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Archive for August, 2021

Well, without further ado, the time to set off is just hours away….it’s incredible how quickly the months have flown by.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on this plan and sincerely hope it all works out. I think I have everything covered and haven’t missed out on any sections of either the Northumberland Coast Path or Hadrian’s Wall.

I was looking at the guidebook map last night and I noticed that the route out of Newcastle on Hadrian’s Wall is somewhat different to what I’ve planned. So that might need some adjustment. But I’ve got a week to decide and while travelling between home and Berwick Upon Tweed, I’ll read through the guidebook and try to determine why it’s different.

But, that aside…here’s a brief summary of The Plan 😉

Day 1 – travel to Berwick Upon Tweed, visit the castle, walk to the Scottish border and back, then walk the castle ramparts, cross the bridges, have supper and back to the B&B

Day 2 – visit Lindisfarne Island; the castle, priory, the parish church, and a few other places. Then back to the mainland and walk back to Berwick from Beal along the coast; basically the first stage of the official trail…

Day 3 – visit Bamburgh Castle, bus to Seahouses to explore, have supper and then walk to Fenwick where I’ll get the bus back to Berwick since I’ll have walked that section the day before.

Day 4 – bus back to Belford to drop off my backpack at the Guesthouse. Then bus to Seahouses and a visit to the Farne Islands then a meal in Seahouses before walking back to Belford.

Day 5 – bus to Seahouses, then walk south to Craster visiting Dunstanburgh Castle on the way. Bus to Alnmouth for overnight.

Day 6 – bus back to Craster, then walk south to Warkworth and visit Warkworth Castle, then bus to Newbiggin. Overnight

Day 7 – Bus back to Warkworth and walk south via Cresswell to Newbiggin and overnight. The official Northumberland Coast Path ends at Cresswell and the border between Northumberland and Tyne & Wear is near Hartley. From here I’ll be adding kms, but finished with the NCP

Day 8 – walk south from Newbiggin to Whitley Bay visiting St Mary’s Island and Nature Reserve. This is quite a long day in terms of kms, but I have the whole day, so just going to relax and take a slow walk

Day 9 – walk south to Tynemouth on the River Tyne and start Hadrian’s Wall walk with a visit to Segedunum Fort, official start of this national trail. Overnight Newcastle

Day 10 – metro to South Shields, visit Arbeia Roman Fort and visit South Shields lighthouse, then ferry to North Shields and walk back to Wallsend and walk to Newcastle. Overnight.

Day 11 – visit Newcastle Castle and Newcastle Cathedral; most northerly catheral in England. Then off to Heddon on the Wall visiting Benwell Roman Temple and various turrets along the way. Overnight Heddon.

Day 12 – walk Heddon on the Wall to Corbridge, visiting Vindobala Fort enroute. Supper in Corbridge, an authentic Roman Town, then taxi to Acomb for overnight. Not my favourite place for overnight but accommodation was scarce or very expensive.

Day 13 – Acomb bus to Chesters Roman Fort, visit and then following the Wall visiting Black Carts Turret, Temple of Mithras, a few milecastles, Sewing Shields Crags, a visit to Housesteads Fort depending on the time, then Sycamore Gap and finish at Steel Rigg Car Park where my host will collect me for overnight on a farm quite a way off the route. Again accommodation was a factor.

Day 14 – visit Vindolanda and possibly Housesteads if not visited day before and overnight again at Haltwhistle. Hoping the skies are clear because this is a designated ‘Dark Skies’ area and I’d LOVE to see the Milky Way and a few shooting stars.

Day 15 – back to Steel Rigg Car Park, then follow Hadrian’s Wall again passing Cawfield Quarry and visiting Great Chesters Fort and the Vindolanda Roman Army Museum, Thirlwall Castle and onto Gilsland for overnight

Day 16 – walking Gilsland to Brampton and visiting Birdoswald Fort and Pike Hill Signal Tower and Banks East Turret before heading off the trail again to Brampton for overnight.

Day 17 – visit Lanercost Priory and then picking up the path again from Hare Hill and passing Newtown enroute for Carlisle where I’ll be staying for the next 5 nights.

Day 18 – walk Carlisle to Burgh by Sands and bus back to Carlisle, visit Carlisle Castle and cathedral.

