I poked my head through the curtains and gazed out over the field from my bedroom window. It was around 7.30am on Sunday morning and today I was going with Helen and Richard to the Big Hill. I wasn’t being picked up until around 9.30am but my heating had woke me up at about 4am and I couldn’t go back to sleep. At night the minimum temperature on my thermostat is set to 10 degrees and my boiler only starts itself if my house goes below that temperature. Looking at the swirling fog twisting its way through the trees covered in frost I wasn’t surprised that my house must have got below 10 degrees in the early hours. Oh well, all good training for those sub-zero mornings in the Himalayas!
By the time we got to the car park at the top of the hill it was around 10am. There’s actually a picnic area by the car park, I guess the idea is to sit and admire the view while you eat your packed lunch, but today visibility wasn’t great and if you sat down for too long you might freeze to death! Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration … We had a good walk, going up and down the myriad of tracks criss-crossing the area, and I certainly got some hill-walking practice in.
It was really nice to chat to Helen (Richard bring up the rear with Pebbles the Rottweiler) and discuss our hopes and fears about our respective Everest treks, what kit we needed and discussing various advice we had be given. So far I have been perfectly happy going out walking alone, however that morning it felt great to share the experience with others and enjoy what turned out to be a gorgeously sunny (but cold) morning. Pebbles had got tired about halfway in and Richard had taken her home, so when we tired of the hill we walked back to their house where I had a quick pit stop of a cup of tea and a banana – and more chats about socks, base layers and the like!
I was offered a lift home but at this point we had been walking for just over 2hrs and I was determined to do about 4hrs in total, so I decided to walk. When I was a teenager my best friend Sarah and I were in the Army cadets, she was in a different detachment to me and I was quite close to her old cadet hut as I started my walk home. Sarah’s cadet nights were on a different night to mine, so occasionally a couple of the boys and I used to walk over to her detachment for a visit. It was about a 4 mile walk (each way) but we used to think nothing of walking 8 miles in an evening, seems strange to think of doing that now. We used to set off in time to make it for the NAFFI break, muck around for a bit and then walk back home, or stay until they had finished and go for a drink at the pub (and then walk home, and then go to school in the morning!).
In those days, if you knew the landlord and kept your nose clean i.e. no fighting over the pool table, it was very easy to hang out at the pub and have a couple of drinks. It was better than us going down to the chalk pits, huddle under a tree and drink miniatures … ah yes, we did that too (but not very often, as the pub was a much warmer and drier option (and for the life of me I can’t remember why the heck we drunk miniatures!)). When I think back now, doing that kind of thing gave me my sense of adventure but at the same time I was sensible and was always home at the time I promised my parents. I think that it is these kind of experiences and knowledge about myself that gives me the confidence to think that I can wander round Nepal, Tokyo, Quito, Buenos Aires and all the places I am going on my own and know I’ll be ok.
Anyway, all these reminiscences kept me going until I got home – 4hrs walking and almost 19km, I’m halfway there.