And we’re off!

Holy moly, can’t actually believe that it’s finally come around! We had a great send off at the Crown on Saturday night, a huge thanks to The Mojo Mechanics who donated all the proceeds of the gig to Annie’s Challenge!

Saying goodbye to the family at Harwich was a tough one, although filled with hope!

But, we’re off to a flyer, we’ve managed to put about 20 miles between us and Hook of Holland! We’ve hit Rotterdam and after refuelling with a big lunch of omelette and chips we’re ready to kick on!

We haven’t been blessed with the finest of weather and last night was a little damp… But spirits are high and we’re excited as to what Holland has to offer! Although the idea of no shower until Cologne isn’t filling myself and Henry with much joy…

We’ve uploaded our first Vlog of the walk, exciting! https://youtu.be/if6ZUp-NlGA

We’ll be doing as many of this to show everyone  what we’re up to!

More importantly please please remember why we’re doing this and keep donating, it makes it all worth it!

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Here we are

# The day has come

I can’t actually believe I was sat here writing this, in Kathmandu, finished. There was never a point when we were planning this walk, where I thought we would never finish, I had complete faith, but I could never imagine what it would feel like, I could never picture it my head. How does it feel? Well, amazing obviously, but in truth, for some reason it suddenly feels like we’ve only been away for a month. Go back two months, in the heart of India and I would have said “This has been going on for ever, make it stop”, but now for some reason it doesn’t feel like it’s been all that long. I think somewhere along the next few weeks it’ll hit home, probably when we’ve been back in the UK for a few weeks..

As soon as we entered Nepal, the walking became tough. We hadn’t encountered mountains for a while (apart from out little walking holiday in the mountains a few weeks back) and we’d forgotten what it does to you both mentally and physically. The physical side, well that’s kind of obvious, burning calves, tired quads and hardworking lungs. The mental side? To go up a hill for an hour only for you to go downhill for two hours is probably one of the most frustrating and depressing things to encounter when walking routes like this, I think that’s probably why in Turkey, we were miserable, up down up down up down..

I can’t tell you what it was like to see my family, friends, Henrys family, in the distance as we walked into Durbur square, I thought to myself before, it’s going to be really hard to not cry, I didn’t cry and neither did Henry, I think because there was so much emotion floating around we were just so shell shocked. To be here with my family , in Nepal, is so bizarre, but the nicest kind of bizarre.

You all know why we did this, we did this to raise the profile of one the worst killers of men under 40 and women under 35. Research into brain tumours is so woefully underfunded and that needs to change, by raising the profile and raising cash to go straight to the research programmes.
We did this for sufferers of brain tumours. We did it of course for Annie. So from myself and Henry, for now and from the bottom of our hearts, goodbye and thank you

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Kathmandu-it, do a bit of travelling..

So you might be aware that we are quite ahead of schedule, so much so that we’ve been able to give ourselves a little holiday! It’s a strange feeling, being a conventional traveller, getting on trains, not worrying about checking out at 8 am to get walking and being able to go and sightsee (sightsee is not a word that is in our dictionary, usually).
First stop, Bodhgaya! For those of you who don’t know what Bodhgaya is famous for, I’ll try my best to explain..
You’ve all heard of Buddhism, right? A religion, that’s not really a religion, that bases its beliefs on the teachings attributed to the ‘Buddha’, otherwise known as Siddhartha Gautama. Basically, one of the main pulls of this incredible place is the ‘Bodhi Tree’ where Buddha first attained enlightenment. Along with the Bodhi tree, there’s the Mahabodhi Temple, and with Bodhgaya effectively being the birthplace of Buddhism, it’s pretty much the Hindu equivalent to Mecca. The Mahabodhi Temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage sight, one of 35 in India, adding to the cultural importance of Bodhgaya. It’s an incredible place, with Buddhist Monks, Western tourists, Asian tourists and locals making it a huge mixing pot of different people all being brought together for the same reason, to see where Buddhism was born.
What’s incredible about this town, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or what religion you practise. As we were wondering the grounds of the Temple complex we could hear the Call to Prayer being sung, which of course is part of the Muslim faith. You then have Hindus, Christians, Atheists, whoever, enjoying one of the most spiritual places you’ll ever go in your lifetime.
But, as ever, these sights are plagued with commercialism and it made me a little sad that a lot of people here are exploiting the tourists, it almost takes away the nature and the the core of the town. I suppose, people have to make a living. Tourism, will continue to be key in areas like this, for upkeep and education.
It’s so nice to be able take a step back from walking, to be able to go and look at these places. Going to India is, for anyone, quite a big trip financially and time wise and so chances are we might not be able to come back here. It would be such a waste to be so close to somewhere like Bodhgaya and not go and have a look and take in the atmosphere.
As I’m sat here writing this I find myself on the roof top of a hostel in the incredible Varanasi. We arrived yesterday after a horrific 8 hour train ride (bearing in mind the journey was only 250 Km), luckily the owner is an absolute gent and cooked us up an omelette each! The next few days will be spent exploring the city, and on the 13th taking in the carnage that is ‘Holi Festival’, I’ll keep ya posted!

