Easter Monday hikes

With less than a month to go before we hit the Camino I was planning to do 3 hikes on consecutive days, but some bad weather put an end to that on Saturday and Sunday (I worked on Good Friday). This morning I looked out the window and it was still quite stormy at first, but then the sun came out and it improved so much by 10 o’clock that I went walking. This was a big day, the first with the fully loaded pack. I have been worried about the weight. I ticked off all my usual items from the packing list and put them in the bag. I’m packing extra layers and wet weather gear for the section from Le Puy, as we’ve been warned that you can expect typical (unpredictable) mountain weather.

I needn’t have worried. It was rather uncomfortable for the first 5 kilometres until I had the pack set up just right and from then on it welcomed me like an old friend. I experienced this odd feeling of actually being on the Camino – all thanks to putting on the pack. I’ve written about the routes already so won’t go into much detail. I was expecting wet ground so repeated the Chichester circular via the canal towpath and the Salterns Way.

It was about 12 ˚C but quite windy, hence the buff.

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The route goes past the Chichester Marina and the coffee and carrot cake was just as good as the first time. This is becoming a tradition!

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It was quite early when I stopped back in Chichester and realised there was time left to do the hill walk at Kingley Vale. My usual route goes left at the entrance to the nature reserve, and follows the bridle path around the perimeter, finally dipping steeply down to Stoughton. It was getting more windy with some clouds gathering, a perfect excuse to stop at The Hare and Hounds Pub for half an Otter, chatting to some cyclists outside.

The uphill section is pretty steep, and I took my time. Now is not a good moment to get injured.

Back home before dark – that’s the lovely thing about spring in the UK. The clocks just went forward, giving extra daylight for walking.

I did need a good soak in a hot bath after doing 2 walks on one day, but compared to this time 2 years ago my general walking fitness is a great deal better.

Just before writing this I was chatting to my walking buddy Francois in South Africa and he sent me a photo of one of our very first hikes together. It was the year 1980, and we were 16 years old when we did the Fish River Canyon in Namibia. I immediately spotted the old external frame backpacks we used in those days. I love my modern backpack, but back then the external frames were quite an improvement on the old frameless canvas backpacks we started out with.

That trip down the Fish River Canyon was quite different from the Camino – it was a true wilderness trail and we had to carry food for 5 days and cooking utensils. Food consisted of Provita (dry crispy bread which tastes like cardboard), sardines and packets of dehydrated soya, amongst other things. The route is 90 km long and we finished it in 4 days. It was meant to be 5 days, but we were pretty fed-up of sleeping in the cold river bed without shelter. June in the Namib is winter, and temperatures went down to below freezing. One night it rained. I remember that I had a large plastic “survival bag” which I used as a bivvy bag. Some of the others huddled under a tarpaulin. So on the last afternoon we decided to just keep walking and reached Ai-Ais at around midnight. Our parents were not expecting us till the next afternoon, so we must have startled them. But boy that camp bed in the tent was like heaven!

It was a great adventure for someone my age, and I think it was one of the reasons why I still love hiking. The photo is quite faded, and doesn’t do justice to the spectacular Fish River Canyon in the background. If you ever get the chance to walk that route, jump at it!

1980 Visrivier groep