Day 19 – being a Sunday the transport is sketchy, so I’m going to rest and relax for the day. Maybe explore Carlisle City.

Day 20 – bus back to Burgh by Sands, then walk to Bowness on Solway and the end of the Hadrian’s Wall national trail, where I get my final passport stamp at the Promenade 👏👏👏👏 then bus back to Carlisle.

Day 21 – train to Gretna Green and Lockerbie. Two separate journeys, but both a must do. Final night in Carlisle.

Day 22 – relaxing morning in Carlisle and then train home.

So there it is. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination going to be a walk in the park, and some days are longer than I desire, but accommodation was very tricky and I had to completely change my schedule for a few days due to lack of, or expensive accommodation. One thing is for sure, this is not Spain where you can get reasonable accommodation for reasonable prices. Some of the places I looked at are extravagant with the relative exorbitant prices.

Will I complete both trails? Who knows. I’ve tried to plan reasonable days with fairly reasonable distances, but until you actually walk the trail, you simply have no idea.

I’m going to make sensible decisions if necessary and I’m not hung up on the semantics…if there’s any section/stage I can’t do for any reason, then like I did with the Pilgrim’s Way, I’ll go back at some stage and complete it. Of course the logistics will be somewhat different due to distance, but I have 6 other trails I am planning on walking over the next few years, so one way or another…I’ll complete the walks.

So from me, it’s goodnight. I’ll do my best to blog as I go, but if you don’t hear from me, it’ll be because I had a tough day and I’m sleeping 😴🤪🤣🤣

Meanwhile, wish me luck 🍀 and 🤞 it all goes well. Frankly, I think I must be absolutely bloody insane to even contemplate this, never mind actually do it…😁 but it’s there, it needs to be walked.

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Walking is the best…

The official Northumberland Coast Path starts in Cresswell and heads north to Berwick Upon Tweed, whilst the Hadrian’s Wall route from Wallsend, Newcastle Upon Tyne in the east heads west to Bowness-On-Solway in Cumbria, although a lot of people recommend starting in the west and heading east because then the prevailing wind is at your back and you don’t have the late afternoon sun in your eyes.

But because I usually like to do things in order (whatever order I decide on on the spur of the moment), it seemed like a good idea to buck the trend and walk from north to south on the Northumberland Coast Path; Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell and then continuing south to Tynemouth and west to Newcastle for the start of my jaunt along Hadrian’s Wall from east to west.

Thus, I shall be walking north to south and east to west….seems good to me 🙂

However, if you look at my daily plan for the NCP, I am doing a bit of north/south, then south/west, then west/east, and back again east/west, then south/north, and for a few days I’ll be going south, after which for a day I’ll be heading north, after which I go south again and then east to west. Confused yet? Imagine how I felt trying to organise all that!!!!

A little bit of zag and a lot of zig…it’s going to be really interesting looking at my daily route at the end of it all…

It’s been quite a lot of fun, and a certain amount of stress making sure I cover every mile of the NCP, but when all is said and done, I do believe I will 😁😁

When I started researching and organising my walk along the Northumberland Coast Path, I looked for accommodation that wasn’t too far apart. Ultimately I managed to find suitable Airbnb locations, at prices that won’t break the bank, but it meant I had to do a fair amount of back and forth that involved buses.

And just to be sure I didn’t miss anything out, I listed every single place from Berwick Upon Tweed in the north to Tynemouth in the south, including rivers and burns, car parks and caravan parks, a couple of cottages and a convenience store 🤪🤪🤪

After that I worked out my distance per day, and ticked off each place once I had decided on point a and z or b…

After that I got onto the bus services to schedule my trips from end to start, and start to end.

After weeks of working the plan again and again it is complete and I am satisfied I will have reasonable days with transportation to and from my accommodation locations and walking inbetween.

I’ll write up another post with my daily schedule in the next day or so…

Meanwhile…it’s now just 3 days before I leave….I treated myself to 2 new pairs of my favourite double thick socks. Time to go for a 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️along the NCP!!!

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Living in the south east of England, except for a brief visit to Durham a few years ago, the northeast feels quite remote, and although I wanted to visit Berwick Upon Tweed after connecting via twitter with someone who lived there, it may as well have been the moon for all the probability that I might visit.