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Hectic, Beautiful and Noisy..

I seemed to have slipped back into the old habit of being lazy and not writing up blogs.. A shame, because now we are so close to the finish, but hey, we have our vlogs and they’re pretty awesome.. In fact really awesome.. You should check them out..
So here we are, on the final home stretch to Kathmandu, a lot has happened and I’m sorry that my failure to write as often as I’d like (and I’m sure you’d like) has meant that you haven’t been able to keep up to date. So, a brief run through of India- we’ve eaten a lot of curry, we’ve had to take a detour because of Maoist separatists and we’ve spent the last 9 weeks dreaming of what we’ll be eating upon our return to the UK. Henrys plumped for Lasagne and I’m verging on roast beef, can’t wait for a glass of red either..
But in all seriousness, India is probably one of the most hectic, beautiful and noisy countries I’ve ever been to, who thought that you could legitimately describe somewhere using those adjectives? Go to India, anywhere in India and you’ll for sure see that it’s all of those things, and more. We’ve been looked after incredibly by so many different people, we’ve been to weddings, we’ve stayed in people’s homes and we’ve even gone back to school (by sleeping there, bad memories of school days for me).What really amazes us, is the fact that we’re two random, filthy, smelly hikers and in reality we could be nasty people, but that doesn’t stop the everyday Indian stopping us for a chat, a glass of chai and on some occasions an invitation into their house for dinner. It’s safe to say, home cooked Indian food is pretty special.
We were lucky enough to experience one of the most crazy atmospheres that either of us will encounter, an Indian wedding. My word, do these guys know how to party. Go to any English wedding party, what will there be? Booze. Go to an Indian wedding, there’ll be no booze but you look around and everyone is having fun, dancing, letting go and it’s incredible to be a part of an experience where alcohol is not even thought about and yet everyone is so incredibly happy. But don’t let me fool you, I love beer, and a wedding with beer (or wine) is ABSOLUTELY fine by me.
One thing, that both Henry and I will NOT miss though, is the constant honking of horns, the incessant, unnecessary, obnoxious use of the horn is something that, no matter how long I spent in India, I’d never be able to get use to. It’s almost as if they do it for the fun of it, just to say “look at me, I’m coming through, out of my way”. Everyone reading this in the U.K. will know that only the angriest of road ragers use the horn, and so every time I hear it used over here I have the split second thought that a fight is going to ensue.
For there, to be only one gripe against a country is pretty incredible. It backs up every positive aspect to this country and makes it somewhere that I’d revisit in a heartbeat. Although, maybe Coco pops for breakfast would be quite nice sometimes…
What next for us? Well, starting from the 2nd March we have 12 days of ‘holiday’ where we’re taking some time off to go and do some touristy stuff (I think more than deserved) first stop, Patna, then on to Gaya and then for a week in what is described as the most spiritual city in India, Varanasi, where we’ll be lucky enough to experience ‘Holi festival’, Google it, its pretty awesome.. Anyways, that’s enough rambling from me, time to get some sleep, in this here hammock of mine.

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India.. is hot…

I’m so very sorry for leaving you on a cliff hanger, although I’m sure that you’ve heard what has happened over the last few weeks! We decided to cycle the rest of Azerbaijan, due to an injury to my (Sam) foot, and toe. After a good start we had made up a good distance, totalling 170 km! After stopping off at around day three of our cycling trip we awoke to find, our bikes had been stolen! We we’re staying at a hotel, and the only conclusion we could come to was that I must have not locked the padlock properly, and someone had taken them.. we checked the hotel CCTV and the cameras didn’t pick anything up, gutted, although probably no more gutted than the people who stole them, as they were really bad bikes Andy by now have probably fallen apart..

