Thursday, January 29, 2009

I spoke too soon ...

Yet another cancellation.  What a bummer: Jo and I were really looking forward to getting away today.  Oh well.  So we've cancelled the eye test and the hotel and we're settling down to see out eh storm.  We'll try again on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dreams don't come cheap.

We hardly seem to be away from the place at the moment. It's off to
Oban in the morning for Jo and myself. The purpose of tomorrow's trip
is so that I can go get my eyes tested and probably get new specs.
It's only a year since my last eye test but I think I need another
test. While I'm there I'll visit a few outdoors shops as I still have
a few items I need for the trip to Nepal in April.

The company arranging my trip still haven't managed to book my flight
to Kathmandu because the airline company - Gulf Air - haven't
published their prices yet. But we've decided to at least book my
flight from Glasgow to Heathrow. I'll fly down south on the 9TH
April. Unfortunately, doing it this way means that I'll have to
re-check my luggage at Heathrow but KE Travel feel we should at least
get the ball rolling.

This also means that I can go ahead and arrange my travel insurance.
Travel insurance is absolutely essential on a trip to Everest Base
Camp and there are companies who specialise in the kind of trek I'll
be undertaking. If you fall seriously ill on one of these treks the
only way to get you out of there is by chopper. After that there
could be hospital and doctors' bills to pay. Then perhaps an early
flight home. All in all, such a catastrophe could run into thousands.
In fact, KE Travel won't even take you on without proof that you've
insured yourself against this kind of eventuality.

A long cherished dream, this Everest Base Camp thing. Sometimes dreams don't come cheap.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Drive Way Done!

Yesterday was a great day, wasn't it? The sun came out and stayed out. I took advantage of this to get out back and finish off the drive. This is the project I began in July so no-one can accuse me of rushing the job. I don't feel too bad about it, though. Apart from getting one of our friends with a digger to come and scrape off the surface for us Jo and I did it all by ourselves, no small feat when you consider the area concerned.

I like to approach these tasks in a zen-like manner. Plenty of stops to consider what I'm doing, you know?

For all of yesterday's hard work I was accompanied by next door's dog, Guinness. Guinness is getting on a bit now but she'll chase a ball until the sun goes down. When I was shovelling and laying she would drop her little toy at my feet, gaze longingly at it and then appealingly up at me.

If I was shovelling into the barrow and she thought I was taking too long or ignoring her she would drop the toy into the barrow itself. Clever.

In the afternoon, Jo and I met up with Fifi and her daughter Kathleen and went for a short walk in the afternoon sun. It really was such a lovely day. But we had to keep leaving the road and stand on the grass to let vehicles pass! Kathleen (4 years old) and I have decided to put an advert in An Tirisdeach to say that when we're out for a walk no-one is allowed to drive their cars.

I forgot to mention that last Saturday we had another great coastal walk with Caroline. This time we started at Salum, along to Miodar, Caoles and back to Salum. All in all about 3.5 miles but taken at a saunter. We were very grateful to Caroline for taking us on this route. I'm amazed that, after 15 years living here, there are still new parts of Tiree to discover.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eating/New Zealanders/Loganair

Joanne and I used to visit Fiona and Mark's cafe at An Talla on a fairly frequent basis.  Even though they moved from there and opened their own Farmhouse Cafe in Balemartine some two months ago it's taken us all this time to visit.  Well, that's not altogether true.  We've tried to go there for a meal on a couple of occasions but yours truly kept getting the cafe winter opening times wrong.  Anyway, we visited today.  The food's as good as ever but my, oh, my, were we impressed with the work this young couple have put into converting what I think as a barn into a top-notch eatery.  The decor and design of the cafe is faultless, light and airy, modern yet tasteful.  When we went down today the place was fairly buzzing, a testament to the continued popularity of their food but also, I am sure, because the cafe exudes an air of quality and relaxed efficiency.  The Farmhouse Cafe is only open two days in the winter season - Friday and Saturday - and if you haven't checked it out yet you really must.

I have my Google account set up to send me alerts when Tiree is mentioned on the world wide web.  Today there was a mention of a visit to Tiree by a couple from New Zealand named Kent and Eryn.  I read some of their blog, all about a recent trip around Scotland, including Tiree.  In the first paragraph of their latest entry Joanne and I are mentioned - as 'a lovely couple' who gave them a lift from the ferry and waited outside MacLeod's while they got some supplies in.  Another indication of just how incredible is the world wide web.  I've been called many things in my life - not all of them complimentary - but I don't recall ever being called 'lovely' before.  Well, there's a first time for everything.  Anyway, you can follow Kent and Eryn's trip to Scotland - including their time on Tiree - HERE.  Actually, Kent and Eryn struck us as a very nice young couple and I'm glad to have stumbled across their blog.

