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I’m not sure if I mentioned this before πŸ€”πŸ€” but I’m walking the Thames Path for my birthday…its a milestone birthday in as much as according to the government I can officially retire!!!Β  πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ if only.

Initially I really wanted to walk from source to sea, but have not been able to find a good relevant guide book. The Cicerone books are excellent but they only had a sea to source guide, which has been irritating me.
So I’ve been pondering how I can turn this around so I can enjoy the walk instead of feeling like I’m doing it the wrong way around…

And I just had an idea πŸ’‘ ping the oldΒ  🧠 woke up….I shall pretend I’m an explorer πŸ˜πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ who has just stumbled upon this great river, and now I have to follow it to find the mysterious source hidden in the jungle….in reality it’s in a barren field and the stream is mostly dry,πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈπŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ but who’s checking πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ€·β€β™€οΈ this is my adventure and if I say it’s a jungle, then it’s a jungle πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ†πŸ…πŸ¦πŸ˜πŸ¦’πŸŠπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ

Sometimes it helps to be on the verge of senility, you can make up all sorts of πŸ’©πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£

Thames Path…I shall πŸ‘€πŸ‘‰ in April well that’s the plan anyway…the PM may scupper those plans once again, unless I go incognito.

Walking the Thames Path has been a dream of mine ever since we lived in London, and I’m actually quite excited that finally I can bring my dream to fruition πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ Hoorah

Gravesend
The O2
Bermondsey
City of London – Commemorating the 1666 Great Fire of London in 2016
Westminster
Chelsea
Richmond lock
The Great River Race 2016 Richmond
The Gloriana processing along The Thames during the Tudor Pull near Teddington
Teddington Lock (during my 3 Days in London days)

Over the years I’ve walked sections of the Thames Path from Gravesend to Hampton Court and I initially toyed with the idea of skipping this section, which will take me 3 days of solid walking at approximately 20/5 kms per day, BUT I know myself too well…I won’t feel as if I’ve ‘actually’ walked the whole Thames Path unless I walk the whole route.

So, according to the guide, the path starts at the Thames Barrier, so that’s where I shall start my adventure…

The Thames Barrier

Did you know that the River Thames, a tidal river, is considered to be part of the English Coast right up until Teddington Lock ….

All I need now is for everyone to 🀞🀞🀞 that we don’t go into another lockdown before 20th April…thank you πŸ˜‰

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And tah dah!!!! I’m done! I reached Stage 9 and the end of my Alps to Ocean challenge on 2nd February. Hoorah.

Finally here I am 180miles (290km) later, having travelled from the alps of Mount Cook, along multiple lakes, countless connecting rivers, past seven Waitaki Hydro power stations, various mountain ranges, through tussock grasslands, beside electric fences (do not touch) to arrive in the urban town of Oamaru on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

Oamaru is the largest town in the region and renowned for its Victorian precinct. A commercial streetscape, the Neoclassical architecture is a result of Scottish architect and engineer, Thomas Forrester, who emigrated with his family to NZ in 1861. Arriving in Oamaru to supervise the construction of the Bank of Otago, Forrester stayed on and shortly afterwards was integral to the construction of the Oamaru Harbour. Taking samples from the harbour floor, he deduced that the seabed could be dredged permitting the development of a deep water anchorage. This in turn allowed large ocean-going vessels to safely steer in and out of the harbour. Forrester then changed direction and together with his business partner, over a period of three decades, designed and built the various commercial buildings that still stand today. The precinct bustles with cafes, antiquity shops, bookshops and galleries. Each year it conducts the Victoria Fete, a one day fundraising event with stalls, music, food and period costumes. The funds raised go towards the ongoing care and restoration of the Victorian buildings.

For steampunk enthusiasts, inside one of the Victorian buildings is Steampunk HQ showcasing a collection of quirky items in retro-futuristic sci-fi style whilst outside is a full size train engine spitting fire and billowing smoke. Promoting sustainability and recycling Steampunk HQ collaborates with like-minded artists on projects to continue expanding the collection. Wish you could join me for a steampunk-Victorian era inspired dress-up and for a time feel like we have been transported into an alternative 19th century England.

