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Posts Tagged ‘conqueror virtual challenges 2021’

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

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 ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

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 ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธalong the NCP!!!

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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 ๐Ÿ“

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 ๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿป) covered 9 kms…most of which he was sitting on my shoulders. Entered my kms to the Conqueror Kruger Park challenge and boom ๐Ÿ’ฅ another post card!! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

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 Pelโ€™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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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.  Mpandeโ€™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 Rorkeโ€™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 Cetshwayoโ€™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 Hluhluweโ€“iMfolozi Park, this small town is known for its big game, national parks and production of 95% of South Africaโ€™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 โ€œdifferent ecosystems within the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlandsโ€.  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 lakeโ€™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… ๐Ÿ™‚

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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How could I resist? And before you go rolling your eyes at me and shaking your head ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜…. to be fair I resisted the allure of the Cote d’Azur and left Athens to the Olympians, but this one I had to have…it’s stunning, and only 66kms, I could do that in 3 days…but probably won’t, more likely 5 days or so…

However, I am going to do it asap….because I want that medal!!!

Flower Route Virtual Challenge

The sails actually move and there’s a dial at the back which changes the scene…one if their best imo.

Tulips, hyacinths, narcissi, or daffodils โ€” from Haarlem all the way to the Naaldwijk; 66km (41 miles) through scenic landscapes, blooming flower fields along rivers, villages, and iconic windmills of the Netherlands. How could I resist??

Now all I have to do is decide which area I want to walk in in order to complete the challenge….I’d like it to be something related to spring, with lots of tulips! Why not “tulips in Amsterdam?” ๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒท I hear you asking, and truly…I’d love to hop on a plane or train (probably train) and go to the Netherlands and walk amongst the tulips for a few days while doing the challenge…but you know….covid and brexit. ugh.

Of course we have wonderful gardens in the UK with tulips galore…I saw these in London in April while walking Stage 2 of the Thames Path

๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒท the Flower Route; Conqueror Virtual Challenge

I shall have to see how things are in spring…if EU is out of the question, then perhaps I shall have to do some research and see where I can enjoy some flowery scenes while walking in the UK. These are some options I have found meanwhile, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for their open days in 2022 and try squeeze in one or two….awesome!!!! https://ngs.org.uk/plan-a-visit/tulip-gardens/

Not that it would be cheaper to travel to these places in the UK than flying to the Netherlands…but hey, I can’t be bothered with having to get visas etc. Although of course, I may well change my mind closer to the time. Seeing the tulip fields in the Netherlands has long been a dream of mine. My daughter and I did in fact travel over one year last decade to see the tulip fields, but went about 2 weeks too early….so we missed them and I’ve just never managed to get back…

Maybe, just maybe….

So wish me luck!! Both for travelling to the EU and walking the challenge. I have a few options in mind…

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After a few weeks of intensive planning and calculating distances and studying the terrain via Google satellite maps, I am almost ready to rock and roll along the Northumbrian coast as I walk the Northumberland Coast Path from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell – the official route.

Of course, because I’m just that way ๐Ÿ™„ I’ve decided to tweak the route and add on a few kms!! After all, why not? It’s only 100 kms, I’ve done way more than that on other walks, so yeah….I’ve planned my route to include the stretch from the border of Scotland at Marshall Meadows to Berwick Upon Tweed and since I’m going that way anyway, I’ll keep walking from Cresswell to Newcastle….not all on one day mind!!!

So whew, I’m now VERY familiar with the Northumbrian coast…I know just about every town on the route and the distances between – slight exaggeration of course, but it sure feels like it.

What’s not an exaggeration is how much time I’ve invested in searching for suitable places to stay that are not too far apart and not going to cost me a month’s salary for 1 night!! Exaggeration of course but some of those places do charge more than I earn in a day…

Google maps, Booking.com, Airbnb and I have all worked overtime since I decided on impulse to leave St Oswald’s Way and St Cuthbert’s Way for 2022 when I do the Two Saints Way (different saints), and instead walk the NCP as part of my quest to walk the whole of the English Coast – since I’m up that way anyway for my other big walk.

My train ticket is booked, my accommodation is now finally booked, I’ve identified bus routes for getting to and from stop/start points, and I’ve identified some of the must see sights.

There are a lot of castles and rivers and a few islands. Plus the coastline is a UNESCO heritage site (I think???) I’m sure I read somewhere that it was, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to find where I read it, so may just have to let that go, but it looks like I’ll be adding quite a few places to Project 101.

In the interim I got my official guidebook and passport ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘ and that was well exciting.

It’s been really tedious working this plan. You’d think that with the sea to my left and heading from north to south it would be a breeze to plan my days, but no!!

Accommodation has been a huge stumbling block. I figured I would aim for approximately 20kms a day or as close as possible, but because I couldn’t find affordable accommodation in some places, a few of my days are a bit of a yo-yo.

But yesterday I finally nailed it. Hoorah!!!

So 3 nights in Berwick Upon Tweed with 2 day trips: 1 to Lindisfarne and 1 to Bamburgh Castle and some walking to cover that part of the coast inbetween, then on day 4 I hit the road, so to speak.

