Trans-Swiss Mountain Bike Ride, July 2011, Part 2 of 2

We awoke to freezing cold mist. Even the bouquetins (Ibex) were looking for shelter. (See pic 1). And, I confess, the last 2 photos in my post yesterday were taken on the morning of Day 4, mainly because the evening before we were all glad to get out of the rain and into the warmth and comfort of the hut.

The four in the Elite group had done an extra bit at the beginning of Day 3 and so the rest of us waited nervously, and for what seemed like an age, for them to arrive as snow started to fall. Werner decided he’d go out and look for them and about 20 minutes later, they all arrived, but Guy was in a bad way – suffering from both exhaustion and hypothermia. He was almost incapable of speech and so was stripped where he stood, though he could barely stand. Thankfully after several hot cups of tea and a warm shower, he thawed out and was fine for the rest of the trip.

But as you will see below, the going was still not easy. At the higher altitudes it was more suitable for skiing than mountain biking. And, remember, this was during July.

The photos cover Day 4 from the Terri hut to Sedrun, via Campo Blenio, Luckmanierpass; Day 5 from Sedrun to the Grosse Scheidegg via Passo Maighels, Andermatt and the Furkapass (with a little help from a bus and train) and Day 6 from Grosse Scheidegg to Kandersteg. I offered to drive the minibus on Day 7 to Gstaad, so I have no pictures of that particular leg via Adelboden I’m afraid.

But, I have to say that, despite my inexperience and the obvious challenges posed, it was a fabulous trip!! So good in fact that I went with them the following year, from Orsières in Switzerland to Monte Carlo on the Mediterranean, all the way down the French/Italian alps ! Thankfully the weather was much, much better… Post to come in due course… 😊

South West Coast Path, Day 5, Isle of Portland

On day 5, Pete and I had the pleasure of walking without our rucksacks as we did a circular route around the Isle of Portland.  As you can see from the map (pic 22), the ‘Isle’ is not really an island, because it’s connected to the mainland by a causeway, created by a rather incredible coastal formation called Chesil Beach.  The beach is 18 miles (or 29 km) long and is up to 50 ft (15m) high and 220 yards (200m) wide in places.  It’s made up of shingle or pebbles, which increase in size from north west to south east.   Behind the beach is a shallow tidal lagoon, called the Fleet.

Åland Islands, Finland

Let me take you on a little journey from Stockholm to the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous region of Finland…

Travelling to new countries (and blogging about them) certainly teaches you a few things, like there is hardly any tidal movement in the Baltic sea (which is why the thousands of islands are always visible); the water is not as salty as the ‘normal’ sea and, despite belonging to Finland, the islanders all speak Swedish (and most also speak English thankfully).

We caught a Viking Line ferry, called Grace, which was more like a cruise ship, from Stockholm to Turku, on the Finnish mainland.  It’s a sailing which is highly recommended, if you ever get the opportunity, as the boat weaves its way through the almost impossibly narrow channels between the many islands.   After an overnight stop and hiring a car, we then hopped on and off 2 more ferries to get to the group of interconnected islands called Brändö. (See map pic B11).

A particular highlight of our time there was a day on the island of Jurmo.  We arrived too early for the ferry, but an extremely friendly local, called Ari, offered to give us a lift in his small boat.  There was a harvest festival type celebration on that weekend and we were treated to a tour of the island on a tractor trailer.

Like yesterday, I’ve divided my photos into 3 distinct galleries. (Click on any image to get a larger view).

The ferry journey:

Brändö:

Jurmo island:

Plockton, NW Scotland

For our last full day in the NW of Scotland, we drove around Loch Carron to Plockton and treated Jo, Aaron and Jude’s friend, Kate, to a boat ride on one of Calum’s famous* Seal Trips (where you are guaranteed to see seals, or your money back!)  I have covered this village before, but I see that it was almost 3 years ago now, so I think it’s worth another post.  Especially as, this time, Aaron and I went for a short walk to the viewpoint at An Fhrith Aird, where there is an exceptional view of where Loch Carron meets the Inner Sound between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland. (See map at the end of the picture gallery).

*As featured on the BBC TV series “Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs”.

Galicia, NW Spain

Some months ago now, Judith and I were invited by our good friend, Arthur Manton-Lowe, to an art exhibition which he was holding at his gallery on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastela.  I shall post some pictures of that area tomorrow, but on the way there, we stopped off to explore some of the western coast of Spain.  It’s an area that we had never been before and it was noticeable that there were very few English speaking visitors.

We stayed in an area of Poio, called O Covelo, and drove out to find some wonderful beaches near San Vicente do Grove.  The following day we took a boat ride from Portonovo to the Illa de Ons, which is one of a number of National parks along that coast.

We learnt that the weather in that area had been very wet (possibly the worst since records began) but we were fortunate to have some fabulously sunny days.

Various, Corsica

I thought I’d finish this Corsican holiday series with a few other photos which didn’t make it into the main series of posts.  I hope they’ve all given you a flavour of what Corsica is like.

You will also see below that when I get bored on a beach, I resort to the pastime of stone stacking, which I have to say is very therapeutic.   My stacks (pics 26-30) certainly created a lot of interest for the people who were walking along the coastal path.  It’s actually easier to do than it might look.  You just need a bit of patience!  Of course, mine are nowhere near as good as most rock balancers.  Check out some of the videos online, but here is a link to a beginners guide that I found.  Happy stacking! 😊

 

Lotu beach to St Florent walk, Corsica

For our second full day on Corsica we took a boat trip from St Florent to one of the many fabulous beaches at the northern end of the island with the intention of walking back.  We had a choice of either Saleccia or Lotu beach, but the boat company only did return trips to Saleccia, so it had to be the nearer of the two, Lotu.  And thankfully it was closer, as again the guidebook advice was a little optimistic on the walk timings, but we had an excellent walk nonetheless.

Sicily (Day 4 & 5) – Vendicari Nature Reserve

On our final full day in Sicily, we decided to explore the lagoons of the Vendicari Nature Reserve.   As well as resident and migrating birds, the reserve is where you’ll also find the remains of an old ‘tonnara’ or tuna processing plant.

Our flight home wasn’t until late afternoon the following day so, on the way to the airport, we called in at the Maddelana peninsular – to check out the lighthouses (of course 🙂 ).   From there you also get a great view of the ancient city of Syracuse across Porto Grande bay.

Sicily (Part 1)

There’s only so much snow that a person can take and, after 3 months of looking at the white stuff, my wife, Judith, was in need of a break.  In previous years, we’ve driven over the Simplon Pass to the Italian Lakes, but the forecast for that area wasn’t great, so the decision was made to fly further south, to Sicily.

If nothing else, the internet is a fantastic resource for finding accommodation and we booked ourselves into the delightfully peaceful Terra dei Limone agriturismo, near Noto, in the south east corner of Sicily.

As regular readers will know, Judith has a passion for the sea and lighthouses, so it was no surprise that on Day 1 we drove down the coast road to Cappo delle Correnti, which is at the very southern tip of the island and where the Mediterranean sea literally crashes into the Ionian sea. (See pic 21).  On the way we stopped off at the beautiful fishing village of Marzamemi, which was all but deserted when we were there that day.   But it was clearly a favourite destination for the Sicilians too as, when we returned on the Sunday afternoon, it was packed with people parading in their finest designer clothes, as only Italians can do.

After all the snow and icy weather we’ve had, it was great to have the sun on our backs and see green fields and wild flowers everywhere.  Sicily is noted for its agriculture and wine making and we saw ample evidence of that in the fields as well as in the restaurants of Noto during the evenings.  🙂