However a number of factors arose over the years; my walking escapades with plans to walk Hadrian’s Wall and the two Saints Ways: St Cuthbert & St Oswald, and more lately the entire English Coast, suddenly it no longer seems quite so remote. Its 413 miles in fact from Ramsgate to Berwick Upon Tweed, so not as far as the moon after all.

As soon as I had decided to walk the Northumbrian coast instead of the saints ways, I started doing some research on the county. I had read a little bit about the history in a book by Neil Oliver that I read last year, and the history is amazing and intriguing.

So here goes, some facts and figures about Northumberland:

Northumberland has come out on top as being the quietest place in England! The county has a low population density with only 64 people per square kilometre, ranking as the 16th emptiest place in the whole of the UK.

Northumberland is a ceremonial county and historic county in North East England. It is bordered by the Scottish Borders to the north, Cumbria to the west, and both County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south.

There are 7 castles in Northumberland, I will be visiting 5 during my walk

Northumberland is designated an AONB: area of natural beauty and has designated Dark Skies areas as well as which in some places you can, if you’re lucky, see the aroura borealis (fingers crossed) Northumberland is the best place to stargaze in the UK with 572 square miles of the county having been awarded Gold Tier status.

There are 70 castle sites in Northumberland, with 7 along the coast path, of which I will visit 5:

Berwick Castle – commissioned by the Scottish King David I in the 1120s

Lindisfarne – a 16th-century castle located on Holy Island, much altered by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901

Bamburgh – originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort destroyed by Vikings in 993. The Normans later built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one, now owned by the Armstrong family

Dunstanburgh – a 14th-century fortification on the coast built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322

Warkworth – a ruined medieval castle, traditionally its construction has been ascribed to Prince Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria, in the mid-12th C, but it may have been built by King Henry II of England when he took control of England’s northern counties

Islands: 3 of which I plan to visit 2

1. Holy Island of Lindisfarne – This place of worship, tranquillity and breath-taking beauty was the home of St Cuthbert, who allegedly held the power of spiritual healing.

2. Farne Islands – St Cuthbert lived on the island in a cell during his time on the island. The Inner Farne is the largest of the Farne islands group and is home to many of the breeding birds during the season, Puffins,Shags, Guillemots, Cormorants and Razor Bills : read more https://farneislandstours.co.uk/the-farne-islands/ I’ve booked my ticket for this.

Coquet Island – Every spring, Coquet Island becomes bustling with birdlife as some 35,000 seabirds cram onto this tiny island to breed. Most famously, puffins whose cute and clumsy mannerisms have earned them the nickname of the ‘clowns of the sea’, visit in their thousands. You can only visit by boat, so if I have time on that day, I’ll try take a trip

Northumberland borders east Cumbria, north County Durham and north Tyne and Wear.

Northumberland’s unique breed of cattle are rarer than giant pandas. This unique herd of wild cattle are believed to be the sole descendants of herds that once roamed the forests of ancient Britain. It is thought they have been living at Chillingham for more than 700 years.

Historical sites –

Newcastle Castle is a medieval fortification in Newcastle upon TyneEngland, built on the site of the fortress that gave the City of Newcastle its name.

A number of Battlefields, priories and iron age sites dot the Northumberland landscape. I’m not sure how many I’ll get to see on my way south, but I’ll be sure to look out for them! Other than that:

Hadrian’s Wall – I’ll be walking the wall from 11th – 21st Hadrian’s Wall starts in what is now Tyne & Wear, follows through Northumberland and ends in Cumbria.

Vindolanda Roman Fort : a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall which it originally pre-dated. Archaeological excavations of the site show it was under Roman occupation from roughly 85 AD to 370 AD. Ref Wikipedia

Chester’s Roman Fort : The cavalry fort, known to the Romans as Cilurnum, was built in about AD 124. It housed some 500 cavalrymen and was occupied until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century. Ref English Heritage

Temple of Mithras : The temple was probably built by soldiers at the fort at Carrawburgh around AD 200 and destroyed about AD 350. Three altars found here (replicas stand in the temple) were dedicated by commanding officers of the unit stationed here, the First Cohort of Batavians from the Rhineland. ref English Heritage

Housesteads Roman Fort :  built in stone around AD 124, soon after the construction of the wall began in AD 122

Corbridge Roman Fort : Corbridge was once a bustling town and supply base where Romans and civilians would pick up food and provisions. It remained a vibrant community right up until the end of Roman Britain in the early years of the 5th century. Ref English Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Hadrian’s Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site, starts in Newcastle, Tyne & Wear, runs through Northumberland and ends in Cumbria.

