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Hello ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿ‘‹ I’m back. And it done. Yes, I reached Banks at Fort Maia (aka Bowness on Solway) at 15:14 yesterday 21.09.21 ๐Ÿ˜€

Banks at Fort Maia

The first thing I did was phone my daughter and sob ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„ We had a lovely long chat and she did a photo of me at the hut via WhatsApp video. Technology eh!!

Crazy lady via WhatsApp video ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ it looks like I’m holding the hut up!! ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

So I guess this post is jumping the gun a wee bit since I haven’t really posted much about my journey since 1st September when I started my journey at the Scottish border near Berwick Upon Tweed…but I really wanted to share this with you now, and later I’ll jump back in time and update you on my adventures.

In summary it’s been an amazing experience. Hard at times with days when I hit a wall of exhaustion, but other days that were a sheer joy.

Oh the things I have seen and the places I have been….every day a new door to open on vistas and adventure. And have I had some amazing adventures….but all will be told in time.

Meanwhile, here I am at Banks at the end of the 84 miles National Trail of Hadrian’sWay, and finally I can legitimately wear my cap ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ ‘I’ve Walked Hadrians Wall’.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

I have to give a shout out to Gemini, my walking poles.ย  Without them I would not have been able to complete the walk. They saved me from stumbling (many times), helped me haul myself up inclines, and steadied me going down vertiginous descents. They kept my balance on rough paths and helped me jump over muddy puddles. They are invaluable and I am so grateful for their constant presence…they are like an extension of my body now, and we’ve been walking together for 5 years. Unlike me, they’ve had 3 sets of new feet and still going strong.

I’ll get onto my laptop soon and catch up….from the Scottish Border near Berwick Upon Tweed on the east coast of Northumberland, to the west coast of Cumbria; Bowness on Solway – 421 kms (263 miles) North to South along the Northumberland Coast Path and East to West along Hadrian’s Way.

Done and dusted (except for 12kms between Craster Harbour and Alnwick…but more about that later ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

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Day 1 done and dusted ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ I had a completely uneventful journey, ever so quick from King’s Cross to Berwick…and boy are those trains fast!!

Arrived in Berwick to the most glorious weather and scooted quickly over to the castle ruins. I didn’t go right into the keep coz it closes at 4pm and I got there at just on 3.54…but I had a good look around and then headed back up the million steps I’d just walked down ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช Google maps doesn’t show how steep some places are!!

The River Tweed
Tweed Castle
The Royal Bridge

The Airbnb is lovely and the host is amazing…there’s a gorgeous ginger cat and a beautiful golden labrador, so I have had lots of kisses and cuddles.

My bed for the next 3 nights

As soon as I had dropped off my backpack, I grabbed my day pack and headed north yo the Scottish border. OMG what a path!! The views were spectacular but the path was hell!! For the most part it ran right along the very edge of the cliffs with just a tuft of grass between the walker and the vertiginous cliffs that fall 100s of feet down to the sea. The North Sea in case you wondered.

Spectacular. The weather turned soon after and the clouds came in
Part of #notthecoastpath ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ

A local suggested I walk along the above ‘path’ because the real path “is a bit rough, and this is a lovely wee walk” – well he wasn’t wrong about the path, but this was no better and I crossed the edge of a potato field to the path as soon as I could. I’m thinking he’s never walked to the border before…

Now this was more like it…leading away from the Scottish border, it was a joy to see this…if only the whole route had been the same

However, despite the awful path and the daunting propect of a twisted ankle on a very narrow and uneven path, and the fading light, I’m so glad I made the effort to walk up to the border and back

Welcome to Scotland ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜
English border
It was so cool to cross through the gate into Scotland

The views are absolutely spectacular.

I’m standing on the path!!! A twisted ankle or a trip and you’d be in for a swim
Literally right on the edge

Once I got back to town I had a quick whizz around and walked a small section of the town ramparts, which are just amazing with awesome views of the river and estuary.