At the north end of the Victorian precinct is the oldest public garden in NZ. When the town was surveyed in 1858 an area of 34 acres was set aside as a public reserve. Eighteen years later in 1876, the Oamaru Botanical Gardens was opened. Besides the flower beddings, bushes and trees the garden is dotted with various attractions such as the Japanese red bridge, Oriental garden, croquet lawn, sundial, aviary, peacock house, an Italian marble fountain and the Wonderland Statue made by the famous Scottish sculptor Thomas J Clapperton which he donated to the children of Oamaru in 1926. Thomas also made the bronze soldier sculpture on the World War 1 Memorial in Oamaru and is famous for his Robert the Bruce sculpture adorning the entrance of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.

As I stand on the end of the pier and look across the expanse and vastness of the Pacific Ocean, I wonder at its hidden stories, sunken ships and deep trenches. I wonder what Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan was thinking when in 1521 he sailed across the Strait of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean and was inspired to name it Mar Pacifico which translates as Peaceful Sea. It’s certainly questionable when you consider the heavy swells, the earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis that have battered many Pacific islands and sometimes obliterated complete towns. When I consider the depth and perpetual darkness of the Mariana Trench or the Pacific Rim with the highly active Ring of Fire, peaceful is not something that comes to mind but it is intriguing and fascinating.

This has been such a fascinating journey, it is indeed intriguing. I mean snippets like this are just awesome: Mar Pacifico which translates as Peaceful Sea, although I’m not too sure about the earthquakes et al.

Albeit a virtual journey, it’s made more exciting with the postcards and the information you receive as you reach each stage, and how much I’d love to see that train!! I’ve learned more about New Zealand than I ever knew, as well as from my previous challenges: Mt. Fuji in Japan, The Great Ocean Road in Australia, Ring of Kerry in Ireland etc They’ve all been so interesting.

So far I’ve completed 9 challenges which includes the Conquer 2020 challenge which was a sum total of all my challenges and more in 2020. My favourite so far has been Hadrian’s Wall and I never did get to blog about it…I only thought about sharing these challenges on my blog while I was doing Mt. Fuji because it was so fascinating. I’ll try to blog about the others, but I’ll stick with the shorter ones otherwise it gets too tedious for everyone….anyway, The Ring Road in Iceland is 1,332kms long and I imagine has lots of postcards LOL and the St Francis Way is 503 kms…so likewise.

But I’m starting the Mt. Everest challenge next, and then the Giza Pyramids challenge after I’ve done The Cabot Trail in Canada, so I’ll share that at the time. Of course I may just change my mind and blog about The Cabot Trail too πŸ˜‰ And here is my certificate. Seriously, within seconds of updating the app, the final postcard and certificate land in my mailbox. I’m going to make books from all of them for each walk….will be fun to look back on one day when I’m older, and infirm and unable to walk far….if I live that long LOL

Not too bad eh!! 5 weeks and not every day walked

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You have received a new postcard! πŸ™Œ its ridiculous how excited I get when I post a day’s mileage to my app and within seconds I hear the ping of a new email πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ I reached Stage 8 on 28th January, and

It’s with mounting excitement that I realise I’m nearing the end of my virtual journey on the Alps to Ocean route in New Zealand. I started off the challenge on 30th December 2020, and except for a few days along the Kent coast, the majority of my walking has been in the countryside of Throwley, near Faversham – still in Kent.

I’ve been hard put to get my kms in because I only get a 2 hour break each day and some days due to weather I’ve not been able to walk at all. I set my initial goal at 5 weeks but was hoping to complete the challenge in 4 weeks. However, that plan was scuppered when the booking was extended for 3 weeks. πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” Nonetheless, I’m not complaining, I’ve enjoyed my stay in Throwley and with another 10 days to go till I leave (as of the 28th), I’m hoping to finish the Alps to Ocean challenge and start on the Giza Pyramids…meanwhile

Stage 8
Stage 8

The small farming-town of Duntroon is home to around 120 residents. It’s main economy is largely sheep farming and crop growing such as wheat and barley.

The town was bestowed its name by one of a handful of Robert Campbells that emigrated from the United Kingdom to Australia and New Zealand. It took quite a bit of unravelling and genealogical construction to discover which of the four generations of Robert Campbells was the relevant one associated with Duntroon. It seems that the name Robert was greatly favoured in the family.

