipe. Makes 6-8 jars 1 kg Seville oranges 1.7 litres near-boiling water Juice of 2 lemons 2 kg sugar
Wash and scrub the oranges if you are obsessive; then cut them in half, squeeze the juice and keep it somewhere for later. Remove the membrane, pith and pips etc. with a spoon (you can slightly warm the cut oranges in a microwave if you want to make this easier) and tie all this up in a piece of muslin. Slice the orange peel into strips (removing as much pith as possible), chunks, or whatever you prefer. The slices you cut at this point will determine the size of the shreds/chunks in the finished marmalade don’t feel you have to put it all in. We tend to put about two thirds of the rind in.
Put the peel and the muslin bag full of pips and orange flesh in to the cooking pot of the slow cooker. Pour over the water and lemon juice. Cover and switch to high, leave for 6 hours. Alternatively we reckon that you could put it on low and leave it overnight – but we haven’t tried this yet. The peel must be really soft before adding the sugar.
Remove the muslin bag and leave it until cool. Squeeze the liquid from it into a large pan. Add the rind and cooking liquid from the slow cooker and then add the sugar. Finally pour over the orange juice you squeezed from the oranges earlier. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Put a plate in the freezer at this point to test the setting point later.
Bring to the boil and keep boiling rapidly for 15 minutes until the marmalade reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can put a few drops of the liquid onto your frozen plate out of the freezer, and leave it for about a minute. Push it along a bit with a finger. If it leaves a ‘wrinkly track’ then it has reached the setting point – if not, keep boiling.
The setting point was a learning curve for us (and we don’t have a thermometer) but get it boiling gently. You don’t want a big ‘frothy’ boil – more of a point just beyond a simmer. For the first 15 minutes or so it will look a bit watery, as it gradually thickens it will become more viscous and you should have what other recipes describe as a ‘rolling boil’ (this is sort of how you imagine an Icelandic mud hole bubbling away). Keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. Ours actually took about 30 minutes in total before the it left a ‘tacky track’ on the plate test.
Once the setting point has been reached, turn off the heat and skim off any scummy nastiness from the top. Leave it all to cool for about 15 minutes.
Put your clean jars into the oven, at about 120°C so that they are sterilised and warm when the hot marmalade goes in later; alternatively get them hot (and dry) out of the dishwasher when it has finished.
Stir the marmalade to distribute the peel evenly, then ladle into the heated jars. Seal with waxed paper, clean and leave to cool with a cloth over the top. When they have completely cooled, top with jam pot covers and lids and label.
Store somewhere cool and dry and use within a year.
Actually it tastes pretty good. Next year we’ll experiment with some variations; perhaps adding some grapefruit juice to make it a tad sharper or even some whisky for a more adult flavour. Anyway, it certainly beats that crap in the supermarkets.
Monday the 16th January 2012 turned out to be quite a pleasant sunny day so having made some sandwiches and packed the camera we set of to Mynachlog-ddu, which means Black Monastery in Welsh, to explore some of the Preseli Hills.
This is wonderful countryside and an area rich with ancient monuments and mysterious places; not to mention being the source of the stone for the inner circle at Stonehenge.
We parked in the car park just where you enter the village and then walked north up the road for a few hundred yards before turning left along the road then after a little while took a right turn which crosses a cattle grid onto the common.
Follow the road across the common, passing the Bluestones Monument, and up to where the bridleway leaves the road (it is also possible to park here if you want to drive to this point). Leave the road and head gently uphill going virtually due north. The gradient is gentle with spectacular views. The path can get boggy in places and needs a little careful negotiation. Eventually, near the ridge, the path meets another path crossing at ninety degrees. Take a right turn (East) and continue up towards the large stones/cairn, Carn Bica (shown below).
From here you walk down to Bedd Arthur (Arthur’s Grave) a small stone circle. This so-called stone circle lies overlooking the Bluestones outcrop of Carn Meini. It is actually oval or horse-shoe shaped leading to speculation that it may have been this site which influenced the original horseshoe of Bluestones at Stonehenge.