Town walls
Walking the ramparts
Fantastic views
Guarding the town

I got back to the b&b at just on 9pm and having missed the fish and chip shop, I had 2 cup a soup and a cup of tea.

In all a terrific start to my Northumberland Coast adventure. Just on 17kms covered.

My walk

I’ve added some of the history of Berwick in case you’re interested ๐Ÿ˜‰

Berwick is just four miles south of the Scottish Border, but during the last 300 years, control of the town swapped 13 times between England and Scotland. Berwickโ€™s Elizabethan town walls are the most intact in England, and were Elizabeth Iโ€™s biggest and most expensive project during her reign to keep firm control of this key town.

https://www.visitnorthumberland.com/explore/destinations/towns-villages/berwick-upon-tweed

Situated at the mouth of the River Tweed near the border of two kingdoms, the town of Berwick suffered centuries of conflict, as control of the town passed back and forward between England and Scotland until the late 17th century. Each crisis brought repairs and improvements to the fortifications, culminating in the great artillery ramparts begun in 1558. These survive largely intact and make Berwick one of the most important fortified towns of Europe.

Berwick’s town walls are its most famous piece of architecture and still stand strong today, hundreds of years after they were built. Berwick actually has two sets of walls, the first set (of which only fragments now remain), commenced by Edward I, was two miles long. The later Elizabethan Walls (which are still complete) are a mile and a-quarter in length. The ramparts completely surround the town, with four gates through which entry to the town is enabled.

Berwick’s Elizabethan Walls are the only example of bastioned town walls in Britain and one of the best preserved examples in Europe. When built in 1558 – designed to keep out the marauding Scots who regularly laid claim to the town – it was the most expensive undertaking of England’s Golden Age.

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Wow, what an amazing milestone to reach.

I’d like to extend a massive, humongous, enormous ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š thank you to every single person who has stopped to read what I have to say. You are all very much appreciated.

When I first started blogging nearly 12 years ago, I had no idea what to write about and no idea of the journey I would go on.

It’s been fits and starts with massive gaps inbetween where I just didn’t get to write, and other times when I’m able to write every day.

I first started this blog on 21 October 2009, my sister’s birthday as it happens, although the coincidence has no relevance, it was just the date I started.

https://notjustagranny.co.uk/2009/10/21/hello-world/

I had another blog before this one, but I really can’t remember what happened to it ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜•

Over the years I’ve developed a passion for walking, so of course those adventures have become my main theme. Travel too, and there are loads of posts about my travels over the years. I also, unbelievably, have 143 posts in draft ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค” Most of which are probably quite irrelevant by now.

Some of my posts have passed under the net unnoticed and unread, but others have garnered a substantial number of views.

The all time favourite seems to have been Twickenham on a hot summer day written on 11 July 2010, and still gets views all these years later. Weird.

The most popular day was 26.12.2012, and I still have no idea why!! I’ve written 956 posts ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ some verbose, others just a brief jot, and 52,000 people have visited my site…quite accidentally I’m sure ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ and headed out quicker than a jack rabbit. But many have stayed, read a while and left comments (which I totally love โคโค) and I thank you for that. I’ve also had to block quite a few nuisance callers, and once I installed akismet, it reduced the huge volume of spam comments I used to get ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

Although I’ve learned a lot in the interim, I still haven’t quite come to grips with keywords, key phrases and ranking. Possibly because my posts are mostly so random with no real theme, order or organisation. My biggest beef is the developers that keep ‘improving’ their programmes and when they do that, I’m left back at square one trying to relearn everything. Drives me mad. I’m not a fan of the current upgrade, and a few choice words fall like pearls from my lips from time to time ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Since I started the blog I’ve become a granny, seen my daughter married to an amazing man, moved to the coast, travelled extensively around the UK, both for my job and my personal desires, been to a royal wedding, become a British citizen, met new friends, become an aunt to 7 kiddies, attended the 2012 London Olympics and lived through the insanity that was/is Brexit, flown in a helicopter and a Spitfire, attended the 2016 400th anniversary of the Great Fire of London and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, amongst much else. But those are the highlights.

