View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Friday, 4 May 2018

Not Daundering, 23rd–25th April 2018

A naughty backpack from Clapham to Dent

This was all Mike’s idea, me Dawn, Lucky and Chrissie just went along for the ride. And the beer, there may have been beer involved.

Mike, for reasons that will become clear, is henceforth to be referred to as The Kilted Pieman. If I remember, which I probably won’t.

Anyroadup, me and Chrissie (who just happened to be on the same train as me) alighted at Clapham in t’Yorkshire Dales and wandered over to the pub – always a good move.

We were supposed to meet up with Lucky and his Dad plus Dawn at Lancaster station, but train delays and cancellations severely buggered-up their arrangements – hence the pub visit.

The New Inn is a fine establishment that serves, amongst other stuff, TT Landlord. A couple of beers after arriving the pub door flung open and LTD marched purposefully into the bar ahead of his Dad and Dawn and demanded beer with menaces.

It was raining and the latecomers were a tad soggy and damp.

It was still raining, but only a bit, as we left the pub and headed up to our camping spot at Gaping Gill.

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Spooky house

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A fine set of knees near Clapham Bottoms. Honest.

The area around Gaping Gill was quite murky and much of the ground was nicely adorned with sheep-poo – a clean(ish) pitch was hard to find.

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 Murk at Gaping Gill

The weather didn’t encourage outside-of-tent socialising so I stayed in for the evening and read a book (The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe) and listened to the wireless-type radio to catch up on the usual depressing news.

More depression followed when my NeoAir decided it would be a wizard prank to deflate slowly but quite surely. Lovely. I couldn’t find the puncture so ended up kipping on the teensiest bit of 5mm thick (thin?) foam mat. It wasn’t a comfortable night.

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Gaping Gill

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One dog and his man

Next morning we headed Ribbleheadwards, towards Ribblehead, famous for the Ribblehead Viaduct and a pretty decent pub, more of which later.

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A gentle bimble, at daunder pace (not that we were daundering – heaven forbid) to the foot of Ingleborough where it was a bit wet and the breeze was getting up. Dawn & Chrissie, being the sensible sorts they are, bravely volunteered to single-handedly guard The Kilted Pieman’s (see, I remembered) and my rucksacks whilst we ventured forth and upwards to conquer the peak’s lofty, er, peak.

This was a good ascent, we fought the elements and refused to falter – until eventually, exhausted and almost out of oxygen, we got to the top.

I’d like to say how fantastic the fantastic views were, how you could see the snow-covered Southern Uplands of Scotland, how clear Blackpool Tower was, and how we could easily see fellow walkers ascending neighbouring Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside. Except you couldn’t. You couldn’t see a damned thing, such was the thick cloud that enveloped us.

Ho hum.

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On top of Ingleborough

We descended to find our rucksacks abandoned in the rain whilst our brave guards sheltered in a tent – hastily erected as a last-ditch defence against marauding Swaledales. Their cunning plan worked, both they and our rucksacks were unharmed.

These girls are clever.

Next stop was the Station Inn at Ribblehead, purveyors of very good beer and magnificent pork pies. We drank the pies and ate the beer, all was well with the world.

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Approaching The Station at Ribblehead

After beer and pies we escaped the pub and, in between the rain showers, hurried to get the tents up.

Whinge warning:

Camping here is currently free but for how long I don’t know – there are some campers who don’t treat the area with respect. Broken glass, fires, rubbish left behind etc is all evidence of the irresponsibility of SOME visitors. They obviously don’t get the idea of ‘Leave no trace’. The farmer who owns the land isn’t going to put up with that sort of behaviour for long.

End of whinge.

Back to the pub for more food and even more beer….the food looked generally good although my pie could have been better. The good news was the landlord took my criticism on board and did something about it. I’m happy about that – I’ll certainly eat there again.

Another uncomfortable night followed. The wind and rain got windier and rainier and my NeoAir only held enough air for about 90 minutes of relative comfort before my bum and other bits came in contact with the cold ground. I had spare clothing which I was also lying on but it wasn’t enough.