It comprises thirteen small standing stones along with two or three more now fallen. Some believe it may be a henge – others claim it is the remains of a small portal dolmen.
From Bedd Arthur continue in an Easterly direction along the track eventually you will pass behind a large conifer plantation, that looks very alien in this wild landscape, before descending back down to the road.
At this point note the memorial stone and take a moment to remember that what is now taken for granted (access to the Preseli Mountains and their prehistoric remains) was once nearly denied to the public. The plaque reads:
These mountains would not be accessible to walkers today if it were not for the brave stand by local inhabitants at the end of the 1940s. Soon after the Second World war, in November 1946, the War Office declared its intention to turn the Preselau into a permanent military training area.
That would mean turning more than 200 farmers from their homes. However, under the leadership of Nonconformist ministers and local headmasters, a spirited campaign was organised to withstand the threat. A barrister was employed to represent the Prescelly Preservation Committee and it was made abundantly clear that not an inch of land would be surrendered.
‘We nurture souls in these areas,’ was the precise comment of the Rev R. Parri Roberts when confronted by military officers. The ‘sanctity’ of the mountains was emphasized with their 38 bluestones transported to Stonehenge, over two thousand years ago, to become part of English heritage.
By spring 1948 the Government had give in to the determination of the people of Preselau. All present day farmers and walkers are indebted to those heros of yesterday. The full story can be read in the book ‘Battle of the Presaelau – the campaign to safeguard the ‘sacred’ Pembrokeshire Hills’ by Hefin Wyn.
Once back on the road turn south-west and walk back to your starting point at Mynachlog-ddu. The complete walk is around 7.5 miles. Enjoy!
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
Well it’s just over a year since we moved to Wales and time has flown by. When we first moved here we both felt that it might be good to plant some more native woodland. Our reasoning was that, although we won’t be alive to see the mature trees, this would be our opportunity to leave a small legacy for the future together with providing great habitat for wildlife. Not to mention that it would go some way to reducing our carbon footprint.
Accordingly we are planting the steepest parts (around 5.5 acres) of our land with around 3600 trees to create a native wood that will encourage biodiversity. Anyway today our two man planting team, working for Howard at Heritage Woodlands, arrived and started to mark out the land prior to planting the trees complete with stakes and tree guards.
The planting mix consists of 50% Ash, 20% Oak, 10% Hazel, 10% Field Maple and 10% Bird Cherry. The planting is hard work as it involves walking up and down the slope all day so the guys have our admiration as they are planting around 1000 trees a day between them! Of course for each tree they have to walk up and down 4 times (digging the hole, planting the tree, putting the guard on and putting the cane in).
Once the planting is finished the area around each tree will be sprayed to help keep them free from grass etc. Now we will have the task of keeping the planting clean for a few years until the trees are growing well. Voles can be a particular problem if the grass gets too long; as they can get inside the plant guards and start gnawing the bark of the trees.
It will be great to look back in 10 years time once the trees have started to get established.
One day, long after we have ‘kicked the bucket’ there will be a woodland here for future generations to enjoy and timber to use or to heat someone’s house. Hopefully the Buzzards and Red Kites will still nest here and wheel overhead. There is nothing more glorious than wandering out on a Spring morning and hearing the cry of the Buzzards. In a world of short term thinking it feels rather refreshing to be doing something that will take 50 to 100 years to come to maturity.
After our trek from Langtang to Helambu we returned to Kathmandu to get showered and have a few drinks at Sam’s bar before setting off to Bardia National Park in the South West of Nepal. Neither of us had been to Bardia before as it is comparatively much harder to get to than the Chitwan Park (which I think is distinctly overrated). Getting to Bardia involves a very long bus journey (14 hours minimum) or a comparatively expensive flight to the border town of Nepalgunj. We opted for the latter. John had been to Nepalgunj before and spent 24 hours waiting for a flight to Simikot to begin a trek to Tibet; it has to be said that Nepalgunj has not exactly improved in the intervening years.
