Snowshoeing in Italy / France: Final Prep

On the downhill run for our Transalpine Snowshoe Week, with Exodus.

Insurance

… purchased – LV= again. Premier annual multi-trips policy, Worldwide excluding North and Central America, Caribbean and Bahamas. Premier level covers trekking up to 6000m (in anticipation of Tsum and Manaslu in November).

Update: Winter Sports cover added. LV= doesn’t list snowshoeing as one of the activities that requires Winter Sports cover, but it turns out that it is. Thanks to Steffi for the tip!

Travel jabs

… checked – I had a whole lot redone in advance of my 2016 Nepal trek (in line with TravelHealthPro’s recommendations for Nepal) so I am all up to date with Hep A, Typhoid, Hep B, Diphtheria–Tetanus-Polio and Rabies. Next top up jab will be Typhoid in August 2019. Not that I’ll need any of these for Italy/France!

Euros

… from Thomas Exchange Global / BestForeignExchange.com on Wormwood St.

Weather forecasts

…. monitored / monitoring – looking chilly thanks to the Polar Vortex! I’m borrowing Hazel’s superior down jacket and taking my Icebreaker thermals and wool fleece lined mittens.

Click though to the Long term forecast and scroll down to the 4-hour daily views on YR and you’ll see that the temperatures are forecast to be even lower during the day (-17C, -18C, -19C ….)

Looking chilly in Thures
YR weather forecast for Thures
Looking chilly in Cervières
YR weather forecast for Cervières

Additional details

…. obtained from Exodus / France Outdoors, their local partner operating the trip:

1. Luggage transport / access

We got clarification on when / where we’d have access to our luggage, and confirmation that we wouldn’t be expect to carry our main bags to the Mautino hut.

Day 1 + Day 2: the group will stay in the same gite in Fontana del Thures, so you will have access to your main luggage.
Day 3 (Monday): a taxi will take everyone’s luggage in the morning to Cervières. So you won’t have access to your main luggage for 2 nights – you’ll just have what you take in in your backpack. Luggage cannot be left behind in the Mautino hut.
Day 4: Luggage cannot be left behind in Mautino hut.
Day 5 + 6 + 7: the group will be reunited with their main luggage in Cervières.

So you can leave your main luggage with what you don’t want/don’t need to carry for the Mautino hut on Monday morning to be transported to Cervières.

2. Lunch on transfer days

For most of the trip meals are provided. The gaps are lunch on the days we arrive and leave, when we’re on the transfer from / to Turin airport, and dinner on the way home too. Here’s what got back from Exodus:

Our local partner confirmed that on arrival there usually is a stop to buy some food on the way to the gite. On departure day, the transfer is planned around 2pm, so the group can eat at the gite or at another Auberge in the village. Additionally you could also buy a picnic at the gite to take away – there are no supermarkets there.

Steffi’s bringing Cardigan bread and cheese, and I’ve got a small pot of chutney to contribute to a picnic lunch on Saturday.

I have to say, our main contact at Exodus has been great at finding out these additional details for us, and very good at replying to our random questions.

Packing

….is about to commence!

Packing....
Packing…. is about to commence

Online Check-In

…. and we’re checked in for the flight to Turin too. Boarding passes printed.

Walking in Northern Albania: Mini Update

I’ve been busy sorting out some of the final logistics for June’s Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains with Wild Frontiers.

Flights bought

We’re flying direct from Gatwick with BA – out on the Thursday before the Wild Frontiers tour starts on the Friday, back on the group flight a week later.

Hotel booked

We’ve booked a twin room at the Hotel Tafaj, which is where a WF group will be staying at the end of their Southern Albania tour.

Transfers sorted

We’ve booked a taxi to meet us when we land through Hotel Tafaj, and we’ll get the Rinas Express airport bus back out to the airport to meet the group flight. We got taxi estimates and airport bus info from Lonely Planet > Tirana in Detail > Flights & getting there.

Tirana plans

We land late on the Thursday and need to be back at the airport to meet the group flight that lands at 12.10pm on the Friday, so we’ve only really got Friday morning to go sightseeing in Tirana. The hotel is 15 mins walk from Sheshi Skënderbej aka Skanderbeg Square, which is where most of the main sights are. Perfect!

Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey – Rachel Hewitt

Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey - Rachel Hewitt
Map of a Nation – Rachel Hewitt

A history of the Ordnance Survey and the men behind the maps. Sounds dry? It’s fascinating.

We start with unruly Jacobite Scotland, head south to the Enlightenment lowlands, journey around Kent, connect up with France, stretch up to Shetland, collect place name data in Ireland and – eventually – five lifetimes in – publish the last sheet of the first full map of the British Isles.

Publisher page: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey – Rachel Hewitt

Where next: Walking in Northern Albania

Trip No. 2 of 2018 is now booked, and Hazel and I are off to Albania rather than the French Pyrenees.

Destination: Albania.

When: June 2018.

What: A week’s walking in Northern Albania, with Hazel.

How: On Wild Frontiers’ recce trip, Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains

Why: I find the Balkans fascinating – the history and the culture, the legacy of the Ottomans – and I’ve looked at various Albania trips over the years – winter ones, summer ones – but never quite found the right thing at the right time.

This time, serendipitously, once Hazel and I had decided against the GR10, a Wild Frontiers email newsletter popped up in both our inboxes flagging this recce trip. For one week off work we get 5 days trekking plus time in historic towns and a lake ferry. We’ll be up in the Albanian Alps – aka The Accursed Mountains – most of the time, doing day hikes in the Parku Kombëtar Lugina e Valbonës (Valbonë Valley National Park) and Parku Kombëtar i Thethit (Theth National Park). We’re going a day early, to give us some time to explore Tirana and because BA’s flights are cheaper on a Thursday.

Although it’s been a while since we’ve done a trip with Wild Frontiers (the last one was Turkey in 2012 on their Wild Walk in the Taurus Mountains), they have always been great at getting to places that are a little more off the beaten track, plus the trips are all inclusive, right down to drinking water.

I still want to walk in the Pyrenees. Whilst waiting for Exodus to run an offer for their 10 day Highlights of the GR10 trip, which had been our planned trek, I came across Mountain Bug’s Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP) offering – 3 x 1 week sections, which you can do individually or together, and which includes an ascent of the Pic d’Aneto (3404 m), the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. The HRP take the highest walkable route through the mountains, whereas the GR10 and GR11 are lower down.  Tick, tick, tick. Plus I really like the idea of going with a smaller, local business too. Other than the HRP being a less well trodden (and slightly trickier) trail, the main snag was that you have to carry all your kit, and I was happier than Hazel to do that.

So, Albania, here we come!

Itinerary:

Day 0: London – Tiranë (Tirana)
Day 1: Tirana – Shkodër
Day 2: Shkodër – Liqeni i Komanit (Lake Koman) – Fierzë – Grykat e Hapta – Valbonë
Day 3: Valbonë: Kukaj, below Maja Jezercë (2695 m)
Day 4: Valbonë: Çerem – Bori Pass – Sqapit Peak
Day 5: Valbonë: Qafa e Valbonës / Valbonë Pass (1860 m) – Thethi
Day 6: Thethi:  Kanioni i Grunasit / Grunasi Canyon – Ndërlysaj
Day 7: Thethi – Kaprea Creek – Qafa e Thorës / Thore Pass (1685 m) – Krujë
Day 8: Krujë – Tirana – London

Now all we have to do is book flights, sort out a hotel for our night in Tirana and decide how to spend our Friday morning there – and getting from/to the airport.

Exposure – Helen Dunmore

Exposure - Helen Dunmore
Exposure – Helen Dunmore

I almost gave up on Helen Dunmore’s Cold War novel. I didn’t like the “men from the Ministry” – the all male world of a post-War Admiralty, and the spooks and the spies at work there – and it wasn’t until the narrative shifted to focus more on the fall out for Lily Callington and her family and friends that I really cared about any of the characters.

You gradually learn that Lily was born in Germany to Jewish parents, and fled as a child with her mother to London.  She’s buried that part of her life, and has lost all memory of the German language despite teaching French and Italian at a North London Girl’s school. Her husband, Simon Callington, is a lowly clerk at the Admiralty, who has a secret of his own from his Cambridge student days which ultimately enmeshes him in Cold War corruption.

I’m glad I  persevered.

Publisher’s page: Exposure – Helen Dunmore