Friday, 28 November 2008


This time of year always has me thinking about soups. Warming comfort food when the cold weather begins to bite. Soups on winter day walks and backpacking trips are top of my menu.

This year I've been lucky as a couple of supermarkets are now stocking cup soups that are gluten free - and not just a choice of one! However I'm not a big fan of the after taste that they leave in the mouth, although they are a lightweight and easy to prepare first course.

In the past I've made a huge vat of lentil soup made with carrots and potato to bolster the calorie rating. This I dried and ground to a powder to create an instant soup. It's time consuming but tastier and additive free.

Recently on my web wanderings I come across a couple of ideas which I've yet to try. And one of these used bouillon cubes as a soup base, adding some dried vegetables and/or fish/meat as you please. There are a number of manufacturers that make natural additive free low sodium stock cubes so again I'm spoilt for choice. (This is a rare occurrence in the world of a coeliac.)

I've also found a gluten free miso soup mix. And this got me thinking beyond the first course. With a packet of rice noodles ramen, that old backpackers stalwart, is now within easy reach of my titanium chopsticks.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

kit bit 2

I missed this bit of gear in yesterdays round up.

It's a sleekslice AKA a mandolin; not a stringed instrument for strumming whilst humming madrigals but a vegetable slicer.

An essential piece of kitchen equipment for those wishing to make potato dauphinois. Or those with a dehydrator wishing to make dried fruit or veg slices.

Using one of these speeds preparation time and with even thickness slices the fruit dries more efficiently saving time and energy.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

kit bits

The Trail Blaze poles arrived yesterday. I'm up in London this week so I've yet to play with my own pair but having already given them a day's trial I'm in no hurry. Also in the parcel is another piece of kit that I won't be able to write a review on but will give some feedback on after the festive season.

I picked up a pair of Inov8 Terrocs on Friday to replace my worn out XA Comps. And I'm glad; I don't have to listen to the wheezing sound that emanated from the hole in the sole of the right heal with every footfall any more. I've not walked more than a few miles at a time in these but they are feeling comfy albeit a bit drafty with the weather the way it is.

I hope to get out on Sunday to give the Terrocs a try and have a crack at pitching a tarp with the poles whilst I'm about it. And it goes without saying that I'll have my Bush Buddy on the go whilst I tinker with the tarp.

Monday, 24 November 2008

border crossing

Good news. Andy 'Wild' West completed the CDT - his word for the experience - Awesome.

Hi everyone,

I finally got to the border on the 21st after a fairly straight forward 120 mile section. Well sort of, here are some keywords:
Road walking, rattlesnakes, private land-no trespass, thorny bushes, border patrol, helicopters, drug runners and illegals, no water, stealth camping (no cooking), painful blisters, F1-11's, friendly ranchers & border patrol, hot days, freezing nights, coyotes, eagles. The finish!

OK I said fairly straight forward. Needless to say I was glad to get picked up and whisked away from the border.

I will be writing a page or so of highlights, thoughts, etc and send that out. I could write a book, we shall see where it takes me.
For now I'm just going to relax for a while let my feet rest and probably start training again pretty soon. Looking forward to doing some weights and putting on some weight although I have only lost maybe 15 pounds.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

and then one day you find

ten years have got behind you.

No one told you when to run.

You missed the starting gun.

Enough of the lyrics. OK so I'm another year older (and as I said enough of the lyrics).

I've just had a conversation with a friend; we haven't spoken since '96 or thereabouts. She's still got her Brum accent despite spending most of those years in Korea, Cambodia and India. How did that happen?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

backpackers club london pub meet

Plan is to meet at the Tabard, 2 Bath Road, London, W4 1LW on Tuesday 25th November from 8pm. And the last Tuesday of the month thereafter.

Subject to interest the location can be moved to a more central location if required.

If you're planning on attending then please contact me by email on

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

north downs way: guildford to dorking

Picked Darren up from the station on way around the usual Saturday morning taxi circuit of Guildford. With the car parked at Shalford Park we had a brief chat with a couple who were walking the way east to west and set off towards Dorking. The route slowly climbs past Chantry Wood and up to St Martha's church where, at a height of 525ft, the view opens out to reveal the line of the north downs to the east and views to the south and west.

From St Martha's the route wends it way through woods and across open down land to Newland's Corner, where Darren bravely tackled a bacon roll. He offered, and we accepted without hesitation, a wee dram of whisky - a potent mix of peat and smokey sweetness.

From the A25 the way follows a drove road through wooded down land. The gales of 1987 destroyed a number of trees along this section which created gaps allowing glimpses south. With all this wood around it was an easy matter to find some dry twigs to fuel the Bush Buddy and lunch was taken on a moss covered bank.