The first Robert (#1) was a grand-uncle from Scotland who was the first merchant in the 1788 British colony New South Wales (Australia) and later a politician. Having built a private wharf at the time he is now referred to as “Campbell of the Wharf”. He had a son named Robert but his brother, John, also had a son named Robert (#2).

This nephew, Robert (#2), arrived in Sydney in 1806 and by 1818 he was the Director and afterwards the President of the first formal bank in Sydney, the Bank of NSW, today known as Westpac. Having also built himself a mercantile business on Bligh Street, Sydney, he became known as “Campbell of Bligh Street”. This Robert, unsurprisingly had a son also called Robert (#3), who was born in Sydney but chose to return to England and became a Member of Parliament from which he was unfortunately unseated threes month later. To distinguish him from previous Roberts’ he was given the appellation “Robert Campbell Tertius” meaning the third.

Finally the relevant Robert (#4), son of Robert Campbell Tertius, who was born in England in 1843, travelled to New Zealand early 1860s to either buy or lease land on behalf of the family. Robert became a successful sheep farmer, property owner and later politician. Together with his father, he owned a sheep station in the Waitaki District upon which they built a small town they named, Duntroon, a Scottish name possibly as homage to their ancestry and their ties to Clan Campbell of Argyll, Scotland.

Robert’s (#4) wife, Emma, bequeathed Β£6,000 to the parochial district with instructions to build a church for the benefits of Church of England members. The result was St Martin’s Anglican Church in a 14th century Gothic style, built out of limestone quarried in a nearby region. The side church door bears the Clan Campbell coat of arms. Sadly both Robert and Emma died childless and within a few months of each other.

By 1875 much of the acquired Campbell lands became plagued by rabbits that were imported in the 1830s and released for sport. Unable to curtail their rapid reproduction rate, by the early 1880s the pastures were depleted and hillsides eroded. This in turn produced lower quality wool thereby affecting the prices of wool. In the end, the devastation wrought in the region forced many sheep station owners into bankruptcy and the Campbell’s businesses in NZ were eventually wound up and ceased operating by 1920.

Just off the main highway is the Vanished World Heritage Centre, a fossil and geology museum that includes the fossils of two species of extinct genus of large penguins from around 27-28MYA. Known as Archaeospheniscus, the species is about the size of an Emperor Penguin. There was a third species, albeit a smaller one, in this genus that was discovered in Antarctica. These three species are the only ones currently existent in this genus.

Having left Duntroon, I’ve parted ways from Waitaki River which has been my companion since the Waitaki Dam and moved in a south-east zig-zag direction until I stopped at the Rakis Railway Tunnel, an old disused railway line. During the 1880s depression era the construction of the railway provided much needed unemployment relief. The 11mi (19km) line was in use from 1887 to 1930. Today the tunnel is only 330ft (100m) long and although it can be explored, a torch is needed because halfway in the tunnel curves cutting out all source of natural light.

Today will be by far my longest route of this entire journey, hence writing this letter on one of my rest stops. I look forward to rolling into my final destination, Oamaru.

Interesting information provided…..and therein lies the foolishness of history. You can’t just import alien species into a country for whatever reason and expect it to have a happy outcome. If you read history, you’ll discover that there were dozens of similarly stupid and foolish mistakes made by the invaders (of the people kind, not the animal or plant kind) of these islands as well as in Australia and various other countries around the world; the British Empire!! Geez. Well I have to admit that I have no sympathy for the unfortunate Campbells, shooting rabbits for sport – how cruel…and talk about a lack of imagination. With the huge variety of names on offer, could they not come up with something a little different…I mean I like the name Robert on the whole, but surely a little variety wouldn’t have gone amiss?

I do like the Elephant Rocks though and the Vanished World Heritage Centre, sounds like an awesome place to visit.

Anyway…. I’m rapidly reaching the end of my Alps to Ocean NZ challenge!! I always feel a little sad really when they reach the last few miles…..they become friends eventually LOL Okay, okay, don’t say it…I know, it’s daft.