I repaired the NeoAir when I got home….more later.

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It must have been very windy overnight, one of my tentpegs had become dislodged.

The intended 9am start was rescheduled to 11am ‘cos the weather forecast was pretty awful. Poor Chrissie had an attack of the flashing lights and had elected to bale out early – Ribblehead railway station was a very short walk from our camp spot and trains ran fairly regularly to get he back home so it was an easy decision.

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Leaving Chrissie behind we wandered alongside the Ribblehead viaduct to walk up to Blea Moor. The promised foul weather didn’t arrive, not in the Dales anyway – although I gather it was pretty grim dahn sarf.

A military-looking tracked vehicle had been spotted going up the hill earlier in the day. As we ascended it came back down to meet us.

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Onward, upwards and over Blea Moor, we were planning on the hoof. We’d pretty well decided that we’d just make our way to Dent by the prettiest way possible – that included a lovely Mossy Bottom picnic spot by the railway line and a wander down a section of the Dales Way.

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It would have been nice to stop for a beer….

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…but the pub was shut

The weather remained fine as we trundled down the road to Dent, only to find that we’d just missed a train. Being as wot the sun was sort of shining we found a nice little spot on the banks of the River Dee (no, not THAT River Dee) where we just chilled. In fact we chilled so much that we needed to wrap up, the sun may have been shing but the breeze wasn’t so warm.

A lot of contour lines were crossed in rapid succession as we wandered up to Dent Station, where, incidently, it was bloody freezing.

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A wall heater in the waiting room did the neccesary, as long as you didn’t sit on it. The heater that is, not the waiting room.

Then we all went home via Leeds.

It was good, very laid back and a lot of fun. I don’t know how far we walked but it wasn’t too far – it didn’t need to be.

Thanks to Lucky for inviting me along and to Mike, Chrissie and Dawn for putting up with me.

One last thing….for Alan, ‘cos he likes this sort of thing:

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 So that was it. A great little trip that definitely wasn’t a Daunder.

What actually happened can be read:

Chrissie’s blog

The Kilted Pieman’s blog

Dawn’s blog

More pics


Oh, and another last thing: the punctured NeoAir.

It was pure coincidence that last week, my mate John B from Bramhall, who’s currently walking LeJoG, phoned me with a SitRep and to report a similarly punctured NeoAir and consequent cold bum.

He tried to repair it with the repair kit supplied by Thermarest but it just didn’t do the job. He ended up using E6000 glue. Two applications were used: the first one to actually seal the puncture, the second as a reinforcement.

That was over two weeks ago and the repair has held, certainly up to a couple of days ago.

I didn’t have any E6000 to hand but I nipped over to Go Outdoors and bought a tune of SeamGrip

This stuff is recommended for all sorts of repairs – including puncturedsleeping mats.

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Two layers of the stuff on my NeoAir seems to have done the trick – although I’ll be carrying the tube of SeamGrip with me on the Challenge – just in case.







Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Solar Charger, Wednesday 2nd May 2018

A new bit of kit

Having *just* taken the decision to get back into doing more backpacking & wild camping this year (any excuse to get away) I took the plunge and bought a Solar Battery Charger for the princely sum of £33.90 including shipping, from www.mobilesolarchargers.co.uk

My choice was influenced by my mate Rob (photographer extraordinaire, box player, dance caller, drinker of beer and all-round good egg). Rob used the lower power version of this charger on our recent Via De La Plata trundle in Spain. The sunlight levels in Sunny Spain (the clue is in the name) are significantly higher than in UK and his charger performed well.

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I’m quite realistic, the UK isn’t known for high levels of sunlight so I don’t expect this to be a cure-all for charging problems. This bit of kit has an advertised 3watts of (solar) charging rate, allowing for UK conditions I’d expect something like 1 – 1.5watts, maybe a little more in very strong sunshine.

From the website:

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My initial impression is that it’s fairly robust and will probably stand a bit of knocking about. It’s not waterproof although I expect it will stand a bit of spray for a short time, and at 270gms it’s not horribly heavy.