Leaving most of our gear behind in Kathmandu we set off to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu for a morning flight. This was unsurprisingly (this is Nepal) delayed by the foggy weather around the country and we were pleased to eventually get away 3 hours late (unlike many flights that were cancelled).
John had previously contacted Mr. B (based on Tripadvisor reviews) who runs a guest house called Mr B’s Place near the Park entrance. As things turned out this was an inspired choice and Mr. B turned out to be a good friend indeed.
Mr. B. had insisted on meeting us at Nepalgunj airport which is around 70 km from Thakurdwara where he lives. He drove all the way, on a foggy cold morning, on his motorbike to meet us at the airport (waiting 3 hours because of the delay) so that he could ensure that we got on the correct bus to Ambassa which is the nearest point on the main highway to the park. He then returned on his motorbike to wait for us to arrive. Eventually, 4 hours later, the bus stopped at Ambassa (fare 250 NR) and Mr B was waiting with his son on another motorbike. Here we transferred onto the back of the bikes together with rucksacks on our backs to make the ride across a river and along a track for 13km to the lodge at Thakurdwara. Liz did look a tad terrified on the back of a motorbike – but we made it without incident.
At Mr. B’s Place we met the ever smiling Kali, his wife, who looked after us and fed us huge meals cooked by herself and her sons. Later, when talking after dinner, we would learn about some of their personal tragedies that occurred during the Maoist conflict. We quickly knew that this family were quite exceptional people; honest, trustworthy folk trying to build themselves a better life in chaos and (sometimes) corruption that is part of everyday life in Nepal. Everyday we suffered long power cuts (load shedding); the longest period being 27 hours without electricity.
On our first day there we explored the local Tharu village and visited the very sad and run down crocodile breeding centre near the Park entrance. At the latter a few crocodiles lurk disconsolately in cages, concrete pools and murky water.
Of course, our prime purpose, was to try and see a tiger in the park. A tall order as the park is nearly 1000 sq km of jungle and forest and the fact that there are only around 22 adults and 5 cubs in the park (dramatically down from the 85 or so pre conflict).
So we spent 2 days walking on foot (and waiting at favourite watering spots) in the park looking for them but despite seeing loads of birds, crocodiles, deer, python tracks and a rhino; we didn’t see any tigers. So on the last day we hired a jeep to go further afield. Once again we weren’t lucky but did find very fresh tiger tracks on a riverbank.
On returning to Mr B’s in the evening we learnt that a nationwide Bandh had been called for the following day (and could last several days). Bandh, is a Nepali word meaning ‘closed’ and is a form of protest. Sometimes, as in this instance, the entire nation comes to a standstill with protests and rioting in the streets. This left us with a problem because if we didn’t make our flight back to Kathmandu the following day, we might not make it back to the U.K. for Christmas. So we decided to try and make a night time dash back to Nepalgunj to avoid the strike. Driving at night in Nepal is best avoided but on this occasion there seemed to be little choice.
So packing us off to bed to get a bit of sleep Mr. B organised for a car to drive the 70km from Nepalgunj to collect us late at night (this cost us around 35 pounds for the round trip). He also booked us a hotel in Nepalgunj telling them that we would be arriving in the early hours. Unbeknown to us at the time the driver was reluctant to come because he was worried about the rioters damaging his car and Mr. B had personally guaranteed that he would take responsibility for any damage. Later that evening the driver arrived, he was keen to get going before the situation (and weather – as it was starting to get very foggy) deteriorated. At this stage Mr B announced that he didn’t feel happy letting us go alone and that he was coming along armed with a knife in case of trouble! We set off into the dark in a somewhat ancient car and after bumping down the track from Thakurdwara joined the highway at Ambassa. The normally busy main road was pretty much deserted and we made good progress until a loud bang announced a puncture in one of the very bald tyres. Mr B obviously had good contacts as our driver had an equally bald spare to replace it and after 10 minutes or so we were on our way again.