My passions are the same, I’m 12 years older, albeit not much wiser…and my bones creak at lot more than they did back then!

Thank you all for dropping by and visiting, I appreciate you one and all. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

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Reading through this information, I’m left thinking that some people need their heads read!! I know I push myself and I’ve done some crazy shit when on my long-distance walks, but I would not want to do any of this. Thank the lord it’s a virtual climb and I don’t ACTUALLY have to do this ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜„ instead I was whizzing around Salisbury

Exploring Salisbury – far more my style โ˜บ

Starting out with an easy hike, I nearly missed the iconic yellow and red sign against a huge boulder simply stating “Way to Everest B.C.” with a big red arrow beneath the words pointing towards base camp. At least I was certain I was on the right path.

After what felt like hours of trekking, the treacherous Khumbu Icefall loomed into view spilling its way down the valley between Everest and Nuptse. Khumbu Icefall sits at the head of Khumbu Glacier, a constantly moving sheet of compacted ice. As the glacier makes its way down the valley it fractures, creating deep crevasses that are always in motion and large towers of ice called seracs that are known to suddenly collapse.
Making the final ascent I arrived at the cairn adorned in prayer flags with its rudimentary sign signalling that I have arrived at Everest Base Camp (17,477ft/5,327m). It was located on a scree-covered section (loose broken stones) at the foot of Khumbu Icefall. I settled into one of the yellow tents and mentally prepared for the high altitude acclimatisation process I would begin to endure.

As sea-level dwellers our bodies are not designed to live at high altitude but we are certainly capable of adapting to it through appropriate acclimatisation. The higher we go, our bodies go through physiological changes by producing more red blood cells in order to carry more oxygen to our muscles and organs whilst combating the thinner air.

The acclimatisation process on Everest is lengthy taking up to a month and done by exposing the body to higher and higher altitude then descending to sleep, recover and overcome any signs of acute mountain sickness due to sudden changes in altitude.

High altitude sickness can affect any person regardless of fitness or age. Ignored or left untreated altitude sickness can have serious consequences including fatality by developing either into cerebral oedema or pulmonary oedema which is fluid build-up in the brain or lungs. Some of the immediate ways to treat altitude sickness is by taking specific medication, supplemental oxygen and/or descending.

During that month I climbed and returned to base camp three times with each climb going higher. It looked something like this:
1. Base camp to icefall, return to base camp. Have a day of rest.
2. Base camp across icefall to Camp 1 and stay; then Camp 2 return to Camp 1 for sleep; then Lohtse Face return to Camp 2 for sleep; and descend back to base camp. Have four days of rest.
3. Climb to Camp 1 and stay; then Camp 2 and rest the next day; then Camp 3 return to sleep at Camp 2; and descend back to base camp. Have five days of rest and wait for the right weather to summit.

The anticipation was over and the much awaited good-weather window presented itself for the final part of the expedition: Summitting Everest.

Starting in the wee hours of the morning, geared up and harness on I negotiated my way through the camp under the light of my headlamp to Crampon Point and attached my crampons to my boots.

Staring out at Khumbu Icefall with a good dose of mixed emotions I began the perilous yet now more familiar climb across. Crevasses were crossed on horizontal ladders and towering ice blocks on vertical ones. Some crevasses were so wide that more than one ladder had to be tied together to bridge the gap. For safety I was clipped into fixed lines. If I was to lose my footing on the ladders and fall the fixed lines would help break my fall. Climbs in some areas fluctuated between 20 to 60 degree angles but there was no time to dwell as the ongoing shifting and settling of the glacier and icefall was a constant reminder how unsafe the area was and moving quickly was necessary.