Didn’t take any photos of the area this day because, seriously I have so many already, but I did spot that gorgeous iris hiding under a hedge and the snowdrops are in bloom. So pretty..I love this time of year when the first snowdrops appear…

And because I didn’t faff around too much taking photos, I managed to clock up 11.44kms in 2.5 hours πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ˜

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Nearing the end of my virtual journey, with just 46 miles/74 kms to go…this postcard and story about the route, popped up on 26 January….

Summer fruit orchards and wineries seem to be the economic backbone of Kurow, a small town that in the 1920s was the base for the construction of the Waitaki Dam.

Kurow sits within the Waitaki Valley, a rich limestone region with a cool maritime climate. With warm summers and long, dry autumns this region is a wonderful environment to grow grapes for wines such as pinots noir and pinot gris. The first vines were only planted in 2001, making this valley a very young winery region. I can imagine it took passionate and dedicated viticulturists to have the courage to explore new grounds and experiment with different plantings. Small scale, family-run vineyards are now dotted through the valley creating bespoke, boutique wines.

Stage 7
Stage 7

Just outside of Kurow is a family-run orchard growing summer fruits such as peaches, apricots and cherries. Conscious about fruit that is rejected by supermarkets due to imperfections, the family built a commercial kitchen and went about turning rejected fruit into a range of products such as jams, sorbets and baked goods. With a half dozen box of summerfruit tarts under my arms, I was ready to leave Kurow.

Joining the trail alongside the Waitaki River, I marvelled at its characteristics. This 68mi (110km) braided river begins at the confluence of Pukaki, Tekapo and Ohau Rivers with Lake Benmore atop it. The river acts like a link between the lower lakes by running through and connecting Lake Benmore to Lake Aviemore to Lake Waitaki before it freely and swiftly flows the rest of the way into the Pacific Ocean.

Between Kurow and Duntroon, I had to ford three rivers and I was grateful they were not flooded permitting me to travel beside Waitaki River and admire the mountain range behind it, instead of using a trail next to the highway. I’m also glad I read the instructions to not touch the fences along the way as many are electrically charged and not necessarily marked for information. Might’ve added an element of excitement I wasn’t really looking for.

Just before reaching Duntroon, I stopped at the Takiroa Rock Art Shelter to see the Maori art on the limestone rock that dates back to between 1400 and 1900AD. After the rock art site, I carried on through Duntroon’s Wetlands into Duntroon straight to the local pub for a feed and more Waitaki Valley wine sampling.

Seeing those grapes reminded me of when I was in Portugal on the Portuguese Camino coastal route to Santiago. The path invariably goes inland at some stages, and one day it took me through a vineyard. I shouted “Ola!! Buenas dias” to an elderly couple amongst the vines cutting down bunches of purple grapes. The lady and I got to chatting (her English was way superior to my Portuguese), and it turned out her daughter was at that time, living and working in London πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ How cool is that. So after a long conversation, she gave me a big fat bunch of the MOST delicious, juicy, aromatic grapes you could imagine…the flavour was like heaven.

I strolled along eating the grapes with relish, and shortly afterwards met the one and only snake in my entire Camino. 🐍😱😱 It was lying there, on the path, looking for all the world like a skinny stick, and as I was hesitating, thinking “is it, or isn’t it ” – the bastard moved. 🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣😱😱😱😱

It still cracks me up when I think about that…3 things happened simultaneously : I discovered that I could indeed run if I needed to, I lost most of the grapes, and peed my myself 😜😜😜😜 of course the bloody snake slithered off into the grass with an evil grin ‘gotcha’. 😬😬 not funny.

Of course, encountering that snake, thereafter put a slightly different perspective on my walk, and I never looked at a stick in quite the same way again, or crept off into the bushes without trepidation 🧐🧐🧐

Meanwhile, I’m nearing the end of my Alps to Ocean virtual challenge across New Zealand. And I’m now seriously considering actually doing this route when I visit the island. It might mean postponing my trip down south to Ozzie land for a year to save more funds, but it would be totally awesome. And of course, if I did, and since I’m going that way, I’ve pinned my ‘intention’ to my metaphorical board of walking the Kumano Kodo in Japan. I mean seriously, how awesome would that be!!