I see Loganair have been successful in their tender to retain the Tiree air connection until 2013, which must be good news for the island.  Tranport Minister Stewart Stevenson told the press 'I am delighted that we have managed to secure the continuation of these vital services for the communities of Campbeltown, Barra and Tiree.  These services are a lifeline and provide a direct link to employment, education and social activity for the people of Argyll and the islands.  Access to affordable and regular transport services is essential, particularly in these challenging economic times.'

Finally, thanks to everyone who wrote to say they appreciated the comments on this blog about the passing of Alasdair Sinclair.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Beam me up Scotty

January on the Isle of Tiree.  Every year at this time I wish I could be whisked off to Australia or New Zealand.  Like in Star Trek, where you get beamed from the ship to wherever you like, in the twinkling of an eye.  If I had the choice I'd rather be anywhere dry and calm at the moment.

A strange thing for me to say, you may think.  After all, I've signed up to go to Everest Base Camp in April.  It's not exactly tropical weather there either.  But that's different.

Here, the main thing that's getting me down is the lack of opportunity to go out and get some training.  I need to start doing some exercise on Ben Hough or Ben Hynish, anything that involves going up.  At the moment, however, our Tiree 'hills' are a quagmire.

In the meantime, I've been getting more gear together.  The jacket featured today is my latest purchase, a Mountain Hard Wear Sub-Zero jacket.  This was recommended to me by my friend Jon Miller of The Rest of Everest Video Podcast.  He's been to the area, oh, twice now I reckon and he's heading out there again in May leading a party of photographers on a trek to - yes, you guessed it - Everest Base Camp.  (Sadly, we're going to miss each other by only about a week.)  I wrote to him and told him I was dismayed to see that most down jackets - essential for getting through the night in the cold of high altitude - seemed to cost somewhere between £200 - £300.  Jon soon put me right: the Sub-Zero is the jacket he's been using for years and it's nowhere as expensive as the ones I'd been looking at.

Other recent purchases have included a 4-Season sleeping bag.  This should keep me warm in my tent at night.  It is effective to temperatures of -12 centigrade (about 10.4 degrees fahrenheit).  I read an interesting BBC blog a little while ago about a lady who went to Everest Base Camp. She spoke about going into her sleeping bag at night with all her clothes on.

I may not have mentioned it before but almost all the overnight stops on the trip will be spent in tents.  I'll be sharing with another single male.

In case you're interested, here's the itinerary for my trip, lifted from KE Travel's brochure:

Day 1. Rendezvous at the group hotel in Kathmandu. Complimentary airport transfers are provided. KE group package services begin with the evening meal.

Day 2. An early start for the dramatic flight through the mountains to Lukla. After lunch we have a short trek to our first night's halt at Phakding (2610m. / 8563ft.). Camp.

Day 3. Following the Dudh Kosi valley upstream we cross and re-cross the river before making a final steep climb to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar (340m. / 11,155ft.). Camp.

Day 4. A rest day at Namche for acclimatisation. There is the option of a day hike to the Sherpa villages of Khumjung and Kunde for views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Camp.

Day 5. Our trail now follows the Imja Khola (river) to reach Thyangboche (3860m. /12,665ft.), located on a ridge below the impressive north ridge of Kang Taiga . Camp.

Day 6. We trek via the last permanent habitation of Pangboche to the seasonal settlement of Dingboche (4410m. / 14,470ft.) at the entrance to the Khumbu Valley. Camp.

Day 7. We make a day hike into the upper Imja Valley, to Chukkung (4730m. / 15,518ft.) below the tremendous 3,000 metre south face of Lhotse. After lunch we return to Dingboche. Camp.

Day 8. Continuing on the main trail we trek via Dugla and then beside the Khumbu Glacier to Lobuche (4910m. / 16,110ft.). Camp.

Day 9. We walk beside the Khumbu glacier and cross a tributory dry glacier to reach the Yak pastures at Gorak Shep. (5140m. / 16,865ft.) Camp.

Day 10. The big day as we trek to Everest Basecamp following first the moraine then the Khumbu Glacier itself. We then retrace our steps to Gorak Shep. Camp.

Day 11. Our camp is at the foot of Kala Patar and we make an early morning ascent of this classic Everest viewpoint to around 5500m. / 18,000ft. Afterwards we descend to Pheriche (4270m. / 14,000ft.). Camp.

Day 12. Our return trek follows the main base camp trail via Pangboche to Thyangboche (3860m. / 12,664ft.). Camp.

Day 13. We return to Namche Bazaar and continue to the village of Monjo close to the entrance of the Sagamatha National Park. Camp.

Day 14. Mostly downhill today following the fall of the Dudh Kosi river, but there's a sting in the tail as we make the final short climb to Lukla. Camp.