Several hours passed crossing the icefall till I made it to a large flat expanse of snow with more ladders to climb all the way to Camp 1. Situated at 19,390ft (5,910m), Camp 1 was in the middle of the Western Cwm (Cwm is Welsh for valley), a broad and flat glacial valley. From here I could see the Pumo Ri Mountain to the west and Lhotse Face straight up the valley. I then climbed on to Camp 2 about 1.74mi (2.8km) further up from Camp 1. Located at the base of a gully on scree, Camp 2 was well provisioned and is often considered as Advanced Base Camp. I stopped for a day of rest.

Early next morning I began making my way across the Western Cwm to the base of Lhotse Face where I had to cross a short ladder over a bergschrund (a deep crevasse where the steep slope meets the glacier). Lhotse Face is a 3,690ft (1,125m) glacial wall of blue ice. Sections of Lhotse Face average 40 degrees incline thereby needing to kick my crampon points into the ice to secure my footing. Throughout this climb I was clipped into a fixed line which was attached to the face with ice screws and anchors. I could feel the altitude change, my breathing labouring as I slowly and steadily climbed my way into Camp 3. I was now at 24,015ft (7,320m) gaining an elevation of 6,538ft (1,993m) from base camp. There were several camping spots here, essentially wherever one could find a flat spot to pitch a tent. I remained fixed to my safety line. The sun was up bestowing me with glorious views of the valley below, the peak of Pumo Ri and the others beyond.

Quite honestly, that all just sounds like a lot of hard work – so for me, its a no thanks. I’ll stick with my virtual journey and leave this to someone else. Seriously?? Why would anyone want to do this??

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I finally found a bit of space to start reading up on the Mt. Everest virtual challenge which I completed last month, and although I had decided to not post any further posts about the various challenges I’m following, this was so very interesting that I changed my mind and so here we go….I hope you enjoy reading more about Everest and what the climbers who actually go there experience. So often we read or hear about climbers and teams of people who climb Mt Everest but we seldom read about the finer details. So this has been really interesting.

I actually started the challenge in Ramsgate on the 10th February on the tail-end of the ‘beast from the east’ snow storm. So this is a bit behind the actual times ๐Ÿ˜‰ But since it’s not real anyway, it doesn’t really matter…anyway, I hope you enjoy reading these posts…

Where I actually was….pretty realistic really

Flying into Kathmandu is a walk in the park when compared to Lukla. Dubbed as the most dangerous airport in the world, Lukla’s runway is a mere 1,729ft (527m) long, with mountainous terrain to the north and a steeply angled drop to the south. It is built on a 12% uphill gradient to help planes slow down. There are no go-around procedures if the planes miss their approach, as such only highly experienced pilots with short-takeoff-and-landing missions under their belt, experience in Nepal and ten flights in Lukla with a certified instructor, are permitted to land at the airport. In a nutshell if climbing Everest doesn’t cause prickles on the back of your neck, then a high intensity landing in Lukla certainly should.

Where I wasn’t really ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ Stage 1

In 2008, Lukla airport was renamed Tenzing-Hillary Airport in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first climbers to reach the summit of Everest. Hillary was instrumental in the construction of the airfield in Lukla, building an unsurfaced airstrip on a mountain shelf in 1964. It took 37 years to finally asphalt the runway.

Home to 1200 people, the village sits at 9,383ft (2,860m) above sea level, nestled on a small plateau amongst the awe inspiring mountain peaks of the Himalayan Ranges. The nearly 40mi (64km) trek to Mount Everest, skirts steep mountainsides, through deep valleys and over alpine glaciers. The hike travels through small villages and teahouses, past prayer wheels and fluttering prayer flags to the memorial site honouring mountaineers and Sherpas who lost their lives climbing the mountain, continuing to Base Camp and then the final summit climb.
Leaving the viewing platform of the Lukla airport, I made my way through the centre of town on a narrow street that was sometimes cobbled and sometimes just compacted soil. Double-storey buildings lined the street filled with shops, teahouses and lodging services.