Like the Camino de Santiago, the Kumano Kodo is designated a UNESCO heritage site and would slot in nicely with my Project 101 https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4952.html

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I got back yesterday after working away for 5 weeks and opened my vast pile of post….

It’s like Christmas really πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

And in the pile were my last 4 Conqueror medals πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ…πŸ…πŸ…πŸ…

In order of completion, from left to right

Great Ocean Road, Mt. Fuji, Conquer 2020 and Alps to Ocean which I completed this month. Awesome πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ

My target for 2020 was 2,020kms and I reached that on 31 December 2020

I probably walked wayyyyy more than that, but I mostly count ‘boots on’ mileage and if I’m stuck indoors at work and unable to get out for my break on any particular day, I count my indoor walking, which extraordinarily sometimes amounts to 12kms between going on duty at 8am to 2pm when I take my 2 hour break. Mostly I try to get out to walk, but sometimes like these last few days, I get snowed in, or its pouring with rain….ergo, no good for walking if you don’t have the right gear.

I first started these virtual challenges on 26th March 2020, and the Alps to Ocean is my 9th challenge completed. I have 5 to do this year, as well as the Conquer 2021 challenge which is a compilation of all challenges walked during the year. Of course they may well introduce more…in which case 😁😁😁 and ‘boots on’ and getttt walking!!!

Also in the mail were my next two Cicerone books: The Thames Path, which I’m planning on walking in April for my birthday. Its something I’ve wanted to do for years, and years, and of course I’ve walked many miles along the River Thames between Hampton Court Palace and as far as Greenwich – not all in one go, but different sections over the years, and right along the whole length between Rotherhithe and Lambeth, also at different times.

And of course the South Downs Way is a desirable walk for this year too.🀞🀞🀞 because so many factors affect that possibility.

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Now that I’m at my next booking my time has been limited. But I try to get out every day and explore the area.

After a week of daily walking, I reached the 4th stage on 10th January…

The roads here are very long and it takes me a good 10 minutes to reach an intersection, which means I can’t go too far afield as it will take too long to get back. But I’ve made a point of trying out different routes, in as much as my options are minimal, but I’ve discovered some lovely country lanes.

Meanwhile, on my virtual journey…

Here I am at Lake Ohau, the third and smallest parallel glacial lake in the Mackenzie Basin that serves as a water storage for the Hydro scheme. It is connected to Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo (the other two parallel lakes) via an artificial canal. Lake Ohau is stunningly located between The Barrier mountain range to the west, Ben Ohau range to the east and Naumann range to the north which lies between Hopkins and Dobson rivers that feed into the lake.

Stage 4

This turquoise blue lake is a perfect environment for both powered and non-powered activities. Although at the height of summer the temperature reaches a mere 60Β°F (15Β°C) any swimming enthusiast wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity for a crisp splash in the lake. Luckily for me the weather was in my favour and I went for a brisk swim before starting my onward journey. However, I did hear that any sailor or windsurfer on the lake must be mindful of the northerly winds as the water gets choppy very quickly.

It might be debatable what’s considered a national dish in NZ, perhaps fish and chips or perhaps a gourmet meat pie. No matter, my choice was the traditional piping hot meat pie encased in a crispy pastry. This humble meat pie has been part of NZ’s cuisine since 1863 when the early British settlers brought it to NZ’s shores. It’s the perfect size to be eaten with one hand whilst chugging their popular Lemon & Paeroa soft drink with the other. The soft drink’s history goes way back to 1907 when it was originally manufactured in the town of Paeroa by combining lemon juice and carbonated mineral water.

After my finger-licking good pie and L&P hydration, I set off for what was to be the hardest part of the journey. The first 3.5mi (6km) was an easy section as I traversed the lower slopes of the Ohau range across several creeks before I found myself on a narrow track and a sustained climb of about 2.5mi (4km) to the highest point of the trail at 2,952ft (900m). Not that I particularly trusted that I was at the highest point for a while since all along there were several “false summits” where the trail appeared to reach the highest point to then discover that there was more upwards winding to go. During the winter months part of this upward climb proves to be even more hazardous as it becomes part of an avalanche path.