The historic county town is Alnwick. And the biggest town is Blyth.

Earl Grey tea originated in Northumberland.

Northumberland was once the largest kingdom in the British Isles

Over a thousand years before Northumberland was affectionately known as ‘the last hidden kingdom’, it was known as the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Lancelot Capability Brown was born in the hamlet of Kirkharle.

Northumbrian (Old English: Norþanhymbrisċ) was a dialect of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Together with Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon, it forms one of the sub-categories of Old English devised and employed by modern scholars.

At nearly 580sq miles, the dark sky zone, known as Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, is the largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park area of protected night sky in Europe.

The famous detective programme ‘Vera’ featuring Brenda Blethyn, is filmed in various places in Northumberland and Newcastle Upon Tyne.

During my ‘research’ I’ve found so many interesting places, many of which are too far off the wall route for me to visit, but I guess I can always visit again someday.

And that’s it for now. There’s much else of course, but….

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Am I going walking next week? ✅
Am I prepared?✅
Is everything organised?✅
Am I fit enough?✅
Did I have a full-blown panic attack at 3am?✅✅✅🤪🤪🤪

No matter how well prepared I am, just before I set off on a long walk, I have a mini crisis
Am I excited? Yes I am!!! 💃💃💃
Will it be exhausting? ✅🥵
Will it hurt? ✅😪

But oh my gosh, the places I will go, and the things I will see makes it all worthwhile. 😃😃😃

This is by far away the longest distance I have ever walked on a continuous day to day journey.
But I’m going to fulfil a long-held dream of not only seeing Hadrian’s Wall, but actually walking the route; a journey through history.👏👏👏

As well as which, I’ll be adding to a newer dream (2020 to be precise) of walking another section of the English Coast 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

Prepare for frequent posts to say how excited I am as I countdown till 01.09.2021 😁😁

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Not my copyright, but very good advice to follow as you journey through life

This was posted by a friend on Facebook, and it really spoke to me, especially #2 – so often in life decisions are made on “what will…….think” fill in the gap. It took me decades to get past worrying about what other people may or may not think. But now I’m in a good place and it’s freeing.

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With just over 2 weeks till I set off on my epic (😁😁) walk along the Northumbrian coast path and Hadrian’s Wall, I decided it was time for another test of my mettle.

I had already scheduled a walk into my diary for Monday 16th; the penultimate stage of the north-east section of the Saxon Shore Way, from Rainham to Rochester, so it was an easy decision to take Pepe along, fully loaded except for water supply, and check out how we got along.

We had a brilliant day, it was overcast and cool (I even wore a cardigan), perfect for walking but not so fantastic for photos.

I headed back to where I left off a few weeks ago, and not finding any signs to direct me, and considering it’s a residential area, I decided to just follow my nose and my intuition. After all, it’s a ‘shore’ walk, and the general direction (useful) is along the shore heading north/east…🤪🤪

I found the first sign 5 kms in, pleased to note I was on the right path.

Saxon Shore Way
Useful 😁

I discovered what a teasel is…I’ve seen this fascinating little flowers/plants all over the place but hadn’t idea what they were…now I know 😉

I came across a funfair and was reminded of one of the most terrifying fairground rides of my life…I took my daughter (8 years old) and sister on one of these many years ago in South Africa. It went wayyyy higher than I knew and she nearly slipped off the seat and under the rail. O was holding onto her and my handbag that contained my whole month’s salary in cash. 😳😳

Pirate swing
The funfair

In all it was a very successful walk, I frequently forgot Pepe was on my back..ergo, its comfortable and not too heavy, which was my main goal – how comfortable will it be? Fortunately I’m now aware of those little straps that work loose, so checked them every time I stopped for a break (every 5 kms) and pleased to say the corner of the bag didn’t dig a hole in my hip like it did on the final stages of the Pilgrim’s Way.