Shortly after leaving the village I passed through the National Luminary Pasan Lhamu Memorial Gate which was built to honour Pasan Lhamu, the first Sherpa woman to summit Everest in 1993. It is the gateway to the Khumbu Region that encompasses the Sagarmatha National Park and the Nepalese side of Mount Everest.

It was a gradual downhill hike, passing through a forest on narrow paths with the colossal mountainside ever present to my right. I continued on this downward hike, on a trail that wound itself up and down, passing through villages with teahouses until I reached Phakding, a small village that lies in the Dudh Kosi river valley. Here was the first of many suspension bridge crossings. The bridge, about 100ft (30m) above the river, stretched across what seemed to be an old landslide with large boulders and debris settling beside the river. As the bridge swayed and moved beneath my feet, I pondered about those whose fear of heights may find the crossing challenging. This isn’t the tallest suspension bridge on this trek, that is yet to come.

Finally reaching the small village of Benkar with its tin-roofed, brightly painted window frames, four-storey residences/storefronts, I settled into one of the teahouses for a meal. Known to aid with altitude adaptation I had garlic soup with Tibetan flat bread. Between the warmth of the soup and the crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside bread, I filled my belly and finished with a Tibetan tea.
Rested and fed, I resumed my hike crossing another suspension bridge. Soon I reached the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park. A UNESCO listed site since 1976, the 1,148kmยฒ park is home to the Sherpa people, rare species like the snow leopard and several mountains including Mount Everest.

After obtaining the necessary permits to enter the park, I walked through the Jorsalle Entrance Gate, a concrete structure with Buddhist artwork on its interior walls to a set of steps that began a steep descent into a gorge, onto Jorsalle village, alongside the thundering Dhudh Kosi river and over two more suspension bridges.

However, what goes down, must come up and it wasn’t long before I engaged my hiking poles to start the steep ascent onto a woodland path until I reached a wide open low lying land beside the river filled with stones and boulders making trekking through it unstable and difficult.

But nothing prepared me for the next suspension bridge. Like all the others, Hillary Bridge was made of galvanized steel cables that’s connected to the grated deck by interlinked wire fence. An old version of the bridge was right beneath this one just hanging, blowing in the wind, no longer in use. At 410ft (125m) above the Dhudh Kosi river, this 459ft (140m) long bridge was exposed to the elements swaying laterally and vertically as the strong wind blew through the valley. It was a heart thumping, adrenaline spiking exercise that on this trek one could do without. I was grateful to reach solid ground.

If I ever entertained even the slightest idea of ACTUALLY doing this ‘walk’, reading about that bridge has pretty much scuppered any possibility ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ I don’t have a fear of heights and I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but I have my limits ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

So, no go for me thanks, virtual suits me just fine.

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Wow, time sure does just fly by, and thank goddess for my ‘keeper of memories’ – my daughter ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ who reminded me that it’s my citizenship anniversary today…5 years a good Citizen of the UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง I’m not sure about the ‘good’ part, although I do try, oh and I pay my taxes ๐Ÿ’ท๐Ÿ’ธ๐Ÿ’ธ๐Ÿ’ธ

So wow, how amazing. Although my citizenship ceremony was on the 25th of February, I received the official letter in the post on the 13th. Coincidentally, and 7 years earlier, was my daughter’s citizenship ceremony on the same date; 25th February. At the time the letter arrived I was working in Bexhill-on-Sea and had to wait a few days to actually hold the document in my hands. I was also very lucky to get a place for the actual ceremony on the 25th due to a cancellation. Otherwise I would have had to wait a few months!!

Presents from my chica

The ceremony took place at the Bishop’s Palace in Maidstone, and what a beautiful place it was too. Lucky me.