Reaching the top was quite the accomplishment but given its exposure and strong winds I spent little time admiring the view and started my descent. If I thought the climb was a challenge the steep descent with its tight steep bends was even more ghastly for the next half-mile or so.

The rest was a rolling descent crossing several streams. Clean drinking water could be collected at these streams enabling me to top up my bottles. The track joined with Quailburn Road and for the remainder of my journey I travelled beside Quail Burn River first to the west of me and once I crossed it to the east of me, almost like a constant companion, until we parted way with the river flowing into Ahuriri River and me rolling into Omarama for the night.

Like the Mt. Fuji virtual challenge which I finished in December, I’m really enjoying learning more about New Zealand and its history. The powers that be could/should consider teaching history and geography in this way, the subjects would be so much more interesting.

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Since I was still at home, and had a few days yet before starting work, I was lucky enough to be able to put in some really good distances to get started on this challenge.

My lodging on Lake Pukaki was under the star-studded sky of the southern hemisphere. Here the Southern Cross, Milky Way and the inverted view of the Orion constellation are just part of the night sky spectacle. Lake Pukaki sits in the Mackenzie region, one of very few regions around the world classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Due to its limited light pollution, the night sky with millions of stars are visible as far as the eyes can see.

Stage 2

Lake Pukaki is the largest of three parallel alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin with Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau being the other two. It’s milky blue colour is a result of finely ground rock particles from glaciers. The lake is part of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme providing hydroelectricity, irrigation and municipal water supply. The lake originally had an outflow at the southern end but it has since been dammed. To increase storage capacity the lake has been raised twice eventually submerging Te Kohai Island which appeared on NZ’s five pound note pre-decimal currency era. Looking at some of the old images of Lake Pukaki there was a time in the mid-19th century when ferries were used to cross the river outlet south of the lake with a hotel on the bank. A bridge was added in the late 1800s. Both the bridge and hotel have now perished with the raising of the lake.

Firing up for today’s longer journey, I indulged in a sizeable breakfast, a quick swim in the lake to get the blood circulating and I was ready to tackle the next stage. I continued the trail on the eastern side of the lake on a nice quiet country road. Travelling along the shoreline of the lake I was greeted with incredible northward views of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook and kept imagining them as the mythical Aoraki and his three brothers. Directly across the length of the lake was the Ben Ohau range known for its ski touring route across the top of it.

Carrying on the trail I crossed the Pukaki Dam towards the Salmon Shop at Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre. It all went rather well until I reached the southern section of the lake and found myself exposed to the gusty winds from the north-west. It was quite the balancing act aiming to move forwards without taking a tumble down the cliffs and drop-offs near the trail.

With a stop at the Salmon Shop for some locally farmed freshwater salmon, I took this opportunity to gather my rattled nerves, have a rest and absorb the last of this vista. I left the lake behind and moved on south across the Pukaki Flats, a substantial expanse of tussock grasslands and a very flat route. These dry grassy plains are distinctive to the South Island and are largely used for grazing livestock. Without any shading available, plenty of water was necessary and a good head covering.

Having made it into the region’s largest town with time to spare, I’m off to see the highlights before I turn in for the night. I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter.

Wow, amazing. I really love the amount of information the Conqueror organisers provide along with the postcards. Plenty of hints and tips amongst the history, which is just enough to be really interesting – its certainly piqued my interest. Note to self ‘take swim costume’ πŸŠβ€β™€οΈπŸŠβ€β™€οΈπŸŠβ€β™€οΈ

Damn, I want to go now πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ anyone know a millionaire with a few thousand pounds lying around that they don’t need….😁😁 I really REALLY want to see those stars 🌌🌌🌌

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And with one final push, I completed the Mt. Fuji, Japan Conqueror challenge on the evening of the 29th December. After my walk earlier the day I noticed I had only just over 1km to go, so off I went πŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ

This final stage took me to the summit of Mt. Fuji, and apparently some of the best views….wish I was there for real πŸ˜‰πŸ”πŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ

I’ve enjoyed several days exploring the lakes, the forest, the ice caves and seeing Mount Fuji with its perfectly shaped cone from all angles but today was the day for the final climb to the summit.