Anyway, so where are we now? India! What a place! It truly is stunning and if you haven the got around to coming to this beautiful country then you have to. The people, the food, the culture is just incredible, we have met many kind people and it IT what has kept us going over the last three weeks! When we first arrived, we flew into Chennai and spent Christmas with my cousin and his girlfriend, had curry for Christmas dinner and went swimming in the sea on Christmas morning! That was the last time Wembley properly relaxed, as we’ve just been plugging away to get as many km’s done as possible! We have, been struggling with the weather, it’s so incredibly hot, everyday tipping 30 degrees, meaning we can nevertheless have enough water, but, of course we have to carry that on our backs, which is so heavy! Having said all of that, we have been truly looked after by the Indians, they are so warm and hospitable. We stopped off at a food court this morning and we’re approached by a family, who wanted pictures with us, and a little boy who wanted our autographs! Everyday we get stopped by people, who just want a chat, a selfie and who are just so interested in what we are doing! I think we’re getting a little bit famous, so far we’ve been in two newspapers, from the second paper, we were recognised I think, 16 times? But whose counting…

So, only two months of walking left.. Looking forward to that bacon sandwich and cup of tea…

 

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Oh what an interesting few weeks..

The last time I wrote an entry, we were on the cusp of entering Georgia, not knowing what was lying ahead and we were quite frankly a littlest worried.

The truth? Georgia isn’t scary, Azerbaijan isn’t scary, they’re amazing beautiful places with some of the most welcoming hospitable people I’ve ever met.

First stop of Georgia, Batumi. A resort city with casinos, bars and hotels this is tourist trap of Georgia. The Las Vegas of Georgia I think it’s been referred as, we stopped off for one night in Batumi went out for a couple of beers and hit the road early the next day for a tough 33km day. To make matters worse, I (Sam) had to buy new boots as my second pair had fallen apart in the space of 9 weeks or so, the effects of walking too much I suppose. I then found that not only were my boots falling apart, but so too we’re my feet, and shortly after Batumi I began to feel a sharp shooting pain in my left foot, agonising, I persisted for another week or so, but in the end it was just too much. After having a chat with our doctor the decision was made that the only way it was going to get better was through rest, it was a stress fracture or soft tissue damage.

We got to Tbilisi, the beautiful capital where we then took 8 days, to try and get as much time off our feet, so that my foot would heal (pardon the pun), we then came up with the crazy idea, let’s cycle to Baku? And so, that was the challenge.

We gave ourselves £100 each to go and find bicycles and after much struggling we manage do to find two suitably rubbish bikes, which we then decorated and made them look ridiculous, oh the fun.

The day came to leave on our trusty steeds.. never ever choose to cycle with 20kg packs on your back, it’s rubbish, so so rubbish. The first day, we managed to cover an impressive 60km. But we had crossed the border into Azerbaijan, exciting, they thought we were mad… We were beat, the next day was horrendous. The bruising and the pain, well, we don’t need to go into that… Despite the pain, we managed to cover 75km, reaching the town of Tovus, where we settled down in a hotel for the night. Then, the morning came… To be continued.. because it’s in our next vlog and I don’t want to give it away….

 

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A new challenge awaits..

 

As we draw ever closer to the Georgian border, we are faced with new challenges, which will certainly pose new problems.
Turkey has been a relatively easy country in regards to the people, there has been no evidence of any political issues or any threat from groups such as ISIL who have caused so many issues for the Turks. Camping and walking has been easy and with only one issue involving police and the odd gun shot here and there, we’ve not been given any bother whilst sleeping out under the stars.
Georgia, however is a different proposition. We are lucky enough to be working with a risk analyst firm back in the U.K., and having received their latest report on Georgia it seems that crime is high, especially along the route that we’ll be taking. We seriously questioned whether we should go through Georgia, but after out weighing the cons with the pros, we decided to take the route. I know, that if we hadn’t decided to go through Georgia, we would regret it in the future and whilst there are threats to worry about, you can’t worry, because wherever you go in the world, there will always be people who want to do you harm, but we like to think that there are more people who want to do us good

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P.s if anyone who is reading this is Georgian, please please get in touch!

I’ve acquired some pets…

I’m aware, that this is particularly vile, but I feel as if I should probably share it (it’s Sam btw).. 3/4 nights ago when we last slept in a hotel, I decided to get my sleeping bag out for some extra warmth. Now, this hotel was, let’s say, a fairly low budget one; cold showers, no heating, scratchy sheets and apparently, bed bugs.
Having got my sleeping bed out, it appears that it is now infested with something that enjoys biting me, an awful lot. I’ve got marks on my feet, my ankles, my torso and my arms and they itch like hell! I don’t really know what to do, the bites are driving me mad and actually a little bit sore.
Our next stop is scheduled in a couple of nights time, at a relatively nice hotel, so I presume they’ll do laundry and will be able to wash my sleeping bag. Will washing it get rid of any nasty bugs? Heaven knows, all I know is that I’m itchy and sore and it’s just another problem I really really don’t need..
Oh well at least someone’s getting a good meal tonight (me being the meal and the creatures having a jolly good feed..)