The Bishop’s Palace in Maidstone

On the day we dressed up in our finery, and headed over to Maidstone by train. Very early, we meandered around the town and took loads of photos…all of which, except for a few Instagram images, were lost when UPS lost my hard drive a few years ago ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜  along with 10 years of photos…thank goodness I have a habit of saving my Instagram images to dropbox, at least I have some photos saved.

Maidstone has oodles of history

Maidstone is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book (and in my Project 101๐Ÿ˜‰) https://opendomesday.org/place/TQ7555/maidstone/

The Palace was absolutely stunning and although I would have loved the Queen to preside ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘ธ๐Ÿป I believe she was otherwise engaged and sent her apologies ๐Ÿ˜‰

Queenie, I was depending on you to be there!! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ and yes, copyright of this image belongs to the BBC ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™„

We had a superb day, and were amazed at how many different nationalities were swearing their allegiance to the Queen and new country. There were a number of South Africans, as well as people from Russia and the USA amongst a whole world of other nations.

Me and my girl โคโค
The ceremonial ‘room’

After the ceremony which frankly passed in a blur of nerves….we went off and celebrated the only way you should, and how we celebrate best….with pancakes and ice-cream ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿคซ๐Ÿคซ

The only way to celebrate..pancakes and ice-cream – is there any other way??

Once the official stuff was out the way I could apply for my UK passport, and as soon as I received it….

Received my passport in March 2016 and should have said 15th anniversary ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ never mind, I’m still here 5 years later, so somewhere along the way I had my 17th
anniversary ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

….the first thing I did was book a trip to France on the ferry so I could see the White Cliffs of Dover for real.

Just noticed that I inadvertently captured that lady in my photo ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ doesn’t she look pleased!!

There was nothing stopping me from taking the trip before, but it just made sense to do it then. And so it was that on the 2nd April 2016 I set sail for France!! Doesn’t that sound so adventurous!! ‘Set sail for France’….invokes images of days of yore when boats had sails…in reality the ferry had engines and we didn’t ‘sail’ so much as chuggg across the channel (which I’ve now swum – virtually of course ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ)

On the ferry to France ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ต
02.04.2016 and I finally saw the White Cliffs of Dover from the sea ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

I’ve since seen them from the air from a Spitfire flight my daughter gifted me for my birthday in 2018, and walked across the top last year in September.

I had a marvellous day meandering the streets of Calais and explored every nook and cranny I had time for, and then I bought some French pastries and headed back to the ferry…UK bound once again. I thought Calais was charmingly tatty….and really interesting.

The cream always looks more yummy than it tastes ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Later that month my daughter and I took a trip on the Eurostar to Paris for the day.

I love Paris in the spring time…
24.04.2016

It was so exciting to use my passport for the first time as a bonafide EU citizen, although sadly it’s now redundant.๐Ÿ˜ช๐Ÿ˜ช

Hmmmm ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”

And now my daughter is my keeper of memories and reminded me that it’s my 5th anniversary today….๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿพ

And if you can bear it, a video of the White Cliffs from the ferry….I was just a tad emotional ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚โ˜บ

The White Cliffs of Dover 02.04.2016

And at the rate the east coast is being eaten away by the sea, it won’t look the same when my grandson reaches the age of 61!!!

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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 ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

This final stage took me to the summit of Mt. Fuji, and apparently some of the best views….wish I was there for real ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ”๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

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. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘ 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? ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”

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 ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ 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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May we never see you again

Trump’s presidency: a lesson in the true meaning of ‘American carnage’ | Donald Trump | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/19/donald-trump-reality-tv-presidency-dark-legacy

โ€œAnd beyond that he is, in my view, the most horrible human being who has ever sat in the Oval Office. In addition to being the worst president, heโ€™s a terrible person. What a combination. I hope weโ€™ve learned this lesson. This ought to remind all Americans what happens when you make a mistake with your vote.โ€

And thank the dear lord he’s on his way…..hopefully never to he seen again

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I’m a huge fan of jigsaw puzzles, and love to open up a new box and build….