Shortly after leaving the 5th Station I reached a fork in the trail. To the right was the trek to Fujiko. Heading left, I soon arrived at the Komitake Shrine, named after old Komitake Mountain which is now buried deep beneath Mount Fuji. The Shrine is important to many worshippers who each year on 1 July attend the Kaizansai festival and celebrate the opening of Mount Fuji.

From here to the 7th Station the trek weaved its way through a shady and dense forest. On hot summer days the forest provides a welcoming relief. The path itself was narrow and rough with rocks jutting out and tree branches stretching across the pathway. As with any climb sure-footedness was essential alongside some duck and weaving around branches. There were trail sections resembling carved out channels instead of just flat paths. I can imagine on foggy days this trail would be quite challenging with low visibility and for those who climb at night in order to catch the sunrise at the summit could run the risk of getting lost if not careful. Thankfully ropes line the route providing guidance and assistance up the mountain. Occasional openings in the forest canopy gave me glimpses of Fuji’s peak, like small teasers of what is yet to come.

Leaving the forest zone behind, there were no more trees, just very low shrubs with small white flowers. The ground became more rocky and gravel-like, making it looser underfoot. It makes me realise that although Mount Fuji is not a technically difficult climb, it does however, present its own set of challenges such as a sudden change in weather, the steep inclines, long switchbacks and more importantly the potential for altitude sickness because the oxygen density is only two-thirds of the normal oxygen thereby making it more difficult to breathe.

I forged my way onto the 8th Station where my trail merged with the very popular Yoshida Trail. As expected it became quite congested. Taking a slow and steady approach it was time for the final push. The terrain here was barren, vegetation seemed non-existent.

I knew the summit was near when I made my way through the white Torii gate, which stood proudly on a set of steps signifying that “heaven on earth” is within my grasp.

Reaching the summit though was not the end, yet. The final part was a walk around the crater on the Ohachimeguri Trail. The crater has a 2,560ft (750m) surface diameter and a depth of 790ft (240m). With its jagged edge, the crater is encircled by eight sacred peaks, each with their own name: Oshaidake, Izudake, Jojudake, Komagatake, Mushimatake, Kengamine, Hukusandake, and Kusushidake.

My quest ended at the Kusushi Shrine near the last station. Here I stood to absorb the aerial views, reflecting on my journey and contemplating my descent but that’s a story for another time.

On a final note, did you know that the top 1,312ft (400m) of Mount Fuji is actually private property? Here’s an online excerpt explaining how this ownership evolved:

“… belongs to Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha, a Shinto shrine. The land originally belonged to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate (1603 – 1867), and the area of Mt. Fuji from the 8th station to the top is said to have been given to this shrine as a gift by the Tokugawa clan in 1779. The land was re-designated as national property for a time after 1871, when the Tokugawa Shogunate relinquished power to the Imperial Court, but has since been returned to the Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha. The Hongu (Main Shrine) of the shrine is at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and the Okumiya (Rear Shrine) is located at the mountain peak.”

So there you have it, my 5 Stages of the Mt. Fuji Conqueror challenge. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ I hope you enjoyed the journey, as well as all the information, and the amazing history linked to this iconic mountain…instantly recognisable. Who knew the top of Mt. Fuji was private property? πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”

Hoorah!! 4 days to virtually ‘climb’ Mt. Fuji

Immediately after finishing this challenge I got started on the Alps to Ocean challenge in New Zealand (289.7kms). Nothing like putting a bit of pressure on yourself then Cindy 🀣🀣🀣🀣 But of course, starting that challenge/walk is taking a wee bit longer to complete because not only is it much longer, but I started my next booking on 4th January and my free time is limited to 2 hours a day, weather permitting. Still, I hope/plan to finish the walk by 31st January.

Why not join me on one of the challenges https://www.theconqueror.events/r/CE1474 they are excellent motivation to get out and and walk, especially now that our wings are clipped by Covid-19 and lockdown.

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The problem I have with the Conqueror Challenges is that the routes are so amazing, it makes me want to do the walks in real time, and not just virtually. So to that end, I’ve added them to my list of ‘walks I want to do before I die’ and πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™ the Universe is listening and provides a sponsor so I can go walking instead of working 🀣🀣🀣

I actually completed the Mt. Fuji virtual challenge in 2020, but as usual I got distracted by other walks and places and forgot to share them….so here’s the 1st stage. I’ll post the next few stages over the coming days. I love the information that comes with the postcards and find them absolutely fascinating.