Time will tell, I’m off on the TGO Challenge next week…we’ll see.

Details here.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Secondly: Via de La Plata, 16th–21st April 2018

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The Via de La Plata is one of the many ‘Way of St James’ Camino pilgrimage routes that have become extremely popular in recent years.

This particular route is the longest of the pilgrim routes in Spain, starting from Seville in Andalucia, and running northwards through the provinces of Extremadura and Castilla y Leon to Salamanca and Zamora.

I’ve been walking the route in sections and I thought it was about time I got on with it. Details of my route so far are here, starting off from Caceres in 2012.

Monday 16th April 2018: Manchester to Puebla de Sanabria

I didn't get to bed until stupid o'clock that night.... it was actually the following morning. I was quite nicely knackered. I had to be up and out of the door for just after 4am to walk to Manchester Airport for 4.30am check-in and my 6.30am flight to Madrid.

Rob, who had foolishly agreed to come along (he believed my tales of dancing girls, cheap food and free beer) was already at the airport, he lives further away and walking really wasn't a sensible option for him - he travelled by taxi.

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The Ryanair flight was uneventful and after an interesting journey on Madrid's tram system we hopped onto the very comfortable high speed train from Chamartin to Puebla de Sanabria - the point at which I'd left the Camino in September 2014.

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We were surprised that all baggage going onto the train had to go through airport - type security checking. A sad sign of the times..... one that is unlikely to change any time soon.

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We spent the night in dormitory accommodation at the Albergue Casa Luz, €12 a night. It was good, I didn't snore once... which is more that can said for the other occupants. <koff>

Tuesday 17th April

Puebla de Sanabria to Lubian

Next morning was cold, frost had formed overnight and I was glad of my Velez, although this was the only time I got to wear it on the trip.

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We left Puebla de Sanabria at around 9am (=8am in real money) and wandered off westwards... ish. Much of the Camino had been diverted along this section due to railway works, we were forced to follow a lot of tarmac. This wasn't as bad as it sounds, there was very little traffic to contend with. We met up with a good number of peregrinos, all headed towards Santiago de Compostela.

It soon warmed up, a strong sun and very little wind had us, er, perspiring. Just a little.

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We lunched in a small roadside cafe / bar in the tiny village of Requejo de Sanabria. Bocadillo tortilla was the order of the day. They're very nice and all that, but the bread crust is hard as blazes....they probably contribute significantly to keeping Spanish dentists in business.

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The distance between Puebla de Sanabria and Lubian via the Camino is reckoned to be 29km. With all the route closures and diversions it was getting on for 37-38km. At least the walking was fairly easy. The route is hardly high altitude but there's a goodly amount of up and downery, today we hit the highest part of the entire route, around 4,500 ft. There was still a lot of snow around although we managed to avoid walking through it...mostly. Not many snowballs were hurt in following this route. Not many at all.

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Lubian, our overnight stop, has a small Albergue, at €3 a night it's certainly cheap enough. It's well hidden down a little street but was fairly easily found. It had all that a pair of British chaps needed whilst exploring these far-flung foreign lands....apart from damned kettle. It seems that kettles are not popular here. This raises the question: how on earth do they make a decent cup of Yorkshire Tea? The answer, dear reader, is that they don't.

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I ended up boiling water in the Albergue's microwave oven. Hardly satisfactory. Still, beggars can't be choosers. A Plan will need to be planned for the next planned visit. Obviously.

The night was hot. Very hot. I hardly slept. Everybody else hardly slept either. It was just too hot.

Rob bailed out of the dormitory around 3am to sleep outside. This option seemed to work well until the local doggies found him and started sniffing around him. He ended up sleeping in the kitchen / dining room where there was a vacant bunk.

It was a kitchen, after all.

Wednesday 18th April

Lubian to A Gudina

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Doggy eyeing up Rob’s brekky

Next morning, after an early breakfast of bocadillo and coffee, the dazed and quite knackered not very dynamic duo of peregrinos continued their journey westwards, A Gudina being our next overnight stop.