I’ll be adding my kms to the Kruger Park Virtual Challenge since I need to complete that by the end of September.

I’ll pop up another post in a few days with more details, but for now…

…..all I have to do is keep my fingers crossed that we don’t go into another lockdown…

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OK so before you say “oh no, not another one!” have a look at the medal and tell me I should have resisted ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜โค๐Ÿ…

https://fb.watch/6keM2OmNON/ it’s absolutely beautiful!!

My bib number

Despite being absolutely prepared, primed and ready to go at 07:55 for their 8am release, I still didn’t get the #1 bib ๐Ÿฅบ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฅ Fear not…one day!! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

I didn’t buy the Cote D’Azur challenge earlier this month because I really and truly thought I had enough already…

However…..I’ve been hoping for a Scottish challenge and voted for the West Highland Way since I’ll be walking that next year (if we’re not in lockdown), but just 2 days ago my daughter messaged me to say we must plan a family campervan holiday for next year and do the NC500. So I guess it was destiny!! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ”ฎ

Just wow

How could I resist? I am totally not sure WHEN I’m going to do this particular challenge…probably next year. I have 2 on the go : Ring Road in Iceland and The Cabot Trail in Canada, and 4 waiting in the wings…now 5 – a total of 2,248.8 kms. Plus I’m walking my way through my Conquer 2021 challenge which is 2,600 km…hmmm.

Someone on the Facebook page suggested we set up an addicts group ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿคซ

At this rate I’ll be walking the distance to the ๐ŸŒ™๐ŸŒš

Anyway, ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Eish!!

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After walking Stage 6 of the Thames Path on Friday I stayed overnight in Windsor to watch the Queen’s Birthday Parade on Saturday morning.

Arriving in Windsor…time for an ice-cream ๐Ÿ˜

Albeit a muted affair in comparison to the usual London events, it was still very exciting to see the Queen’s Horse Guards, the Blues and Royals and of course my favourite; the King’s Troop Royal Artillery.

Horse Guards
King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery

A massive bonus was the Red Arrows flypast – as always just thrilling and wowwed the crowds. It’s so endearing how there’s a collective scream of excitement and much cheering as they approach and clapping after the planes have flown over.

The Red Arrows – always a favourite at these events

I had decided to walk back into town via The Long Walk and find a good vantage point to watch.

It was just luck that I was on the Long Walk. When I got there I saw all the police lined up along the route and after chatting to one of them I discovered that the troops were not going through the town as I thought, but along the Long Walkโ€ฆso I stayed. Major awesome.

I also got interviewed by LBC but not sure if they used the footageโ€ฆhowever these 2 were pure gold!! So serious, so patriotic and very very clearly absolute Monarchists. Loved The Queen, they even sang happy birthday….๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„โค

God Save The Queen ๐Ÿ‘ธโค

After all the excitement, I went searching for a 3G store to have them charge my phone before I set off to Maidenhead on Stage 7….and not only did I have my phone charged (the battery on the Samsung A40 has always been pathetic, but I ended up with a new contract; Samsung Galaxy A52 and a tablet with dock and Alexa built in ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Did I really need this?? ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช the tablet will make a huge difference to my life – as soon as I figure out how it works ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜
The lopsided house – used to be a tea-room
A quirky bull
All The Queen’s Swans

I had a brilliant visit, chatting about conspiracy theories, the Pyramids and secret societies…the staff 3 Store at Windsor are just amazing and really friendly. Meanwhile they transferred all my data to the new phone, but I left so late that I missed my connection at Maidenhead and only got home at 22:45 ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด

A long but brilliant day. The mileage for these two stages will ho towards The Cabot Trail virtual challenge…looking forward to the next postcard. Meanwhile the last postcard was gorgeous

Today I’m in Deal with my grandson ๐Ÿ’™ (who is currently fast asleep in his pram) to visit Deal and Walmer Castles, both of which are open today…hoorah.

It’s a gorgeous day in Kent, I hope it’s good wherever you are. Enjoy your day.

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I uploaded my kms to the Conqueror app after completing Stage 3 and boom…all 3 postcards popped up in my mailbox in one go. I should have uploaded them as I went, but I guess it doesn’t really matter…

A mix of Scottish and French….

Virtual walk along the Cabot Trail in Canada

I made it to Ingonish on the north-east coast of Cape Breton. Made up of 5 small communities, their economy centres around tourism and fishing.

Golf seems to prevail and the nearby Highland Links Golf Course regularly ranks in the Top 10 golf courses in Canada. The Scottish influence is evident in holes named Heich O’ Fash, meaning Heap of Trouble and Killiecrankie, which is a long narrow pass in the Scottish Highlands and played a significant role in the Battle of Killiecrankie during the 1689 Jacobite Rebellion. Many of the fairways resemble the Scottish topography but the original designer, Stanley Thompson, just called it his “mountain and oceans course” and established himself as the finest golf course architect in Canada.

Next to the golf course is Keltic Lodge which was originally built in 1910 as a summer retreat for the Corson family who owned the land at the time. When the Cape Breton Highlands National Park was developed the Nova Scotia government saw the value of the headland where the lodge was situated and purchased the land from the Corson’s. By 1951 the new Keltic Lodge was constructed providing accommodation services to the area.