Enroute is an island near Chatham; St Mary’s island that I simply had to visit; its there, how could I not? And for good measure, and totally unnecessarily, I walked virtually the whole perimeter thereby adding over 2.5 hours and 4.42kms to my journey 🙄🙄 But now I can add that to Project 101…another island done and dusted. Saw a gorgeous sculpture

St Mary’s island
St Mary’s island
The Mariners
And saw Upnor Castle…didn’t realise it was so close

I did however find the history of how the island came to being rather disturbing. Built on the backs of 19th century convict labour from desolate Marsh wasteland, the convicts lived on rotting hulks on the shore and were marched daily, 1000 strong chained together, to work on building the island. Ghoulish history.

So, I had a very comfortable 22.46km walk on Monday with very little discomfort except for the usual spots, which I’ll resolve with fleece.
But the weight is good and as with the Camino and Pilgrim’s Way, I mostly forgot it was there. Although I was tired without doubt from 16km onwards, and ready for bed.

So pretty…seen in Rochester

I slowed down quite a lot in the last 6kms.

Seen in Chatham
Seen in Chatham
Seen in Chatham

Feet no worse than usual,  in fact, better than usual in recovery, hardly any pain in my heel, just a couple of twinges and no blisters. My 2 toes on my left foot as usual were red and sore, which is totally bizarre since there’s loads of space in the front of the shoe and no obstruction. My right foot toes never have the same issue… weird 🥴🥴

So all good. Ready to go 1st September. I even got to test my poncho. Conclusion: it kept the rain out = waterproof. But…my arms got wet coz the sleeves are so short, and I’ll need to finesse the hood so it stays snug around my face instead of either covering my eyes, or blowing off the back of my head 🙄🙄

In all a pleasing day.

I will of course give this stage of the Saxon Shore Way a proper write up when I do those articles, but I’m well pleased with my progress so far.

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I took my precious BooBee on an action packed adventure today. He’s so much fun and an absolute joy to be with.

He had ice-cream on the beach, jumped and did head rolls on a trampoline, rode on a merry-go-round, went on a pirate swing boat, jumped on a bouncy castle and played a game of table tennis 🏓

We stopped for lunch and rested a bit. Afterwards we walked through the harbour and to the beach where we built a stone pile and paddled in the sea before covering him up with sand.

We then climbed the cliff path and stopped on the way to look for dinosaurs in the chalk and draw his and my name with chalk

From there we went to the funfair where he enjoyed a pirate stage show and a couple of rides on a bouncy slide.

A fantastic day all round and we (read me 👵🏻) covered 9 kms…most of which he was sitting on my shoulders. Entered my kms to the Conqueror Kruger Park challenge and boom 💥 another post card!! 👏👏👏

Kruger National Park

Having left Hluhluwe my first stop was the Manyoni Private Game Reserve.  Privately owned and one of the largest reserves in Kwazulu-Natal, Manyoni was established in 2004 when 17 landowners dropped their fences and opened up their lands to create a protected area for wildlife.  One of the main drivers was to create a release site for a founding group of black rhinos as part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP).  

The project is a collaboration between Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  Their aim is to transfer black rhinos from provincial and national parks where they are at capacity to privately and community owned sites where they can continue repopulating under protection.  Black rhinos once roamed much of Africa and had a population of 100,000 as late as the 1960s.  Over the next 25 years the population diminished by 97% leaving a mere 2450 rhinos that were under protection in small reserves putting them on the critically endangered list.  

However, with the aid of BRREP and sites like Manyoni the population is slowly growing.  Manyoni has also reintroduced endangered cheetahs and African wild dogs whilst also focusing on conserving the landscape and ecosystem. 

The next location is the Zimanga Private Game Reserve.  Originally known as Hlambanyathi Game Reserve, the game on site were nearly all wiped out due to neglect and poaching.  All that was left was 7 zebras, 1 wildebeest and some impalas and warthogs.  In 1998 Charl Senekal, a sugar cane farmer, purchased the estate the reserve was a part of.  He rebuilt the game reserve, fenced it and expanded the land.  Over a period of time he reintroduced animals that were historically present in the area. Today it has 80 species of mammals including giraffe, buffalo, rhino, elephant, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, nyala, hippo, cheetah and lions.    