We arrived in Nepalgunj sometime after midnight and parked in front of a shuttered hotel that can best be described (after banging the shutters for 5 minutes to wake the night watchman) as ‘a port in a storm’ – normally we’d call it crap. After a cold night with only one blanket we awoke to a very foggy Nepalgunj that was closed down by protesters, who in turn were being watched by the riot police. Things were not looking good as the protesters were even letting down the tyres on the rickshaws (the only transport that was moving). The hotel had no food so Mr B, as resourceful as ever headed off to find some eggs and bread which he then proceeded to cook for us in the hotel kitchen. He then told us that he wasn’t leaving until we were safely on our way and if necessary he would cross the border into India and travel along the Indian side to get home.
However, by early after noon (our flight was at 17.30 p.m.) the fog started to clear a bit and the protesters were seeming to run out of steam a little. Mr B. had also managed to call someone at the airline office who said that the flight should leave as planned. So mid afternoon we found a rickshaw to take us the 6km to the airport. Nepalgunj airport was still the very Spartan, down at heel airport it had always been but it was actually a welcome sight on this occasion! Especially as by this time the runway was clear for us to take off and we had a great view of the Himalayas as we flew towards Kathmandu (and home). The protest had also ameliorated in Kathmandu and we got back to our guest house (and the UK) with no further dramas.
Thanks Mr. B. you were truly a star and we will definitely be back one day.
At the end of November we travelled to Nepal and spent most of December there, returning to the U.K. for Christmas. The first couple of weeks we spent trekking in the Langtang region and this blog details how we walked from Langtang to Helambu (I’ve put a map here) across the Laurebina Pass (4610m). The information and prices here are correct as of December 2011 and is provided on a goodwill basis (i.e. use your own common sense, check nothing has changed and don’t blame us if it doesn’t go as planned!). The weather was warm and dry but did turn increasingly cold at night as we moved into mid December. There was a very small amount of ice on the trail but the route was easily done with normal trekking gear although the high altitude lodges were cold at night. This trek would become harder in January and February, once there is snow, without proper gear (crampons and an ice axe?). The variety of scenery and the comparative lack of other trekkers (although the time of year may well have been a factor here) made this one of our favourite treks in Nepal.
On arriving at Kathmandu we went to stay initially at a guest house in Thamel; The Sacred Valley Inn. The owners Ailsa and Ganga are old friends who we first got to know twelve or thirteen years or so ago when John used to bring trekking groups to the Annapurna region. This is without doubt probably the best value guest house in Kathmandu and unless you are a backpacker on a very tight budget or need unashamed international style luxury I doubt you will find better value. You may also note that Liz is the model on their website page as John took some photos for them when we stayed there there last year!
To do the trek from Langtang to Helambu you will need to reasonably fit and have some decent boots, rucksack, sleeping bag and warm clothing. Other than ‘broken in’ boots (which you need to bring with you) everything can be bought cheaply or hired in Kathmandu at a shop like Shona’s trekking shop (there is an interesting article on Andy the ‘Brummie’ who runs it with his wife here). The lodges will have extra blankets so you don’t need a fantastic sleeping bag. Take a water bottle (or Camelback) and some water purifying tablets to avoid having to pay for bottled water (and more importantly reduce the use of plastic in the Park).
Before you start you need a TIMS card and a park entrance permit. Both are probably just an excuse to extract money from tourists. Anyway you can get them from the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu (ask your hotel to direct you) for $20 per person for the TIMS and 1000 Nepalese Rupees for the trekking permit (the later can also be purchased at the park check point). In addition to obtain the TIMS you need to take along a copy of your passport and two passport-size photographs. Note that the Tourist Board office helpfully (Not) closes at 14.00 hrs so get there in good time before then.