Bush Buddy burning bright

Earlier in the day I had snaffled the Trail Blaze poles off Darren that Bob had sent him. Given the on going knee problem this was a good opportunity to give a potential life saver a thorough try out. At the halfway point or thereabouts I was in no discomfort and had adapted to walking with poles. There is little ascent and descent on this stretch of the way so I had no way of testing whether they'd help in this situation but for now I was happy with the result. One minor quibble with the poles though the pull string seemed to work it's way loose and cause the pole joints to click. A half hitch around the shaft helped but that also worked loose eventually. As these were second hand poles they came with no instructions so perhaps we were missing something. That said I think a couple of mini line loks might do the trick. Despite this I was very impressed with the lightness of the poles, and will be buying a pair later this week. (Bob has since posted on Darren's write up of the day and apparently there is a locking knot that needs using.)

Emerging on to White Down, Dorking and the Denbies Vineyard hove into view. Scattered across this stretch of the hill side were a number of brick built pill boxes, some more crumbling than others. I stopped to point out the wild clematis seed heads, otherwise know as old man's beard, which makes great tinder (I've become something of an avid tinder spotter since got the BB).

The route crosses Ranmore Common and passes St Barnabas Church, entering the Denbies Estate we took a detour through the vineyard to shorten the walk along the busy A24 to the station.

Box Hill and Denbies vineyard

Another good day out with Darren and I'm wondering when we'll get a chance to complete more of the way with him. The next leg between West Humble and Merstham is only 9 miles long and lies on the same rail service but beyond Merstham however the public transport situation becomes more problematic.

Monday, 17 November 2008

oh happy days

Stepped out with Darren on Saturday to walk another section of the north downs way, more of which later.

The good news is that I covered the thirteen or so miles without any knee pain. It could be that the cod liver oil I've been taking is helping. Or it could be the new knee support I had to buy on Friday because I had forgotten to pack the other one. Maybe it was the Trail Blaze poles that Darren had brought along that I hijacked from him first thing and used all day. It could be the combination of all three.

Whatever, I'm going to continue taking the pills, using the more comfortable and lighter knee support and buy a pair of the poles from Bob and Rose.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

trail magic - update

Andy now has the end of the trail within his sights and appears determined to get this finished at all cost...


I should have written that in the 27 hours/48miles I was not just walking all that time. That would be crazy. I visited the cliff dwellings and even had 5 hours sleep during that time. Just thought I would say in case you think I have completely lost the plot.

However, I might go for the record in the last 125 miles. Although the blisters will probably stop me.

Must get back to stuffing my face.


Saturday, 15 November 2008

trail magic

Hi everyone its me!

Just landed in Silver City after a big hiking night. Decided to road walk the last section and go for 50 miles in 24 hours. Well it turned out 48miles in 27 hours so nearly there. There was a fair amount of up and down which slowed me considerably.

I think I had done about 250 miles since Grants the last town stop with a stopover in Pie Town also. Where the only thing you could buy was - yes Pie. Seriously. Needless to say I was starting to smell and feeling a bit withered around the edges. I 've been surviving on dried food and trail rubbish.

The Gila Forest wilderness section was a big challenge with 75 river crossings in 2 days. A river that had ice around the edges in places. I had to build 2 fires as I progressed down the river I was in such pain with cold feet. If only I had my fishing waders or snorkel boots. One day I saw some hunters with a black bear on the back of the truck (it was dead). They showed me a picture of a mountain lion they had shot the week before. Man, these are big animals as big as the hunter. Apparently there's a pack of wolves that move up and down the canyon I went through, I saw footprints too but didn't hear them.

Have I mentioned trail magic? Well coming out the canyon, I found a wallet with $500 cash credit cards etc in the dirt. Naturally I was going to hand it in as soon as got out. I had nearly run out of food and was feeling jaded. 'What I really need is some food' I said to myself. A few yards further on, there it was. A carrier bag with someones lunch in it. Needless to state I ate it. Rather me than the Coyotes. That's trail magic for you. When I got out I gave the wallet to the rangers who were impressed with my honesty especially as I looked like a vagrant. As they say looks are deceiving and don't judge a book by its cover. After visiting the cave dwellings I came out to find that the American tourists and rangers had made a food collection for me they were so impressed. That was cool.

Anyhow, I am really looking forward to the finish; lets face it there's only so many things you can discuss with yourself in a freezing tent for 12 hours a day!! Starting to miss people big time.


Thursday, 13 November 2008

mechanical failure

This was the phrase that ptc* used when referring to my knee problem. The good news is that my employer has BUPA cover, so I've an appointment booked with Doctor and an a cheque waiting for £100 to cover the excess required for the claim.

I've been taking cod liver oil for a couple of weeks but as I've not done any walking of any significance since the Elan Valley trip I cant tell if it's helping.