The final reserve in Kwazulu-Natal was the Pongola Game Reserve.  This 31,000 hectares reserve is over a century old and the first proclaimed reserve in Africa.  Within its reserve is the 15,000 hectare Lake Jozini (aka Pongolapoort Dam).  Besides typical game species, the reserve also has four of the Big Five: elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard.  

The lake primarily used for irrigation is fed by the Phongolo River which runs right through the Pongolo Reserve.  Dammed in 1973, the lake is home to the pink-backed and great white pelicans, the Nile crocodiles and hippos.  The dam also supports more than 350 bird species such as Pel’s fishing owl, the green and red Narina Trogon and the red-beaked, black and white Saddle-billed Stork.

The Space for Elephant Foundation are also working at the Pongola Reserve aiming to create a habitat for more than 1000 elephants and re-establish an old migration route.   Baby twin elephants,  Dingane and Shaka were born at Pongola in 2014.  Twins are extremely rare, as little as 0.5% of elephant births worldwide, making these twins extremely special at Pongola.

I’ve now completed 94 kms of the Kruger Park challenge

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I finished my latest booking today, so from 3.30pm my time is once again my own – for 6 days 🤪

When I got home, after unpacking my suitcase I had a quick sleep and then I popped Pepe onto my back and took us for a practice walk.

We need to start becoming seriously reacquainted now coz it’s less than 3 weeks till we do some serious walking. It’s good from a few aspects; I test all the pressure points from the weight, I test the pressure points of my feet…where does it hurt? What needs strapping up – like my little dislocated toe on my right foot…I’ll have to strap that. Where on my heels? Etc. And testing my distance vs time.

I walked via the harbour, then up the hill…immensely pleased to not even break stride, or huff and puff.

Ramsgate Royal Harbour

Pushing myself the last 16 days has paid off big time 😄😄👏👏👏 From there I walked along the clifftop past the fairy woods where I saw an orange egg with feathers and a funny face, to my favourite sunset spot overlooking Pegwell Bay.

Fairy woods
English Coast Path above Pegwell Bay

I was too early for the fireworks, but it was still beautiful.

Pegwell Bay
Looking back towards Pegwell Bay

Then back down via the harbour again and past ASDA where I bought myself a packet of my favourite crisps…which I haven’t had for 16 days and I think after all my hard work I deserve it 😁😁

I just got home and my stats are 7.83kms 2 hours 4 minutes at just over 13 minutes per km. I’m on track 👏👏👏👏

Pressure points: right hip – on checking Pepe I found one of the smaller shoulder straps had worked loose, so the backpack was unbalanced (note to self…check the straps every morning before walking).

Left foot – I have very high arches, and the top of my foot on the bony area is painful from rubbing against the tongue and laces of my shoe, so that needs looking at, albeit not a new problem, walking for 26 kms is going to make it a real problem, so I must sort that before I go.

The little dislocated toe is not happy. So that will definitely need looking at.

Other than that, just my right knee was complaining, but I think that’s from the pressure of the unbalanced backpack pressing on my hip.

I’ll go out for another test run tomorrow night and see if the tightened strap makes any difference.

The bonus is that I’m still very comfortable with my gorgeous ‘Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40’, and it’s like we’ve never been parted…it’s so comfortable on my back that I forget it’s there.

I’m walking another section of the Saxon Shore Way on Monday from Rainham to Rochester; approximately 16-20 kms, so that will be another good test.

Tomorrow I’m taking my grandson out for the day, and on Sunday it’s my daughter’s birthday so we’ll be going out for an early supper.

Onwards…the seagull says I did good 😁😁

And now I’m off to bed. Already missing the peace and quiet of the countryside…

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So my lovelies, the time is almost nigh!! At 10:07 on 1st September; 3 weeks from today (whoop whoop), I’ll be on the train heading North. Destination Berwick Upon Tweed.

I start walking the Northumberland coast path that same night, albeit staying in Berwick for 3 nights…I’ll explain later.

Then in exactly 1 month from today, I start my official walk along Hadrian’s Wall. 4 years to the day from when I started my Portuguese Camino 😊😊

So bloody excited. I can’t tell you 💃💃💃 = my happy dance.