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P.S, we’re wet at cold again and are DEFINITELY trespassing on someone’s land.
PPS. On last pair of dry socks.

Could do with a cup of tea..

I’m sat here, in my hammock writing this entry with a definite shiver on. We’ve had a 29-30 km day today, so nothing out of the ordinary, but at about 3 pm when we set off after a nice restful lunch break, it began to rain, again. Shock. Horror. Honestly, I thought Turkey was meant to be a warm country, I know that it’s autumn, but still, rain? Shivering? Hello hyperthermia.. Both of our jackets are soaked, and normally we’d sleep in them but that can’t be done, so I’ve had to delve deep into the depths of my rucksack to find multiple layers, to keep me from dying. Maybe I’m being dramatic? Did I tell you that we had a loaf of bread for supper? Although it all sounds rather tough now, the walking itself, just seems to fly by. It hurts, yeah sure, but we’ve got our routine, a system. It makes it easier to deal with, up at 7- 7:15 away from camp 8 am latest, so not the most anti social start time especially after going to bed at 7 pm, apparently that’s what you do when you camp..
Might I add, that our campsites aren’t the most glamorous set ups in the world. We’ve pitched up behind what I think might be a building caravan where the workers have their tea and just beyond that the equivalent to the A12. We had found a lovely campsite about half an hour before this one, but a gentleman strongly advised us not to sleep there for three reasons, murderers, robbers and the third? Well. Maybe that’s a little unsavoury to be posting on here, but you get the idea.. Anyways, time to curl up and try and stay warm, enjoy your beds!

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On the road again

So here we are, off on another tough stint after a couple of days rest. On the three occasions we’ve had people come out and visit us, it’s been great. There is however a downfall. You get back into the swing of ‘normal’ life, you kind of forget that you’re going to have to go back to sleeping in a forest, eat bread for dinner and walk 30 + km a day. It’s tough, but having said that, we’ve kinda got used to it.
After a few days rest and a road trip down to Cappadocia with my Father (Sam’s) it’s back on the road. I must add though, Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful places, I’ve ever been to. Our first morning consisted of a 4:30 am wake up call to go and see the stunning hot air balloons rise above the gorges of Cappadocia, it really was an incredible sight. Cappadocia is a maze of caves and underground cities that were inhabited by all sorts of people. We even got to stay in a cave hotel, (it was a lot comfier than it sounds, there was a bath…) but nonetheless it was a cave!
After exploring the sights and catching up with news from home, next thing we knew it was time for my father to go home! Three days rest was plenty, and our feet were given a bit of respite.
Our next stop, Rize. A solid three week walk away from where we are now, we’ll hit the town of Samsun in a couple of days, where we’ll probably take a night in a hotel, to reorganise and regroup (and most likely dry out all of our kit, rain seems to follow us). It’s crazy to think that we’ll arrive in Georgia in under a months time, although the days are long and tough, the time spent on the whole, goes so very quickly. Time flies when you’re having fun? Pah! Yeah right…

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Plugging away..

It turns out that walking in the rain, is probably one of the most soul destroying things that you can do, especially when all you have to look forward to is setting up a camp, in the rain.
We’re in the middle of a pretty savage 8 day stint at the moment, involving 40 km days, so we can get to Sinop for Monday. I’m not sure as to where we are now, but what I do know is that the weather is treacherous. It’s cold, windy and wet. Last night was dire, so dire in fact that tonight we’ve had to find a hotel in order to dry kit. Poor Henry had a pretty vile night, the rain started at about 4 am, and to say it was relentless is an understatement, I managed to curl up into the foetal position and stay dry (ish). But Henry’s sleeping bag was completely soaked through, luckily the kit in our bags managed to stay dry.
As we were walking today, the rain was coming in on us on an angle, hitting us with some pace, it was just so cold! You get to the point, where you can just laugh, after that you get to the point where you’re a little angry. After that, who knows, madness perhaps.
Right now, we’re sat drinking tea eating chocolate cakes and Baklava, healing our minds with sugar and additives.
When we arrive in Sinop, we’ll have a visitor, my Father! He’s coming out for a week or so, we’ll take a few days off and go down to the beautiful Capadoccia, I’m fully expecting multiple history lessons from Mike (father) who seems to know everything about everything.
When he goes home, we’ll then be back on the road again, and actually, we won’t be in Turkey for much longer! Another 3-4 weeks and we should be hitting Georgia! Exciting times! Georgia into Azerbaijan, then a flight down to Chennai! We’re slowly but surely getting there, and the donations continue to come in which is great! Please carry on watching our vlogs, and keeping up to date on social media! http://www.kathmandu-it and Kathmandu-it (on FaceBook)

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