So fully kitted out we set off to the starting point of Syabru Besi not far from the Tibet border. This is probably the most dangerous part of the trip (i.e. seven or eight hours on a Nepali bus). The bus is caught from the bus stand at Macha Pokhari (in Kathmandu – most taxi drivers should be able to take you there) and leaves at around 7.00 a.m. we got their at 6.30 and obtained seats OK, but in busy times you may need to book the day before. Seats at the back of the bus are not recommended as they get very bumpy and the ride is bad enough. By the way at the end of the journey I counted 14 people get out of the front 2 rows; in addition the bus will be loaded up with chickens, rice, vegetables and barrels of cooking oil. Many people choose to ride on the roof but the bus will stop before every check point to allow them to climb down and cram inside to satisfy the authorities. It will then stop half a mile later to allow them back up on the roof! Ensure that you have sufficient water and snacks for the journey although the bus will stop halfway for a food break. Eventually, the bus will reach Dhunche where you need to get out and complete the Langtang Park formalities (or get a Park Permit if you didn’t get one in Kathmandu). The bus will then travel on another hour or so to Syabru Besi.
Note that this road is being extended and improved by the Chinese all the way to the Tibet border. Once it does become sealed all the way the journey should improve dramatically but I fear that the unique character of this Tamang area will rapidly be changed forever.
At Syabru Besi there are a number of Guest Houses to choose from. We went to the Village View, a small guest house where we had stayed previously.
I asked the owner of the guest house if he knew a reliable local guide who could also carry up to around 15kg for us. I had hired a suitable 60 litre rucksack to hold our sleeping bags and waterproofs etc at Shona’s (50 Nepalese Rupees per day) back in Kathmandu.
The Lonely Planet suggested a rate of 1000 Nepalese Rupees per day for a local guide (most guides from Kathmandu start at 20$ per day). Here we met the lovely Tempa Tamang who became our guide and we agreed on 1300 NR per day with him carrying our bigger pack whilst we carried day packs with our personal gear and clothes etc. Tempa (pronounced more like Demba), although in his own words uneducated, proved to be a very reliable guide who spoke some English. Although not a professional registered guide he was excellent company and should you wish to seek him out ask for him at the Village View Lodge in Syabru Besi or try emailing his wife’s sister in Kathmandu –Starting at Syabru Besi there are a number of treks and combinations. The main ones are the Tamang Heritage trek to Gatlang, Tatopani, the Tibet border and finishing around Khanjim before returning. This trek is more home stay based than trekking lodges so has more potential for interaction.
Another option is to trek straight up to Langtang and Kyanjin Ghompa before returning much of the same way (perhaps coming back from Rimche to Khanjim). We had previously done this trek and it makes a nice short trek with some great views up at the highest points.
The third option is to trek to the sacred lakes of Gosainkunda then across the Laurebina Pass to Helambu and finish literally back on the outskirts of Kathmandu. This trek can be combined with either or both of the previous treks to make a longer trek. We decided on the last option with a slight detour at the start to take some photographs (we took last year) back to the villagers in Khanjim. In addition because of the altitude of the trek this gave us a couple of nights to acclimatise a little. Above 3000m it is advisable not to sleep more than 300m higher each day.
Our route was as follows and although we broke the 300m rule by sleeping at Laurebina we had no problems as we had had a couple of nights to acclimatise.
Day 1 Syabru Besi to Khanjim – half day trek. Good walkers could easily push on to Rimche.
Day 2 Khanjim to Rimche – an other easy walk; only half a day.
Day 3. Rimche to Thulo Syaphru
Day 4 Thulo Syapru to Shin Gompa
Day 5 Shin Gompa to Laurebina
Day 6 Laurebina to Phedi – A long day walk over the pass at 4610m.