So wow, suddenly it’s only 3 weeks to go and I’m on my way.

The dates have been identified, there and back travel tickets booked, all accommodation is booked, Airbnb hosts contacted and confirmed, the routes identified, daily kilometres from here to there measured (repeatedly 🤪🤪), what to see noted, where to go planned, what to do listed, ferry trip booked, where to get my passports stamped noted.

Pepe is packed, Gemini and I have been practicing like mad – getting fit, which shoes to wear decided on, budgets calculated and as much planning as I can possibly do, done!!!

And just because, after weeks of planning and noting the route each day on the Northumberland Coast Path with the relevant distances, yesterday I only decided to rejig days 4-7 and fiddled about with the distances. But now it is a lot smoother, with one day shorter and another longer.

I confirmed yesterday that I can use my senior bus pass on all the bus routes that I need to use between end of day’s destination and return the next day. I’m going to be doing quite a bit of bouncing back and forth due to accommodation on the NCP.

I’m copying everything into an old-fashioned method of keeping records – a notebook 😁😁

Northumberland Coast Path here’s looking at you, and finally 🤞🤞 after a whole year of waiting Hadrian’s Wall…I see you!!

Now it’s a waiting game; 21 days and counting.

As for you Covid-19 with all your variants…..you know what you can do…😂😂😂

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When I bought the Kruger National Park challenge in March I had it in mind to honour the memory of my brother Arnold, who should have been 66 years old today; 08/08/21. He died in his mid-20s nearly 40 years ago under very sad circumstances.

Kruger National Park virtual challenge
Kruger National Park virtual challenge – starter bib

So I figured I would hold it till 1 August before starting the challenge and try to walk 66 kms by his birthday. As well as which, I was born in South Africa and one of my most enduring childhood memories was a visit to the Kruger National Park when we were teenagers…probably about 13 or 14 at the time. My Dad, his 2nd wife, me (the eldest) my brother (6 months younger than me – adopted by my Dad when he remarried), my sister 3.5 years younger than me and my much younger brother who was a baby at the time.

As we drove along the very long narrow dusty road heading towards the gates of the camp, after a long day of driving, my little brother threw up all over my older brother…I was wearing a very fancy patterned two piece pant-suit; a mini-skirt length top and bell-bottoms at the time, blue with coloured squares (I think I wrote about this some time back under a different context)…anyway, my brother had on a bright orange shirt and khaki trousers, which now had vomit all over them. A quick stop at the side of the road and we progressed with everyone affected cleaned up and my brother wearing the pants of my suit and looking both sheepish and colourful.

I can’t recall the name of the camp, but I do remember that we had a fantastic view of a massive waterhole from the dining room. We had a fantastic time and managed to see a lot of game on our drives, as well as in the compound when the animals from outside the fence decided to join the animals inside the fence!!! But of all the exciting things we saw, that episode with the clothes and the eggs we had for breakfast are my best memories.

And so I kicked off on 1 August and got my first postcard

Once again, the amount of information they provide with each postcard is amazing, and so fascinating. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have

On the southeast coast of South Africa and bordered by Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique is the province of Kwazulu-Natal.  Known for its beaches, mountainous region and large savannahs with big game, this province is also home to the Zulu nation.  Kwazulu-Natal is made up of two separate provinces, KwaZulu and Natal, that merged in 1994.  KwaZulu was a semi-independent area intended as a homeland for the Zulu people whose ancestors were part of the Zulu Kingdom.

The Zulu Kingdom was a monarchy from 1816-1897 which grew to prominence under the leadership of Shaka Zulu, the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona, the Chief of the Zulu clan.  Senzangakhona had 14 sons, 4 of them ruled as kings.  Although Shaka was the oldest, due to his illegitimacy he did not have any claim as successor to his father.  When Senzangakhona died in 1816, his legitimate heir Sigujana took over but his rule was short-lived as Shaka had him assassinated and became king.  He in turn was killed 12 years later by another brother, Dingane who 12 years later was overthrown by his brother Mpande, who ruled for the next 32 years.  Mpande’s son, Cetshwayo, succeeded him in 1873 for the next five years.  