But I daren’t do that too often because I get quite obsessive about finishing it and all my free time is absorbed by the next piece….

However, at my current booking I have quite a bit of free time outside of my breaks. So I’ve tackled two so far.

The first one was easy…and I finished it in a few hours over a few days.

The colours of this were fantastic – quite Frida Kahlo.

But the 2nd one was a %@$# challenge – tiny pieces with so much detail and who knew there were 5 shades of snow ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

A pretty snow scene, but lordy!!!

I nearly packed it up 3 times, but persevered and finally finished.

There are another 2 boxes staring at me…trying to tempt me, but I’m ignoring them!! ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ

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In my job I get to travel frequently, usually to different parts of the country, and seldom to the same place – unless I choose to return to the same client, which doesn’t often happen.

I was meant to be working with a regular client in Nether Stowey till 21st December, but as it turns out, I’m not. I am however still in Somerset, in a town called Shepton Mallet which is close to Castle Cary and the cathedral city of Wells.

When I’m given a new assignment I usually (not always) do a bit of research so I know what I’m getting into and if there’s anything of interest. As it turns out Shepton Mallet is mentioned in the Domesday Book as: Sceapton

Besides that, according to wikipedia the River Sheppey runs through the town, as does the route of the Fosse Way, the main Roman road into south-west England. There is evidence of Roman settlement. Its medieval parish church is among many listed buildings. Shepton Mallet Prison was England’s oldest until it closed in March 2013

So much to see and investigate.

After a 5.5 hour train journey I arrived quite late Saturday afternoon in Castle Cary (nearest rail station) and we soon arrived in SM. There are always surprises to be had when you arrive in a new place, and one of the first was an enormous Tesco’s store!! Really? In such a small town?

the 2nd surprise was that its a very hilly area…which considering its location in the Mendip Hills shouldn’t have been a surprise, but there you go.

A very hilly area

The 3rd surprise was how grey it is. Just about every building is built of grey stone, and of course being winter, the weather is also grey…so my spirits were a little dampened. Although to be fair the day was quite sunny with blue skies on Sunday.

Blue skies

I had visions of a medieval town with old Tudor buildings and interesting architecture. ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

Very grey

But I’ve given it a good go and during my breaks over the last 2 days I’ve walked here and there and pretty much covered the whole town and then some.

A grey misty day 30.11.20
Exploring the lanes
Splashes of colour – the cottage at the bottom right dates from 1750

So in a nutshell: Shepton Mallet

1. Domesday Book village
2. The old Roman Road known as the Fosse Way runs through the town
3. The Market Cross dates back to 1500
4. The name Shepton Mallet derives from Saxon times when it was known as Sepetone.
5. The current spelling is recorded at least as far back as 1496, in a letter from Henry VII. 
6. The Romans had a trading centre here along the Fosseway
7. In Norman times William Mallet became Lord of the Manor – hence the second part of the name
8. During the Middle Ages the town grew as a wool trading centre
9. The town is home to the country’s oldest working goal (closed 2013).
10. Shepton Mallet is home to Babycham
11. The River Sheppey runs through the town

A section of the Roman Fosseway
The Market Cross
The Market Cross
Medieval Church
Shepton Mallet prison – closed 2013
Home of Babycham
Lest We Forget – I saw these on various houses โคโคโคโคโค
The River Sheppy near the centre of town
The river flowing past the Mill House
The river flows through the countryside

I loved these decorative window sills at the library

A real splash of colour near the Market Cross
Shepton Mallet has its own ‘twittens’

I’ve pretty much walked along most of the roads in the town centre, so I’m hoping to expand my horizons and set off along the East Mendip Way – depending on how muddy it is.

The bonus of course is that I can add the town to Project 101…. Domesday Book = 149 and rivers visited = 64

So a little more than a nutshell ๐Ÿ˜‰

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