I started the Mt. Fuji challenge on 26 December, immediately after finishing the Great Ocean Road Australia challenge, and because I was not working, managed to complete the challenge in a few days…chop chop as they say.

When I decided to hike Japan’s tallest mountain, Mount Fuji, I pondered the best route that would capture its culture and spirit whilst travelling through its lush green landscape. The result was a 46mi (74km) journey starting at the base of the mountain, leading past lakes, caves, temples, shrines, dense forestry and ending with the final climb to the summit.

Mt. Fuji virtual challenge

Mount Fuji is one of three holy mountains in Japan. At 12,388ft (3,776m) tall, Fuji sits atop a triple junction trench where three tectonic plates meet. Although geologists classify it as active, Fuji is a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1707. At the base it is surrounded by the Fuji Five Lakes which were formed by previous eruptions damming up the rivers with the lava flows.

Mount Fuji is a composite of four successive volcanoes meaning it’s made up of layers. The first two layers were the result of an eruption more than 700,000 years ago known as Sen-Komitake and Komitake Fuji. The next eruption, about 100,000 years ago, engulfed Komitake Fuji and added the second layer creating Old Fuji. The third eruption about 10,000 years ago formed New Fuji and the summit zone producing the near perfect conical shape we know today.

Recognised as a sacred place and considered a symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji is a pilgrimage destination for practisers of Shinto. Each year between July and August, up to 400,000 tourists and pilgrims make the long trek to the summit. In 2013, Mount Fuji was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Dotted throughout Japan are Shinto shrines and Torii gates. Shinto is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and the shrines are places of worship and homes of the Kami (Gods). Practitioners come to pay their respects to the Kami or pray for good fortune. The entrance to a shrine is marked by a gate known as Torii and they symbolise the “transition from mundane to sacred”. To enter through a Torii, one enters the world of the Kami (Shinto Gods).

I began my hike at the Yama Shrine near Lake Motosu, one of the Five Lakes. The third largest and deepest of the five lakes, it is subteranneously connected to Lake Shoji and Lake Saiko. Originally one lake, these three lakes were divided by one of Mount Fuji’s enormous lava flows. The water temperature on Lake Motosu never drops below 39 Β°F (4Β°C) and as such it is the only lake of the five that never freezes over winter.

Northward bound, I passed by Lake Shoji, the second and smallest of the Five Lakes. On the left side of the lake you can still see large remnants of the lava flow jutting out of the water. With a greenish hue due to algae and rich in nutrients including plankton, locals can be seen standing on the lava rocks fishing.

My final stop for today was Lake Saiko, the third of the Five Lakes. With no natural outflow an artificial channel was made to connect it to Lake Kawaguchi. Lake Saiko’s banks borders the Aokigahara Forest which I will write about in my next letter.

Don’t you think that’s fascinating? There’s so much to learn about this fabulous world of ours.

Why not join me on one of the challenges https://www.theconqueror.events/r/CE1474 they are excellent motivation to get out and and walk, especially now that our wings are clipped by Covid-19 and lockdown.

Stage 2…to follow shortly.

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If you have recorded or want to watch Strictly Come Dancing on catch up….

Because…..

Well well well well….Strictly Come Dancing champion 2020……issssss

BILL BAILEY!!!!! πŸ•ΊπŸ•ΊπŸ•ΊπŸ†πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Huge congratulations to Oti for raising a champion dancer.

I genuinely thought Hrvy would win due to his age and popularity and of course I would have loved Jamie to win, even though I didn’t think he  would, and Maisie…..what a little ray of sunshine…

They were ALL amazing and the final was quite simply SPECTACULAR or as Craig would say FAB.U.LOUS 😁😁😁

but I’m THRILLED that Bill won. He was amazing and definitely made the most improvement and ended in a spectacular fashion.

Strictly Come Dancing has been so uplifting during the last few months and it’s still my absolute favourite show. It brings so much joy.

Thank you BBC ❀❀❀❀

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