Day 15. Taking a morning flight to Kathmandu, we will have plenty of time after lunch for further sightseeing or shopping. Hotel.

Day 16. KE group package services end after lunch. Complimentary airport transfers are provided.

I can't wait.  There's so much to be done between now and then but even so I'm looking forward to it so much!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Alasdair Sinclair

It was with sadness that I heard of the passing of Alasdair Sinclair at the age of 85. I didn't know Alasdair all that well - in fact, I didn' know him at all until An Iodhlann came into being. However, what I do know is that his commitment to the island archive and museum was total, his understanding of the island's history simply remarkable. He was a veritable font of knowledge and the patience and detail with which he answered queries from personal callers and correspondents to An Iodhlann made him something of a legend in his own lifetime. Islanders unfamiliar with the work of An Iodhlann may be surprised to know that Alasdair's fame had spread to the four corners of the globe and that he was admired and by hundreds of people worldwide. A quiet, modest and unassuming gentleman, Alasdair will be greatly missed.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Getting Serious.

I've spent the past couple of days getting gear together for my Everest Basecamp Trek.  It won't be all that long until April so it's time to get serious.  I've sent off for new hiking boots, a four season sleeping bag and a Mountain Hardwear down jacket.  My friend in Fort Collins, Colorado, Jon Miller, he of The Rest of Everest Video Podcast, set my mind at ease by reassuring me I did not have to spend £300 on a down jacket (phew!) and he also sent me a great check list of what I should think about taking with me.

Considering the whole experience will take place over 15 days the cost of this trip is ... well, let's say it's not cheap.  Every now and then, through a combination of guilt and good old Scottish frugality, I mention this to Joanne.  She always reassures me by pointing out that this is a once in a lifetime event, something I've always wanted to do and that I had better get it done while I still can.

The other thing I have started to address is my fitness levels.  Okay, okay, I ran a marathon back in October and I'm probably quite fit for my age but resting on my laurels isn't the way I'm going to get through this trek.  So I've started an intensive walking programme this week and I hope to start incorporating climbing our modest hills over on the west end of the island next week.  I'll get back into jogging soon but to tell you the truth I've been feeling a bit of a twinge in my right knee so I'd better proceed with caution.

While I was out walking today I took along a neat little device, a microphone that fits into my iPod Nano.  It makes fantastic 'on the move' recordings.  As I mentioned a couple of posts back I am thinking about changing the format of this here blog, perhaps moving into podcasting.  As I'm training for Everest Basecamp the theme of the podcast will probably be my preparations for the trek and then recording on the trek itself.  And, of course, there will be bits and pieces about Tiree.  So, we'll see.   The idea needs some development.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Queen's Police Medal for Tiree's Danny

Recently retired Tiree police constable Danny Lapsley has been awarded the Queen's Police Medal.

Danny joined Strathclyde Police in 1978 and served in a number of posts around Ayrshire before moving to the islands of Tiree and Coll, the remotest part of the Strathclyde police area, in 1993 ... (more)

Defenders and a Jo Update

The end of last week was quite hectic for us.  First of all, there was The Defenders gig on Friday 2nd.  Then the next morning, Saturday, Jo and I had to get on the ferry for Oban so that she could have her arm X-rayed.  We got back yesterday, Tuesday.

So, first of all, the gig.  It went well.  The first half was a bit lacking in atmosphere but we started fairly early in the evening - about 9.45.  By the time we came back on at around 11.30 the audience was up for it.  The floor was absolutely jam packed for that second set and everyone seemed to have a great time.  It was not the wildest of Defenders gigs, I have to admit.  But remember, this was a family night and the kids that were there seemed to have a great time. 

And what did The Defenders make of their return to the stage?  We were pretty pleased it had all gone so well bearing in mind we only really had two and a half rehearsals beforehand.  And even that's not such a straight-forward statement: during the first rehearsal our bass player Iain could not make it; in the second one of us had succumbed to Tiree 'Flu and was not able to play at his best; and the third rehearsal saw the lights go out due to a power cut about half an hour in.  Even so, we were pretty good, though I say it myself. Rock 'n' Roll on Tiree is alive and kicking.

On Saturday we got to Oban and went straight up to the hospital.  And examination and a X-Ray revealed that Jo has a small fracture on her elbow.  There's not much that can be done about it other than keep her arm still and rest it for a fortnight.  All in all it will take an estimated five weeks to fully recover.  The folks at the hospital A & E Department were great.

Today I have a couple of outside projects in mind, maybe get that darn drive finished for a start.  And I have to put a training schedule together to get ready for April.  And lose some weight again.  Oh, and I need to make a plan for my man shed ...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Videoblog: Happy New Year from the Isle of Tiree

A low quality phone-cam on a high quality day on Tiree. Joanne tells the story of her latest medical mishap.