Day 7 Phedi to Tharepati
Day 8 Tharepati to Kutumsang
Day 9 Kutumsang to Chisapani
Day 10 Chisapani to Sundarijal. Then return to Kathmandu by bus
We estimate (very roughly) the total distance to be around 95 kilometres. Trekking lodge room rates varied from 100 NR at Kanjim to 500 NR at the high lodges (around 80 pence to 4 pounds for 2 people). We probably spent between 600 and 800 NR each on food for a whole day.
At our guides village, Thulo Syapru, we spent the day at a Tamang wedding and the singing and dancing went on late into the night. The food was excellent and they had killed a buffalo especially for the occasion. It did come as quite a surprise though to see all the locals videoing the wedding on their latest ‘smartphones’!
At Chisapani you hit roads (or rather tracks) and I’m sure that you could negotiate a vehicle (not sure if local buses come this far) back to Kathmandu from here. We walked on to Sundarijal (probably another 5 hours from Chisapani) which is literally on the outskirts of Kathmandu. We then returned to Kathmandu from Sundarijal by bus (only about 40 minutes or so). As we had met a few other trekkers along the trail we negotiated a whole mini bus for 2000 NR to take all of us and the guides back into Thamel. Back in Kathmandu we had a welcome hot shower, a few beers and some respite from eggs for breakfast. We then went onto Bardia National Park in the south west of Nepal.
Oh dear we’ve been very lax in updating the blog recently. Too busy enjoying ourselves. For the last two weekends we’ve been spending time in the Elan Valley camping overnight in a wood near Rhayader in mid Wales and photographing and walking round the lakes during the day. We were there to take advantage of the amazing Autumn colours and as you can see from the photographs this was enhanced by the amazingly still water.
The dams, reservoirs and 73 mile of aqueduct of the Elan Valley waterworks in mid Wales were mostly built about a hundred years ago to supply clean water to the city of Birmingham in the English Midlands. Although it looks like a bridge the Carreg-ddu dam (below) is partially submerged to keep the water level up at the extraction point.
Leaving aside the morality of removing the original residents to flood the valley the reservoirs and dams which supply water to Birmingham entirely by gravity are a an amazing feat of engineering. It is almost beyond comprehension that thousands of men could build these structures. It really does put in perspective the rubbish that we see built today. In addition the foresight of elders of Birmingham to conceive and undertake such a scheme is astonishing. As well as building the dams this also involved building a 73 mile long aqueduct down which the water travels at less than 2 miles per hour, taking one and a half days to get to Birmingham.
The walk around Carreg-Ddu reservoir is a lovely walk and you can start at various points. We parked at the car park by the Carreg-Ddu dam and did a complete circuit of the lake. The map below shows a longer walk starting at the visitor centre.
Well summer is drawing to an end and it’s time to introduce you to our new friend ‘Huey’ as he (it) is known. Having had a Landrover since we came to Wales (which was indispensable in the worst of the winter) we had to acknowledge that we didn’t use it enough the rest of the year and what we really wanted was a campervan. This led to a big dilemma as we didn’t want to be running three vehicles. Eventually we ‘bit the bullet’ and decided to buy a VW California 4motion. One of the few vans that comes in a 4×4 configuration. So after handing over an inordinate amount of money here is ‘Huey’.
So after an initial weekend away walking in the Radnor Forest last weekend we seized a brief interlude in the weather and drove up to Snowdon last night to climb Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa as it is known in Welsh. We over-nighted in a small lay-by not far from Beddgelert and then drove to the car park at Rhyd Ddu (off the A4085 – SH 571 526) to have breakfast and make an early start.
The plan was to walk up Snowdon via the Rhydd Ddu path and descend via the Snowdon South ridge. Other than a slight navigational error on the descent that is what we did. The walk up took us around two and a half hours. The cloud cover cleared, as forecast, as we ascended giving us some good views at the top. The routes up Snowdon are detailed here our route is below.
The ascent up Rhyd Ddu is fairly gentle in most places, the South Ridge path is a tad more challenging.
All in all we had a great couple of days and we’re pleased to have ‘Huey’ to help us to take advantage of the amazing countryside in Wales