Just beyond the Keltic Lodge is the Middle Head Peninsula hiking trail. It is a 3.8km trail that follows a narrow peninsula with ocean bays on either side, finishing on headland cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with views of Cape Smokey Provincial Park to the right and Ingonish Island to the left.

For any ocean enthusiast there is a unique opportunity to swim in both freshwater and saltwater in the same area. At Ingonish Beach the saltwater is off a white sandy beach on one side and the other is the freshwater swimming hole created by waves piling up rocks creating a barrier which then cornered off a cove from the ocean and over time filled with freshwater.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like a swim a boat cruise during the summer months provides for excellent opportunities to see various types of whales, dolphins, seals and puffins.

The wild swimming sounds glorious!! I’d do both if I had the opportunity; wild swimming and the boat cruise.

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This section sounds amazing, all those wonderful artisan items to see. How cute are these puffins ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š My virtual journey is almost as exciting as my real time walk along the Thames Path. Whilst I didn’t see any puffins on my walk, I did see a few herons and lots of our delightful British spring visitors.

Virtual walk along the Cabot Trail in Canada

I am making my way along St Ann’s Bay on the east coast of the trail and it should probably be called “Artisan Coast” because from the tiny rural community of St Ann all the way up to Wreck Cove it is one long list of artisan shops, galleries and studios offering items made of clay, glass, leather, pewter, iron, paint, fibre and canvas.

St Ann is one of the oldest settlements in North America. It acquired its Gaelic roots when the Scottish Reverend Norman McLeod on his way to Ohio was forced ashore during a storm. He setup his ministry and was soon followed by boatloads of Scots from the motherland becoming the first Scots in St Ann. He eventually immigrated to New Zealand with many of his followers and his property in St Ann is today occupied by the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts.

Whilst I visited the Gaelic College, I came across another book called Letters to Mac-Talla from John Munro, A Cape Breton Gael in New Zealand 1894-1902, and it is a humorous compilation of 32 letters written home to Nova Scotia. Having lived for 40 years in Nova Scotia, together with 900 fellow Highlanders, John sailed to New Zealand where he spent the next 40 years. In his letters he wrote about St Ann’s history, the Mi’kmaq (local indigenous people), first contact with Europeans, the French Occupation, the local flora and fauna along with his experience in New Zealand, the Maori and his fellow Scots.

The nearby Great Hall of Clan Museum took me on a journey of the early settlers from the Highlands of Scotland to their evolution into a Cape Breton way of life and Rev. Norman McLeod’s journey from Scotland to St Ann to Waipu, New Zealand.

I enjoyed the link with the recent New Zealand virtual challenge I completedโ€ฆwe definitely need a virtual challenge based in Scotland โ€ฆ.

What these places we ‘visit ‘ while processing along these virtual challenges, is that we ‘Europeans’ are all immigrants.

I also find them so enticing…I’d love to visit in real time too ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

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I decided to follow the virtual Cabot Trail while walking the Thames Path. I was hoping to complete the whole 299kms, both the Thames Path and the Cabot Trail together as the distances were almost the same, but as mentioned before, lockdown rules decreed otherwise. I decided to activate the Conqueror challenge anyway and then link it to other walks I do as I go…for variety. After uploading my 1st day’s walking I received my first postcard; way less mileage than I walked in real life, but I’m on my way:

Virtual walk along the Cabot Trail in Canada

I finally made it to Cape Breton Island, Canada. Having crossed Canso Causeway from Nova Scotia I made my way to the township of Baddeck. Here I’ll commence my Cabot Trail journey, a 298km (185mi) loop around the northernmost part of the island.

The Cabot Trail was constructed in 1932 passing through and along Cape Breton Highlands. It was named after John Cabot who is thought to have landed here in 1497 but historians think he most likely landed in Newfoundland instead.

Baddeck is the start and end of the Cabot Trail. It is a bustling resort community established in the mid-1800s as French and British Settlements. Today it is awash with festivals and events celebrating Aviation Day, Celtic Music Festival, relay races, Regattas and Ceildihs (Scottish/Irish folk music, singing, dancing and storytelling). Baddeck is also a haven for golf enthusiasts, horseback riding and boat chartering.

Baddeck sits on the northern shores of Bras d’Or Lake which is connected to the Atlantic Ocean making this large body of water both fresh and salt water. The lake is 100km (62mi) long and 50km (31mi) wide with six rivers emptying into it. Popular with summertime boating, there’s a long standing tradition of sailboat racing. Various yacht clubs host annual regattas and race weeks.

I’m told that Baddeck became a tourist destination after Charles Dudley Warner wrote a travel journal about his visit to the area in his 1874 publication of Baddeck, And That Sort of Thing. Although, I hear that many locals at the time weren’t impressed with his description of the people as backward and simple. I may drop into the local library and have a scan of the book.

How much I would love to be able to do all these virtual walks for real…we do get to travel (virtually) to some amazing places.

If you missed the first leg of my walk along the Thames Path, fear not…click here for Stage 1a and you can catch up with my journey.

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