I've decided for now to move my attempt on the Pennine Way back to September to give me enough time to heal, recover and get fit for it.

I'm meeting up with Darren on Saturday morning to walk another bit of the North Downs Way, he promises to be bringing a stove or two along for testing. I'm wondering whether I'm going to get press ganged into holding a camera for one of his videos! Or if I'm really lucky he'll be backing one of the prizes from his blog's birthday draw (hopefully the Snow Peak pot).

I'm packing my favourite bit of kit - the Bush Buddy Ultra - for brewing up along the way. And I have been kicking around using it on the PW with a meths stove as a back up. I've done a quick weight comparison between the two and the BB/pepsi can stove combo works out lighter than the F1 stove and medium sized cartridge. Finding fuel for the BB on route may be an issue though, so more thought needs to be put into that.

This posting has re-ignited my interest in the Mariposa Plus. I've been having doubts as to whether I'd have enough pack space in the Villain for a weeks food, along with all my kit. And the only way of finding out is by bagging up a weeks worth and seeing if I can squeeze it all in. Might be worth the effort rather than shelling out another 100 quid for yet another rucksack.

Monday, 10 November 2008

kit bits

Took my Bush Buddy out for a field (should that be forest?) test.

The weather had been blustery and wet so the hope of finding any dry wood seemed slim but after 10 minutes along the trail I'd gathered enough wood to have an attempt at lighting the stove. The wood was dead branches that were still attached to the trunk., well they were until I pulled them free.

A sheltered spot found and the BB was soon burning away happily. All attempts at lighting the stove thus far have been by using a teased out tampon as tinder. The next step is to light the stove with naturally occurring tinder.

It was timely that I washed and proofed my two soft shell tops on Saturday morning. This time of the year I generally wear my Marmot ATV jacket as it's (just) warm enough on it's own whereas the TNF Apex top would need a microfleece under it. I wore the jacket on the aborted Elan Valley trip putting on my Marmot Precip waterproof when the wind picked up and rain got more persistent and the combo worked well.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

podcast pleasure

Since my W810i packed up a while ago I've resorted to using an old 5140 as my phone. I have been missing listening to podcasts so when the nalgene flask from Bob turned up I received the outdoors station pick of the month CD that included the OMM podcasts. Essential listening then, so as I mentioned that I was heading off to town to buy a cheap MP3 player one of my staff said you can have my iPod nano (4Gb) for ten quid.


iTunes downloaded, outdoors station subscription set up and podcasts loaded for this evening's journey home.

Joy and happiness restored.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

On the home straight

Hi all,

Just arrived in Grants New Mexico. I think I have done about 250 miles in the past 9 days, so I'm really flying now!

It really surprised me the change in 40 hiking miles. From the frozen soil of Colorado, to the sand and rock of the desert mesas.
Thankfully its been warmer too, although hunters I have chatted to say I am well lucky as this time last year it was 2-6 degrees F up high and that's cold by my books. Had some lovely sights, incredible rock colours, sunrises and sunsets. Seen a tarantula, wild turkeys, elk and lots of cool looking cacti and pinon pines. Even found an arrowhead one day. Met many friendly people and turned down many lifts and free food, although water was welcome.

Had a run in with some young bulls & cows in the dark and escaped without stepping on a cactus or rattler - they can be 6 foot tall; the cacti and the cows!

I have been getting up at 5.30 to start hiking in the dark and normally hiking on into dark. Not many people get to see the sunrise and sunset every day. Trying hard to finish before the cold really hits home. Its going to be interesting near the border too.


Monday, 3 November 2008

nalgene hip flask

Now in stock on Podcast Bob's site. Timely given my usual 'flask' leaked again this weekend. Hurry he has limited stock of these.

elan valley

To cut a long blog short the above trip was abandoned due to on going knee issue.



The Golite Reed Pants bought from Mark at got about ten minutes of testing, so I'm not going to write a review just yet.

My Meindl boots behaved themselves and didn't let in any water so I'm going to test them in a bowl of water with a rolled up newspaper before I decide whether or not to send them back.

I'm not doing any more weekend trips until I get my knee sorted.

bush buddy update

The good news is that I don't have to buy a new pot to keep the Bush Buddy in, it happily fits in the Primus Litetech kettle I own.

Bush Buddy Ultra in Primus Kettle

I didn't take it on the Elan Valley trip as I wanted to have a couple of goes at lighting and using it in controlled conditions in the back garden.

Feeding the fire

And a very successful first attempt it was. The most problematic issue was finding dry wood. I've already been told about soot blackening the pots but there is also the wood smoke that will make all what you're wearing smell of it in no time. But that's no bad thing.

I'll be packing the stove on my next day trip for a field test.