This was another hot day. A call to Lubian's Pharmacia was needed in order to stock up on Factor 50 'crema solar'. My forearms were burning from the previous day so protection was desperately needed.

That was so very well.... except that the local Pharmacia didn't open its doors until 10.30am. This was 9am in rural Spain.

An ingenious plan involving a buff provided protection for my left arm. My right arm was mostly shaded by my rather ample torso, long trousers protected my legs and my trusty Tilley Hat did the rest.

Some more tarmac followed….but there were nice views too.

This was the day we entered Galicia.

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Any idea?

At A Gudina we couldn’t face the idea of another night in a hot and sweaty Albergue – the last night’s sleep didn’t involve much rest. Hostal A Madrilena came to the rescue: a twin room was €35 a night – so we booked two nights. There was a good reason for this.

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The local gym

A Gudina’s Pharmacia was open so I was able to buy myself a tube of Factor 50 – bloody expensive at €15 for 50ml.

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Bonkas coffee

A pleasant evening in the local bar ‘Bar Peregrino’ ensured we were suitably relaxed and very well fed for not very much money at all.


Thursday 19th April

A Gudina to Campobecerros

Back to Bar Peregrino for a good breakfast of lots of coffee and a strange sort of pie (filled with fishy bits, tomatoes and other stuff) set us up for the day.

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This was another day with tarmac, but this was real country lane stuff, cars were few and far between.


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A few miles out of town, and in a very localised area, we came across ‘caravans’ of caterpillars crossing the road. These may well be the dreaded processionary critters.

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Rob came up with the theory that this was their technique for avoiding attacks by birds – from a distance they looked like snakes. We were quite intrigued.



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The views and terrain were very easy on the eye.

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The launderette

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The area was sparsely populated which meant there was very little in the way of shops – as the day wore on we became quite peckish and we ended up breaking into my emergency supply of Alpen bars. Washed down with lashings of Corporation Pop we lasted as far as Campobecerros…just.


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Get your ferrets here


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The first cafe / bar we came to wasn’t a cafe, just a bar – we were starving by now. After a wander throught the ‘strangely mediaeval centre’ we came upon Casa Nunez, good food (and lots of it) although some of the staff seem to have other things on their minds.

After a damned good feed the very helpful man behind the bar (he may have been the owner) called a taxi for us and we were transported back to A Gudina’s Hostal Madrilena…and a shower.

This was to be our last night ‘on the trail’ – the next day we were whisked back to Madrid on the Renfe very fast and very comfortable train. My GPS displayed our maximum speed of 257kmph…around 160mph.

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Such was the smoothness of the ride I’d have guessed we were travelling at maybe 80mph. The fares were cheap too – very cheap indeed. Rail travel in Spain is affordable.

One more night in Spain, this time at a very strange AirBnB, supposedly owned by an attractive young(ish) lady. Not too sure about that – but it was somewhere to lay our heads before flying home next day.

‘Twas a good trip, one that I certainly needed. Rob seemed to enjoy it…well he didn’t complain (too much), but he’s one of the good guys and is polite.


The next stage on the Camino will hopefully see us finishing in Santiago de Compostela in September. The route’s going to be rather busier then, not only because of the time of the year, but because we’ll be getting to the points where other Caminos join the to make it one busy trail. Accommodation may be a problem.

One whinge: I took cheap walking poles, Rob took rather pricier examples. No problem getting them on the plane in Manchester, no problem getting them off the plane in Spain.

The return journey was a different matter: our poles were confiscated as we went through security at Madrid airport. We were both a bit miffed.

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20 minute delay from Madrid – not too bad

Oh, and another whinge: Ryanair is a bit of a cattle waggon transport system, but it’s cheap and they do what they say: provide cheap air transport.

Madrid airport however….has the most disgusting toilets in the whole wide world. And I’ve been to India and Rob’s been to Pakistan so we know about these things.

Buen Camino!

Lots more photographs are here.