Cetshwayo was the leader during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.  Fought over several bloody battles between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom, the war lasted less than six months.  The first significant battle was at Isandlwana in January 1879 where 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked the British forces of less than 2,000 soldiers.  Defeating the British, a contingent of Zulu warriors broke off from the main force and proceeded towards Rorke’s Drift, which would become the second main battle on the same day.  Having been pre-warned of the Zulu advances, the British were prepared for the assault.  Vastly outnumbered with guns blazing, the British held their position.  After 12 hours of fighting, the Zulu warriors retreated.  Several more battles were fought over the coming months until the British moved into the royal village where they inflicted the final defeat.  By August, Cetshwayo was captured, deposed and exiled.  He was the last king of an independent Zulu nation.  Today Cetshwayo’s descendant Goodwill Zwelithini is the 8th reigning monarch of the Zulu nation.

My journey begins in the town of Hluhluwe.  Located in the north of Kwazulu-Natal between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, this small town is known for its big game, national parks and production of 95% of South Africa’s pineapples.  It has a population of less than 4,000 residents, yet it is considered a travel hub for Kwazulu-Natal. 

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a major attraction for the big 5 game: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.  Located southwest of Hluhluwe, the park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa consisting of 96,000 hectares.  Established in 1895 as a park, the area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu Kingdom.  The reserve was setup to protect the endangered white rhinoceroses and now has the largest population in the world (approx. 1000).  The park is also the only one in Kwazulu-Natal where all five big game animals can be found.

Located northeast to Hluhluwe is the 1,270sq mi (3,280km2) iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  The park is rich in fauna and flora due to the “different ecosystems within the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlands”.  A wonderful array of animals co-habitate here both on land and in the ocean such as: elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, hippos, whales, dolphins, leatherback and loggerhead turtles and crocodiles. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The park also contains the 140sq mi (350km2) estuarine Lake St Lucia.  It was named in 1575 on the day of the feast of Saint Lucy.  Nearly 2,200 plant species have been identified in the lake’s system such as the Sausage-tree, bearing sausage-like fruits 1-2ft long (30-60cm) and purplish-green flowers. It is also an ideal environment for mangrove trees, six different species have been recorded.  Other delightful flora are the Prickly Tree Hibiscus with its yellow flowers, Maputaland Cycad with its red flowers, Impala-lily with its delicate pink flowers and the Cape honeysuckle.

And so, over a period of 7 days I managed to achieve my goal of walking 66kms; 1 for each year that he would have been…had he lived.

I miss my brother, and although we were not blood relatives I adored him and he me. We got up to a lot of mischief as children and one of the few photos I have of him is when there were just the 5 of us; my cousin Yvonne, me, my cousin Brian, my brother Arnold and my sister Susanne. My family expanded a lot after this photo was taken, what with remarriages and another 4 sisters and 1 brother.

family and relationships
me, my brother, my sister, and cousins

The rest of the challenge will be completed during my jaunt along the Northumberland Coast Path and Hadrian’s Wall, both of which are long enough to ‘possibly’ allow me to complete this challenge before I return home. Although I have to say that the temptation to buy a 2nd Hadrian’s Wall challenge and complete the virtual walk whilst walking the actual wall is VERY strong!! LOL… I’ll decide by the 09th of September before I start my actual walk…it will all depend on how many km’s I manage to complete before then since the Kruger challenge has to be finished by 30/09/21 because the organisers changed the medal and made the route shorter. But I want the original medal, so…onwards into the breech dear friends, onwards!

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’m kicking up dust in the Kruger National Park… 🙂

Here are some of the scenes from my 7 walks

walking the kruger national park
Day 1 Sunday 01.08.2021
walking the kruger national park
Day 2 Monday 02.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 3 Wednesday 04.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 4 Thursday 05.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 5 Friday 06.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 6 Saturday 07.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 7 Sunday 08.08.21

Day 3 I ended up hip deep in a ditch sky-high with brambles…still not sure how I got out, there’s a long story behind the cows on day 4 and there’s one particular scene that I just love and photograph it every day when I walk that route. The houses in this area are stunning…and I get house envy when I see some of them, and I love that quote from Day 1.

The above scenes are round and about the farmlands of Faversham. They recently harvested one of the fields nearby, hence the tractor and the harvester.

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